PHD #176: EVENT - Ancestor Worship
Ancestor Worship
Summary: One of the search parties finds an abundance of lost souls. Literally.
Date: 21 Aug 2041 AE
Related Logs:
Coll Cora Evandreus Jayden Samuel Sitka Tisiphone Trask NPC 
Sagittaron - Somewhere in the Jharkand Basin
Finding a place to land near the second set of coordinates isn't quite as easy as setting a bird down on a patch of marsh grass. These rugged, rock-strews woodlands showed signs of scattered fires from above, and the area is known for small pockets of accessible caverns that made these woods a perfect hiding place for those who know them well as well as something of a deathtrap for those who try to come after them.
Post-Holocaust Day: #176

It takes the Raptor and Viper escort a good while to find a place to deposit the ships, the group finally having to leave the Raptor parked up on an outcropping of rock and the Vipers on a broader ledge some fifty feet down, climbing equipment set up on the edge of the mountain to allow Sitka (maybe) and Jayden to climb up and join the rest of the group as they get ready to head out on foot to do a sweep of a long uphill slope marked by patches of thick greenery interspersed by rock formations.

One of the nice things about being a Harrier is the whole staying aboard the Raptor while others try not to trigger death traps. The entire flight, Trask has been uncharacteristically quiet. The closest thing to a quip that came from him was when he told Sitka, "Good luck gettin' no one killed." Except it doesn't quite carry the typical tinge of grim humor. "Happy hunting."

Cora is not the first out of the Raptor, that's a job for the marines. Once the five-man team has had a chance to look around the area, the rest of the party exits, the lieutenant among them. Her sidearm gets an additional check and then her hand remains on it, wary, as they move out to take a look at this slope. "I wonder if any of these coordinates will involve terrain that doesn't look ominous all on its own," she comments dryly, to no one in particular.

It's been a while since Tisiphone was Jayden's wingman, and it's with poorly-concealed enjoyment that she takes up her position off his portside wing again, Just Like Old Times. Nevermind the brief crackle of, "You want me to land WHERE?" as the landing zone is approached and her wingleader picks a spot. Someone's gotten too used to vacuum and the landing bay. Once her bird is safely landed and powered down, she joins the rest of the group, checking her sidearm as she goes.

It's a nice enough day outside, Evan happens to notice, leaning forward a little to peer up to the sky, equal parts checking the weather and looking for company. It'd be just the sort of day you'd want to go out on a hike. If the hiking trails weren't full of likely unwelcoming insurrectionists.

Once the Raptors have touched down and the others have piled out, the Standard Issue Knuckledragger hops out. Coll arrived sometime last night on a Raptor and has been thus far enjoying her time on the surface. The woman pops her head over the edge to take a quick look at the Vipers before turning back to the Raptor where she begins doing a quick walkaround of the ship. She even drops to her knees to check the skids. Once up, she walks around to the canopy glass and knocks to get the attention of those inside. There's a set of flashed thumbs-up to indicate that all's well.

Talk about extreme sports. Jay had something of a hard time landing here and now, he has to climb up to where the rest of the party is. Great! "Frak a duck, I hate this place," he grumbles to himself as he works on setting up his harness for the climb. Always keeping an eye out on Tisi to see how she is doing, he gets to the top and stands ready to give the Ensign some help if she needs it.

Staying a bit to the back of things so far, Samuel looks around as he gets out with the other marines. Unable to hold back a momentary grin at Jayden's words, "I'm sure that the feeling is mutual, sir," he offers a bit quietly, before moving to place himself somewhere along the back of the group.

No quips from Shiv, either. He's been characteristically quiet throughout the trip, and mostly occupied with checking (and re-checking) his sidearm. The few patches of turbulence they invariably hit on the way over didn't seem to bother him in the slightest— though the same can't likely be said of their marine contingent. Windy days aren't something one has to contend with in space. "Thanks," is all he has to say to Trask's offering, accompanied by a tight smile and a terse nod. "Squawk at me if you run into trouble back here." Then, gear checked one last time, he files out with the rest of the groundpounders. "Cora and I've got point," he tells the others as his boots hit grass and they emerge into the sunlight. Along with a couple of the beefier marines, which he gestures over. "Blaine, could you make sure nobody lags behind you?" Odd for him to ask rather than order, but there it is. And then, they're off.

Evandreus returns Coll's thumbsup. Everything's green inside the Raptor. Eight bodies out into the world. Hopefully eight bodies will come back in, this time. Though Evan can't possibly hold his breath the entire mission, he certainly feels the need for it, stomach twisted in knots.

Coll gives a nod to Evan and swings her arms as she steps away from the Raptor. Her eyes lift to the sky overhead and she smiles. Some things just can't be helped. The sidearm on her thigh goes ignored for the time being. Seeing something other than grey walls and pale lights is just too much enjoyment for her. Like most, her last experience on a planet wasn't pleasant. At least this time nobody is trying to actively blow them up. Right now. Sitka leads off and the Crewman follows dutifully.

You want her to land /where/? You want her to climb /what/? "No wonder he frakking left /us/ to the Vipers today," Tisiphone grumbles to Jayden, as the pair finish their climb. "Good thing the abomination's sending us to such safe locations," she adds, re-rechecking her sidearm. It might have gone… funny… during the climb. You never know. "It's like it-" She stops short, turns sharply to look behind her. The Marines bringing up the rear give her a blank look in return, shrug and roll their eyes at eachother as she says nothing to them and turns away, instead. Frakking pilots, man.

Cora looks back over her shoulder towards the raptor occasionally as she scans the hillside, waiting for everyone to make their way out. When Sitka exits she looks to the captain, and then nods at his direction, moving into position beside him.

"Yeah. That's our SL for you, Money." The climb was enjoyable at least. After making sure she's okay, he lets her join the rest of the squad that's heading out to explore the area. Jay is checking on the armour under his flightsuit, as he lingers back with the grunts taking the rear.

"I'll be sure to squawk at'cha should trouble be headin' your direction," is asserted to Shiv. That is, after all, part of the the ECO's job. Monitoring both DRADIS and the comm channels, things are uneventful as the expedition party moves out. That is until Trask senses someone behind him, some phantom hand rubbing up one shoulderblade and over his shoulder right where his helmet meets his flightsuit. Purely as a matter of Fight or Flight reflex, he spins around, one hand unfastening the harness while the other reaches for his sidearm and instinctively takes aim.

Benefit of rank. You get to make your minions do the dirty work. Or, possibly, Sitka just wanted to keep an eye on things raptor-side. "There used to be a cult or three in this area, if I remember correctly," he tells Cora conversationally. "Lived out of the caves-" Which he indicates with a tip of his chin. "-shunned technology, and all that. So if you see any weird.." He trails off a little there as they trudge along. "Well, just, uh. Don't be too alarmed." Isn't he such a great tour guide?

The Raptor is empty, now, excepting the ECO and Pilot. And Evan, cuddly as he is, isn't using this opportunity to fondle Boots, but seems thoroughly engaged in Pilotish Business up front.

"Cults? Lovely. What variety are we talking about?" Cora inquires of Shiv, "Death-obsessed, human sacrificing, harmless back-to-nature sorts…? I don't suppose shunning technology means they eschew guns, does it?" she adds dryly, "That would be too much to hope for."

Coll was fine. She was even pondering picking up a flower or two. Then Shiv mentions cults. Her pace slows a bit as she falls back in the group. "Fantastic," she grumbles to nobody in particular. Her head takes on a swivel as they move over the terrain.

"Military's a frakking cult too, you know," Tisiphone mutters under her breath, to nobody in particular. Defensive much? Who, her? Her eyes keep snapping back from distant inspections to check the perimeter of the group. Maybe she was a border collie in a previous life.

"Druidic, mainly," the captain replies, with a soft grunt as he puts his back into climbing the rather steep hill that's been dredged up in their path. Old bones, and all that. Coll's sent a brief glance over his shoulder, and shot a grin that isn't quite apologetic as he continues on. Simply as a matter of course, he takes the opportunity — once they reach the top — to re-check his radio. And signals the wirelo-carrying marine to check his, as well.

The lack of nothing visible makes Trask no more inclined to holster his heavy pistol. If anything, it heightens his agitation. Expressive brown eyes are wide with uncertainty, emotional unrest, and the glint of a cornered animal inclined to savagely attack when feeling duly threatened. Those very eyes dart back and forth, searching the seeming emptiness.

Evandreus looks back over his shoulder, once, then again, double-taking as he spots Boots with his gun out. "Boots?" he asks, simply.

"Ah," Cora replies simply to Sitka as they head up the hill. She keeps her eyes peeled, glance darting from tree to tree to outcropping to outcropping restlessly. And once to Tisiphone as she grumbles, of course, though the lieutenant doesn't seem to have a reply.

Just as they make their egress into the treeline, there's a sharp snap as Shiv twists around suddenly, obliterates a tree branch with his combat boot, and drops his back against the trunk of said tree. His sidearm is drawn in a single, swift motion, and his other hand slaps at his cheek. Like maybe a mosquito bit him. Not that that explains him unholstering his service pistol. "Hold on," he calls out to Cora.

"Yeah. Except we get paid, sir. know. We did." Lauren glances to Tisiphone and then to Sitka. Maybe it was a better idea to chill back at the Raptor. Then she hears it. Her own hand reflexes to her sidearm and its out of the holster in a blink, pointed to the ground by her side. "Sirs? Am I hearing shit?" Coll's face lifts up the mountain and her eyes search the terrain. She seems to have all but forgotten about the sky and clouds.

It takes a moment before Bunny's voice registers. "I… thought I heard something." Which is not entirely a lie. Slowly, the ECO starts to lower his weapon. Another moment of acute scrutiny is allotted to what appears to be nothing. Tightly, Kal closes his eyes and gives his head a shake, as though clearing away mental cobwebs. "I hate this frakkin' place," he mutters. Considering his history with southern Sagittaron, he has just reasons. Frowning deeply, he holters the gun and retakes his seat at the ECM console.

Cora stops short at roughly the same time Sitka does, or perhaps a moment before, lifting a hand more for quiet than caution. Her head tilts, hand easing her sidearm out, and then she turns back to Coll and asks: "Did you hear a woman screaming? Because that's what I'm hearing. Off—- west-southwest," she points up the mountain.

Samuel is still following a bit behind the others, cautiously looking back there most of the time, as per Sitka's request. Glancing over towards where the others are, once in a while.

Sitka, meanwhile, is still pawing at his cheek and the back of his neck, like he's trying to rid it of something unpleasant. His eyes slant toward Cora, though he doesn't put his gun away just yet. "Screaming? I didn't hear a frakking thing. Are you certain?" He turns away, searching out the space around him, then shifts his attention inexplicably to Tisiphone for a heartbeat or two.

Coll nods her head once firmly. "Aye, sir. No mistakin' that. Not at that volume an pitch." Her backwoods Virgon accent is hanging out like the branches of a willow tree. "It doesn't sound like someone is enjoyin themselves either." She glances back to Sitka and Cora, her body tensing. She's ready to take off running. Towards the voice. "I know what I heard, sir."

"Yeah. There's something to the west," says Tisiphone, her words measured and wary, her eyes wide and very, very intent. Her restless westward scanning pauses on the Captain for a moment, questioningly. Her mouth prims, as if she considers saying more, then decides against it.

Cora nods to Coll's description of what she heard, agreeing, "Precisely." She adds to Sitka, "Yes, I'm certain. Is there a problem, sir?" The last is clearly pointed at his self-clawing, brows drawing together as she regards the captain.

Evandreus's attention loiters by Trask a long moment even after he sits down. "I…" he begins, then, clearing his throat. "Yah. Me, too," he finally just murmurs. "You want to… talk, or anything?" he offers, even as his eyes return to his console, his fingers to the controls.

After a couple more vaguely agitated swipes, Sitka seems to have convinced himself that there's precisely nothing and nothing. Figment of his imagination, perhaps. He turns away from Tisiphone at length, casts his gaze upward into the canopy for a few moments, and then shakes his head to Cora. "Naw, it's.. it's nothing. Let's go. You want to lead on?" To the others, "Weapons out, stay close."

Samuel makes his way a bit closer to the main group now, still looking back as much as he's looking forward at the moment. Glancing towards the others again now, as he hears the orders.

"Nah," is all Trask says, attention pointedly back to monitoring. One… Two… Three… "How're you holdin' up?" Eyes flick towards Evan.

[TAC3] (from "Shiv" Sitka) Sitka also sends a brief message over the wireless, to inform their raptor crew, "Hey Bootstrap, it's Shiv. A few of us heard something that sounded like, uh. Screaming, I guess. From the west.. southwest. We're going to head that way half a click or so; could you let me know if your scans pick up anything funny in the area?"

"Alright," Cora replies to Sitka after another long moment watching the captain. She nods at his suggestion, and, weapon on, leads the group up the hill in a west-southwesterly direction.

Coll seems disinclined to wait for orders but holds fast for the moment regardless. Her other hand holds the sidearm in a shooter's grip, pointing it low at the ground right in front of her. But with Cora leading off, the Crewman is right behind. Whatever they heard, she's intent on finding the source.

The longer Sitka stares at Tisiphone, the more the questioning look morphs from defensive — hey, don't blame /her/, she's way back here — to spooked. A sort of crawling did you just hear what I heard? dread. Her eyes finally skitter back around the group as she clears her throat. "Copy that," she mutters to the Captain's orders. Sidearm out. She doesn't need to be told twice.

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) "Commencing biological scan, Shiv," Bootstrap relays. "I'll let'cha know what I find. Hold off for a few before headin' that way. Prudence an' all that rot."

[TAC3] "Shiv" Sitka says, "Copy that."

Sitka lifts his hand as he gets off the wireless, indicating for Cora — and the others — to hold.

Cora holds forward progress on Sitka's command, taking advantage of that moment to take a step back towards Tisiphone to ask in a low voice, "What is it?" Yeah, she noticed those weird looks.

Lauren does a doubletake back towards Sitka and she blinks. The woman has obviously been taught a few things from that Marine Sergeant she's been hanging around. She kneels behind a rock and looks at the Captain. "Sir? If someone is in trouble? Send me. Or a Marine. Or someone?" The woman can probably understand not wanting to risk a pilot or officer at this point. Not after yesterday. But its obvious she wants to get up there.

Samuel keeps quiet as he holds, taking a few moments to check his weapon for a few moments longer. When he hears Coll's words, he nods, "Ready to move in if needed, sir," he offers.

[TAC3] (from "Bootstrap" Trask) It doesn't take all that long before the preliminary report comes in. "So, I'm pickin' up some electromagnetic interference that's makin' it impossible to pinpoint actual individuals, but there are larger-than-bird lifeforms out there, and a concentration of 'em about 2 miles southwestish of the LZ. I'll see if I can get somethin' more precise for ya. That's it for now. Just, uh, keep in mind that the interference may or may not be due to residual ore in the mountains. Best to treat it as something far more nefarious. Bootstrap out."

"I've got a bad feeling about this," replies Tisiphone to Cora, on matters of odd looks thrown about with slightly too-wide eyes. It's an obvious oversimplification, and one she doesn't look eager to expand upon — instead, she glances down to her sidearm (resist the urge to check it AGAIN, resist) and turns in a restless circle, trying to resist the urge to pace.

Impatient or not as some of his party may be, Sitka seems in no rush whatsoever to forge ahead until the ECO's report is in. Head down, blue eyes skirting the shadows cast by the densely-packed trees, he listens carefully to his radio until Trask signs off, then nods across to Cora. "All right, let's go." To the group in general, "There's some sort of EM interference in the area, so let's all keep an eye out for any radio towers, or devices that don't seem to belong here. You spot something, call it out." To Coll, he sends a brief glance as they set off. "What's your name, again? I'm sure we've met, but I'm terrible with faces."

Coll clicks her teeth and rises from behind the rock, peeking back up the mountain before stepping off and around. She glances towards Sitka. "Lauren Coll, sir. I usually wear orange." Obviously a reference to her Deck detail. "Used to backseat Raptors. I put out the memo about the ASM one-twelves night before last, Captain." She flashes a quick smile but it fades fast. She's more interested in who made that scream.

Cora watches Tisiphone for a moment, and then nods, "Alright. But if you come up with anything more specific than that, I'd like to hear it. Whatever it is." She looks away then, turning back to Sitka to nod as the biological scan report comes in. Then up the hill she heads with the rest.

Samuel listens quietly to the instructions now. Starting to move when the others are moving as well, looking around very carefully as he listens to the part about the devices.

"Copy that," Tisiphone repeats, dipping a tense nod to Cora's request without looking back at the other woman. After a final glance around — they're Marines, girl, they're going to hold the perimeter Just Fine — she moves along with the others.

"Oh. Y'know," Evan replies, non-committal, to Trask's question, then goes quiet when the ECO finds himself with work to do. When it seems as though the group's going after a target that far from the Landing zone, he switches on the outgoing comms, himself, and, "Let us know how it's going," he sort of frets after them— the ducklings, straying so far from the nest.

The ducklings encounter little in the way of impediment of the manmade variety, though there's plenty provided by Mother Sagittaron herself. The terrain is treacherous and the magnetic fields from the mountain ores (or wherever they may be coming from) will wonk out a compass but quick.

Coll makes her way up the mountain with her own bit of strength, but that nerve-damaged hand makes grasping onto things like rocks tough when it comes to leverage and help-ups. But, she keeps moving and manages to stay with the group regardless.

The trees grow thick and dense, roots grappling each other for purchase in the rocky soil, then thin out into a stretch of bleak rock, stones littering the ground and making even the simple act of walking an adventure. Big slabs of rock jut toward the sky here and there as the terrain angles up toward a ridge. A sudden sound like a low howl gets carried along on a gust of wind from the far side of the ridge, veering upward in pitch until it attains the form of a frenetic, frenzied sort of shrieking, an invisible banshee screaming around the rock forms.

"Looks like a lovely vacation spot this," Samuel remarks a bit lightly as he makes his way up the mountain area with the others. Te howling sound makes him pause a bit, though. "What the…" he begins, glancing back to the others.

If she somehow lives long enough to look back on her foolish youth, Tisiphone will remember the days when she could smoke like a (small) chimney and still climb mountain slopes with the best of them. She catches up to Sitka and Cora — whether it's competitiveness or mere restlessness is for others to judge — and inquires of her squadleader, "Okay there, baba?" with only a light breathlessness to her voice. "You look-" Her cheekiness is cut off with a sudden scramble-twist to the side, as if startled by someone else also pushing forward to the front of the group. She looks back with a flare of irritation — treacherous mountain slope, yo — to find nobody there at all.

Sitka is either just getting old, or was up far too late last night poring over map data, given that the climb doesn't seem quite so effortless for him as it usually might. There are other possibilities, of course, but one likely doesn't want to ruminate too long upon them. Eyes forward, sidearm out with its muzzle pointed at the ground, he moves just ahead of Coll and not too far behind Cora. At the shriek, his weapon comes up and he drops to a knee in the loose rock. "Shit," he mutters, "I don't like this at all." To the other viper jock, with no mention at all of her little jab, "Problem?" And to Cora, as he shifts back to his feet, "Let's head for that ridge. Easy, now."

Cora easily keeps pace with Sitka at the front of the group, scrambling up slopes and picking her way across rocks like two mile hikes over uncertain terrain in marine body armor are something every well-bred Caprican girl picks up at boarding skill. When Sitka drops, she drops, though she mentions aside, "I think that was the wind." Tisiphone's weird reaction draws a look before she's eyeing the ridge Sitka indicates and unbending to her feet, saying, "Copy."

"Nothing. It's nothing," mutters Tisiphone, eyes gone a little too wide again. "Wind picked up." Which it did. It's also a rather feeble excuse. "Yeah, let's check those rock formations," she agrees, distractedly, looking around as she starts to move forward again. She holsters her sidearm and starts rubbing at her arms, trying to calm the gooseflesh back down.

Coll had gotten down behind another rock with that sound from the ridge. At Sitka's urging, she peeks her head back around the cover before moving out. But she's back down very quick. Her eyes dart to Sitka and she snaps her fingers to get his attention. "Sir. Movement. One o'clock. Between us and the ridge. Looks like they've taken a cover position like ours." Her sidearm is still out.

"Hold it," Sitka calls out, as Tisiphone starts to move forward. His pistol is gripped in both hands now, and he sidesteps out in a wide arc with it aimed at one of the jutting rock formations at the group's one o'clock. "Yeah, I saw it too," he tells Coll. "Salam, in chieh?" he demands, somewhat brusquely, of.. well, the rock. Samuel gets a wordless glance, as does Tisiphone, in request for them to fan out and surround the slab of shale. Cora, he motions back slightly. Letting the squishy intel officers take the heat is probably a poor idea.

"Sir," Cora says a moment later, hand lifted for all to stop moving except her, as she shifts back, "Eight o'clock," she says softly, "I've got… maybe four or five armed men headed for us along the ridge. Looks like they've seen us."

Samuel has ducked down a bit as well, pausing a little bit as he hears Coll's words. Nodding a bit as he sees that glance from Sitka, he starts moving, pausing a little bit as he hears Cora's words. Looking around carefully for a few moments, now.

The woman huddled down behind the distant rock is joined with another from around the side of a taller boulder jutting up to the sky, both unarmed, to a cursory glance, at least. They're not holding any weapons, at least. The second one to emerge calls out in reply to the call, in rough-hewn Sagittarian.

Tisiphone starts shuffling forward impatiently, then sways back a step at Sitka's call to hold. Her boots scritch against the rocky ground, skidding as she stiffens, arms snapping out slightly to the sides as if her balance wasn't as hot as it ought to be. "Got it," she mutters, voice cracking mid-sentence. Out comes the sidearm again — and again it's checked — before she starts moving forward. Cora's gesture to wait gets a questioning look cut from her to Sitka, and her steps slow but don't cease.

Well, isn't that just peachy. Sitka darts Cora a none-too-happy look, and nods curtly to signify he acknowledges. Then back to the woman and her companion, huddled behind that rock. "Baleh." His thumb rests on the safety, but doesn't yet engage it. "There are five men behind us, on the ridge. We will lower our weapons once they lower theirs."

Coll doesn't move. She just stays behind cover for the moment, watching the terrain around them for signs of more movement.

"She wants us to lower our weapons," says Tisiphone, quietly, cutting a glance back toward Cora. "Sacred ground. Shiv says we will if the ones on the ridge lower theirs." Her white-knuckled fingers shift slightly on her sidearm as she looks around.

Cora does not move either, once she's taken that step back Sitka directed. Sidearm held angled ahead of her and at an intermediate angle between 'raised to fire' and 'down at the ground'. The conversation going back and forth between the Sagittarans is watched carefully, a nod to Tisiphone for the translation.

Samuel looks around rather carefully, his own weapon held ready for now. Once in a while glancing over at the others present, then back to studying everything around them for now.

The woman takes another step up, showing that she is not, in fact, huddled on the ground, but that there's some manner of subterranean path she's ascending from behind the rock. She bears herself with confidence, speaks in short, sharp syntactical units that cut the air like shards of ice.

"Sacred ground. No violence," repeats Tisiphone, her words clipped and tense. She kicks her toe at the ground a couple time, dislodging some sharp scraps of stone from the path ahead of her, and watches them tumble down the slope until they're lost to sight. Her eyes are only half-focussed; maybe translating on-the-fly in an armed situation is a little overwhelming.

Sitka's eyes narrow slightly as he listens to what the woman has to say. The abrasive, throaty speech is reciprocated in kind, some moments after: "Baleh." Repeated, again in the same tone of voice. "Motavajeh. Yek lahzeh lotfan." And, blowing a breath out his nose, he thumbs off the safety on his pistol, and holsters it. That seems to be about as far as he's willing to go. "Lower your weapons," he tells the others, eyes cutting toward the ridge before shifting back to the woman. He lets Tisiphone take care of the translating. "Aya shoma Standard harf mizanid?" he asks the stranger.

Coll just glances to Tisiphone and Sitka as they talk and translate. Though she gets the part about holstering. The Crewman is hesitant about it, but after a few seconds flinally flicks her safety back on and holsters the sidearm. Her hand rests on her knee for the moment, right next to it, and she doesn't rise from cover yet. Those eyes continue scanning the area around them.

Samuel frowns a little bit as he hears that, looking around a little suspiciously for a few moments, before he slowly lowers his weapon after a few more moments of pause. "Feels…" he mutters to himself, glancing around once more.

"He wants to know if she speaks Standard." Tisiphone continues translating as she starts to holster her weapon, pauses to look at the men 'guarding' them on the ridge, then finishes the gesture. "She talks like a- holy person," she adds; being her own words rather than an attempt at translation, the phrase sounds more natural. "They're a little different than terrorists." A tight, mirthless smile to the group, that black barb aimed at least half at herself.

The group of men— four, in total, rather than five, now walk in open formation toward the invading group, holding their weapons before them, prepared to defend the place, but not yet taking aim at anybody, watching the guns return to holsters with steady eyes. The women by the rock— well, the more talkative one steps all the way out into the open, while the other one retreats into the caverns. "I do some," the one remaining outside goes on, words stressed with some oddness of cadence that goes beyond the accent in marking her as a CSL speaker. "Come and we will host you." As is proper in a sacred place, before asking who a pilgrim is or why he has come, to feed the guest and make him comfortable. "You will not be harmed." This as much to the men advancing as to the visitors.

Cora holsters her weapon when ordered, glancing sidelong at Tisiphone as she continues to translate and generally look distracted and weird. Otherwise her gaze remains split between the armed men still advancing and the woman Sitka addresses. And then the captain, who gets to decide whether to accept that invitation or not.

The Deckie doesn't seem so convinced. She shoots a glance to Cora and whispers: "Then who was screaming?" Lauren doesn't look so inclined to just take them at their word. Of course, hidden behind the rock as she is, she isn't exactly the most welcoming person either. Pot? Meet Kettle. She clearly isn't going to move, though, until someone issues her an order.

Sitka's own mannerisms have shifted, almost imperceptibly, from those he normally possesses while aboardship. Deferential isn't quite the right word; reluctant, cautious acquiescence, perhaps. Like he's reverting back to something he once knew, yet wasn't thoroughly comfortable with it. "Let's go," he tells the others, turning to follow the woman. The men behind them with guns aren't shot a brief parting glance before he trudges off. Murmured to Cora, "You want to take point on the questioning? Tisiphone or I'll let you know if you're doing anything wrong."

Tisiphone mutters something in Sagittaran as she scrubs at her arms again. Maybe it's the mild sunburn from yesterday's camp setup that has the mountainslope raising such a chill on her. Maybe. "It was the wind, Coll," she adds, looking back to Coll, pointing with her chin up toward the rock formations they're now near. "That's what it was."

Samuel frowns a bit as he hears Sitka's words, and moves to follow, moving rather slowly for now, as he looks around again.

The guardsmen, still about as hesitant about declaring peace as some of the Colonials still are, nonetheless lower their weapons in respect to the word given them by the woman. One of them follows along, taking up the tail of the group in case any of the soldiers get any funny ideas, but the rest retreat beyond the ridgeline. "Come in, and hasten. Do not block the door for long," she tells them, then, inclining her head toward Tisiphone. "You feel them," she notes, looking the woman over. "They come here in search of rest. We do for them what we can."

Cora leans over slightly as Coll whispers, and her lips thin a little as they press together. She straightens, and then tilts her head the other way as Sitka whispers in turn. She gives a nod to the captain, silent for now, eyes scanning the area again. As it's decided that they'll go in, she turns slightly towards Tisiphone, recent recipient of creepy commiseration from the woman and directs quietly, "Ask her who was screaming earlier. That was not the wind."

If Sitka caught Tisiphone's quiet mutter, he gives no indication. No mention is made of his own curiosity or skepticism, nor of whatever had disturbed him on the crest of that hillock. Instead, he falls back to let Cora effectively take point, and settles into the role of watcher for the time being.

"Really, sir? Willing to bet your life on that?" Lauren whispers back towards Tisiphone. She still isn't going to get out from behind that rock until she's told to. Someone has been shot or blown up too many times recently. There's a thankful nod to Cora as she forces the issue.

Tisiphone's mouth prims into a short line as she looks from Coll to Cora and back again. There's some lingering resentment, there. Perhaps she's locked horns with the Crewman before. "Fine," she agrees, brusquely, before switching to her birth-tongue. "They want to know who was screaming. They don't believe it was the wind." Pause. "We had problems last night. We've already lost one of our team. Their trust is in short supply."

Samuel frowns a bit as he listens for the moment. Glancing around carefully once more, just in case, as he waits for the question to be answered.

Cora's head turns suddenly, not quite a flinch, but something like it. She lifts a hand, brushing the hair that is already tucked back over her ear… further back over her ear? or something like that, scratching lightly before dropping to her side again. As Tisiphone grudgingly agrees and, presumably, asks her question, she watches the Sagittarans (the non-air wing ones) with a keen eye.

The woman in the plain, rustic garb, her head covered in the proper manner, falls in with the group at a convenient midpoint to guide them down the well-packed threshold of the cavern, from which the stones have been pulled up in order to make the going easier. She chooses a spot, moreover, close by Tisiphone's side, and looks back from her to the Crewman for a moment. "You have heard Cumaea. She has been brought… beyond herself… for to know those who come to the water's edge."

Fundies. Shit. Coll looks up to the woman as she comes in to view. Her hand is still resting on her knee by the sidearm. She only looks more and more confused. And a little incredulous. There's a skeptical glance to Cora and then back around. In her mind she's probably repeating something along the lines of 'Don't Frak This Up. Just Shut Up, Lauren.' over and over. She's still tense, though. The explanation obviously didn't settle her nerves.

Tisiphone looks back to Coll and Cora for a moment. "I'm explaining we're a little low on trust after the punji sticks." It's not as droll as, say, the Harriers SL would make it, but she's growing into a fine sense of black mirth. Her voice cracks a bit, and she clears her throat. Public speaker, she ain't meant to be. "Religious rites," she paraphrases, curtly, with a glance back at Coll. "They-" A startled breath is forced, with much deliberation, into a slow inhale. "-speak with the dead." Just like that, as if it's Fact(tm). Eyes move to Cora, then, and pale brows lift. What next?

"Must be lots of conversation, these days," Samuel mutters under his breath as he listens to the others. Otherwise keeping silent for the moment.

Cora listens to the woman's reply, gaze assessing before she looks back to Tisiphone. It does not need a translation, but some color commentary couldn't hurt. She nods when it is given, taking that in, and then her lips crack in a brief curve at Samuel's mutter. The what next look she gets she passes off; Sitka said they follow this woman and take her hospitality, and so that is what they are going to do.

The hospitality is decidedly Sagittarian in flavor. The men separated off from the women on opposite sides of a chamber strewn with animal skins as couches on both sides, the men tending to the men and the women to the women, bringing them water to drink and some manner of grotty black-colored underground rockfungus that tastes a whole hell of a lot better than it looks. Not that that's hard, since it looks like it might be coated in guano or something, but— it's actually got a nice nutty-savory flavor to it, for those who try it. Those who desire it will have their hands and feet washed in bowls of cool water as a series of low, jerking moans wind up from deeper in the caverns, mingled with the sounds of running water against stone formations. once the hosting is completed, "Now do tell me who you are, and who your fathers are, and whence you come, and for what purpose."

Public speaker she ain't, says the way Tisiphone's voice gets hoarser and hoarser, the longer she plays interpreter — but she doggedly keeps at it. It's just water, it's fine, she says — after drinking thirstily. The mushrooms are fine, try 'em, she says — after doing so herself (and presumably not dying in blue-faced, frothing agony for it). They want to wash our hands and feet, it's a custom, you won't offend them if you don't accept, she says — while taking the opportunity for clean toes, herself. Back and forth with the explanations she goes — until the official introductions come to pass. For /that/, she looks pointedly at Cora. She's just the messenger, man.

Cora drinks the water, eats a mushroom, lets her hands be washed but keeps her boots on, following Tisiphone's lead for the most part, or at least letting the ensign be her guinea pig in case they're being poisoned. When introductions are requested, she takes another sip of water, and then offers, "My name is Cora Nikephoros, and we've come from the Colonial Navy's Battlestar Cerberus. We are here on Sagittaron seeking out survivors of the Cylons' nuclear attacks so that we can rescue them before the planet is destroyed by radiation."

Coll follows the others in and sets down on what is apparently the women's side. She looks around at the cavern and seems a but unhappy with the moans and sounds from the deeper recesses. She politely shakes her head to all the offerings, seemingly not inclined to have her boots off or hands too far from her sidearm for now. The Crewman listens and watches everyone come and go from this place in silence.

Accepting as little of the hospitality that he can without offending anyone, Samuel keeps on looking around a bit nervously. Listening to what he can of what's being said, and otherwise keeping quiet. Very quiet, even for him.

Nothing blue or foamy happens to Tisiphone or anyone else partaking of the food or drink. A sharp scream does slice up the center of the cavern from the lower regions of the natural formation, but the curators of the place hardly seem to notice it. They must hear it a lot. "I am Akhaeno, daughter of Memruon," their hostess replies. We know well of the death plaguing our world. Stygianuvrro has become crowded with the souls who cannot cross. They throng here, million by million, but are stopped at the water." Stygianuvvro — a Sagittarian formation for 'the upper Styx.' "If you go down to the water's edge and be still you may feel yourself to be amongst them."

"Tisiphone, third daughter of Busiris Apostolos," the pilot introduces herself, with a lurch of odd reluctance about it. She scrubs restlessly at her overgrown scalpfuzz as she says it. "It's not only here the Cylons have attacked," she blurts on the tail of Cora's words. Perhaps to try (and fail) to cover up one of those sobbing screams echoing up from the depths. "All the Colonies. Some- destroyed. Sagittaron was luckier than most." The words are a little flat, as if she's trotting out a party line she's not particularly feeling at the moment.

Cora listens, glancing once at Sitka for the translation of that word, Stygianuvrro, though those first few syllables get a sort of general meaning across. Tisiphone speaks before she can reply, and she looks to the pilot, listening to her as well. Another sip of water, and after a moment she asks, "What do you and your people do for them? The dead."

Its that scream again. Lauren closes her eyes for a moment before looking at Tisiphone. Its not a mocking stare or an 'I told you so', but simply blank. She holds it for a moment before looking towards the area where it came from. Her fingers drum across her knee, careful to avoid the holster on her thigh - but not by much. If some howling ghost comes flying up that cavern, she'll be the first to put rounds on it. Or something.

Looking around a bit moreat the sound of the scream, Samuel goes back to being quiet and looking generally uncomfortable, for now.

"May they then find their own harbor," Akhaeno replies after a moment to process the fact that the outsiders are also dead, unable to scrounge up any animosity against the deceased or their survivors. "Those of this world who lie unburied come here for their hope of safe passage. But they are… many. And we are few. And we are even fewer for whom sensing the great crowds of souls is easy. Very nearly all who come will feel them. Maybe once. Maybe twice. Rarer is the person to whom they make themselves known time and again."

Tisiphone looks to Cora for a moment, her face ashen underneath the light sunburn, then back and across to Coll. Over to the Marines and her squadleader. "Keep talking," she says quietly to Cora, even as she pushes up to her feet. A few quick steps bring her near the center of the room, from where she calls, tersely, "Ibrahim." A small nod of her head, unmistakeably a get over here, we need to talk.


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