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"Was that planet always there?"

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This was going to be their big break. This HAD to be their big break. This shit was too fucking strange not to be.

A new planet suddenly appearing so close to Kenshi that you could see the surface? Weird.

A ship flying from said new planet, into Kenshi’s atmosphere, and being blown out of the sky by the Eye? Bizarre.

A ship flying into Kenshi’s atmosphere, being taken out by the Eye, and landing in the Foglands, ripe for the taking? A goddamned miracle.

“We’re gonna have to move quick.” Venture pointed out, passing the monocular to Vagabond, who held it up to his optic. “Fogmen are just pouring into it. Ghouls’ve noticed too.”

Vagabond watched as at least fifty fogmen did exactly that, running into areas of the ship cracked open by the crash, perused by countless more mist ghouls.

“This is a bad move. Whatever, whoever is inside that thing is already dead.” IP spoke up, arms folded as he watched the carnage unfold hundreds of feet away from the party.

“IP.” Vagabond turned to IP and passed the monocular back to Venture, who tucked it back into his backpack. “That is a goddamn ship.”

“I am aware.”

“We have not seen a ship since the fall of the first Empire.”

“I am aware of this as well.”

“Literally thousands of years.”
“Yes.”

“Do you know just how much the machinists will pay us for whatever’s in there?” Vagabond asked, pressing his palms together to emphasize his point.

IP stood there for a moment, quietly, his optic zooming in and out slowly, something Vagabond understood to mean he was in deep thought.

“A large sum.” He said, finally.

“Exactly. And after grabbing those repairs in Mongrel we’re down...uh, how much did we spend in Mongrel, Venture?” Vagabond turned to face the smaller skeleton. Venture proceeded to flip over his arm, flip the panel in the middle of it up, and then run through the math on his built in calculator.

“Twenty-two thousand five-hundred fifteen cats. Not counting the five one of you lost.” Venture said, somehow managing to fit a concerning amount of both hatred and depression into his voice.

“Lotta money, right?”

“That...is correct.”

“Alright. Now, say we get into this ship and find some really advanced lost tech, if we bring it back to Iyo, I can guarantee he pays us enough to buy and sell anything, anyone, anywhere we want. All we have to do,” He attempted to wrap his arm around IP’s shoulders, failing due to IP’s sheer mass “is take one last risk.”

IP paused again.

“Fine.” He contested, running one of his heavy hands down his face.

“My man.” Vagabond said with a twinge of pride in his voice as he slapped IP on the back.

 

 

Both Vagabond and Venture weren’t very martially skilled. Of course, Vagabond had a bit more ability than Venture by virtue of not being a coward as well as being occasionally too stupid to know when to back down, but whatever he knew about fighting with katanas and the like was absolutely crushed by IP’s ability to seemingly decimate everything in front of him with a single punch. There was no variation between punches, no style, no flair- it was simple brute strength.

On weaker, more frail things (exactly like the ghouls and fogmen pouring into the ship) this strength was shown perfectly.

It was almost cyclical: They would run at IP en-masse, IP would reel back, and then he would hit the one in front of the crowd hard enough to not only liquefy everything above its shoulders, but also to knock it back into the crowd with enough force to kill the rest.

This was different.

It stood as tall as IP and was clearly something similar to a skeleton, having a metallic chassis presumably made of the same off-white compound that comprised the entirety of the ship as well as a single emerald-tinted optic.

“I don’t trust this.” IP murmured as his hands curled into fists, ready to strike the machine as it stood motionless, staring at the party.

“Wait, don’t!” Venture tugged on IP’s arm. “Think about this, it’s like us, but it doesn’t seem to, uh, be all there, you know?”

IP cocked his head towards Venture at the statement. “And what does that mean for us?”

“Tengu would pay out of his corrupt ass for a skeleton slave that does literally exactly as he orders. And look at it! Tell me that doesn’t look like something the man would beat his grimy, fleshy little-”

“We got the message Venture, you can stop talking.” Vagabond spoke up, running a hand along the top of his skullcap.

“So you see why we gotta keep it!” The two turned their heads towards Vagabond, as if they were looking to him for the final call. In doing so, they failed to notice as the thing raised its arm, pointing towards IP as an eerie emerald light began to flow from it.

Vagabond shoved IP aside and drew his blade in an instant, dashing forward and slicing into the machine’s arm with enough force and power to completely sever it. The thing staggered back and raised its clean-cut stump to its optic, unfazed by the fact it was missing an arm.

IP would catch on quickly, pushing his way past Vagabond and delivering a punch with enough force to sever the machine’s head from its shoulders instantly. It would stand for a moment, various inky fluids spurting from its neck before it collapsed backwards with a massive clang.

Venture stammered for a moment, holding his arms out towards the, now likely non-functioning, machine, hands curled in a position of grief.

“Still think we should keep it?” IP asked, bending down and lifting the dented, severed head from the ground before tossing it to Venture. Venture shook his head and let the heap of scrap fall to the ground.

 

 

“I’m not going in there.” IP folded his arms.

“You’re a goddamned five ton deathmachine, yes the hell you are.” Venture pointed towards the object of IP’s refusal, that being an empty door frame that led into a room partially lit by an eerie-emerald glow.

“Listen, how about I go in, okay?” Vagabond suggested with a shrug. “If everything’s cool, I’ll call for you guys. If I’m fucked, you just won’t hear from me. Sound good?”

Vagabond took their awkward silence as a yes.

He gave them a thumbs up before walking into the room, vanishing into the darkness.

Vagabond didn’t really give thought to what could have possibly been causing the glow. And now that he was actually inside the room, just how stupid that was became clear to him. However, as he listed off the countless things it could be quietly to himself, his legs kept moving on their own.

Weird, mutant fogman?

Fogqueen?

Lost tech shit that would kill him the instant it saw him?

God he really hoped it wasn’t lost tech shit. Anything that moved and was designated as lost tech tended to attempt to kill him, thrall him, or grind him into a pile of scrap.

His curious, slightly concerned thoughts quickly stopped as he found himself upon the source.

A bubbling vat, full of luminescent emerald fluid sat against a wall, quietly gurgling as the liquid circulated inside of it. Floating inside the substance was a vaguely humanoid silhouette, connected to the top of the vat by wires plugged into its head and neck. A small, cracked screen rested on the top of the vat’s base, and on it blinked three lines of text in the common script.

 

PRIME CLONE GENERAL 01

RE-EDUCATION IN PROCESS

47%

 

This day kept getting better and better.

“Shit’s clear! Get in here!” He yelled to his companions.

It only took a moment for the two of them to scurry into the room, walking towards the source of the glow as Vagabond had done.

“What the fuck…?” Venture brought his hand up to rest just below his optics. “Listen, I don’t like this, man. This is some seriously weird shit.”

“I agree.” IP rubbed a hand up and down his arm slowly. “This doesn’t feel right.”

Vagabond pressed a hand against the vat’s glass.

“IP.” He said, stepping away from the vat. “I need you to trust me on this, okay?”

“I don’t enjoy where this is going.”

“We’re busting this guy out, and I need you to do it.” Vagabond turned his head to meet IP, and was met with a short silence as IP’s optic zoomed in and out.

“Fine.” IP gently pushed Vagabond aside as he moved in front of the vat. He wound up a punch for a moment, then slammed it into the thick glass containing the liquid. Surprisingly, the first wasn’t enough to shatter it completely, although the glass cracked in a massive web-like pattern that spread along the entire vat.

Neither was the second.

Whoever put the poor bastard in there sure as shit didn’t want him out.

The third strike, however, completely shattered the entire vat into thousands of thick glass crystals. The viscous liquid flooded the room, covering IP from head to toe in it in the process of bursting out of its container.

“Oh fuck-”

“It’s fine.” IP’s voice was dripping with annoyance as he ran the back of his hands along the chest of his dustcoat, wiping off some of the slime. “It’s not like I was clean before this.”

The figure in the vat now hung limp, only connected by the various tubes and wires inserted into various places above his shoulders, no longer held up in weightlessness by the thick fluid.

“It’s fucking naked, bro.” Venture averted his gaze, having picked up the habit of recognizing (and being embarrassed by) nudity thanks to his long years of working with the Trader’s Guild.

“Well we can grab it some clothes from Mongrel before we head out. How much do human clothes cost?” Vagabond asked as he began to pull out the plugs driven into the figure’s body before tossing it over his shoulder.

“Hiver clothes would fit better.” IP pointed towards the creature’s abnormally skinny arms and legs, as well as the almond shaped empty pit in the middle of its forearms. “And those aren’t cheap.”

“We’re not spending more fucking money, are we?” Venture cocked his head hesitantly towards the empty vat, noting the flashing red screen and two lines of text as the party made their way out of the room.

 

PROCESS INTERRUPTED

ALERTING FLEET COMMAND