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Meanwhile, on Errux...

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RDL Voutspace Research Outpost
Somewhere in the Akani Protectorate

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Taj contemplated the twenty-foot tree before him. He knew it for what it was - flora meant to live in the light of day, soaking up sunlight and suckling moisture from below via an expansive network of exploratory roots. A typical tree made atypical by it's present location deep underground in a windowless chamber meant for bottlenecking security breaches. Made more atypical by the crystal obelisks of the same wood set into opposing walls. The RDL were known for their use of strange and dangerous technologies, but even the failed experiments clearly fit some ultimate purpose. The goals behind this one remained a mystery.

"Earther? Raekartan?" Taj asked, looking down to Field Biologist Ktaloran examining samples taken from the tree's gnarled trunk.

"I-I don't know. I might have done something wrong."

"'Something wrong?'"

"The samples don't fit the profiles of Earther trees programmed into the testing kit and they're negative on aethercytes. I'll have to take the samples back to base."

Taj looked back to the leaves high upon the tree. "It could be native to Errux."

"Native?! Director, no-"

"Don't call me 'Director.'"

"...Taj. There are no trees in our Erruxian botanical database, let alone ones like this."

"Until now, Ktaloran. Now, there is one Erruxian tree." Taj smirked softly at Ktaloran's half-masked annoyance. "The yshau-naka styled the Togaenakarai as reality manipulators who could create paracausal events practically at will. This," he said, gesturing to the crystal-studded obelisks. "Was an act of self-defense. The tree itself could be some sort of side effect."

"This is just the sort of thing I signed on for: mystery trees imagined into reality because a really dangerous paracausal entity felt guns were poor taste."

"Don't forget the once-turrets. I'm particularly interested in how they became what they are now." Leaving Ktaloran no room for further sarcasm, Taj's earpiece shuddered and chirped softly. "They've returned. If you finish, don't go touching anything."

At a brisk jog, Taj worked his way though cleared pathways in rubble and around destroyed security stations. Soon, he found himself in the heart of the facility - A great chamber with a large portal device in the center where the bulk of the 20-person expeditionary team convened. The eight armed agents, two of which being the only humans on the otherwise all Xarax-hil team, were undergoing post-excursion examinations by the medical personnel.

"Everyone accounted for?" Taj asked as he descended to the chamber floor.

"Luckily, yes," said one of the medics. "There's no sign of cognitive degradation, Xarax-hil or otherwise."

"It's nice to cleanly win, however rare."

"Is that what you think this was?" said one of the armed agents, all but tearing off their helmet in disgust. "A clean win?"

"I can hope, can't I?"

"It's gone, Taj. The gate room was jettisoned from the fortress and into voutspace."

Taj pursed his lips and looked to the assembled team. "I'll take that as a 'no.'"

Updated 10-18-2021 at 06:25 PM by Ringtail

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