Sinking in a Sea of Sands Started Closed

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The humans, the undead and the device had all stopped fighting. The Spirit felt relieved, although there still was a part of him that had not calmed down yet. He could not help but feel like removing the one with the golden eyes was the best for all of them. For now, however, it seemed some of the humans wanted the undead child alive, and he did not think it would be a good idea to try to put it to rest now. It had even apologized, although the boy's attention had soon shifted to the human with the ability to create fire. The Spirit did not mind this, as he would not have known how to answer the apology.

The device's had put up some kind of warning. A virus? The only kind of virus the Spirit knew about was that which infected human beings and made them sick, and this did not seem like that. However, it was clear that it meant that the device had decided that the undead was bad news, like the Spirit had thought before. Others noticed the water in the circle, and went to investigate. As they proceeded calmly, he decided to just watch.

Keeping me alive by keeping a flame in my chest lit?
Things just keep making less and less sense.

He nodded at his new code name, making a silent prayer.

Rational, Far-seeing Strategy Goddess
I'm getting so confused, please help me out here.
May your will be done.

She wasn't usually sympathetic to the individual, instead siding with larger causes, but her temples were generally strong supporters of Campaigners for Clarity, at least.
Also, since She had 'rased him, praying to other deities did not seem like a good idea.

He turned to face Dragon, and the pale leader in the brown coat at the same time.
"So what are we doing here?"

The Assassin's attention was gained by the spurt of fire that Dragon shot, as well as some of his words afterwards, it seemed the man was part of a mercenary company, and the corpse thought he was being entered into it as well. Cybernetics, implanted variable assault flamethrower, likely a minor perception filter to prevent visual detection, subdermal thermal dampening nanoweave to protect user, possibly other implants. He said the corpse was powered by his flame? Ignition system? How crude, combustion engines are inefficient, what fool would design a cyborg to operate off one? Perhaps not a cyborg, even they would not survive such an injury, a robot wearing a man's skin? A preserved cadaver would explain the lack of rotting, but the technology still seems implausible. Perhaps it is a metaphor! Fire and life stolen from or granted by the gods, human myth does love such things! This is not a story, though it matters not. He was not an engineer of any sort, so the specifics of the technology were not of interest to him, so he moved on, VAGRANT seemed to be broadcasting an alert about the corpse-bot having a virus, something he made a mental note of, it was likely how the corpse had offended the robot.

Turning away from them he moved closer to the strange disk, and the liquid it contained. He walked across it, his boots and his shell more than sufficient to absorb the heat, and dipped a gloved hand in it, cupping some of the liquid and raising it to his mouth, taking a sip to see if it was truly water, if it was he would bend down and drink more.

Dragon scratched his head as Flame asked him what he had been wondering ever since he woke up. What were they doing here? Why had they been transported to the desert?
"To be honest, Flame," he answered, "I'm not sure what we're doing here either. I think it's something we have to find out for ourselves." He looked around, looking for clues, when his eyes centered on the disc for the first time. It was too far away to see what was inside of it, if anything, but something new in the desert already piqued his curiosity.
"Hey, I'm going to investigate that disc over there. Wanna join me?" He offered Flame.

So this is a kind navigation, long range "get out of trouble" exercise?
Sounds about right.

Thank you my Goddess

Having to do it and knowing so, is a bit better than not knowing.

"Sure." He turned to browncoat. "Me and him will look at the disc, see if it gives any clues on where we are, who's in charge. You could head for high ground, see if a settlement's nearby."

The Spirit was pleased that he was actually getting spoken to like a leader, even if it was the undead. However, he did not show it. "I have already tried to look around," the Spirit answered the one that was now called Flame. He moved a bit, as the the pale, unnatural human had gone to get that one jacket. He decided not to leave it yet, as a jacket did not cover much. The Spirit continued, after making sure the one in his shade was covered completely. There were enough shade for one or two other people, albeit only slightly. "But I did not see anything. Also, beware of that disc, I think it is fairy warm now."

It was black, after all, and in the middle of the desert. He knew that humans had prepared food on stones lying in the sunshine in the past, and that the darker the stone, the higher the temperature. The monster had already walked over to it, though, and was checking out the water. Perhaps it was not as hot as he had thought? Or perhaps the creature was more resistant to such, he could not be sure. The Spirit did think of the possibility of it poisoning the water, but it had no reason to do that, had it? Did a monster even need a reason? Perhaps, he would give it the benefit of doubt for now, as they might die without the water. The Spirit rose up a bit, and looked around, trying to see if anything new had appeared in the horizon from the last time he had done so.

Dragon heard the words of warning and answered arrogantly,
"Please. I'm quite resistance to heat. By which I mean that I take a dip in a volcano every now and then. And anything I touch shares it. We should be fine. All right, let's go, Flame." And with no more words, he started to walk calmly towards the disk and the figure bending over it.

How does he wash the lava off?
And how can he have so many relics, but not enough authority to have a trainee?
Maybe he stole them from enemies, agents of Passion God I'd guess.

He turned to follow Dragon, glancing back to give a quick "Thanks" for Browncoats' warning, and, a few steps later, waved to Knife, gesturing towards the disc.

The small dip was about half drained after the canteen was filled and the bug took a sip. It was fairly clear, even slightly reflective. It tasted ever so mildly metallic but it was cool and fresh. Could it really be worse than dehydration?

Inspection of the disk didn't reveal much, it was the same uniform black it always was. No marks, not numbers, not runes not even a handy warning label or instructions.

As for depth as far down as anyone goes there's no underside to the thing disk so it's more a pillar than anything.

Dragon approached the disc, and when he saw what was inside, he couldn't believe his eyes. Water! They were saved. Of course, there wasn't much, but not everyone in the desert needed water. The rest would need to racion it, but they would be fine. He shouted,
"Hey, Flame, look! It's water!" Then he twisted his head to the side and asked the Hunter,
"Hey, is it cold? Or hot?"

TUDA could feel the heat rising off the disc as he stepped near.

"Water would have evaporated."

No markings on top, so it wasn't for show.

"Maybe this is here to heat the liquid"

He decided to try something, stepping to the basin he dipped a cold bloodless pinkie into it, then carried the drop out of the circle, and blew on it coldly.

Metallic taste, likely from whatever substance its sitting in, unlikely to be poison, be simpler to let us dehydrate. Cool water in the hot desert, an oddity, the disk certainly isn't refrigerating it, unless it is hot because it is pulling the heat from the water. Cool refreshing, life giving water, tastes like steel, or the side of a skyscraper on a rainy night, brings back sensations of slipping slightly, inexorably crawling to the target, only seventy more floors to go. He heard Dragon rudely rebuke the spirit with a remark about swimming in lava, ridiculous, he is nowhere near dense enough, he would walk across it, not sink into it. Boastful foolishness, rebuking such a warning so rudely, such fools are easy to end, the body is better with a more watchful limb. His thoughts were interrupted as Dragon asked him a question, and as the corpse dipped a finger into the water, no doubt tainting it with the flavor of its long dead flesh.

"Hey, is it cold? Or hot?"

"Cool," he answered, lowering his head to it he drank more greedily, he had no means of carrying the water for later, and could hold quite a bit of liquid, besides he wished to drink his fill before the taste of the corpse permeated the water. He would not drink it all of course, the others would wish to fill their canteens if they had them, though by the time he would finish they might only be able to fill them halfway.

Dragon nodded.
"Cool... that's weird. We should ration it. The same amount of water for everyone who needs it, and a small amount for that. We don't know how long we'll be here. Although..." he trailed off. ""This is obviously a puzzle. And I can only see two solutions from where I'm standing: either there's something useful at the bottom, which seems unlikely given the depth, or we have to use the water or its temperature for something else than drinking, in which case you should probably stop drinking. Of course, it could be just water, but, taking the circumstances into account, I wouldn't bet on it. We should inspect the disc for clues, and if we don't find anything, then we'll ration it." After saying that, Dragon started looking closely at the disc, touching it with his hand as well to check for thin engravings that could be hard to see.

V.A.G.R.A.N.T., on finding little data of use with the inspection, quickly hovered over and took a small sample of the water, if it was water. Just about 5cm3 of the liquid. Some were quick to ingest the substance, a risky venture. The liquid could contain anything. Nevertheless, it was their choice. V.A.G.R.A.N.T. had no need for the stuff, itself. However, the one with the virus had touched it, possibly spreading it. His ally was talking of solutions and problems which led V.A.G.R.A.N.T. to question whether this was some sort of V.E. training exercise. Though, in such an exercise, it would be made obvious that it was such an exercise. Variables would be tightly controlled. Constants even more so, especially in a world comprised of qubits where values could change. The data would be stamped with the logo of the company. Yet everything here reflected reality perfectly. It ran a search on a its database, it completed in miliseconds:

Water, n. - A clear, colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid, H2O, essential for most plant and animal life and the most widely used of all solvents. Freezing point 0°C (32°F); boiling point 100°C (212°F); specific gravity (4°C) 1.0000; weight per gallon (15°C) 8.338 pounds (3.782 kilograms).

Puzzle, n. - A toy, problem, or other contrivance designed to amuse by presenting difficulties to be solved by ingenuity or patient effort.

Solution n. - 1.) The act of solving a problem, question, etc.
2.) A homogeneous, molecular mixture of two or more substances.

Preliminary Analysis Results - O2(g) detected in liquid. Dissolved gas... Solute dissolved in solvent. Solution.

You might say it happened upon a pun there. Regardless, V.A.G.R.A.N.T. kept that to itself and began another inspection of the disk, before those two contaminated it completely. Like a needle in a record player, an arm filled with sensors searched for anything and everything. Only then as V.A.G.R.A.N.T. went around the disk did it see that figure in the distance. Had the others abandoned it? It seemed to be the one most affected by the heat with its hunched posture. It was curious that the humans had not given it a share of the water. Then again, humans were always curious things. One day, they would pour heaps of aid into a country without regard to how to would affect the country. The next, they would start a war. Illogical.

The chemical tests didn't shed much light on the sample, yes it was water for the most part but there were traces of something else that eluded any instruments V.A.G.R.A.N.T had to use.

The heat was really picking up, or maybe it had always been this hot. For that matter how long had they been here? There was still no sign of the sun despite the brightness of the sky.

And then suddenly the grinding sound starts up again, there's a jolt as the disk is drawn back down, leaving a cylindrical pit as it lowered. Before anyone on it could reasonably react it was already about three metres below ground level where another jolt stops the decent.

And just then the sand starts pouring in, eating away at the edges of disk.

Assassin drank a little more before stopping, there was little left now, he looked up at Dragon, the man seemed to think it was a puzzle of some sort. Doubtful, more likely they wish to give us necessities to keep us alive until they are finished. Laughable! Indeed if there was a puzzle related to this it would have been presented already, alongside the water if the two were connected. It could hardly not be water, we would taste it, not to mention how pointless poison would be, as we have already considered. He stood and walked off the disc, not saying anything to Dragon, if the man wanted to hold his fantasies that was his business, best he could figure something had placed them here to toy with them, and the water would keep them, or at least some of them, alive to be toyed with for longer.

Moments after he stepped off it the disk sunk, anyone who wanted to grasp what water was left would risk getting buried, We should have drank more while we had the chance. Au revoir my reservoir, I suppose the sands have a thirst of their own if they so wish to claim you. The others would likely be upset that they had not managed to get a drink while they had the chance, but it was getting even hotter. His kind covered and had adapted to a number of climates, but the desert was not their favored biome, shelter would soon be a necessity.

He turned upwards towards the spirit, "Spirit, can you see anyplace offering shade? A large dune perhaps that we could hide behind until night falls?" he asked. This world's rotation should be similar to Earth standard given its gravity, faster if it lacks a moon, night will hopefully arise soon. Ah the darkness will welcome us with her inviting arms.

No reaction to chilling.

Dissapointed, TUDA wiped the liquid off on his clothes, as the grinding started, behind him, he turned and saw the disc descend.

What the? How is that happening?

Maybe the disc will make more sense later.

He looked around for other pieces of the puzzle.
Just the other people.

Maybe some of them know which way to go.
I'll ask them what they know, then we might as well start walking.
Who first?
Knife seems friendly.

"Hey Knife! Where are we!"

Knife is jolted from his observation of the floating man, the one that The Hunter had dubbed 'Spirit' by someone calling his name. Turning, he see's that it's the resurrected teen. "Your guess is as good as mine mate." He says, "Ideally, I would think we're somewhere on earth, maybe in the Sahara or somewhere in the deep outback but...I dunno, I doubt it."

"But none of that really matters at the moment, because we really need to find some shelter before we become human barbecue."

The Mayor took a gulp from the canteen before reppacing it in his pocket. It was water, no doubt about that, but with a slight metallic taste. As had been pointed out by one of his compatriots, the water was cool, a fact that the middle-aged survivor found worrying.
"I'd move against rationing." He said, to know one in particular "Rationing simply means that we'll not be drinking as much as we need, we'll end up dying of thirst with half-full canteens. I've seen it before."

V.A.G.R.A.N.T. was jolted from its investigation of the disk as it sank into the sands. The arms retracted back in the metal shell as soon as the sand began pouring in. The AI had to investigate more. Was there anything else hidden under the multitude of yellow grains? To some, searching the underbelly of a desert would be fruitless. However, V.A.G.R.A.N.T. had spent at least two months constantly inspecting packets of qubits. No job was too tedious. The octahedron-shaped body began to spin, and V.A.G.R.A.N.T. began to investigate what lay beneath the sands, oblivious to the status of the others.

Puzzling the situation may be, but this was definitely not a puzzle. At least there was one conclusion there. Others just led to more questions. The sudden appear of the black box, and the disk... It suggest there was some intelligence here, watching them. Perhaps, as with the water, seeing to their needs. But that assumption lead to even more questions. Why gather a set of individuals such as this? To what purpose? For now, V.A.G.R.A.N.T. just focused on digging through the sands. Even if it was fruitless, there would probably be a reaction of some sort, judging from the previous phenomena that had ocurred.

Dragon staggered forward as the disc descended. He had been pressing way too hard against it. He tried to balance himself, and after several seconds managed to. He stood up and heard Flame's question. He trotted towards Knife to hear the potential explanation, but the answer let him down. However...
"About the heat," he said. "There's no problem with that, for anyone, as long as someone has a long, resistant cord, or string, or anything that can be tied and is long and resistant enough to tie us all to each other without breaking." He looked around, as though expecting it to appear out of nowhere. His eyes met the V.A.G.R.A.N.T. digging tirelessly, and sighed,
"Welp, it looks like the robot's gone bonkers again. At least it's not trying to kill anyone."

It watched as the other gathered around the font, drinking, sampling or analysing the liquid contained within. It watched the only known source of water retreated back into the sands.

It's skin itched.

This unit was already deemed defective, was this what happened to them when they weren't recycled, were they were put through a slow torture to re-educate them?

They would need to find shelter. It watched as the odd one asked 'The Spirit' for advice. It waited for reply.

"No help there, I'm afraid." Said the Mayor to Dragon "I usually carry a rope with me. Apparently, I left it back at the city. Speaking of, where're you lot from, then?"

TUDA said the name of his city, it roughly translated to "City State Of Many Gods"

"Can we talk about that later? We need to figure out which way to walk."

The Spirit had been asked about if he saw anything, but he shook his head. He did not feel like speaking with the monster, and he had already mentioned it before. The humans kept arguing, one asked if they had thread, some discussed water, another one asked what direction to walk in. "Whatever direction should be fine, I cannot spot the difference between them, nor any sort of shade. Chances are, any direction is a better place than here." He felt useless again. As if any of the mortals died, it would be because of him. However, one could not change the situation, and there were no reason to panic yet.

"Anyone for hiking that way then?"

TUDA pointed in an apparently random direction, which was actually directly away from the Shank-o-matic.

"I'm with the flying fellow. But, as trivial as it seems, where we were and who we are may be important. For one thing, this does not seem the work of entropy. There is probably some rhyme or reason to our situation. For another... Well, I simply can't place any of you. Working from a theory," He looked at the assembled company of strange men "have any of you ever heard of the city of Astlin, the planet of Estet, the Cold, the Buyers and Traders, The Market Ritual, John Loxley? Any of that ring a bell? Because, if any of you were so much as born on the same planet as me..." He paused for dramatic effect, "then you'd know about all those things."

"Sorry there, old man. I've never heard of anything like that. As to where I come from, well, that's confidential... oh, shit. Well, I might as well tell you already. I come from the Organization. If you don't know what any of that means... it's people with powers, such as my fire control and heat resistance, which is what the cord was for, who perform missions for powerful people without powers and usually face off against other people with powers. There, that's it. Now, let's hope, if I return there, that nobody tags along."

Missions for people without powers?
And why does he say it like that? Surely he means Relics.
He's not one of us.
He looks so like that other Revenant Prophet.
Would he dress like that? I only saw him in the dark.
Same Posture.
Coincidence. Also the mind playing tricks.
Still seems like him.
Coincidence, mind tricks, I'm wasting time now.

He addressed the nosy robed guy.
"So where's the pattern? Where's the rhyme and reason between us? Or the... weird things?"

"then you'd know about all those things."

Assassin shook his head, "I have traveled to many worlds, but not yours, I don't think I've even heard of it," he replied. Not surprising, we never studied star charts. Strange though, never heard of the "Organization" a merc company that employs exclusively cyborgs? Doubtful they could run more than small jobs, never make back the cost of the upgrades. Such a generic title, what group would brand themselves so? It leaves barely an imprint of memory, like a leaf slowly falling into a puddle of muddy water.

The Spirit had also responded with a shake of its head, and its further comments did little to inspire confidence, he considered attempting to dig into the side of a dune for cover, though he wasn't exactly built for digging. He gave little consideration to Dragon's offer, even if he had some sort of infectious nanoweave he wasn't about to let it affect him, he had no desire to obtain cybernetics. Possible it isn't even those, he called them powers, and other things hear are unlike what we have seen. What else could they be though?

"So where's the pattern? Where's the rhyme and reason between us? Or the... weird things?"

The corpse seemed to be talking to him, though he wasn't sure, and once again he was annoyed at his inability to shrug "No idea," he replied, before returning to his thoughts.

They'd taken there sweet time, but they were starting to come out of their shells, and that was a vital part of progress. Also important was that they were stretching out, expanding. The pit had closed over and the disk was now well beyond any digging, anyone still on the disk would have been forced up to the surface.

It was dark, just like that; the sky had gone from featureless blue to featureless black in the blink of an eye. And with the pitch black came the cold, it took a while to sink in but it quickly got to you and was more than sharp enough for whatever you might have to cover it. Wait had there been a click just then?

Was it night already? Some idea of where the sun had been would have given you some clue as to the time.

"Okay there is no rhyme or reason, there's no pattern! there's NO SENSE!

Because nothing makes sense.
We're not getting anything done here, so let's agree on a direction already."

The Mayor looked smug. "Well, now that we've got that over with, I'd like to bring up another problem; how do we know what direction we're going, after we start actually moving? No compass, I can't recognize these stars and it may be just me, but did anyone else not see a sun? We'll need a way to navigate before we go anywhere."

As the temperature dropped, a flame sputtered out, a complex of mechanisms lost power.

TUDA started feeling a need to breathe.

The breathes were slow at first, but in his damaged abdomen, each brought an agonising strain, but they weren't enough, his diaphragm kept pumping air in and out harder, faster.

He started whimpering like a wounded beast.

A dizziness, and a headache were building, soon he doubled over clutching his head.


The figure collapsed, the breaths stopped.

Dragon shivered. He started feeling cold. Before anything hapened to his powers, he snapped his fingers and,
"Oh joy," he said, while the sparks that were intended to be a flame fell to the sand. He was too late, and now his power had withered. Not lost completely, but it would be if they didn't manage to get a heat source. The Agent heard a faint thumping sound and looked in its direction. He saw Flame's body lying on the ground, and rushed toward him. He lifted him with both hands and shouted, mostly to reassure himself,
"Don't worry! He'll be alright once we get a heat source!"

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