It was a cool autumn morning, and the air was just starting to bite a little as Flynn approached the wall at a run. They were panting, laboring under several dozen pounds of gear as they rushed up to the large stone structure with a frantic quickness.
The bridge was as massive as it was old, an ancient but sturdy structure built by the druids. It was an important landmark for the region, but more importantly, for several miles in each direction it was also the only way to get large vehicles across the wide, muddy river. It would be truly inconvenient if something unfortunate were to happen to it...
And thus, there Flynn was. They had planned to… be inconvenient, of course. Flynn’s squad had dropped in under the cover of night and snuck through the forest towards the old depot, hoping to catch their opponents unawares. Their patrol maps had been mistaken about a particularly recent change, however, and as dawn broke, klaxons wailed in the distance.
Flynn hurriedly dragged a drill from their pack, setting the rest of their equipment along with the charges for their section of the bridge aside before hefting the machine into place and cranking it to life.
The drill bucked and shuddered angrily as Flynn pressed the front of it to the stone, pushing all of their weight against the guard plate until the bit began to chew into the ancient rock. The apparatus was meant to be held by two people, but there simply wasn’t enough time now, and separated, it was all Flynn could do to keep the mission on track.
Flynn braced themselves against the wall as metal ground loudly into stone, and for a few brief seconds, things seemed to be going alright.
Then, much to Flynn’s dismay, the device jerked hard in their hands, and the bit began to bind in its hole, twisting with an angry screech. They struggled with it desperately for a moment, but it was just no use and the drill wrenched itself violently out of Flynn’s hands, taking their glove with it and spinning wildly in place before the bit finally snapped completely and the whole apparatus was flung off with a defeated clatter.
Flynn tossed a curse at the broken machine, but there was no longer time to do anything about it. A hand slapped the back of Flynn’s shoulder and, as they turned to look, the sergeant rushed by at nearly a full sprint, turning around only for a brief moment to shout something at them. The words came out, of course, but they were oddly indistinct. To Flynn’s ears, it was just an angry, hurried bark, followed by a visible sneer as Roderick hucked his pack unceremoniously off into the bushes and turned to run for the water.
With no recourse left, Flynn followed, abandoning their equipment and taking off after the sergeant. A series of soft thumps began in the distance, audible over the sirens, but muffled like puffs of air under cotton duck. This, unfortunately, was followed shortly thereafter by the whistling of inbound projectiles.
A longboat pulled up at the bank of the river, the sergeant sliding down the muddy incline as Flynn followed a few steps behind, the call of incoming demise quickly approaching. Others, in their black nightcoats and fatigues, were emerging from the brush all along the riverbank. Panicked, they were running pell mell for the boat, coated in mud and detritus as they stumbled and slid down towards the water. Soon, Flynn was the last one left, tiredly sprinting for the boat as their sergeant motioned for them to hurry themselves up. He yelled to them, his voice muted and distant, but his expression dire and urgent. Eyes wide. Teeth bared.
Flynn panted heavily, sweating and soaked as they shed their coat onto the ground. The wet river mud sucked at their boots, and having started to wick into their jacket, pulled them down into itself as Flynn clawed their way towards the boat.
Move it, Flynn!
About then, the first of the incoming shells hit the water nearby. Then one on the opposite bank. Then one on their side, just past them towards the bridge itself.
Well, Flynn thought to themselves, perhaps the opposition would shell their own bridge and save them all a lot of trouble.
A whistle came down close behind Flynn, and there was a deafening report, hurling them forward face-first into the mud. For a moment, there was nothing but ringing. Flynn’s eyes screwed shut as mud and river water invaded their sinuses. All of their senses were overwhelmed or clogged up for a dreadfully long few seconds, but upon the most minor relenting, a familiar voice cut through the deafening noise.
Get up! Flynn!
Flynn clawed the mud out of their eyes and opened them. It was just a few yards now, and Roddy leaned out of the boat, extending his hand to them.
Come on, Flynn! Get up!
Flynn could see him shouting and they reached forward to take his hand… then there was another whistle, this one frightfully long and painfully close.
Roddy’s eyes betrayed a moment of personal uncertainty, perhaps even fear, as the shell reached the end of its arc. The river simply erupted on the far side of the boat. The sergeant was hurtled past Flynn and they were lifted up and thrown onto their back like a turtle, sliding into the mud several inches.
There was just enough time for Flynn to open their eyes once more and see the inside of the boat; the frozen, fearful expressions of several of their squadmates plainly visible on their faces as the whole thing: boat, soldiers and all, came crashing down onto the riverbank.
It was then, once more, back to the dark.
Cold and wet.
Get up, Flynn! We’ve got to move!
Inviting, perhaps. But...
Flynn’s eyes fluttered open, rain dripping gently onto their face through the shattered windshield of their fighter’s cockpit.
It took a moment for them to really understand the situation. The sky was grey and featureless, the rain hissing over the soft silence of the wilderness, punctuated by the wet thumping of droplets running from the vegetation and falling onto the splintered plastiglass. The dark underside of the forest canopy above loomed overhead, as if looking down at Flynn in curiosity. Occasionally, far away, a distant whooping of an avian calling out into the rain.
Not moving, barely breathing, Flynn glanced about the cockpit. It was mostly intact, though there were bits and pieces of tree branches and shredded leaves stuffed in odd places. Mud had been forced through some of the cracks and the instrument panels were silent and dark, some of the dials scratched up or cracked while others were obscured with dirt and leaves.
Pulling out of the soft embrace of sleep with some effort, Flynn finally shifted their body in its bonds and took a deep breath through their facemask.
This proved to be a mistake, as it became instantly quite clear that their body hadn’t appreciated the tumble any more than the aircraft had. Every muscle in Flynn’s torso screamed in protest and immediately tightened down. The simple action of their lungs expanding pushed a bit too hard on their chest, causing pain to ripple through their organs, and their legs began to burn as the blood started pumping into them again, Flynn finally shifting them out from their pinned in position under the dash.
Luckily, Flynn’s harness held true and their flightsuit had stayed intact, preventing more catastrophic damage to their person, but what must have been a tremendous thrashing had still done quite a number on them. This would have to be tended to first.
Slowly, sorely, and with a great amount of effort, Flynn reached up and into one of the pockets on their chest. Opening a small, hard plastic case, they produced from it a large, spring-loaded, single-use syringe that they carefully brought to their side, tucking the tip up just under their ribs. With a hard push on the plunger, the needle jammed itself up into their muscle, injecting them with desperately needed medicine.
There was a moment of immense pain and then, along with a few disconcerting pops, a wash of relief as Flynn was finally able to take a deep, unlabored breath. The humid forest air filled their lungs and they coughed and hacked for a moment as they were forced to adjust to the natural, soupy quality of the wilderness atmosphere. Flynn reached up to pull off their facemask, letting out a soft groan as they rubbed their temples, everything finally beginning to settle.
Removing their harness and sitting upright, Flynn took stock. No punctures, head trauma or broken bones that needed to be set. The regenerative seemed to be calming down the torso damage nicely, and their flightsuit was basically intact. The cockpit itself was completely trashed, which was rather sad. Their craft had been a good one, and it was a shame to see it end up in such a state, but it certainly hadn’t let them down. They were alive, and that meant more than anything right now.
Reaching down into their pocket, Flynn produced their PAM and attempted to turn it on to see if they could get a signal from their current position. There was no response, however, the screen remaining dark, and turning it over, Flynn noticed some crusted corrosion on the back side of the case around where the battery pack was inserted. It must have gotten caught under their harness and ruptured in the crash. Unfortunate.
Flynn heaved a heavy sigh and stowing their PAM in their flightsuit once more, began looking around the interior of the downed craft.
It only took a moment to find what they were searching for: a painted red lever against the edge of the windshield. Turning it, they braced themselves against the shattered plastiglass and stood up slowly. It took a few pushes, but eventually the whole thing came unstuck and the top of the cockpit lifted.
The remains of the Dawnchaser had come to rest against the roots of a rather large tree which had taken hold on a rocky ridge in the forest. The craft had cut a long trough through the dirt and underbrush, and climbing down out of the cockpit, Flynn hopped down next to it and began to trace it back towards the initial site of impact.
Following the newly made ditch of soft mud a good half a mile or so, Flynn came to a steep grade that proceeded down towards a vast lake. Covered in mud, they made their way down the slope towards the water and stopped at the water’s edge, looking out over the lake towards the distant horizon.
Thinking about it, Flynn was quite sure that they’d hit the water upon impact. It was a little jumbled, of course, but they were quite sure they hadn’t suffered any major head trauma, either. There wasn’t any evidence of the crash on the shore, though, and it wasn’t until they gazed back up at the grade that they could see where they had smacked into the top of the muddy hill.
As far as Flynn could tell, when they’d hit the water, the craft must have skipped like a stone straight across the surface of the lake...
Fortunate, too, because it’s hard to swim when you’re unconscious.
Flynn pulled off their helmet slowly and looked up and down the shore, sighing softly to themselves. A complete and absolute lack of any sort of sign of civilization, nascent or otherwise.
Oh sure, they had a somewhat vague idea of where they were supposed to be, but the mock dogfight earlier had taken their attention for quite a while so they might be a bit further off course than expected, not to mention the distance they’d traveled in the aftermath of the crash.
Without their PAM it would be hard to figure out their location, and even harder to get a signal out to someone looking for them.
Fortunately for them, there was a stash of emergency supplies back in their trashed craft, so making camp wouldn’t be a problem, but walking out of the forest on their own was out of the question. All they could do for now was make camp, put up a signal, and wait.
After a few moments of staring at the lake and listening to the rain, Flynn started back up the hill.
There was a lot of work to do and it wasn’t going to be easy.
The forest was slowly starting to come alive again as Flynn followed the dugout path back to the wreck. The animals, who had been presumably scared off by the sheer noise and commotion of an aircraft crashing into the forest, were starting to return. In the trees around them were the hoots and whistles of birds, the occasional crack of a branch high above or a stick in the brush nearby, and the rustle of leaves as things moved through the vegetation.
It was strange. Flynn was quite sure they were alone out here, miles and miles away from the nearest base or city. But with all the motion returning to the woods, it made them feel uncomfortably exposed. Like there was someone out there watching them...
Arriving back at the Dawnchaser, Flynn shook those thoughts from their mind and began to focus on the task at hand, walking up to their destroyed machine.
Taking a second inspection of the wreck, Flynn could tell there wasn’t much left.
The wings had been completely stripped off, engines gone somewhere off over the lake. The generator had been mangled beyond any sort of repair or even usefulness, with the core material scattered back along the ditch, all the channels completely dark. Perhaps one or two metal plates could be pulled off and used... but other than that, the bird was dead and that was that. Sad.
Climbing back into the cockpit, Flynn gripped and pulled their seat forwards, exposing a little nook tucked behind it. In it was a large plastic bag, and Flynn quickly tore that open and extricated the emergency equipment that was contained within. Two cases, each about the size of a small attache and weighing more than their appearance would suggest.
One, painted bright orange, was a simple emergency beacon with a cell signal broadcaster and receiver. It had a handset and an extendable antenna; a fairly archaic model but effective and tough, especially when you were really far from any sort of tower or civic center. A small screen enabled video contact and theoretically could enable global positioning via The Ring now that it had finally been completed, though that was largely dependant on the weather and other factors.
The other was navy blue and packed with a wide assortment of supplies. Most of it was medical equipment and rations in little self-heating soft metal pouches along with some single person cooking equipment. There was also a tarp that could be used to construct a tent, a magnesium fire starting kit, and a couple water purification straws. All good to have.
And, of course, a small electro-magnetically propelled ammunition sidearm.
Technically illegal now. Also good to have.
Now it was time to see about getting this all set up.
Theoretically the fire starting kit should work anywhere, even underwater. However, being out in a clearing in the rain wasn’t exactly conducive to it, so with both cases in hand, Flynn set out for a small bit of reconnaissance around their crash point.
The ridge itself was at the base of a set of hills that lead into a much larger mountain range in the distance, so after just a small bit of walking, Flynn found themselves clambering through hill and dale, slowly trying to make their way upwards to find a better vantage point. The forest was thick, and even from higher up it was difficult to make out the lake and mountains nearby, so Flynn had to keep very close tabs on which direction they were going in order not to lose track of the crash site.
After maybe half an hour, up on the ridge, Flynn discovered a rock overhang that had created a small cave with just enough cover to keep the rain away while still being more or less open air. It would be a bit of a walk back to the crash sight if they had to make it, but for now, it worked.
Finding a dry enough spot, Flynn set both the cases down and finally began to strip out of their flight suit. Peeling it off and setting it on a.. more or less clean rock, they checked themselves over once more for cuts and bruises. Not really any of the former, though quite a few of the latter, but the injuries seemed to be healing quickly enough.
Once the preliminary check was done, Flynn slipped back into their flight suit, sans tubes (grateful to have those out after such an extended period) and tied the arms around their waist, leaving them in their tanktop from there up.
Next was the camp. The beacon came out first, naturally, Flynn undoing the latches on the front and opening the case, setting it on a flat rock at the edge of the cave entrance. Extending the long, metal telescoping antenna attached to the side of the screen, they flipped the switch for the automated distress beacon. It only needed power, so making sure that was on and broadcasting (there was a little orange light that blinked to say “yes, I am indeed sending out a distress signal”), Flynn then hit the “power” button on the console itself.
The screen flickered to life with a dull thrum and the machine began to click softly as the Fantastic Dynamics logo popped up on the display, along with an empty loading bar...
Might as well settle down to examine the food while it took its time booting up; it would be a few minutes.
The cooking utensils and such weren’t a problem; it was all in good shape and fairly clean. Flynn was very familiar with the rations, too, and all of them seemed to be in mint condition, so that was at least two weeks worth of food without any issue before they really would even need the pots and pans. The straws were brand new, too, and they could manage several hundred gallons each; so as long as they were kept clean, that wasn’t a worry either.
Flynn took one of the pouches and pressing hard on the bottom of it, cracked the chemical pack at its base, setting it off to the side. The pouch began to heat up visibly, little wisps of steam slowly starting to rise off the corners of the damp material.
Next was the fire. Not strictly necessary at this point, but a good thing to have to avoid pneumonia in this sort of weather. Taking the knife included in the kit, Flynn carefully scraped a few shavings of magnesium off the provided block into the kit’s little metal bowl before setting it aside. Getting up, Flynn walked over to the edge of the cave and began gathering some leaves, sticks and pine needles from around the outcropping, piling everything into a little depression in the rock that was more or less in the center of the little cave.
Carefully preparing a pocket made of needles and leaves in the middle of the pile, Flynn poured the shavings of metal into a smaller pile there and readying the starter, Flynn clicked it together. It took a few tries, sparks hopping down onto the damp kindling until one finally caught the grey metal and glowing a bright, painfully hot white, it began to burn, setting the detritus alight with it. Soon the pile of twigs and branches was burning merrily and with the food done, Flynn sat down by the beacon to try and get something out of that.
Having finished booting up, the beacon awaited commands. Its interface was a little clunky, all in black and green with nothing in the way of any sort of modern graphical stylings, a good few years behind even the most basic of the current generation PAMs. Just trying to bring up the list of frequencies was difficult enough, but attempting to connect to any of them was even worse.
It was kind of bizarre, in all honesty. You generally couldn’t tell who any of them belonged to, aside from some subtle clues here and there. The ones emanating from The Ring always started with an “O”, for instance, and the ones from Flynn’s base had MLT at the end, but there were only a couple of the former and none of the latter. Not only that, but the ones that were there all had really long, strange frequency codes that shifted and shuffled about oddly; appearing, disappearing and reappearing quickly and randomly.
Famished from the ordeal thus far, Flynn tore open their pouch of rations and with brass fork in hand, begin to dig in as they watched the numbers dance across the screen. Beaten steak soaked in gravy. Heavy, but good.
Strange to think that there were this many communications this far out. They couldn’t all be ghosts, could they?
“Ghosts” had long been a thing since wireless communication started. Connections and signals that popped up randomly and often disappeared just as suddenly. Seemingly without purpose or message, often just kind of... there. Of course, you’d occasionally get one or two that stuck around longer, and many places even had their own familiar ones.
Naturally, these ‘hauntings’ usually ended up being regarded fondly as part of the local flavor and people would spin stories about why they existed. There were even rumors that, if you could get a connection to one, you could hear voices or see numbers in the static, though most military scientists tended to be of the opinion that they were most likely just the remnants of old, pre-splice communications equipment malfunctioning as it degraded.
There was a ton of that stuff up in orbit when space was being cleared for The Ring, after all, not to mention all the stuff people had been digging up for centuries...
Still, Flynn hadn’t ever seen anything quite like this… If they weren’t ghost signals, who were all these people? And were they all talking to each other? Or… were they looking for something? And what?
Flynn tried to connect to The Ring a few times, but to no avail. Either the signal wasn’t strong enough from this dinky rig, or the weather wasn’t cooperating, but each time a connection was made it’d be dropped instantly. Frustrating, but not unexpected.
It seemed to be getting late in the day, the sunlight soaking through the clouds starting to dissipate as the forest began to grow dark. So, their meal finished, Flynn set aside the little bit of garbage they’d created and began to set up the tarp across the front of the cave.
Unfolding the tarp and quietly lamenting that it would most likely never be able to be folded up that neatly ever again, Flynn took a few loose rocks from around the cave entrance and with a bit of work, they were able to pin it in place. Draping it over the opening like a shower curtain with a gap that was big enough to let the fire (and them) breathe, Flynn felt satisfied with their little abode for the moment. Reclining against the cave wall behind the cover of the tarp, Flynn stretched out and settled in, watching the light on the beacon blink rhythmically as the numbers danced on the screen behind it.
Chances are it would be a few days, but their fellows would find them and they’d be heading back home with a fun story to tell Lenny and Roddy. Not a big deal.
Right now, however, it seemed that sleep had come back to join them, so with a yawn and a bit of shifting against the mercifully smooth rock of the cave, Flynn accepted the company and slipped off into a doze once more.
Flynn awoke in the middle of the night to the low roll of thunder outside, the hiss of rain and subtle beeping of the beacon’s speaker fading into each other in the background as Flynn pushed themselves up into a sitting position. Not the most comfortable accommodations, but better than a broken back… if not by much.
Flynn looked over blearily at the beacon, the fire’s light having faded into softly glowing embers that were outshone by the blackbody of the beacon’s display. It took a moment to focus, but they noticed a message flashing at the bottom of the screen.
An incoming connection.
Really now? Already?
It seemed rather highly unlikely with the storm, though perhaps they’d sent a mobile scanner over the area? Kind of risky, all told, if that was indeed the case. How long had they been trying to connect, anyway?
Regardless, it would be rude (and counterproductive) to not answer the call, so scooting over to the beacon, Flynn looked at the screen, the message flashing at them insistently.
Reaching down in the dark, Flynn picked up the handset and accepted the connection, waiting for it to beep softly.
It seemed to take a little longer than expected
Then finally, a beep, and the connection opened.
But before Flynn could say anything at all, a loud blast of static burst from the earpiece, causing Flynn to recoil a bit as the screen flickered and rolled vertically. It slowly filled with random numbers, the text on the screen corrupting and shifting, forming after a moment into what, to Flynn, looked almost like a blinking eye. It gazed back at them for a tense few seconds before there was a flash of light, a crack of thunder and the whole rig shut off completely.
“What on earth?” Flynn huffed, hammering the reset button repeatedly to no avail. They depressed the power button and attempted to turn it on again, but that didn’t work either, and Flynn noticed a rather distinct smell, that of burning plastic, coming from the device.
“What? Did you get wet or something?” Flynn frowned, picking the beacon up and looking at the bottom of the case. Examining it all over, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it, at least from the outside. It simply wouldn’t turn on.
“You broken...?” Flynn paused, as if expecting an answer before muttering to themselves, “That shouldn’t... happen. These things are good for forty years, at least,” Flynn frowned and set the beacon down, shutting the case gently without locking it again.
“What the hell was that? Some sort of sabotage…? How do you even burn out electronics remotely...? Is that even possible?”
Flynn was caught up in thought for a moment before being snapped out of it by a sudden clatter as the tarp that had been covering the cave entrance fell down onto the ground. The rocks that had been holding it up must have dislodged due to the rain. Flynn snorted through their nose, glaring in an irritated manner at the tarp.
“You, too? Do you really want me to come over there and tack you into the rocks?”
Flynn set the dead beacon to the side gently and standing up, walked over to the cave entrance as the rain continued to pour down outside. There was a little stream running down the rocks in front of the entrance from all the rainwater now and Flynn leaned down to pull the tarp back towards the cave to avoid it getting swept (lazily) down the rock face.
What a pain in the ass.
Flynn wadded the tarp up into a pile at the edge of the cave entrance, the unseasonably cold rain starting to soak their hair and top. Hopefully they could still find something dry for a fire after all this rain, because they might need it more than they thought out here.
So focused on the task at hand, Flynn was, that they were quite surprised when they felt a rather large blast of warm air on the side of their face.
Flynn blinked, and then they turned slowly to look in the direction it had come from, only to be faced with an enormous, dark shape emerging from the undergrowth.
Flynn froze, and the shape stopped and leaned to the side a bit, regarding them quietly for a moment. There was a flash of lightning and the flicker revealed a large head covered in shaggy wet fur with a long snout, small beady eyes and a pair of small rounded ears. It was down on all fours and covered in the same matted fur, thick with muscle in every area, with long unretracted claws on all four of its paws. It trundled, not a sinewy stalk like the videos of large cats that Flynn had seen, but a slow loping gait made more intimidating by its sheer size.
Flynn almost laughed, but managed to hold it in.
A bear. Huh!
Flynn had never even seen a bear in person before. Well, a person bear, yes, but not… a bear bear.
Not a nine foot tall wall of fur and muscle.
That happened to be extremely close to them currently.
“Oh. Hello. Am I in your way?”
The bear regarded the attempt at communication for half a second before it bellowed loudly in response. It’s uncertain what it meant by that, but Flynn wasn’t too keen on sticking around to interpret.
Scrambling back into the cave, Flynn stumbled over the wet rock floor, dropping down onto their knees next to their survival case and quickly grabbed the EMPA gun out of it. They carefully flicked the mode switch on the ‘hammer’ to ‘discharge’ and shut the case firmly.
Getting back to their feet, case in hand, Flynn turned around just in time to see the bear saunter leisurely into the cave.
“Alright! Well, I don’t know if you know what this is, but you really don’t want any part of it!” Flynn shouted over the rain, leveling the gun at the bear who seemed to be getting progressively less fond of Flynn being in its personal space.
It approached slowly, pressuring Flynn around the edge of the cave with its presence and soon Flynn found themselves being backed slowly into a corner.
That simply would not do.
No choice then, hopefully this wouldn’t hurt it too much.
Of course, there was also some concern that it would be too wet for this, too, because that wouldn’t have pleasant results either. Regardless, Flynn had run out of room. They took in a deep breath through their nose and held it, bracing themselves against the back wall as they clenched both the gun and case tightly in their hands. Then they fired.
There was a bright crackle of blue electricity and sparks that sprayed from the barrel of the gun, lighting up the inside of the cave far more than any of the previous lightning flashes had. The bear let out a pained yowl and recoiled, staggering backwards several feet.
There was a gravid moment of pause, Flynn exhaling deeply as they lowered the barrel of their weapon slowly.
Then the bear turned back towards Flynn and roared.
Their heart skipped a beat.
It was time to leave.
Fleeing out into the night, Flynn raced down the loose rock face of the ridge, nearly breaking their ankles on the way down as they hopped, jumped and stumbled downhill. Heading into the low growth, Flynn crashed through bushes and briars, splashed across a shallow stream, and vaulted over moss-covered logs in an attempt to lose the beast.
Nonetheless, the bear remained in hot pursuit. They seemed to have immensely agitated the large creature, and in such a state, it was frighteningly fast, and very intent on punishing Flynn for their transgression.
Sticks and thorns tore at them, and though Flynn’s flightsuit bore the brunt of the constant assault, sparing their legs the worst of it, their arms and torso were quickly becoming painfully cut up as they crashed their way through the forest.
There was no planning to this, particularly. The most important direction currently was away, and though Flynn’s mind was occasionally concerned about getting lost, that train of thought was quickly shunted to the side by the ever closing sounds of the bear pursuing them through the woods.
The chase seemed to go on forever, and soon Flynn was having a hard time breathing and what wasn’t burning from being scratched raw was burning from sheer exhaustion as Flynn finally emerged from the woods into the field beyond.
The valley behind the ridge they’d been upon spread out into a wide lake of grass, the trees pulling away, leaving a meadow of flowers and wild oats that continued to the mountains beyond. As Flynn ran out into the open field, the bear’s angry bellows grew softer and Flynn’s gait began to slow.
Eventually, Flynn finally stopped and turned around to take a look behind them for the first time in what must have been a couple of miles to see the large animal stalking around the edge of the forest. It watched them from the treeline, pacing back and forth before standing up and letting out a loud roar, seemingly as a warning. It then dropped back down onto all fours once more, and without any further fuss, disappeared back into the dark of the woods.
Flynn stood there for a moment, panting as the rain came down from above. They could feel their hands and legs shake from the adrenaline in their system despite feeling weighed down in place. But, after a moment to let everything drain away, they turned back towards the open meadow and began to walk once more.
Now, they were well and truly lost.
That was a bit of an issue, but then, how to proceed?
Flynn could go back into the forest once more, to search for their craft and get their bearings, of course, but... well. Bearings versus bears. It was a less than appealing idea to walk straight back into the woods after the bear.
It had turned back for some reason, and Flynn didn’t want to give them second thoughts.
Of course, being out in the middle of an open field during a lightning storm carrying a metal briefcase wasn’t exactly the most comfortable position to be in either, so maybe the bear had the right idea.
Choices were currently limited, however.
The best thing to do, as far as Flynn could figure, would probably be to walk along until finding a ditch or something and just... hunker down until the worst of the storm had passed.
Once that was done, then they could give this shelter thing another try. Warmth, dryness, all that good stuff.
Without a beacon it might be best to be in an open area anyway, considering that they would have to make some sort of signal and it would need to be in an area where it would be highly visible-
Flynn’s train of thought was momentarily derailed, as they seemed to have walked straight into something that wasn’t all that visible.
The impact kind of knocked Flynn right on their butt, and Flynn let out a groan of frustration before they stood again and dusted off their sad, mud splattered flightsuit.
Sure, more mud. Why not?
Flynn chewed their lip as they looked around at the apparently empty meadow. Just grass, as far as they could see, the hills and mountains only vague shapes in the curtain of darkness created by the rain. More weirdness.
They gave a snort and rubbed their nose, turning back in the direction they’d been heading. Staring off into the distance, they set their case down gently and gave a firm, frustrated swipe at the air.
Of course, it was still a bit of a shock when they actually hit something with their palm.
This made Flynn hop back a step or two, peering at the air in disbelief before slowly reaching out to press their fingertips against the anomaly.
It was firm, but flexible, evocative of the plastic they use for windows in children’s playgrounds. It had a sort of static to it that made their fur stand on end, and touching it made their skin tingle and the muscles in their hand start to cramp slightly. It felt like with enough effort you could put your hand through it, but you might break your fingers in the process.
A shield of some kind? Out here? No, that would be pretty obvious. Any strong containment field present and the rain would be running down off the thing rather visibly. It could be a weak one, but it felt very off. This was something else entirely.
But what, exactly?
Flynn leaned forward and pushed a bit on it... the results were the same. It was flexible, but immovable. Invisible. And it made them feel unwell to be in contact with it.
Maybe that’s why the bear turned back?
It would make sense. But on the other hand, it was a bit far into the field for the bear to be that worried about it from all the way back at the treeline. Anyone who lived out of the cities knew that animals were very persistent.
Like, back home, even with the noise makers set up on the fences around the base, the deer in the Meadowland would always come right up to the edge of their range. Sure, they’d get scared off once or twice, but soon they would learn right where the things activated and get within an inch of that. Smarter than they looked, for sure.
So why stop at the treeline?
Unless there was something else in the field it was worried about.
The fur on Flynn’s back rose and they froze in place for a moment before slowly turning around as the grass shifted and flickered all around them.
After a moment, seven figures appeared to melt up out of the grass, each carrying long spears made out of wood and metal that they all brought up in a coordinated motion to menace Flynn.
Well. Things just seemed to keep getting better and better, didn’t they?
Flynn looked around at the group surrounding them, rather nonplussed about the current situation all told. It was just one thing after another today, and frankly, that brisk jog had been a bit much.
Holding up their hands slowly with tired frown, they dropped their gun on the grass.
“You’re not really the company I was hoping for...”