The Burden of Guilt

Trekking though the moonlit darkness, alive with the calls of unfamiliar animals and insects, it took another twenty minutes before they arrived. The pool Frankie had promised was a section of the stream where the ravine opened out, allowing an irregularly shaped pond to form in the natural depression. Trees crowded in around the edge of the placid waters.
“Here we are” Jaxx nodded with satisfaction
“I imagine it looks nice enough in the daylight” Cass turned to look around them “I’ll sort the fire out; you get the fish – Deal?”
“No probs, Ms Jones – I’ll get you something to eat”
“Oh? – What about you?”
“I’m vegetarian remember?”
“I... Yeah”
“Don’t sweat it. I don’t know how to set a fire – you see to that” and with that he was wading out into the pool.
Shrugging, Cass busied herself collecting kindling and firewood while Jaxx divested himself of his gaudy Hawaiian shirt and carefully hung it on a nearby, overhanging branch before he slipped silently into the inky waters of the moonlit pond. Partially submerged, he smiled with pleasure as he opened his gills, savouring the crisp clean water for a moment before diving beneath the surface, leaving only the faintest of ripples.

As Jaxx swam under the water he sighed as his guilt weighed heavy on his shoulders. Hearing Cass’s ill feelings made him feel small and horrible. As Jaxx swam in the dark water he used his shark sense to look for fish around him. Franky thought, “Oceans to Murgatroyd, even did her words hurt that much?” Jaxx thought, “It was kinda harsh, but I totally deserve it.” Franky thought, “That may be true my sweet apprentice but if you let it control you will never break the circle of hate even.” Jaxx thought, “Huh? What circle?” Franky thought, “My dear sweet apprentice, life has many moments that become circles even. The circle of dark feelings is by far the worst as it affects all those around us even. If we don’t break those circles of continuous hate, self-loathing and anger we would be consumed by them even.” Jaxx thought, “Wow Franky that was totally deep and stuff.” Franky thought, “Oceans to Murgatroyd, even you’re most kind dear boy. The reason I am telling you this is because you need to be more than what you were even. Ms. Jones will never see how strong your heart is if you do not change your violent ways even.” Jaxx pondered Franky’s words as he thought about what everyone had been telling him in the past. Suddenly Jaxx sensed something big headed his way. Jaxx thought, “Franky what is that?” Franky thought, “Oceans to Murgatroyd, even this is very bad my dear apprentice. Whatever you do don’t let it bleed or ink on you even.” Jaxx thought, “Huh? Wha?” Suddenly the black shadow like creature flung it’s tentacles at Jaxx.

<snip> Cass
Alone for a few minutes, Cass quickly found enough dry wood nearby to keep them going for a while and busied herself setting the fire, which she lit with a dialed down blast from one of her pulse pistols. Satisfied after a few more minutes that the gently flickering flames weren’t about to go out, she pulled her terminal out of one of her pockets to check its readings.
Nobody seemed to have been able to get in touch, although that was hardly surprising with the ECM field still active across the area; although on a positive note, she was happy to see that the terminal was reporting considerable progress towards decoding the ECM mutation algorithm; so all she had to do was sit tight and wait while the process finished before she’d be able to re-establish communications with everyone.
She hoped Jay was okay – Jade too...
Something slashed out in the pond, making her frown and look out across the waters.
What the...?
Pushing herself to her feet, she padded down, closer to the water’s edge, but there was nothing to see.
Where was Jaxx?
“Jaxx?” she called, her voice an intrusion in the night
For a moment, there was no reply until the waters suddenly erupted in a frenzy of black tentacles, several of which streaked out to coil wetly around her legs; hauling her off her feet and onto her back to begin dragging her, screaming, into the water.
There’s something unpleasant in the pond – What happened to Jaxx, can he save Cass?

<snip> Jamie
He unstrapped his bow, knocked an arrow and pulled back, just as Cass was about to hit the water level. She was scrabbling at the rocks that littered the edge of the pond, pulling them out and unable to make any firm purchase. This was its favored hunting ground.
He loosed it.
"Get free, now. You don't have long!" He called down, watching as Cass scrabbled away, now able to make headway up and away from the water without the black, shiny tentacles pulling her back.
As soon as she was safely far enough away from the pool, he slid down the tree to join her.
"Are you ok?" he asked, putting his bow down
She looked up at him, and noted the blood stain on his face.
"You're not going feral again are you?"
"No. That's a defense mechanism. I can't do it when I'm not in immediate danger." Jamie replied. This place was his element.
"What was that thing?" Cass asked.
"I never came up with my own name for it. The Ssala call it *unintelligible garble* but I never saw enough of them to make my own name."
"Ok. *unintelligible garble* it is." Cass said, showing off that she'd learned the basic sounds of the language the last time she was here.
"So. You were calling for Jaxx?..."

As Jaxx fought the tentacle beast underwater using his speed and strength to do hit and swim tactics. Franky coached Jaxx into using calm and collective attacks instead of his usual frenzy. Jaxx continued to wail on the dark sea beast for several minutes as it continued to attack him. Eventually Jaxx’s nonstop attacks wore the beast out as it fled from him into a dark cavern below the pool. Jaxx was about to chase the beast when Franky thought, “Oceans to Murgatroyd, even I think you made your point my dear sweet apprentice. Jaxx thought, “Sorry Master Franky but he totally started it.” Franky thought, “I know but you have to be the bigger man even. So then how about we get some fish for Ms. Jones? I’m sure that poor thing is wasting away even.” Jaxx smirked as he thought, “True that Franky. I’ll like hurry and stuff.” After a few minutes Jaxx managed to catch several different fish barehanded before he headed to out of the water. As Jaxx walked out of the bank he saw Jamie and Cass talking by the fire she made. Jaxx looked at the four good sized exotic fish in his hands and thought, “Well so much for building that bridge huh?” Franky smirked as he thought, “As if even, your mission is hardly finished even with Ms. Jones. However you still need to build a bridge with the others as well.” Jaxx moaned as he trudged up the bank to where Jamie and Cass were. Cass quickly pulled her pistol out at Jaxx out of reflex till Jaxx replied, “Woah! Chill Ms. Jones! If you want something else you like just have to say so. Cass slowly put her gun down as she looked at the nervous Jaxx holding two large exotic fish in each hand. Cass replied, “What took you so long? Jaxx nervously smirked and replied, “Sorry I kinda had some trouble with the wildlife and stuff, but it looks like you found Jamie dude.” Jaxx walked up and dropped the fish before Jamie and nervously rubbed the back of his head as he said, “I like hope these will do and stuff. Ms. Jones said some fish are totally poisoned and stuff so I like got different kinds in case.”

Jamie looked at the fish to identify them as Jaxx nervously smirked and said, “Well since you’re here now Jamie dude, Ms. Jones can totally chill for a bit.” Cass looked at Jaxx and said, “What?” Jaxx nervously rubbed the back of his head and smiled as he replied, “It’s cool Ms. Jones. I’m sure Jamie dude will like be better company than me and beside I’m worried about Eve babe.” Jaxx put on his Hawaiian shirt as he began to walk off. Jamie replied, “Jaxx it’s not a good idea to wander around in the dark alone. We should stay together Jaxx.” Cass replied, “Jamie’s right Jaxx. You don’t know what’s out there.” Jaxx began walking off as he looked at the expression on both of their faces. Jamie looked serious while Cass seemed to have a look of mixed emotions in her face. Jaxx knew he wasn’t even close to gaining her trust at this point as he nervously rubbed the back of his head, smiled and replied, “It’s cool, according to Ms. Jones I’m the scariest thing out here.” Jaxx turned around and walked into the darkness as he sighed with a heavy weight on his shoulders. Jaxx ignored the protests from Jamie and Cass as he walked off into the darkness. Franky thought, “Oh my, are you really that concerned for your Evelina or afraid to spend time with Ms. Jones even?” Jaxx muttered, “Chaaaa. That chick is heinously scary. If I like pissed her off again she’d prolly pop a shell in my melon while I’m sleeping.” Franky thought, “True she does have an anger problem much like my apprentice.” Jaxx replied, “Sorry Franky dude, I’m not strong enough yet. Maybe with more time.” Franky sighed as he thought, “Very well then let’s find your sweetheart.

TAG – (Jaxx is burdened by guilt and self-doubt as he heads off to find Evelina. Will he find her, or someone else?)

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