When last we left the souls aboard the bus, Kinako was trying to keep Crumpton alive as he bled from a neck wound on the floor. The driver set the vehicle on automatic, with a slow upward slope, and stalked back toward the restroom with her pistol. The Swampers remained in pursuit and started closing distance. Every once in a while, they fire another shot at the bus.

With the gunfire beginning to wither from the initial volley, although still quite deadly, Tilsworth grabs his cane and with some effort manages to get up to a more vertical position, but still keeping himself crouched between the rows of seats in the hope that their cushions will provide some measure of stopping power. Taking stock of the situation, he mutters to himself. “Perhaps this bus may be capable of more than the designers intended…” he says, looking across the floor for some sort of access panel, but at the same time watching the current ‘master of the ship’ and not making any moves unless he gets the blessing.

Maxwell grumbles from his crouched position “Yes, being attacked by deranged people in a swamp is JUST like solving equations on a space station…”

The old lady with the eyepatch tries to line up a shot on the Swampers through a small porthole in the back chamber, legs straddling the toilet lid as she braces herself against the bulkhead with one hand. She’s just about got a bead on one when the hoverbus levitation modules sputter and fail. Apparently, the bus isn’t capable of *much* more than the designers intended. “Well, shit,” she growls as the vehicle deactivates autopilot and starts nosing downward.

“Well… as the youth would say… ‘Fuck it’.” Tilsworth says, and looks for the nearest access panel he can find.

Maxwell lurches a bit as the hovering becomes less steady “Well put… lessee if we can find something to poke around in…”

The old lady lopes over Kinako as the young woman continues tending to Crumpton. She holsters the pistol and takes her seat behind the wheel. “Well, boys and girls, this bitch is more brick than glider. We’re going down. I’ll angle for one of the deeper areas of the swamp. Maybe we won’t just, y’know, slam into the shallows and explode.”

Tilsworth grabs the access hatch and wrenches it open, knowing the seconds are counting down. “I may not be able to keep this brick from reaching the ground, but I’m going to try very hard to make it a soft landing.” he says, drawing on quite a few years of working with field coils to attempt a reroute of the bus power source to the coils. “If I can boost the power flow and keep the field frequency steady, we may be able to achieve a braking effect…” he mutters as he pulls a couple of micro tools from his shirt pocket and gets to work. He offers another to Maxwell. “See if you can’t keep the controls steady, I’d like to give our pilot the best chance of finding those shallows.”

Maxwell nods as he takes the tool, and starts to poke about in the spots that look most likely to him to keep the bus going steady. Noone likes an instant submarine.

“Oh, hey,” the driver says, perking up as the hoverbus – while not exactly stopping its descent, at least reactivates the coils soon enough to create a cushion beneath the vehicle so that when it reaches the swamp below, it does so much more like a glider. She weaves along one snaking stretch of brown water between stands of cypress trees, looking for a likely hiding place to duck into. On occasion, she glances at the sensor display. The Swampers are still out there, descending in pursuit. “I see them on here, that means they see us. Gotta find a hidey-hole and go dark.”

“Indeed, madam, as dark and deep a hidey-hole as possible.” Tilsworth says. “We have wounded… we must find it soon.”

Maxwell nods “Yeah, somewhere we’re not being shot at would be great.”

As some of the dust settles, Kinako cranes her head as far upwards as it can go without neglecting to keep pressure on the unfortunate Mr. Crumpton’s neck wound. “…ah, we appear to be still alive. Is there anything left of the aid kit? Without bullets. Preferably. Everything is preferable without bullets, please.” She blinks, blearily.

The old lady behind the wheel banks hard to the left and kills the power, with just enough inertia to get one side of the hoverbus angled up on the grassy bank of a creek. This has the unfortunate result of making Kinako and Crumpton victims of gravity, tugging them toward the other side of the aisle.

Tilsworth braces himself as the bus inevitably finds land. “Saints preserve us…” he says as the bus banks and starts to slide in.

Maxwell doesn’t manage to brace himself in time, and groans a bit as he slides into the wall. “Ugh… everyone okay?”

“Help! Please!” Kinako becomes somewhat shrill in her expression of alarm. “Movement is very bad please help!” Desperately, she tries to brace her legs against the seats in the opposite row while still applying pressure to Crumpton’s wound. “Please!”

“Okay,” the driver says. “We’re off the map. Unfortunately, so’re the Swampers. Y’all see to your wounded. I’ll peek outside, see if they tracked us.” The side door hisses open. She climbs toward it, then down the steps and hops onto the shore, unholstering the pistol as she goes.

Tilsworth retrieves his cane and pushes himself off the side of the bus. “I can only hope those malcontents no longer have us in their sights…” he says as he starts to make his way over to Kinako and Crumpton.

Maxwell gets himself off the wall and starts making his way over to the medic lady.

“Need to keep pressure on the wound. Can’t move. Having trouble supporting us both. Kami wa watashitachi o tasukeru,” Kinako says, panting with the effort of preventing herself and her patient from tumbling in a possibly critically ungainly heap onto the other side of the bus. “He is bleeding badly and soaking through. It is not safe. I need someone to help me hold him steady and someone to -please- check to see if anything is able to be salvaged from the medical kit.”

The medical package on the wall looks entirely ruined. Maybe something in the luggage compartment?

“I’m afraid those swampers did quite the number on the medical kit, young lady.” Tilsworth says. “There may be something in the luggage area. Besides, we will need to get what I packed, for it may help us.” Taking his cane, he makes his way along the seats to the door of the bus, looking outside for as far as he can see before stepping outside the bus.

Maxwell gets himself over to a good spot and helps hold folks steady. “Hopefully that nice gent gets back with proper supplies soon…”

“Watch your step,” the driver grumbles at Tilsworth, gazing up as the burbling hum of another hovercar dopplers through the canopy. The Swampers are seen mostly in silhouette, side lit by the tangerine hue of the setting sun to the west. She takes aim, slowly tracks from right to left, then squeezes the trigger. POP-POP-POP. Two shots strike the Swamper driver. The third takes his companion in the chest as their vehicle descends toward the swamp, off to the south. “Thanks for stopping by, gator bait!” In the distance, there’s the crunch of breaking cypress tree trunks and a violent splash as the Swamper car comes down.

“Exquisite shooting, madam.” Tilsworth says, obviously impressed as he steps down off the bus and heads towards the luggage compartment. Reaching a bit to get to it, he opens it. The first thing he notices is his suitcases are not there. Some rather colorful language joins the chorus of swamp noises. “‘I want to make sure you won’t die on me.’ Well Mr. Panderyn, you’re giving it a very good try, aren’t you?” he says, then starts looking through the compartment and any others on the bus for anything he can find.

Actually…there IS luggage in the compartment. Perhaps it shifted during the crash, but it is on the other side of the bus down there.

“If you could reach, and there is anything left clean, tear another piece from my coat,” Kinako murmurs, remaining focused on keeping pressure on the wound, the best (and only) option it seems, under the circumstances. “Please, stay with us, Crumpton-san,” she implores, as steadily as she can. “Please, your spirit would not rest if you passed in such a terrible place.”

Maxwell makes a quick assessment of Kinako’s coat, and tears off a decent strip that still looks clean, quickly folds it neatly, and gets it ready for her to grab soon as she’s ready. “I think I’d have preferred the penguins…”

“Find what you need and shuffle back aboard,” the old lady urges Tilsworth. “I’ll see if I can get us mobile again.”

Tilsworth continues to search through the compartment, leaning as far in as he can, and in the fading sunlight, feels something like a suitcase. “Hmm… could this be mine?” he says, running his hands around it looking for a large tear that he stitched back together a few years back. “Even if not, anything is going to come in handy at this point…” he mutters, and after examining the outside, gathers it and any others he can find and pulls them out to take back aboard for an inventory.

No sign of the stitch. But when he opens a suitcase, he finds that it is full of small smirking pink dolls with tufts of purple hair.

Kinako takes the new piece of cloth and just adds it to the pile. “I do not feel safe removing the dressing as of yet. We have nothing? No cauterizer, no hydrogel, no packing, nothing? This is dep…” While most of her focus is still on her patient, and nearly all of what remains is focused on finding a solution to the calamity, she does see the dolls. “…nani?”

The old lady’s commlink crackles. She pulls it from a pouch on her hip and says, “Zarapella here. What took you so goddamned long to call?” She growls into the commlink for a little while longer, then calls over her shoulder at the bus: “Canaveral’s sending emergency crews. They got a little itchy when we went off scope. They’re homing in on my signal.”

Maxwell raises an eyebrow at the doll. “Um…”

“Not exactly what I was expecting…” Tilsworth says. “At least we’ll have something to fuel a fire if it really comes down to it.” he says with a bit of frivolity in his voice, before looking up to the driver’s announcement. “That is good news, madam, but I hope they are the only ones homing in on it.”

“I still have a pulse,” Kinako says, “But there isn’t much else I can do at this angle other than hold him steady. It is not safe yet to remove the bandage, it could reopen the wound. This is very bad. Will they be able to get through the adversaries?”

The darkening sky goes bright to the east as a big chunk of swamp erupts in a chaos of fire and concussive energy – a Vanguard fighter torpedo. A medical extraction vehicle hovers in and starts setting down next to the bus. “Aw, yeah,” Zarapella says. “Cooked Swamper. Nothing tastier.”

Maxwell blinks a few times “Sounds like help’s arrived.”

“Indeed… at least we are within range of the ‘port for them to arrive fairly quickly.” Tilsworth says. “And it seems they are indeed getting through the adversaries.. at least what is left of them.”

“Kamigami o arigato-gozaimashita,” Kinako says, adjusting her other leg to keep herself propped up and holding the soaked scraps of fabric against poor Mr. Crumpton’s throat wound, careful to not let her blood-slick finger slip.

“God, I thought they’d *never* get here,” Crumpton grouses, unbuttoning his shirt and yanking the nearly exhausted blood pouch loose. He wrestles the fabric scraps off his throat and pulls off the grim decal that had previously been applied there. “Good work, all.”

Maxwell raises an eyebrow.

Tilsworth figuratively picks his jaw up from the floor, and re-adjusts his glasses. For a few moments he is speechless. “A… rather unexpected twist. Bravo, young man.”

Kinako slumps back as the ‘patient’ removes himself, judging from her expression -extremely- unexpectedly, from her care. “Nani? Sore wa do iu kotodesu ka? Nani?” There is a pause, where she blinks very slowly and somewhat grittily, before remembering to speak English. “…what?”

Outside, two men in grubby wilderness gear – coveralls, caps, hip boots – wander up with rifles slung over their shoulders from the south. They approach Zarapella, and one of them says, “Two of those shots were actually live ammo, Zara. You winged Pegman.” His companion lamely motions at a bandaged arm. She shrugs with a sheepish grin and says, “Oops!”

Aboard the bus, Crumpton says, “I apologize for the charade, but it was the entirety of the test. Suffice it to say, you are all accepted into the Ulm Station program. We’ll get you back to base. You can start prepping for departure in a week’s time.”

Maxwell takes a deep breath and sighs, before nodding.

“Indeed… that is good news. I shall begin packing as soon as we return… provided that my suitcases are indeed available for retrieval.” Tilsworth says, adjusting his glasses and offering up a sly grin.

Kinako continues looking completely puzzled out of her mind. She even shakes her head a couple of times, as if to clear it. After a few more querulous utterances of “Nani?” she makes a very ineffectual attempt at re-taming what is now a rather impressive tangle of hair, gives up, and totters over to the bandaged Pegman. “Have you been taken care of? I apologize, I am disheveled, but we’ve just been through an exercise.”

By Brody

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