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Thread Contributor: Luthien VogelerQuest Day 8: Nampa, Idaho to Honeyville, Utah
Emberverse-Main

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#1
The damage to the van's engine had been expensive to repair, and had involved parts that had to be shipped in from Boise, which caused further delay. Of course, they would have had to stay and rest anyway, until all of them were healed of their hurts, which was important, given that they'd been attacked once already, and would need to have all of their party fighting-fit.

The attack had been the worst of it, of course, both because of the damage and delay that it had inflicted, and because of the tension that came from waiting to see if the things who had attacked them would be back. She hadn't known that such things had existed at all in this Age of the World, and finding out that this was the case had been profoundly disturbing.

But now they were on their way, and hopefully they would make good time as they traveled down the road.
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#2
To Arjay, the downtime at the hotel had served a reasonably important purpose, aside from healing the idiotic wound on his shoulder. He’d had time then to go through all of the gear he’d packed, the little trinkets and supplies that had seemed so useful when they had set out, the things that packed on the assumption that magic would be a thing that he could use on this trip. Had he known just how wrong he was, he’d have packed differently, but that was just how it was, wasn’t it? Once he was able to look things over, he found that his bag of holding was extremely unstable, showing a definite bottom and different contents each time he opened it. He could only hope that the magic would reassert itself when they left this world, but for now, he’d taken to holding a few key things in nonmagical bags lest they not appear when he needed them. His wands were useless, he’d found. The spells they cast had minimal power to them, and they expended themselves after only one use. His weapons, on the other hand, seemed to work well enough, though he wasn’t going to test some of the more powerful abilities, lest they lose their power in this strange, magic-starved world.

Nevertheless, he was healed now and in good spirits. Sure, his magic was useless to him, but most magic was useless to those they would come up against as well. That, he could deal with. Some had said that he relied too heavily on his magic, this was his chance to show them that he was still a swordmaster, even without the spells that usually helped him along. They were on the road again, and he did enjoy travel, particularly when the sights were as strange to him as these were.

“…And the most frustrating part was that no one ever believed us about just how that dragon had been killed,” he finished, settling back in his seat after one of his personal favorite stories.
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#3
"I can't blame them." Luthien said, teasingly "I'm not completely certain that I believe you. Not that I doubt your hones-"

Before she could finish her sentence, there was a loud BANG! and the van listed to one side, a tire blown out.

"What was that?!" Luthien exclaimed, startled by the noise and the shaking, already reaching for her sword, lest this be the start of another attack.
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#4
“Language!”

Like everyone else, Steve had put their downtime to good use. He had sorted through the world of issues that thinking you had been on fire had brought up, worked through most of those issues, and come to terms with the idea that somewhere out there, there could be a world (many worlds, but he wasn’t thinking about that) that he could lose the effects of the serum.

“I don’t think anyone could blame them, Luthien. If I didn’t know Arjay well enough to know he wouldn’t be spinning yarns, I’m not sure I’d believe it, either.”

The blown tire had Steve give a start, but he knew the sound, knew the feel of a vehicle that had just lost a tire. Steve handled the wheel with the same calm he’d been using the last however many miles he had been driving, pulling the van over to the side of the road with an almost resigned sigh even as he reached to reassure Luthien. “It’s just a tire. Most vans have a spare. We’ll lose a little bit of time changing them out, but it should be fine.”

He looked toward the back seat, “Do we have a jack?”

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#5
When the van lurched, Arjay jumped, banging his head on the ceiling, and falling back into his seat in something of a momentary daze. That was not something he expected from their trip, which had thus far been smooth. Still, Steve didn’t seem disconcerted, which was a bit of a comfort to the elf. If the man familiar with these things wasn’t alarmed, he shouldn’t be either, should he?

The explanation, though, was mildly puzzling, all things told. Apparently, the wheels that these “trucks” rolled on had air inside them. That was an interesting design, he supposed. He’d have to mention it to some of the craftsmen back home, see if they could make anything of the idea, but until then, one question came to his mind above all others. What could have damaged it? They hardly looked fragile… but then, they were full of air. Maybe this was common, if they carried a spare as a general practice.

Also, who was this ‘Jack’, and why did they suddenly need him? “I thought you knew everyone’s name,” Arjay answered.
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#6
Queth had been content to rest with her eyes half open in the back of the van as Steve drove. After the annoying amount of effort she had to go to unsnag the parts of her leg- she was more than happy to rest for a couple hundred miles.

Didn't stop her from resting her guns in her lap while they drove- one attack when unprepared was enough for her. Queth listened half heartedly to Arjay's story- one she wasn't inclined to believe, but for a different reason than the others likely. Dragons were unbelievably powerful- and just as intelligent. No matter the swordsman's power, he was just an elf. It would take an army to kill off a dragon.

She started at the sound of the tire blowing out before her brain reminded her of what that was- something that she yet again wished she was in her own car for. It had been years since she had needed to change a tire for anything other than an upgrade- save for when she was repairing other people's vehicles.

Queth couldn't stop herself from laughing slightly at Arjay's reply to Steve. She managed to stifle it to quiet snickers but it still took her a moment to compose herself enough to answer. "A jack- arjay- is a device used to lift the cage of the vehicle so that you can remove the tire. It's like a post with an adjustable height so that you can support the weight while you put on the spare."

Grinning softly to herself she turned around and started digging through the contents of the back while she looked for one. Her grin melted into a frown when she couldn't find one. "So either I'm quite bad at finding things or- unsurprisingly- the hippies we bought this van from didn't think a jack was a valid use of space."

Climbing out of the vehicle, she went and retrieved the spare. "I mean-" Queth started leaning back towards the windows so the others could hear her. "-I'd appreciate someone else looking, but I could probably act as a makeshift jack if necessary." She said with a wave of her uncovered metal fingers. Thus far, Queth had found that anyone who noticed them just thought they were a cool toy or something- but that the clammy silicon was creeping people out.
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#7
“I believe that that ‘someone’ needs to be someone other than me,” Arjay said, sliding his way out of the van, stretching his legs and generally trying to stay out of the way. “Finding it more than likely requires actually knowing what it looks like, I would assume.”

He idly glanced over the tire as everyone went about trying to find Jack so that he could lift the van, or… whatever it was. Vehicular maintenance was beyond him. Which, of course, meant that he probably wouldn’t be any use figuring anything in this matter out, unless…

Unless he happened to notice the piece of spiked metal sticking out of it. Arjay reached back into the wheel well, hoping that his eyes were messing with him, that it was something much more mundane, but the moment he touched it he knew that he was dealing with something more deliberate than roadway debris.

With several fluid elven swear words, he looked back at the door, which was full of people looking for the jack or otherwise getting out of the van. Damn it… “My sword! Hurry!” he barked, “This is-“ How he was going to classify this incident was left unknown, as the sudden sharp reports of gunfire cut him off.

The bullets kicked up dirt and dinged off the sturdy metal of the van’s body before they abruptly stopped. The reason for this became readily apparent soon enough, as men came rushing at them from a ways off the road, apparently cutting off the clear shot that the shooter had had. These men were armed like the ones they’d seen the week before: Machetes, knives, one actually holding a heavy wooden baseball bat, and other easily-obtained close-range weapons. An arrow hit the ground near the van, but like the gunfire, the rushing goons blocked any good shots the archer might have at the moment.

Arjay drew the ivory hilt of a slender dagger from his boot, flipped it, and threw it in one smooth motion, burying it in the chest of one of the closest rushing goons… but, of course, that didn’t stop him any more than stabbing them in the heart had the last time. Damnation… The elf waited as the goons rushed in, waiting either for someone to throw him his sword or for there to be an opening to make a lunge for it through the van door.
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#8
“Language!”

Steve was calm as he turned to look into the back of the van, looking to see if the van had a jack. It wasn’t as though the story Arjay had only just finished telling was forgotten, but in the face of the task that would be replacing the tire, Steve immediately got down to business.

He felt bad about how much work Queth had to do to straighten out her leg; she’d been trying to help him, after all - she had helped him, and in return she ended up with a messed up leg. It made him wish he could help her, and on that note, made him realize that certain friends of his could have helped Queth fix up her leg good as new. Which made him realize how much he missed the snarky engineer. And wasn’t that aggravating. He’d left to get away from Tony, and now that it came down to it, he missed the man, more than he maybe should. Definitely more than he had any right to, because it wasn’t the Tony from his own world that he was missing… It was the slightly different but more relatable mechanic he’d met in Hub that Steve wished had come on this quest with the rest of them…

Chuckling at Arjay’s question and Queth’s answer, Steve shook his head at the lack of a jack in the van. “I miss 2017. Or even 2012,” he said, looking surprised at the words even as he spoke them, “Jacks are pretty universal and constant then, and small enough that no one would think much of having one in the back of a car or van. It’s amazing, really, how small everything got…” Computers, telephones, everything shrank down into smaller and smaller versions of themselves. And more complicated. And… Steve shook his head again, “I think you’re right, though - don’t see one.” Instead he moved to follow Arjay out of the van to see about helping to change the tire.

“Caltrop.” Damn, that was definitely not a good sign. The gunfire only added to Steve’s surety that they weren’t alone out here (obviously) and he brought out his shield to block any bullets that would have otherwise managed to hit them. He covered himself and his elven friend, and when he saw the man keep coming even after Arjay buried the dagger to the hilt in the man’s chest, well… “Damn it.” Steve threw his shield to hit the three nearest the van before leaning in and groping for the sword, pulling it out and tossing it to his friend before reaching out and catching his shield. He pulled the rod that Arjay had given him that first day they’d fought together out and pressed the button that caused two half moon blades to slide out of the haft. Blunt force trauma hadn’t worked the last time, not really, but maybe this would be better, and while Steve wasn’t a fan of killing people, these… These men were not people. Not anymore, anyway.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#9
Luthien ran into the van, grabbing her own sword as well as Arjay's. A moment later and she was back out of the van, calling "Arjay!" to get his attention before she tossed him the blade. A moment later, and she joined the fray, stabbing one of the men attacking Steve and Arjay in the throat, twisting the blade so that his head was almost severed, and he dropped to the ground, dead.

Then, there was an odd, barking sound, and a biting pain, and Luthien collapsed to the ground, crying out in pain at the bullet that had struck her in the shoulder, forcing her to drop her sword.
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#10
Yes! Arjay spun in place, catching the sword and giving his wrist a flick to fling the scabbard off of it, right before he caught… another sword. He wasn’t sure which of his friends had thrown him Luthien’s sword by mistake, but he wasn’t going to complain. If there were ever a battle for two swords, it was this one, and it wasn’t as if she really needed this. The sword she still had, the object of their quest, was a far superior blade in any case. He wasn’t going to be a fool this time… he’d made a mistake last time and been injured for the trouble. This time, he’d make a good showing for the warriors of his world.

Unfortunately, Luthien falling to the ground, blood pouring from her shoulder, showed him another problem they faced… one he couldn’t do anything about. He couldn’t deflect bullets with his swords… well, he hadn’t tried, and this wasn’t the moment to give the idea a test. He could handle these ones that were wielding their crude swords well enough, but those guns, they were better suited for… His head snapped around for just a moment, taking in the scene around him. Steve, his shield in place, the rod ready. Luthien, collapsed to the ground the object of their quest lying on the ground. The others were moving to battle as well, but those were the ones he had time to take stock of. Spinning, he dropped Luthien’s sword and snatched up the Sword of the Lady from the ground, half expecting it to reject his touch, but pleased when it didn’t. If she wasn’t going to be able to fight with it, he wasn’t going to leave the one point of failure for their quest lying there for the enemy to snatch up.

Switching to a more defensive stance, Arjay began working to control the battle, no longer trying to kill all of the swordsmen so much as keep them in place as human shields against the gunfire while holding them back from the van. “Their… archers!” he barked, knowing the word wasn’t right but not having the concentration to find the right one. The others would get the point. “Leave these to me, get the ones shooting at us!” After all, who was better to rush gunmen and archers (he had seen the few arrows that hit the dirt) than a man with an indestructible shield and people skilled with firearms and bows themselves.
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#11
Queth bared her teeth at the idiots wielding guns like they were flamethrowers. If anything drove home the fact that she was facing off against some form of constructs- it was their seeming lack of desire to aim. She'd claim that it was impossible for someone to survive that many wounds to the chest- but then her ribcage was half metal so she wasn't one to speak about that.

Watching the beautiful Luthien knocked on the ground, bullet in her shoulder- Queth wouldn't have been surprised later if someone informed her that she had growled at the idiots. Swiping her sword from the air as it dropped from Arjay's grip she leapt, spun, shot, and swung, in one smooth movement. Being lefthanded- but having all of the training in her cyberware right hand- certainly made things easier when trying to dual wield.

She watched with angry satisfaction as one of the enemies went down with a bullet to the forehead- and the sword she carried neatly removed the head of another. Running forward, she dropped to one knee with her leg stretched ahead of her as she slid towards the gunmen- using as much of her matrix like agility as possible. Once she was close enough that they'd have to dramatically change their target to hit her, Queth allowed the momentum to take her back upright.

Taking them out might require a moment- but a solid sword swipe was all it took for her to rid them of their guns. And their lower arms. "For future reference Arjay! The word! Is! Gunmen!" She replied as the now gunless gunmen swarmed her to the point where she holstered her gun and whipped out her ceramic knife to fight with instead. Queth couldn't help but wish that she had brought her sword with her from the van.

"Also- they won't be shooting anymore- but I'm getting swarmed so if someone could come help me!"
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#12
“Language!”

Shield up and at the ready, battle axe in hand, Steve was just beginning to head into the fray with these men who weren’t really men when the shooting started. Immediately, Steve fell into a crouch, letting the bullets ping off of his shield, once again grateful to have it back in his care, to be fighting with it once more.

Of course, his friends did not have the shield, leaving them much more vulnerable to the attack than Steve was. He heard Luthien take the bullet and turned to make sure she was okay. Shoulder hit, she looked like she was going to be okay, but she was out of the fight, at least for now. Steve set eyes on Arjay, watching as he moved to try to defend the van, and Luthien.

Queth, it seemed, needed help the most as she dove headlong into the battle. In some ways, the elf reminded Steve of Natasha; she was graceful in combat, with aim that Steve had to respect. Steve didn’t sit back and wait. He charged forward, leading his entrance into the melee by throwing his shield to distract a few of them as he rushed them, following the toss of his shield with a swipe of the battle axe; one might dodge the blow, but Steve used his strength and reach to follow through with a long, wide arc. They couldn’t all dodge him. Even as he finished his swing, he reached out with his ‘free’ hand and snatched his shield out of the air as it returned to him thrusting forward to smash the nearest goon in the face before he snapped the weapon out again, thrusting forward as a battering ram only to switch at the last second to a spear, a trick he’d learned from Arjay, to spear two of them, giving him leverage on them to crack the edge of his shield against. Hopefully, the sweeping bladed attacks would have more effect than blunt force trauma.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#13
"Protect the sword." Luthien called out, as loudly as she could manage. It wasn't quite a shout, and as she spoke, her voice was laced with pain. She managed to half stumble, half run out of the way of the fight, the pain was making it difficult to focus, and all she could do was try to staunch the wound. It was bleeding, but not so badly that she thought it had hit anything vital, although who knew what damage the...the....bullet, her brain raggedly supplied had done to her arm and shoulder. That was a worry for later, though, for the moment all she could do was hope that her comrades would manage to defeat their attackers.
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#14
Quethadia had gone for the gunmen when asked, and that was all that Arjay could ask for. He similarly saw Steve make his rush toward the group, a few moments after the sound of gunfire had completely ceased. Excellent. In the space of one footstep, Arjay shifted from defense to attack, both swords finding necks to cut through like they were tissue paper. The fighting was more complicated than one might expect, most of the blows he would tend to seek being useless on these foes, but he managed it, parrying blows a few moments then striking out in calculated blows. Whether or not these creatures could be kept alive past mortal blows, you still couldn’t move an arm or a leg that had its tendons cut in the right place, where muscle had no connection to bone. Slowly, in a flurry of enchanted steel, the wall of cursed men began to stagger, then fall, first unable to fight, then, one by one, given finishing blows, until only one remained.

“If you see the foul being that commands you,” Arjay said coldly, “I pray you tell him that sending more of you after us is a fool’s errand. What shall be shall not be held back by tides of the damned.” Without flinching, he drove both swords through its neck, leaving its head sagging unnaturally from its body as it fell to the ground. “And tell it that Arjay Lo’Ran sends his regards.”

His eyes immediately snapped to Quethadia and Steve, but he saw that they had the remaining ones well in hand. As he watched Steve wading through the battle, Arjay felt a surge of pride seeing a few moves that had been inspired from their recent sparring session. They would, he judged, have the last ones managed shortly. Satisfied with that, he turned around, dropping the swords as he knelt to examine Luthien. “Easy now,” he said quietly, “Let me see.” He slowly coaxed her hand away from the wound where it was pressing there, examining the wound, his fingers carefully probing at the other side of her shoulder. “Well, it went straight through,” he said. “Pressure again. You’re going to be all right. Probably not the best to wait out here to treat it.” He wiped down the swords, retrieving the sheaths from where they’d been discarded, then gently took the hand that was hanging limply at her side and slipped the regeneration ring onto it that he hadn’t bothered to take off when his shoulder had healed. “Help me get her back in the van. We need to be ready to move once the wheel is fixed.”
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Emberverse-Main

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#15
Once all of the thugs were down, it was simple enough to get the bodies loaded into the vehicle they'd been in, which, like the first one, was pushed off the road and hidden away.

Then it was just a matter of getting a new tire on the van, and heading into town, where they could find shelter, somewhere for Luthien to get patched up, and for everyone else to get cleaned up and get their more minor wounds treated.

Luthien wasn't an active participant in any of this, the best she could do was to lay in the van and try not to cry out every time they drove over a bump.
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