7 Landing, 6106 RTR (Feb 25, 2010) Deep in the Silent One temple, the team learns more about the history of the mute cheetah-like people.
(Legacy of the Fenris) (Layth) (Space) (Tasha)
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Library of the Silent-Ones
Sunlight shines down through a glass-domed roof to illuminate this circular building. Stacks of books spread out from the central reading area like the spokes of a wheel – or the rays of a star, since the mosaic inlaid in the floor is depicting just that. Reading tables form an inner ring, while at the very center is a desk where the elderly librarian sits.

It isn't exactly clear to Tasha, Gabriel and Layth how they got here from the small rectangular vault they were just in, but here they are all the same. The librarian looks at them expectantly after having signed her greeting.

Layth's brow slopes in suspicion. Unsure of quite what to do, he reaches over and tries to poke the librarian to see if she is 'real'.

The woman actually pulls away, but not far enough. She gives Layth an astounded look when he actually pokes her… and feels the cloth of her clothing.

Squinting through barely opened lids, with red and aching eyes, the Vartan peers at the librarian a  moment before looking around. "It's like … rrg, ow, … The PersoCom p-place," she mumbles. Slowly, the woman rises to her feet. Remembering she stood by a wall before the place changed, she reaches out to poke where the wall was, Signing to the librarian with her free hand, "This is an artificial place? We are the old and new crew of Fenris and Bellerophon," Tasha pauses to blink at Layth, "Layth, stop poking all the Spotties!"

It's a good thing Tasha wasn't leaning when she reached out, because there's only empty space where she expects the wall to be.

"I was testing if she felt real. She seems to. Still, I do not believe this place is real," Layth remarks, shrugging. He even then asks the librarian in informal sign, "What is this place?"

Tasha turns her head to eye where the wall used to be, then nods slowly, as if deciding something. "It's in our heads Layth," she tells her friend, looking to the librarian expectantly for her to confirm it.

The Librarian adjusts her glasses, and gives an uncertain look at Layth. She doesn't wear a mask, so her expressions are clear to see. "Ah, Terran Interface initiated, per Declaration 14 of the Joint Expedition Charter," the woman speaks. "You are in Library Space, young… man?"

"Male, though not necessarily young," Layth replies. "This is Tasha. It has been over six thousand years since this place was likely last accessed. So, much changed. What is your purpose?"

"I am the Librarian," the cheetah says primly, folding her hands atop her desk. "Can I help you find a particular book?"

"Maybe I should poke more people, it's an attention getter," Tasha asides to Gabriel, grinning a little at him. She shoulders her weapon, then looks at it. "I wonder if this is even where I think it is? This is like a PersoCom sim, Captain. It may serve the same use." To confirm this, Tasha turns to the Librarian and asks, "Is this a mind-computer interface for direct-to-mind learning, like the Terran PersoCom equipment?"

Layth pokes Tasha to demonstrate the power of poking. "And what books do you have available?" he now asks the Librarian, "How extensive is your library?"

"Similar in purpose, yes," the Librarian replies to Tasha. "Instead of using electro-neural stimulation, this system works via the visual cortex. In short: you are hallucinating all of this."

With a gesture to the stacks, the cheetah says, "This Library contains the collected cultural works of the People, covering religion, culture, philosophy, art and cooking."

Tasha merely nods and smiles, as if this were perfectly normal for her. "S'not the first time," she confirms, smiling a little more. "It makes sense the People would use light." To Layth, she explains, "This is a hallucination created by lights, somehow. It's used to teach – probably very quickly. This is a bit like how I learned Sign and MOTHER operation. These aren't books so much as … downloads, if that makes sense to you."

"Do you have anything that would provide an abbreviated description of your culture and philosophy?" Layth now asks as his head cocks to the side, curious. "We have recently acquired a crew member that is of your People and I wish to know how to best relate to her. It will also prove useful in dealings with your People in other endeavors."

"Hmmm, I don't recall ever hearing about this," Gabriel notes. "The Charter included a bit about shared access to information, but nobody went out of their way to actually advertise where they kept it."

"So, you wish for a treatise by the People… on how to relate to the People?" the Librarian asks the Lapi.

"If such exists, yes," Layth says. "Cultural understanding."

"I'd like to see those things as well; Gabriel has suggested I might act as an ambassador at some point," Tasha agrees in Sign. She then cocks her head to the side, and adds, "Are you aware of the status of the Joint Expedition and Orpheus? I ask because I would also like to inquire about engineering skills, and we may well be all that remains of the Joint Expedition itself."

"Engineering would fall under Art," the Librarian tells Tasha. "All works of the hands are considered Art. There are many different levels of social interaction available between the People and non-People. Could you be more specific on the type of interaction you wish to study? For instance, there are books on Military, Business, Political and Religious interactions."

Tasha nods to the list, then glances between Gabriel and Layth, "Why don't you start with the basics: learning Formal Sign?"

"As for the status for the JEF and Orpheus, I do not have any books on those subjects," the Librarian notes.

"All of them would be useful, but I would like to start with political, then business and religion. Military is last," Layth explains and interlaces his fingers. "And Tasha is right, lessons on formal communication would be helpful."

"I will assume you require Deferent Formal first, as you are not of the People," the Librarian says, and stands up. She actually puts her hands to her back and cracks it, as if she's been sitting too long, before heading for one of the stacks.

"This is odd," Layth comments as the Silent-One projection leaves. "Making it seem this real is … unnecessary."

"I remember virtual classrooms where you could pass notes to one another," Gabriel says. "Learning works better the more natural the setting, it seems."

Looking back, Tasha's ears droops a little. "Orpheus has crashed upon the moon, Sheol. It has been 6000 years or so since that time. We are equal parts the crew of the Fenris and the crew of the Orpheus, and we are what is left – but we may see your teachings returned to the People. We can discuss that before we leave. For myself … ," Tasha stops Signing now, speaking her request out load, "I would like to learn the history of the People as you feel is best to understand them, from a diplomatic position, and anything else you feel is relevant to that task. Secondly,if there is time, I am interested in Art."

The Librarian returns carrying a large book bound in a glossy material, which she sets on one of the tables. "I have no references to Sheol, Fenris or Orpheus I am afraid," she says. "This is Dancing-Hands' lesson book on the Formal Deferent Voice for Terrans. It is a standard among diplomats and couriers, and may be used in non-Military situations."

To Gabriel, Tasha says, "When I met Nora, it was just her and I in a gray space – nothing this nice." Returning her attention to the Librarians, she asks, "Oh, and what's this about military Signs?"

Layth reaches out to the desk to pick up the book. "Thank you," he says as he opens to the first page. "It will take me a lifetime to go through this," he thinks.

"Be careful with that, Layth. It's not just a book," Tasha warns with an air of knowing.

"The Commanding Voice is used for issuing Military, Political or Religious orders and statements," the Librarian explains. "Only the leaders within these branches of society may use this voice."

"That would be us, considering we're all that's left. I'm not sure I know Commanding Voice. Did you teach Nora Argentine?" Tasha inquires.

The first page is clearly an index, broken into lessons and exercises based on a growing scale of complexity, and concluding with several chapters on how to write and compose using the language.

"Forgive me for being unclear," the Librarian says with a slight nod of her head. "Only the leaders among the People may use the Commanding Voice."

Layth briefly uses one of his hands while balancing the book in his other so he can rub his forehead. He turns to the first lesson.

"Oh, that makes sense, then." Tasha keeps note of Layth as she speaks, watching him out of the corner of her eye. "Then please, can you get the topics I requested? I'll leave selection to you – what you would feel best to understand the People, even with the information so out of date, as an ambassador."

There is another burst of dazzling light from the book, similar to the one that brought them into the Library. Layth finds himself going through signing exercises with a Silent-Ones instructor, who teaches it as if it were a martial art. Position and posture are important in adding inflection. It seems to go on for hours, as the hand and finger positions are repeated over and over with only a cursory explanation of their meaning – the whole point seems to be just physically learning them.

The Librarian fetches several books for Tasha. The first is a primer on basic Diplomacy – the trappings and rituals, formats for different types of topic discussions and negotiations. The second, larger tome is devoted to the Silent-Ones' system of civil and criminal justice, contract law, arbitration and treaties.

It's a good thing Layth has extreme patience to repeat the same motions over and over as he goes through the lessons. He shows no real emotion while doing so; more a formal and dedicated student simply there to learn. 'Hours' of virtual learning does get a bit wearing … yet he continues on.

The red woman watches Layth stare off into spare while the books are fetched, then accepts them with a Sign of, "Thank you, Librarian." Glancing again at Gabriel, she offers, "Well, here goes," tapping one of the books against her forehead. Grinning, she lowers the smaller of the two books, then begins reading.

When the lesson ends (after Layth has proven to the simulation that he can recreated the necessary gestures on command) the rabbit finds himself sitting at the table and feeling… like he just had an hours-long workout.

For Tasha, things are a bit more straightforward in that her books are mainly text, with only a few interactive illustrations of events and procedures – but she too is 'tested' on each protocol. It is fatiguing.

"That is tiring," Layth remarks to the Librarian. He looks down at the book, debating on if he should look at the next lesson, or just rest for a bit.

Gabriel, for his part, watches over the other two. "Accelerated Learning requires the same amount of brain activity as normal learning does," the Librarian notes, "but at a higher rate. You will need to rest between lessons so that your memories can solidify and your brains restock their needed neurotransmitters. It is suggested that you use the appropriate learning drugs before engaging in further lessons if you are in a hurry."

"Learning drugs?" Layth inquires. "We have a difficulty with time, as this library is now in a location on the ship considered hostile due to escaped wildlife. Can the library be relocated? It would be easier to continue lessons if we could transport it back to the main bay and our ship there."

"Do you have access to a Mind of Light on your ship or at a more convenient location?" the Librarian asks.

At her table, Tasha leans back and finds herself with her eyes closed and ears back. "And so are the Laws of the People, given by the Light, spoken by the Archon," she recites. A moment later she just slumps back in her chair, rolling her head to look at the others. "We do," she breathes, sounding tired.

"We do, it is now cared for by one of the People," Layth answers.

"I can also work with the Mind of Light, to a lesser degree," Tasha adds, then reaches up to rub her forehead. "Did someone say drugs?"

"I can transfer your current selections to your Key Pass," the Librarian notes, "so that your Mind of Light can provide access to them." To Tasha, she notes, "Every race has developed a cocktail of nutrients and other chemicals that allow for accelerated learning by replenishing what the brain uses up and preventing fatigue."

"You were in the biogenetic stasis tube when you learned things from Nora," Gabriel tells Tasha. "It would have been providing your brain with what it needed to actually remember it all."

"That may prove difficult for me," Layth remarks, "As my physiology does not match anything that would be cataloged in your systems. I doubt there are drugs aboard our ship that will work for me. In any event, please the books to our key. We can review it there."

"That must be the opposite of what my mum serves as drinks," Tasha remarks, grinning – if slowly. "Gabriel," she looks back to her mate when he speaks, then nods, "Can we produce those drugs on Bellerophon, then? We may not have this chance for very long, although … ," Looking back to the Librarian, the red woman asks, "How many selections can the Key Pass hold?"

The Librarian takes the offered crystal key, and slots it into her desk. "Your Key is quite full, but there is room for your current selections. When you have finished with them, you may request more, or else bring more data storage with you."

"Is there a place within the current town where we may obtain more storage?" Layth asks.

"Brain chemistry isn't likely to be that different, Layth," Gabriel notes. "We're all Terrans – well, Tasha's half-Terran. The differences between us are minuscule."

"Six thousand years on a planet with magic. I would not risk such unless it is verified as being compatible," Layth points out.

"Hm." Tasha rises from her seat, picking her weapon up even though it may well be fictional. "Do you think I could learn to pilot a Silent-One Titan here? Accessing this learning facility is very dangerous at the moment, I'd like to clear it a bit, maybe get the Doombeaks moved somewhere where we both can be safe."

Handing the Key back to Layth, the Librarian notes, "I have no information on the town you refer to. This Library is a repository of knowledge – it is not connected to any external data systems."

"Why would your systems be so isolated? Concerns over those who are not of the People accessing confidential information?" Layth actually asks.

"Such matters are not mine to speculate on," the Librarian notes. "I provide knowledge to those who seek it, within my limits."

"Although she seems real, Layth, her purpose is specific. It's probably best you stick to what she was designed for," Tasha suggests while she waits for the Librarian to get to her.

"Military knowledge is not available to aliens, I am afraid," the Librarian tells Tasha.

"Bah," Tasha says, shaking her head. "Not even if we're the only ones who can do anything with the Titans left behind? You're going to tell me you can't speculate on that, aren't you?"

The Librarian just smiles and shrugs.

"A simple question then. Do the People dislike those who are not of the People? How are we considered by the average one of your race?" Layth asks. The buck then looks at Tasha, then grins, parroting back, "It's probably best you stick to what she was designed for."

"I'm not sure if I'm annoyed or happy I'm beginning to understand artificial intelligences," Tasha says. She then sticks her tongue out at Layth as she walks over to Gabriel, then kisses him."Alien attack," she explains a moment later.

"There are many books which advocate minimizing contact with other races," the Librarian says. "And many siting the benefits of contact."

"What?" Gabriel asks, looking a bit dazed.

"That is a non-answer," Layth points out. "Would someone like me be a curiosity, or reviled?"

"Citing the benefits of contact," Tasha explains further to Gabriel, parroting the Librarian this time. She turns around and then leans back into Gabriel, letting him catch her. ""I think I can answer that now, Layth."

The Librarian seems a little confused by Layth's question, and finally responds by asking, "Would you be poking them at the time?"

"Unlikely," Layth notes, "Your situation was surprise in seeing what appeared to be a living being in a dead ship."

"Then I can only assume reactions would vary by individual, according to their own beliefs and prejudices," the Librarian states.

"From what I know about the Silent-Ones and how they view Karnors, my opinion is that you'd have been seen as a soulless thing, but because of diplomatic concessions, you'd be granted some level of acknowledgment and recognition, especially in the JEF. Kind of like … a smart robot," explains the Vartan.

"Again a non-answer, but I will not press the matter," Layth remarks flatly.

"But the Librarian is right, too," Tasha adds after a moment to consider her words, "Person to person, it's different – just like us."

The Librarian does not seem bothered by the responses. "I am sorry, sir, but as I have no reference to your species, other than that you appear to be Terran, I can cite no official positions on your status."

Glancing at the Librarian, Tasha asks, "How about Vartans and Vartan-hybrids with a Karnor father?"

"All references to Vartans are from Military sources only, ma'am," the Librarian says. "They are listed as mercenaries associated mainly with the Khattan Trade Empire."

Tasha's eyes widen at that. "Really?" She looks to her mate, then her friend, and back again, "I thought they were associated with the Confederacy?"

"If 6,000 years have passed, as you claimed, then it reasonable to believe that alliances may have shifted within that time," the Librarian notes.

"It's just nice to have a lead on where my people come from – the half I hadn't found much on until now." Tasha lifts her hands and Signs, "Thank you," adding the special gestures of additional respect her lesson provided her.

The Librarian bows in response.

"What are common gifts of thanks to those of your People who are considered of low status?" Layth asks.

"Seed cakes are often popular gifts," the Librarian claims. "I have references to over two hundred different recipes, sorted by planet, geographic region and season."

"Download some of the recipes to the crystal, please," Layth asks and offers the crystal back.

"Mercenaries … Did you know about that, Gabriel? My people were mercenaries? To the Khattans?" The woman turns to her mate, brows lifting her brow. "Do you think if we find the Khattans, they'll know where Vartans come from?"

"I wouldn't be surprised," Gabriel notes. "I never met any Vartans before waking up on Sinai, but they could have been one of the other client races brought along."

The Librarian returns the Key to her desk for a moment to transfer the recipes.

"Thank you. I suppose we are done here for now. As you say, both Tasha and I are mentally tired. We appreciate your willingness to impart information to us. I hope we will speak again soon," Layth tells the faux-cheetah when she hands the crystal key back to him.

"I never thought they'd be mercenaries," Tasha admits, her head tilting. "I wonder if we worked for shinies back then, too? And that means we were fighting, even back then. Working for money … " The young woman's brow scrunches as she seems to consider, ears flicking.

"If you are ready to leave, you may say 'exit' out loud and you will be disconnected from the simulation," the Librarian says.

"Are you ready to leave?" Layth asks the others.

Blinking, Tasha looks up from her reverie. She Signs, "Thank you, good bye," before nodding to Layth. "Exit."

Layth makes one more attempt to poke the Librarian before the simulation terminates. Strange sense of humor, probably.

The library vanishes in a wash of sparkles, and the trio find themselves back in the vault with the crystal slats in the walls, blinking and seeing spots and afterimages.

"Useful if odd," Layth comments as he rubs the backs of his eyelids to try and clear his vision.

"I always though the Silent-Ones didn't use virtual reality or artificial intelligences," Gabriel mutters. "Maybe only the priesthood does?"

"Or they were just quiet about it," Layth points out.

"I'm seein' spots – spotties. Spotty spots," Tasha complains as she rises again, finding herself right back where she fell to her knees. Mimicking her early virtual movements, she picks up her rifle and checks it for damage and power. "Easier to seem wise if you get all your info faster than everyone else – I know." She grins, then looks up, "Let's finish here, then move out."

"Hard to keep secrets when you can't whisper, but they still manage it," Gabriel concedes.

Returning to the Cathedral, the group checks down the second corridor on the other side of the altar. This one leads to a single long chamber, full of angled stasis tubes. Unlike the sort found on Fenris and Bellerophon, these aren't transparent but heavily built, with small windows above name-plaques. All of them appear to be powered down and empty.

"Should we at least record the names from the plates?" Layth asks as he peers into the window of one of the empty tubes. He also checks for how to open it, curious as to how similar inside it would be to the ones from Fenris.

The tubes have simple looking latch handles, and open up easily enough. There's a sort of reclined bed inside, split like a humanoid stick-figure into support for the head, torso, legs and arms.

"Probably," Tasha replies as she eyes the first nameplate before them. "There's no power, though, and I don't see any faces – but they could have had child clones. Or, well, … ," the Vartan woman grimaces, "Look at your own risk, Layth. I'll start writing these down." She pulls out her Silent-One datapad and steps up to the plaque, holding the data close to begin recording the Signs written there.

"Do you have any idea how these work?" Layth inquires of Gabriel as he leans inside to peer around, careful to not actually touch anything. "I don't see anything like those collars from the Fenris."

"I'm not sure," Gabriel says, looking at the inside of the tube. He points out what could be catheter hookups. "Maybe a technician had to hook them up. These don't look like they were made for casual use."

Many of the names Tasha finds read like titles, including the tube for Master-of-Artifacts.

Layth leans back and closes the capsule. "This seems a strange place to keep them. Inside the temple?" the buck remarks and shrugs. "Perhaps Fallen Star will know more."

Tasha steps to the next plaque, and the next, then pauses. She stares at the door a moment, then roughly begins opening it. "Well, well," she murmurs, darkly.

"They had a caste system, so it doesn't seem too odd that the priests would have their own, separate suspended animation system," Gabriel suggests.

The tube Tasha opens is just like the other – except this one has some extra decoration on the inside: photographs made of something very durable, stuck into nooks and crannies on the inside. All of them are family pictures, with only one showing a Silent-One in actual priestly vestments.

Tasha steps inside, reaching over to yank one of the pictures off the wall. "You even have a family! What did Nora get?" She turns and spits on the bed, then begins to try and crush the picture in her hand, glaring. Her glare steadily fades as she looks at the family in front of her, relenting into a face that just looks tired. She shakes her head, then just slaps the picture back on the wall, "Dagh take it," she curses, "I can't even hate you properly. Too bad you're not here." She turns and walks for the chamber exit.

Layth goes to look at the pictures that Tasha found in the tube.

Master-of-Artifacts had a young-looking wife with a nasty scar across one side of her face, and several cubs. His wife is masked in most of the pictures, but the scar is marked on the mask as well.

Tasha walks right past Layth, pushing her datapad into his hands as she goes. "You do it – I need some air," she grumbles, then walks right out of the chamber, and the room as well.

"I'd better keep an eye on her," Gabriel notes and follows Tasha back to the cathedral.

Layth actually collects the pictures to take back before he closes the tube and records the symbols on the datapad. He also decides to check the remaining tubes for others that may have had photographs as well. "Indeed," the buck agrees as Gabriel follows after Tasha.

Out in the main hall, Tasha signs, "Music" over the unlit podium, then turns to stare out the door. "I'm fine, Gabriel. I'm not going to break anything – the thing I want to break isn't even here anymore," she says without looking back. After a moment, she adds, "I don't hate them all," in a tone that sounds a little uncertain.

Soft, meditative music begins to play. It goes well with the soothing sounds of the flowing water.

"That makes it harder, doesn't it?" Gabriel asks. "Not being able to lump them all together, I mean? We all have our flaws, and make mistakes. While it was underhanded, what he did… the results were still an accident."

"Mmmm," Tasha murmurs, the sound almost like a growl. As the music begins to play, the tenseness in her shoulders seems to ease, then all at once she exhales, looking down. "It's easier to hate them all. It's easier to hate him than to hate fate," she admits, quietly. Looking back, she says, "The best revenge is to live well – but what does that mean when he lived and the others didn't? "There isn't one iota of justice in the universe … "" The woman's head shakes. "It's hard to accept."

"Oh? Why do you think he left those photos behind when the Silent-Ones evacuated Orpheus?" Gabriel asks, while rubbing Tasha's shoulders (well, patting them through the armored shoulderpads).

Tasha shifts to lean against Gabriel, resting her head against his shoulder. "I don't know – maybe you're right. Maybe he's here, dead somewhere. Maybe I don't know if I want to know – maybe it won't make it any better, seeing his family there. The only thing I do know is … ," Tasha gaze sweeps across the room; ancient, abandoned, " … this is all too sad. For everyone. Let's keep going."

"Okay," Gabriel says, stepping back. "I'm pretty sure I know why he left them, but… that's not really important right now."

"Why did he leave them?" Layth inquires as he exits the hallway with the stasis tubes.

"I trust you; no need to know," Tasha says, nodding. She stands straight, then calls towards the room they had just exited, "LAYTH WE'R- … Oh, there you are." She smiles at the buck, if a little weakly. "We're moving on to the next area."

"He left them because he knew he was never going to see them again," Gabriel says. "I had to leave my family behind too. It's a lot like dying."

Tasha pauses as she begins to turn, head shifting to watch Gabriel. Rather than comment, she reaches over and takes his hand.

"There is a difference, though. You know they would live on," Layth says, "Which is more hope than knowing they are dead. Of that I have experience. Let's move on."

A brief search of the side rooms reveals individual shrines. Some even have various personal effects still in place, from photos to pieces of jewelry to entire suits of powered armor – much more streamlined than the sort seen on Abaddon. These suits could protect the wearer from vacuum.

Inside the room, Tasha waits with Gabriel and doesn't approach the suits. She simply watches, quietly.

Layth tries to activate the radio system. "This is Layth. We have encountered some Silent-One powered suits. Are they worth salvaging?" he asks into the device as he looks around one of the shrines.

"I wonder if Silent-Ones homes have shrines like these back on Zion?" Gabriel wonders.

"I'd have to look at them," Fred replies. "Not sure if their power cells are compatible or not."

"Layth, no," Tasha says, finally speaking up. "These are memorials, offerings. It's bad luck to take these things, not without permission – or a good reason. We don't need these."

"Fair enough," Layth says, "Disregard." He flicks off the radio.

"I think we've seen what we came to see here – ready?" Tasha perks her ears, rotating them forward as she looks between her two fellow crew members.

Gabriel smiles a little proudly at Tasha. "So, there are a few more buildings out there," he says.

"Lead on, then," Layth notes and nods in the direction they came.

Tasha smiles back, "I'm sure I can ruin that proud smile in one of them. We can't have people thinking I might have a conscience," she tells her mate. Nodding to Layth, she heads for the door, and out.

"Be careful," Fred says over his suit speaker when they emerge. "Two Doombeaks are just beyond the tree line watching us."

"Better help me set this thing to target non-humanoids," Tasha advises Gabriel, patting the rifle. "I just hope they stay put. You know, I think I like them better alive?"

"Delightful," Layth remarks as he looks for the next closest building.

While Gabriel shows Tasha how to reset the rifle, Layth and spot the tall, glassy-looking building to one side, near what must be the wall of the chamber.

"Do we have a clear path in that direction?" Layth asks the armored suit and points towards the glassy building near the edge of the biodome.

Tasha watches Gabriel's instruction carefully, frowning here and nodding curtly there. "I'd have never figured this out on my own," Tasha can be hard to admit. "Well, that's that then … It's lethal." Across the grass, a red dot splits into a line as the Vartan sets the weapon to spread, and that line angles up towards the trees.

"We can make one easily enough!" Fred says, and makes his way to the bulldozer.

"Onward to more destruction," Layth comments as he returns to their transport to follow along after Fred and his machine-of-doom.

"Be really careful," Gabriel tells Tasha. "It should still avoid Karnors, but I can't guarantee the safety of anything else."

"If you kill me I will haunt you," Layth notes.

"Fred would have been a great Vartan," the red woman says, laughing. "Okay, back in the truck! No scratching it!" The laser light flicks out as Tasha secures her weapon, then she's walking towards the truck. "I'll try," she tells the Karnor, "It's not like I want to see more tragedies, here." She grins at Layth as she and Gabriel reach the truck, then hops in and hands Layth the weapon. "Here, your turn. I have to drive." In seconds, she has the vehicle up and running.

The rumble of the vehicles is wholly artificial – it comes from hidden speakers. The motors themselves are silent as the machines fall in line and move out towards the next building.

"I'm not sure which is more dangerous. Tasha piloting or Tasha with this gun," Layth comments as he accepts the huge and dangerous weapon.

"You should see me in a Titan," Tasha says, glancing back over her seat, "Then I'm doing BOTH!"

---

GMed by BoingDragon

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Today is 16 days after Harvest Tide, Year 27 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6126)