Tag Archives: Razorback Cliffwalker

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Chilling Effect #amwriting #storytelling #otherspace

A Nall shuttle delivers Colclough and the two Demarians to the surface of the planet Odari – homeworld of the merchant-minded Odarites.

The weather is chilly on the landing pad, just below freezing Fahrenheit in what amounts to a balmy summer day in the city of Ikikir.

“I usually pack better than this,” the CIS agent mumbles through shivering lips as he makes his way down the ramp from the shuttle.

The Nall – including the commanding officer – go no further than the airlock hatch when faced with such temperatures. They seem satisfied to let Whiptail, Razorback, and Colclough go on their merry way.

Though fur is an excellent insulator, Demar is a desert world. Still, hailing from high in the mountains, Razorback might have less trouble than most Demarians acclimating to the colder temperatures. He shakes off the urge to shiver, and points to a motel of sorts right off the spaceport. “A good start if we are going to collect our thoughts, and determine our next move, no?” he says.

On the other hand, Whiptail has been a desert dweller his entire life, and although fur does offer protection, he’s in obvious discomfort as he disembarks from the shuttle. “Anythin’ to get outta this here cold.” he says. “I think better when ma teeth ain’t chatterin’.”

“Once we’re checked in, I can reach out to my contact here in the capital,” Colclough replies, hugging himself against the cold. He turns once to glance back at the Nall shuttle as it departs, then resumes his path toward the main building of the spaceport.

“Well enough,” the Cliffwalker growls as he stalks towards customs. “Can you trust this contact of yours? Or are we risking the same fate we experienced on Demaria?”

“With everythang we’ve had to put up with so far, I ain’t discountin’ it.” Whiptail says, following along.

The interior of the spaceport isn’t much warmer than the exterior – the Odarites like their environment pretty cold. The agent’s teeth chatter as he leads the way toward the kiosk, where a representative from the Odarite Merchants Guild awaits.

Before reaching the counter, he tells Razorback: “Our contact on Demaria wasn’t the problem.” He then manages a smile for the Odarite and taps his fingers on the countertop. “Hello.”

“Identification,” click-clacks the Odarite.

Colclough offers an ident card with the name JESSUP, CALLUM P. and an address in the city of San Angeles on Earth. The Odarite scans the card and then inquires: “Purpose of visit?”

Colclough replies: “Business.” He shivers in spite of himself.

“Any goods to declare?” the Odarite demands.

“None at all,” Colclough answers.

“Enjoy your stay,” the Odarite clacks. He then swivels his compound eyes toward the Demarians. “Next?”

Razorback considers this for half a moment before presenting his resident “alien” ID from the Hekayti Empire to the Odarite. In days gone by, the document was dubbed an “Outverser Card” as it was the only official ID that could be obtained by the residents of Comorro. Worth a try.

Whiptail digs into his own pocket and pulls out his Demarian ID card. As he presents it to the Odarite, it’s apparent that the card is for the Demarian guard reserves, showing his full name, WHIPTAIL ROPEDANCER.

The customs agent reviews both cards presented by the Demarians. His dark round head rotates at an angle as he regards the ID presented by Razorback. “A rarity,” he says, “one of the few I’ve seen. Fascinating.” His glittering eyes fix on Razorback. “Anything to declare?”

“Nothing at all,” the Cliffwalker says with a nod, ready to follow Colclough as soon as the Odarite allows.

“Proceed,” the Odarite replies. He then regards Whiptail and asks: “Anything to declare?”

Whiptail shakes his head. “Nothing.”

Once the Demarians are cleared, Colclough leads the way to the neighboring hotel where he books four separate rooms under the name of Yanuth Coral, and then a fifth under the name of Brilliant Sparkman. The concierge scans fingerprints and retinas of the three guests.

“And now I’d like the roof suite,” Colclough says with a smile. “Under the name K’ikikik.”

Once that’s settled, he walks toward the elevator.

Razorback looks over at Colclough and his rather elaborate room rental procedure. “So …” he begins as they enter the lift, “Might I inquire as to where we will actually be staying?”

Whiptail raises a bushy eyebrow at the number of rooms. “That’s kinda what I’d like ta know. Expectin’ company?”

As the lift doors close, Colclough presses his finger on the scanner and the elevator starts climbing toward the roof suite.

“We stand out just a little on this planet,” the CIS agent replies. “The rooms I just secured were, in fact, a pre-determined message for my contact here on Odari.”

The lift stops and the doors open on the rather nicely appointed suite. Colclough steps out of the lift. “If he’s still friendly, we’re in good shape.”

“It may also have garnered the attention of most of the local crime lords,” Razorback says, looking around the new rooms. The soft couch calls to him for a moment, but instead, he moves to investigate each door, his nose and ears keenly attuned to anything out of place. Once satisfied no assassins are present, he comes back to the main room. “I need a bath,” he states.

“I need a friggin’ nap.” Whiptail says, and heads over to lay down on the inviting couch. “These old bones may still have miles left on ’em but I ain’t too good with the long haul these days.” he says, settling in.

The CIS agent walks to one of the picture windows that offers a view of the city in the mouth of a massive cavern at the middle of Queen’s Peak. The room is about 150 feet above ground floor. Nothing but shorter buildings on any side. He glances toward the stalactites about 200 feet above the building. Someone might be perched up there, with abundant effort. He raises an eyebrow and turns to walk back toward the wet bar. “Anyone thirsty?”

“A red for me,” Razorback says, almost absently, “I’ll be back before it’s done breathing.” And he disappears into a bathroom, where water can be heard running moments later.

“At this point I’ll take whatever’s strongest.” Whiptail says with a sigh.
Colclough pours drinks for himself and his companions. He leaves Razorback’s on a table near the bathroom, then delivers a glass to Whiptail. He walks back to the bar to retrieve his drink and takes a sip.

He speaks aloud: “Room, news holovid. Consortium Broadcast. Live feed. Demaria. Real-time.. Mute.”

A holovid array activates, with multiple shafts of light forming the core of the image generator. The broadcast feed shows chaos in the city of Alhira – smoke and fire, people screaming, soldiers in atmosphere suits trying to contain the madness. The banner across the bottom with the CBN logo declares: MASS DEATH INCIDENT BLAMED ON UNKNOWN CONTAGION.

True to his word, Razorback is back within a few minutes, doing his best to dry his mane with a towel not designed for Demarians. There is shedding. The Cliffwalker takes up the glass, sniffing it carefully before taking a sip. His eyes come to rest on the display, causing his brow to furrow deeply, his ears disappearing into his mane. “There will be blood for this,” he growls, “And if a member of your organization is behind it, even a rogue agent, the Consortium will drift perilously close to chaos. Secession will be openly discussed, if not recommended.”

Whiptail narrows his eyes as he watches the footage. “Yer right there, young’un. This ain’t gonna pass.” he says, taking a swig of his drink, swishing it a bit in his mouth before swalling. “Wow..” he whispers with a cough, then shakes his head.

“Suffice it to say, I am incredibly perturbed by the recent turn of events,” the CIS agent says. He paces in front of one of the windows. “In my line of work, a certain amount of treachery and deception is to be expected. But someone wiped out my team on Demaria – along with a substantial chunk of the civilian population in Alhira. They tried to kill me, and you by extension. When we arrived at the Line of Pain, the order to kill us on sight had already arrived. Now we find ourselves alive because of the Nall, but how long we survive is an open question. The answer is largely dependent on whether my friend remains an ally.” He stops, staring down at the sprawling city. “This was not the work of a rogue agent. It was a wide-ranging, coordinated effort, most likely from the highest levels.”

“Then why?” Razorback asks, swirling the wine in his glass, “Why would someone in the highest levels of your government seek to destabilize relations with Demaria?”

Whiptail manages to fight off sleep as the conversation gets interesting. “More’n just Demaria, with stuff like this goin’ on, it’s gonna be chaos everywhere.” he says, taking another sip of his drink. “Fingers are gonna be pointin’, it’s like somebody wants chaos.”

“I hesitate to speculate,” Colclough replies, his brow knitting. “I agree that chaos and dissent are the goal, but I am as yet unclear about the motivations behind it.” His frown deepens. “Running through scenarios in my mind, though, is causing me no shortage of discomfort.”

“You certainly do not exaggerate on that count, Mr. Colclough,” Razorback replies. “Our survival is not my concern for the moment, though,” he adds after another sip, “Our time is come or it is not. But chaos is not something our corner of the universe can survive. There are far older and far darker powers in the galaxy than those which are immediately apparent.”

Whiptail shakes his head. “This is gettin’ past mah thinkin’.” he says, taking another sip of his drink. “I’ve seen low, I’ve seen high in mah years, but this, this here, this takes the cake.”

The room’s door alert chimes. Colclough opens the cabinet doors beneath the wet bar and removes the plasma rifle that waits there. He checks the weapon charge, aims the barrel at the door, and then tells Razorback: “Let’s find out if our visitor is friend or foe.”

Razorback holds up a digit until he can cut the lights in the room. “Go ahead,” he says, backing into a shadowed corner.

Whiptail remains on the couch, but draws his pulse pistol and hides it under a pillow, aimed at the door.

“Open,” Colclough says, and upon his voice command, the door slides open to reveal the silhouette of a round-headed insectoid with glittering compound eyes. None of his multiple claws appear to be gripping weapons – although, of course, they might be used as weapons themselves.

“My larval ascenscion celebration is several cycles hence, friend Colclough,” the Odarite states, clicking mandibles as he tilts his head. “If this is a surprise party, it is premature.” He notes the rifle in the agent’s grasp. “I see you found the party favor. I meant to leave a pointy hat for you too.”

Colclough nods, then looks toward Razorback and says, “Turn the lights back on. Three’s a friend.”

“Oh, I’m not Three,” the Odarite corrects. “I’m Six.”

“Six? What happened to Three?”

Click-clack. “Four happened to Three. And then Five happened to Four.”

“Life is harsh in the OMG,” Colclough notes with a whistle.

“Five’s last words were something to that effect,” Six agrees.

The Cliffwalker slips out into the light from the windows to flip the lights on. “May Seven be long in coming, then?” he asks.

Whiptail re-holsters his pistol, for the moment staying quiet.

“The Queen forbid, I hope not,” Six says. He ventures a step into the room and the door slides closed behind him. “Nevertheless, it may be best if I avoid the windows.” He regards Colclough. “You’re in trouble.”

“It happens sometimes,” the agent replies. He sets the rifle on the bar counter. Then he walks to a chair and sits. “Usually not this bad, though.”

“It is becoming a comfortable state of affairs,” Razorback says blithely, “Do you have any information as to why?”

The Odarite shakes his head. “My usual channels have gone silent on this situation. What I can tell you is that the contagion outbreak seems to be contained to a few city blocks of Alhira. Not enough to wipe out the city, but enough to prompt a crisis, a lockdown, and Vanguard intervention – at least in the short term.”

Whiptail sits up on the couch. “So they ain’t targetin’ anybody specific… they jest want chaos.” he says with a frown.

“That the event and our arrival coincided seems unlikely,” Razorback growls, taking up his glass of wine and pausing in thought. He stares out the window for a moment before continuing, “If I wanted to destabilize relations between Demaria and the rest of the Consortium, creating chaos, like the biological attack, and the underclasser revolt is not enough. I would need the Vanguard to be brought into the conflict. Perhaps to establish order, in a circumstance where order is already tenuous.”

Colclough nods in agreement. “And if the Vanguard is called in to manage a tense and hazardous situation, it creates opportunities for conflict with the Demarian Militia over authority. Putting a further strain on Consortium relations.”

“So tha question is… who’s pullin’ the strings?” Whiptail says. “Call me a cynical ol’ cat, but I wouldn’t put it past some ah them nobles to want to put things back to tha way they used to be.” he says, staring down at the floor for a moment. “Ya gotta admit, since we done gone and joined up with the Consortium, they ain’t all powerful now.”

“Maybe,” Razorback says, “But the Militia is disproportionately made up of Underclassers, likely to support a revolt as they did…” He stops there for a moment before trying again. “Friction between the Militia and the Vanguard is likely to appear to be the Nobles using the Consortium to keep the Underclassers in line.” He growls, rubbing the bridge of his muzzle. “This speculation gets us no where,” he says, “We need real answers, before we die for a truth we never knew.”

“You are unlikely to get those answers here,” Six replies.

Colclough sighs. “And we mustn’t forget the fact that my own agency sought to eliminate me.” He frowns. “The rocket taking down the shuttle could’ve been dismissed as a terrorist incident, but we would be dead right now if not for the timely intervention of the Nall.” His gaze sweeps the room, then settles on the picture windows offering their view of the cavernous city. “We can’t stay here. And I think it’s time we part ways for a little while.” He regards Six with a steady stare. “Can I rely on you to get them new identification and passage to a world of their choosing where they might be safe?”

The Odarite bobs his round head and clacks his mandibles. “I can do that.”
Whiptail nods slowly. “I fig’r that’s gonna have to be how it is..” he says. “If these folks are willin’ to kill everyday folks and then try to kill you, I doubt they’d even bat an eye at wipin’ out an old feller like me.”

“I am not confident that any world in the Orion Arm would be safe for long,” the Cliffwalker says, “Though likely we would need to stay in the Fringe if the Consortium government is compromised.”

“Give it some thought,” Six replies. “When I return, you will have new identities and I will see that you have passage to your chosen destination.”

Whitail nods slowly. “I’ll take jest about anythin’.” the old Demarian says. “My only regret is I may die away from home, but sometimes ya gotta take what comes.”

“If we could be placed on Quaquan, preferably landing somewhere relatively remote,” Razorback says, “We will likely avoid detection for longer than most other places.” He nods to Colclough, “Until you need to make contact.”

Colclough nods to Razorback. Six makes his way toward the door, which slides open on his approach.

The CIS agent stops, turns to Whiptail, and gestures with a thumb toward Razorback. “You’ve done well to fall into this one’s company, I think. I know this is a grim, difficult situation, for all of us.” He looks toward the Cliffwalker and says, “But something tells me the experiences he’s had over the years make him uniquely qualified to handle this sort of crisis.”

The Odarite chimes in: “And listen to me, if you want to live. But the Queen knows: never trust me.” His mandibles clack in amusement before he disappears into the hallway.

Colclough frowns: “I don’t find such comments helpful, honest as they may be.” He tilts his head, then says, “Be safe, until I can reach you on Quaquan.”
Whiptail nods to Colclough. “I’m still breathin’, so that’s somethin’.”

“Unique to be sure,” Razorback says, his fangs bared in a grim smile, “As to qualified, that remains to be seen.” The Cliffwalker sighs, looking around at their lack of belongings. “Off we go, then,” he says.

“Never thought I’d be gettin’ the grand tour of tha universe at my age.” Whiptail says with a grin of his own.

“Count yourself fortunate it is this universe only,” Razorback mutters with only a hint of sarcasm.

Whiptail raises an eyeridge at this. “Other universes?”

“A long story,” the Cliffwalker replies as he gets ready to leave, “For which I hope we shall have plenty of time.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Unlikely Rescue #amwriting #storytelling #otherspace

One moment, Robert Colclough is aboard a shuttle that’s
plummeting toward the uncaring sands of Demaria. The next, he’s light years
away, emerging from a swirling blue portal onto the deckplates of a Consortium
Intelligence outpost hidden among the wrecked hulls of the Line of Pain.

He links his HUD to the local computer system and data
archives to confirm the location, then mumbles to himself: “Well, at least
it’s not Nalhom.”

Whiptail stumbles through the portal, a bit confused.
“Where in tarnation are we now?”

The Cliffwalker rises from the deck where he landed, one paw
going to a queasy stomach. He looks around at the walls, and any screens
thereupon. “A Consortium station,” he says, shaking his head to get
his bearings.

“Listening post, to be precise,” Colclough replies
with a tight smile as he looks around their arrival chamber – a rather cramped
place, dimly lit, with no windows in the bulkheads and just one hatch leading
deeper into the station.

A disembodied voice speaks via intercom: “Um, welcome
aboard?”

Colclough offers a feeble wave at the ceiling.
“Hi.”

“Heard you might be coming,” the voice says
wearily.

“Sorry, unannounced and all.”

“Yes,” the voice agrees. “Visit won’t be
long, I’m afraid.”

“Oh?” He looks toward Razorback and Whiptail.
Sheepish smile. Then back at the ceiling: “Not even time to hit the head?
Long trip, after all.”

“Won’t need to worry about your bladder in the vacuum
of space,” the voice replies.

“Ah,” Colclough says.

“Let me get this straight in muh head here… so we
done survived bumbler herdin’ and assassins, managed to escape a buncha
zombified folks, and now we’re gonna get spaced?” Whiptails says, looking
over to Razorback. “I shoulda charged muh standard rate.” he says, a
bit of a toothy grin. “Well, I’ll say one thang, if this is the end of the
road, I cain’t say it was borin’.”

Razorback watches the exchange between Colclough and the
disembodied voice with a growing lack of patience. “We shall see,”
the Cliffwalker says Whiptail with a growl, storming towards the hatch.

The hatch remains shut – and the bulkheads pull apart and
upward around the chamber, exposing the trio inside to the vacuum of space…

…and into a tractor beam that hauls them aboard a waiting
Nall warship, just before it opens fire on the listening post, destroying the
base.

Colclough, Whiptail, and Razorback soon find themselves
gasping for air and shivering to regain heat as they spill onto the damp
deckplates of a misty chamber illuminated by green plasma lanterns.

Whiptail finds himself blown into space, his face thrown
into a rictus of surprise, with just enough consciousness in those valuable
seconds before suffocation to notice the tractor beam. Once they are deposited
into the Nall ship, he collapses to the floor, gasping heavily for breath, his
ears throbbing from the attempt of the pressure inside trying to blow out his
ear drums. As soon as he is able he struggles to one arm, and looks about the
room. He takes a deep sniff of the air, and frowns with a low growl. “It’s
been a spell, but I know the smell of Nall.”

The Cliffwalker seems even more frustrated when he feels the
deckplates beneath him, more so when his lungs first new breath of air is
filled with the scent of Nall. He is too busy trying to oxygenate his
bloodstream to say much, but a certain level of impotent rage seems building
behind his eyes.

“That’s…lucky,” are the first words Colclough
manages to rasp out as he finds his breath again, rolling onto his back on the
deck and staring up at the ceiling.

Whiptail collapses to the floor again, painfully rolling
onto his back. “I dunno what book yer readin’, but gettin’ captured by
those scaley sonuvabitches ain’t what I’d call lucky.”

“Luckier than dying in space,” Razorback growls,
struggling to rise to his footpaws. His ears are laid flat, his tail brushed
out to twice its normal width. He takes measure of their surroundings, knowing
that there are enemies aplenty nearby.

A hatch opens. Into the chamber steps a reptiloid warrior in
black metal armor, cradling a plasma rifle. She’s accompanied by four more
warriors, similarly armed.

“We did not expect you quite sssso sssssoon,” the
lead warrior says as she glowers down at Colclough. “If we had arrived ssssecondssss
later, you would be dead.”

He pulls himself slowly to his feet, brushing droplets of
water from his pant leg. He glances toward Razorback and says, “Perhaps I
*did* know where that portal would lead.” A thin smile, then he returns
his attention to the Nall. He bows his head in deference. “Ur’Huluth Iktha
of Hatch Kavir, allow me to introduce my companions: Whiptail and
Razorback.”

Whiptail narrows his eyes a bit. “Just what in
tarnation is goin’ on here?” he says, quite confused.

The Cliffwalker does his best to keep his claws sheathed for
now, and his paws decidedly away from the short swords at his waist. He glances
over at Whiptail, his ears flicking back and forth a bit. “I am certain
that all will be revealed in due course,” he says, straightening up. He
doesn’t intend to tower over their new “hosts”, but …

“We are even now, you and I,” Ikthakavir replies
to Colclough, before shifting her gaze between the two Demarians. “The
debt issss paid once I have delivered you to…where, exactly?”

The human answers: “Odari, if it wouldn’t be too much
trouble. I have resources there that could provide further assistance.”

“Odari,” the Nall repeats. “Very well. Go no
further than thisss chamber. Thessse guardsss will open fire if provoked.”

With that, she turns to depart the chamber through the
waiting hatchway. Her contingent of warriors remains with Colclough and
friends.

Whiptail looks even more bewildered. “Ok.. so.. we
ain’t dyin’. Yet..” he says, glancing to Razorback. “But this ain’t
no wranglin’ mission now, so what’s the story here, Colclough?”

Razorback nods to Whiptail. Satisfied that he does not need
to enter combat just this second, he moves to the wall opposite the guards and
slides down into a seated position. He keeps a wary ear on the Nall as he looks
expectantly at Colcough. “Indeed, he growls, “I am most interested to
hear just what debt a Nall Captain incurred with you. And why someone on a
Consortium installation would eject you into space.”

Colclough leans against a bulkhead before regarding his
companions and offering a reply. “Ikthakavir was implicated in the
defection of a Nall physicist who worked in the Clawed Fist Fleet weapons
division. I helped extricate her from that particularly dangerous
situation.” A brief silence, then: “As for your other question, I
truly hope to gain some clarity after we arrive on Odari. But if what I suspect
is true, something has gone horribly wrong in my agency.”

Whiptail nods slowly. “I kin see how that thar would
get ya on her good side.” he says, finding a bulkhead of his own to settle
down against. “If this here adventure we’ve bin sucked inta is any sign,
this problem yer talkin’ ’bout is gonna put the hurt on the whole dang
Consortium.”

The Cliffwalker opens his mouth to ask more, then glances
over at the guards and thinks better of it. “For now,” he says,
“It would seem that there is no need to further belabor the point of how
we still live, nor discuss in too much detail our plans for the future. I’m
sure that when we reach our destination, all will become more clear.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Back to the Farm #storytelling #demaria #otherspace

As promised, a herd of bumblers comes rolling into the village of Fakalienstadt on the third day. Razorback dismounts as soon as he is in sight of Greenwater’s home, looking around carefully and scenting the air in search of a potential trap.

Whiptail follows along keeping the herd in check. As they reach the village, he brings his mount to a stop and surveys the village in a similar manner, his eyes looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Fluffpaw follows the herd from the rear, her namesaked fluffy paws looking a little droopy and dusty. Her ears flick back and forth anxiously, every now and then turning to look behind her but instead just urges the bumblers onward. Once they’re all milling around lazily, she slowly nudges her mount forward, toward the rest of the group.

Whitepelt tracks along a short time later, tossing one of his daggers skyward, catching it by the hilt, over and over. He has little to say.

Razorback approaches Greenwater’s home and gives the door a knock, his ears canted alertly forward.

The door opens just a crack. Greenwater peeks through. “Yes?”

“Mr. Greenwater…” Razorback says, gesturing behind him towards the bumblers, “Your herd…”

The farmer opens the door further, looking out at the bumblers munching on the dusty grass outside. He looks at Razorback, then at the other wranglers. His eyes return to the Cliffwalker. Tears glisten. “You saved my family. My village!” He looks at the ground. “I can never repay you.”

“Well, t’weren’t nothin'” Whiptail says. “Anythin’ to put that Coldstar in her place, I’m all fer it.”

Fluffpaw’s ears flick back and forth as she inches forward. “What’s gonna stop them from coming and taking the herd again as soon as we’re gone?” she wonders aloud.

Razorback still seems agitated and alert, his ears swiveling around. He nods in agreement with Whiptail. “Some of us could use a warm meal and a bath, most likely,” he says, “But nothing beyond that.” Glancing behind him, he turns towards Fluffpaw. “The original herd was sold to compensate for higher taxes from the Coldstars,” he says, “And if that continues and the underclassers do not push back, and the surrounding nobles do not aid them,” he glances over at Whitepelt, “this will all fail.” (edited)

Greenwater opens the door further to grant entrance to the group. “You are welcome in my home, of course.” He bobs his snout in the direction of a human male sitting on a hide-covered couch in the common room. The man wears a dark suit that seems untouched by so much as a grain of sand. “I think you know Mr. Colclough.”

The Consortium Intelligence agent nods at Razorback. “Indeed.”

Whiptail looks between the human and Razorback. “What in tarnation?” he says, his tail twitching a bit in anxiety. “Somethin’ goin’ on here I should be knowin’ about, young feller?” he says to Razorback.

Fluffpaw is last one in and so she’s trying to peer between the furry bodies of her comrades to see who is getting gestured to. And her gaze goes between Whiptail and Razorback, tail lashing anxiously based on the tones going around. “What’s wrong?” she queries of the older Demarian.

The Cliffwalker is taken aback by this, his eyes narrowing, somewhat. “So it would seem,” he says to Whiptail in Demarese, a faint hint of a growl in his voice. “Mr. Colclough,” he says, switching to his heavily accented Terran, “I feel now as though I should have expected you. What draws your attention to this small village.” He scents the air more carefully, searching the house for evidence of any further surprises.

Colclough gives the faintest of smiles to Razorback. “This small village may well be the epicenter of recent problems in this planet’s capital.” He looks toward Greenwater. “I have been associated with this fellow for some time. He has provided significant information about the activities of Lady Coldstar and her minions.”

Whiptail raises an eye ridge at this. “So… you sayin’ we’re all on the same side here?”

“Who are they?” Fluffpaw queries. “Are they going to hurt the herd?” She clearly has her priorities and they have very little to do with the people inside.

“Of course you have,” Razorback rumbles to Colclough, “Two of my comrades died fighting something you could have put a stop to at will.” He glances over at Whiptail with a nod. “Indeed. For the moment at least,” he says before turning back to Fluffpaw, “Mr. Colclough works for the Consortium Government. He likely has no interest in the herd.”

“True enough,” Colclough replies. “My interests are of the bigger-picture variety. Specifically, I have reason to believe that Lady Coldstar and her allies played some role in the recent plot against the Consortium president.”

“Say what now?” Whiptail says. “I thought we were jes gettin’ a herd, what’s this all about tha President?”

A low rumbling growl builds up in Fluffpaw’s chest. “Why would anyone care about your President here? All we cared about what finding the herd.” She pins her dark stare on the client. “Why would you get mixed up in things that don’t matter?”

“There is some sort of effort being made to destabilize relations between Demaria and the rest of the Consortium,” Razorback explains to the others, “Including a conspiracy to use a Demarian assassin to kill the President.”  He looks to Colclough, his ears tightening a bit. “Though what Coldstar has to do with that, I know not.”

“Her brother with the scar might’ve been able to tell us more,” Colclough replies. “He had some communication – encrypted, we’re still trying to break it – with the agent who assassinated our friend aboard Galactix. And funds from a Coldstar-owned offworld company may have been transferred to the agent’s family after her death. Hoping to confirm that soon.”

Whiptail listens to this, and his eyes narrow. “Sounds like Coldstar jes ain’t our problem…. that pile a’ bumbler shit is a bigger threat than even I figgered.”

“I do not believe the scarred one survived,” Razorback rumbles quietly, “Though I doubt this is new information to you.” He sighs, glancing out at the herd for a moment as his tail twitches faintly behind him. “I do not suppose you would be interested in helping me compensate my companions,” he says, gesturing towards the other Demarians in a way that includes the biker outside, “If what you aim to do will help rid these farmers of their oppressor, I will aid you. But I can ask no more of these folk than they have already given.”

The Consortium agent quietly studies the companions for a few moments before returning his attention to Razorback. “Up to them,” Colclough says. “If they’ve got an interest in working against Lady Coldstar, I can see that they’re paid.”

“Ye got my support, young’un.” Whiptail says. “It’s time ta clean house.”

“Indeed,” the Cliffwalker says in agreement with the wrangler before turning towards Colclough, “How can we be of service in this matter?”

“You won’t like it,” Colclough assures Razorback. A taut smile, then: “We need to return to Alhira. The inspector wants to follow up on that interview.” He regards the others, adding: “And, of course, Senator Sandwalker should meet you all.”

“Been quite a spell since I’ve been to tha big city.” Whiptail says. “Wonder how it all looks now.”

Razorback’s ears flatten at Colclough’s pronouncement, a faint growl of irritation escaping him. “You are correct,” he grumbles, “I do not like it.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] #rp-demaria: Fluffpaw

Razorback strides into the town, making a direct line towards was passes for a livery stable on Demaria. “How many mounts do you think we might need?” he asks his companion, his eyes and ears scanning his surroundings for both likely recruiting prospects, or potential dangers.

“One fer each of us.” Whiptail says. “At least another for carryin’ provisions. If we manage to snag any more folks, one for each.”

The Cliffwalker nods, stepping into the stable. A rather uninteresting conversation takes place as the pair negotiate for the price of the bipedal reptiles that serve as mounts in this part of the desert. Meanwhile, Razorback makes sure to let the stablekeeper know that they seek individuals to help with the drive, individuals with fighting skills as well as those needed for the round-up. As they depart, Razorback turns to Whiptail, “I suppose the local tavern is the most likely place we shall find those we seek,” he says.

“Waaaaaiiiiit…” A thin voice wails loudly from just outside the border of the village. “No, not that waaaaaaaaaaay…” There’s a commotion rapidly heading down the street that has curious passersby jumping out of the way. “Stop, pleeeeeeaaaaaase…” The last word of each sentence bounces along with a breathy pleading of someone trying to shout and run at the same time. Into view first pops a panicked and bolting dribgib, squawking its displeasure, even as it runs. Chasing it several paces behind is a tired and bedraggled young Demarian female. Her pace is fading, even as she struggles to pick up the pace after the errant bird.

“Yah, I figger that’s tha best place to grab some wranglers.” Whiptail says, just as the dribgib runs into view. He doesn’t even think. Instantly his hand goes to his rope and a lasso is quickly formed, and with a quick twirl above his head, he sends it sailing towards the errant critter.

The Cliffwalker’s ears swivel towards the source of the commotion and he seems nearly ready to spring into action. As Whiptail’s lariat settles neatly around the neck of the bird, Razorback seems quite relieved that he does not need to run the creature down. “Well thrown,” he rumbles, moving instead to flank the errant avian.

The dribgib squawks as it feels the rope around its neck, skittering this way and that to test its bonds and seek some way of escaping. Wings flap out in a warning fashion as Razorback approaches but now that it has come to a halt, it seems too tired to really put up too much of a fight. This gives enough time for the chasing Demarian to finally catch up with the group, gasping loudly for air as she drops to her knees right on the street. “Thank you so much,” she says gratefully, every inch of her drooping down in her exhaustion. “I’ve been chasing him for miles.” Up close, her fur is a smoky silver grey with the first tinging black at the tips of her ears and tail, as well as the feathered fur at all four paws. She’s young but not a child.  “He escaped this morning from my father’s farm and I’ve been trying to catch him ever since.”

Whiptail hollers ‘WHOA THAR” as he keeps a firm grip on the rope to get the bird to slow down. “Think nothin’ of it ma’am.” he says. Being this close, she can see he is pretty elderly, with orange tabby fur.

Once the dribgib comes to a halt, the tall, black-furred ex-noble comes up to grab the rope near to the neck to assure the bird’s continued immobility. “That is quite the chase,” Razorback says in surprise, “Perhaps we had better find some place to restrain your errant friend here while you rest from you journey.”

“Bad Flap,” the Demarian female scolds as she pushes up  off the ground slowly, giving a little shake to try and dislodge some of the dust that clings to her fur. She comes up on the other side of the dribgib, her paw brushing gently over the bird’s neck and head to soothe away the last of the animal’s jitters. Her ears flick back and forth anxiously but she nods. “He could use some water probably.” She pauses briefly. “I think I could too, actually.”

“Well we’re jes about to hit the waterin’ hole, maybe you kin join us.” Whiptail offers.

“Of course,” Razorback says in agreement with the older Demarian, “There were a few dribgibs in a corral back at the stable,” he says gesturing that way, “I doubt the proprietor would mind keeping an eye on him for a short time.”

With a relieved sigh, she pats the bird’s neck one more time before stepping back with a nod. “I’m Fluffpaw and this is Flap,” she introduces. “We’re both grateful for all of your help.”

“Name’s Whiptail, and it ain’t no problem, ma’am.” he says, doffing his hat to Fluffpaw. “Not my first rodeo, that’s fer sure.”

“I am called Razor,” the Cliffwalker adds, dipping his head respectfully as he moves towards the stable, dribgib in tow, “And as my companion says, it is no trouble. Your father is a dribgib farmer, I take it?” He waves the stablekeeper over as the conversation progresses.

Fluffpaw’s whiskers twitch as she keeps pace with Flap, one paw kept on the dribgib’s back. “Yes, my father has a good sized farm a few miles north of here,” she explains, head bobbing up and down. “Spent my whole life tracking dribgibs for him and helping out on the farm.”

“Sounds like my kinda life.” Whiptail says.

After a brief exchange with the stablekeeper, Razorback begins leading the way towards the local tavern, leaving “Flap” in a corral with several of his own kind. “If you are familiar with the area, it may be that you can help us,” he says, “We seek several individuals for a wild bumbler drive; such that can ride hard and take care of themselves in the Sand Mother. Do you know of anyone that might be interested?”

Fluffpaw’s ears perk with curiosity, flicking back and forth rapidly. “What parts you going through?” She asks. “I’d bet no one knows this area better than my father and he’s taught me all he knows. If you needed help, I bet he’d let me go for a while.”

“Hard ta tell where when yer bumbler huntin'” Whiptail says. “We need folks, and you got experience, so we’d be happy to welcome ya aboard.”

The Cliffwalker looks back and forth between the two, concern building on his face. “I do not intend offense, Miss,” he rumbles, “I doubt not your abilities. But our road may take us under fire from those who would see us fail. You may be many things, but you do not seem a killer.”

The excitement from Whiptail’s welcome is almost immediately marred with Razorback’s concerns. Fluffpaw’s tail sways back and forth as she considers her words. “I’m not a killer,” she finally says. “But I don’t like people trying to take what isn’t theirs. We’ve had poachers and thieves trying to pick at my father’s farm for years and we’ve never let them go without a fight. I don’t murder, but I don’t get pushed over either. If that’s a problem, I don’t think I’d want to help your kind.”

“I think what my friend here is sayin’ is, there’s some folks out there who don’ wants us ta succeed. Ya see, we’re helpin’ someone who’s got a raw deal, and there might be some folks who don’ want that.” Whiptail says. “So I’d say if yer prepared to scuffle a bit if someone tries to get in our way, you shouldn’t have any problems.”

“My concern,” Razorback says, his voice quieting as they approach the tavern, “Is that there might be somewhat more than a “bit of scuffle. Lady Coldstar’s minions have no issue with killing, and to defend ourselves we may need to be prepared to do the same.”

Fluffpaw lifts her chin, whiskers twitching. “I’m fast, quiet and can hold my own,” she says determinedly. “Like I said, I don’t try and do others harm but after living out here so close to the Sand Mother for my whole life, you either do what you can to protect yourself or you end up dead. If you’ll take me, I won’t let either of you down.”

“I think that’s about all we kin ask, ma’am.” Whiptail says.

Razorback’s ears fold against his head, his muzzle creased in a frown. “I only hope it is not you who is let down,” he says, finding himself out-voted as he steps into the tavern.

“I know this area better like the grooves of my paw,” Fluffpaw says firmly, with the confidence only youth can bring. “If you’re trying to succeed anywhere around here, having me will make it a lot easier.”

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