Act III: Pending Title

Mobile Research

8.3.5 SW
Earlier that evening
Wombwood > 1 Km East of the privateer vessel known as Sotillo

It was quiet... A series of tents were scattered across the forest, a mammoth mobile research lab was parked beside the camp. An engine rumbled at a low volume. A few black cables sprawled across the ground from the wheeled lab to a couple individual tents, providing power and local network connections.

Outside one of these tents was xenobiologist Vail. She had a lit cigarette perched upon her bottom lip, as if it had been glued by the coffee charged moistness of her mouth. In front of her was a mounted motion tracker, the radar was clear, not a speck of life was being detected. Nothing large enough anyway. The electrical rythmic pulse that usually continuously made a sound was now entirely silent. "So quiet," Vail said to herself, she removed the cigarette and tossed it to the ground. In an instant her boot came down on top of it, pushing it into the wet soil below.

Then came the sound of her colleague's voice as he popped his head outside of his own tent nearby, "You say something, Vail?"

He was studying the form of a beautiful white flower with a pink interior that he held in his prosthetic left hand.

Vail turned to the colleague. "Just talking to myself, got nothing better to do," she replied in her usual dreary tone.

He walked over to her, holding out the flower, its petals wet with moisture. "It's lovely out here. Nice and quiet too."

"What's that you got?" Vail studied the flower in the xenobotanist's hand. It wasn't a sample she had seen before, it looked special. The kind of plant that you'd be wary to touch in case it was poisonous.

The flower was about the size of a human hand, with five tapering petals that were soft and velvety to the touch. As Devereaux held it close, they could both smell a faint, sweet fragrance. The center of the flower contained a cluster of bright yellow stamens and the flower was attached to a long, slender vinelike stem that was about two feet long and fuzzy.

"As far as I've learned, Its harmless to touch and doesn't give off poisonous or harmful toxins." he said, spinning it in dexterously despite his hand being synthetic. "But I wouldn't try ingesting any of it." He chuckled.

"Hm.” Vail gave an involuntary half-chuckle in response. “Yeah… wasn’t planning on eating it," she joked. "Where did you find it?"

Leaning in further, her eyes scanned it as it spun slowly before her.

Deveraux spoke very good English, but the hint of his French accent was still in the back of his mouth, "Growing on a vine that I found climbing around one of those massive trees. The whole stretch was littered with them. Seems they grow in earthy sod near the giant roots and they WEAVE their way up.” He motioned upward with his hand and both of their eyes lifted up to view the high canopy.

“They get plenty of water, but they want to get closer to the sun." he explained.

Vail nodded silently with an expression that showed she was impressed and intrigued.

"So... you got the easy job today, non? No viper cats... no warthogs?" asked Devereaux to break the permeating silence.

"Nothing," she sighed. "Most people would kill for something like this, to not have to work. But me, I just find it so fucking frustrating." Vail tapped the side of the motion tracker quickly four times. "I'm starting to worry that this thing has given up the ghost, I just can't believe it would be this quiet."

"Have you tri- -" Deveraux was cutoff by a hoot.

"Woohoo! It works!" shouted Grace Carrero, the team's meteorologist, as she repelled down a line down in one of the aforementioned massive trees and crunched the detritus beneath her boots.

"Fucking piece of shit finally works." she said, a little out of breath, referring to the dish antenna she had installed high up in one of the towering trees. She started to remove the harness and carabiners from herself as she walked over to the other two.

"Now we can finally get the sat data. And maybe some comms again."

"Well I'll be damned you finally fixed it Grace," Vail said, surprised. The Xenobiologist got closer to Deveraux and mumbled, "I guess miracles can happen..."

Rubbing behind his ear and looking at the ground, Devereaux smiled, barely containing a laugh. While she knew how to analyze and utilize the data, Grace was not a technician. She studied and predicted weather patterns. Setting it up equipment wasn't really her forte, but since they didn't have a dedicated technician on the team, they were responsible for setting up all of their own equipment. Grace was determined to be the one to set up her own and do repairs.

This was her fourth attempt over the last week and people were getting apathetic to the problem of not having comms, but antsy to have updates of the incoming weather patterns. Each try required going up into the trees and yesterday the storms knocked the dish all the way back down, nearly destroying it.

"What magic got it to finally work Grace?" Vail asked. She brought out another cigarette, her tenth today and started to light it with a silver thin cylindrical lighter that was only slightly thicker than the cigarette itself.

Grace smirked as she unclipped the last carabiner and handed it off to Devereaux who looked at it in bewilderment.

"Pure tenacity, babeeeey." said Grace proudly, as she dusted off her hands and joined the two, sitting down and taking in the sight of the forest and the unusual stillness.

"Nah. I don’t know. Cables were just loose or something…” she said, shoving some trail mix nuts in her mouth. “You know, it’s been quiet out here today… like really fuckin’ quiet. Like not-even-birds-chirping quiet. D’zat seem weird to you guys?”

As the team contemplated the eerie silence in the forest, a figure emerged from the woods with a swift rustle of undergrowth.

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