After Ribose used some of her new primitive medicine mojo on herself and Cassie, we decided to call this Jeremiah friend of Maynard Gorch on his com link. Sure enough, the bozo had no security on his contact list at all, and we were able to just look up his com code and dial him up. Though we got him, sorta, he was breaking up really bad … all this rock was keeping a signal from getting through. But we did get a few words among the digital noise that led us to think he was in trouble. Imagine that!
We do get a direction on that other com link though … it’s back the way we came, through that 4-way branch with the bat shit. So, we go back. It’s not hard to see several sets of prints going down another corridor … well, we can’t blame Vicky for this one, she was following the scent on the cap. We don’t have to go much further tip we come to another underground stream and a pile of white objects on the shore. Closer inspection revealed … you guessed it … a pile of bones including a very human looking skull. We really didn’t need Cassie to tell us it was one complete set. Looks brand new, still glistening with slime from one of our amoeboid buddies no doubt. Looks like another one of these yahoos got themselves killed down here.
In among the bones is another Cybercom Model C. Doesn’t take long to ID it as belonging to Raymond Linter. We once again try *Gorch*’s link to call Jeremiah. The connection’s still crappy, but this time we can get enough words through to communicate. I get out of him that he and Richard are together, fleeing the horror that had their buddy Raymond for breakfast. I tell them to come back this way. They’re stumbling around in the dark, but I convince them to turn around. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for any movement in the water, but even after unwrapping a protein bar and throwing it in, it all seems quiet.
After a few minutes, Jeremiah and Richard come through a door on the other side of the stream. Neither one of them seemed like they wanted to come with us or get near the water, but Richard finally splashed across to us without harm, so Jeremiah followed him. That’s when Richard busted into a sob story about those awful Thalls that beat him up and he had to slash one of them up with a knife. It does seem like Jord may have been playing rough with them, but what were these idiots doing here in the first place. “Well, the hunting’s so much better here,” Richard whined. Yeah, fat lot of good that did your buddies, I pointed out. They stopped talking then, and we frog-marched them back out of the catacombs toward the Thall neoprim village.
Once there, we sat our two battered buddies down in Chief Kassa‘s cottage. I layer out for them the fact that they were not in my jurisdiction, and that the people of this tribe could deal with them as they wished for trespassing on their land. When I mentioned that personal combat had been mentioned as a way to resolve this, they seemed pretty unhappy. So, when I suggested that Kassa had mentioned the alternative of trading in their birthrights to settle the score instead, Richard jumped at the chance. Jeremiah miserably said he had already used his birthright. But when I mantioned to Kassa that Maynard and Raymond’s birthrights were also no longer needed by their original owners, she seemed willing to call it even, if we would just get rid of them for her. Even Jord seemed satisfied with the outcome, though he was certainly looking to Kassa for cues to see what he was supposed to say.
I asked Jord to please escort the prisoners out of here and get them ready to hike out while I had a talk with Kassa. Of course, Ribose, Cassie, Lily and Rowland stayed too. I explained to Kassa in simple terms about our friend The Caretaker and the dozen truly primitive Thalls he had in his care that we would like to leave here with them. We also explained about the benefits of giving The Caretaker a home here, including the things it could teach them using the Organic Cyberfaces, plus giving her tribe the ability to communicate with each other telepathically (in a manner of speaking). She seemed pretty enthusiastic about it. Ribose had already talked to The Caretaker about it and it was also OK with the plan. I thought, Great, now those hyenas at the Bureau of Science won’t be able to tear into it … which I think would avoid a huge problem for everyone.
I was a bit surprised when Rowland said he wanted to stay behind. Kassa said she’d be happy to have him. I’m sure Ricardo will like the idea of having one of his agents here to keep an eye on The Caretaker too. I’d call this a “win-win situation.” And so, we said goodbye and headed back to the Ranger station with our surviving yahoos, four tired EA agents and Vera Tellice. Kassa actually had the good grace to tell us she guessed she was wrong … maybe humans were’t all bad after all. Thanks. I think.
We hiked back out to the Ranger station and bid goodbye to Vera who also seemed to think maybe the humans weren’t as useless as she thought. She said I could keep my Ironwood sword, and Ribose kept her primitive medicine kit, along with the knowledge of how to use it from The Caretaker. Nobody else wanted anything from this trip, and everyone seemed glad to take the air car back to our hotel in town.
Upon arrival, we found Lilbet Bassabous still waiting for us, and asking if she could hitch a ride back to Hub with us. After clearing it with the Captain of the Harbinger, who was still waiting for us in orbit, we agreed. It didn’t take long for our ride to show up and take us off this crazy world with its high gravity, wet heat and howling windstorms. Why anyone would choose to live here is beyond me. Rowland? Well, him I can understand. His body is built to take the high gravs, and some of those tribe girls were giving him the eyeball. Well, I hope it works out for him. Just get me out of here!
Oh, and just for grins we did a little research on our amoeboid friends. Interestingly enough, they seem to be a well-known life form, but only on worlds that have caverns like Labyrinth and Catacomb. Up til now, nobody knew there were any on Turbulence. Of course, nobody knew there were catacombs of this type here either until now. More Precursor crap? Oh, who knows, they get blamed (or credited) for everything! The critter is called a Catacomb Crawler, and I’ll be updating their database entry soon. Feels good to add to the sum total of Conglomerate knowledge.