What? Oh, haven’t the foggiest, my dear. But then, regaining consciousness somewhere strange is nothing new, hmm?
This time is different. There’s a breeze.
Oh, so there is. It’s wonderful. Where do you suppose we are?
I just asked you that. You’re the one with control.
So you did. Right, just a moment.
I open one pair of eyes, then the other. Several blurry seconds later, they adjust to the light. We seem to be on our side, else gravity isn’t working here. The sky is blue, the clouds wispy. All around are tall, tube-like plants. The ground is…
What? Something wrong?
You might say our landing was less than soft. Those plants are sturdier than they look. Needless to say, there looks to be quite a bit of blood. At least our lungs still work. I ought to be able to get this plant we landed on out of us.
Well get on it! We’re wasting daylight here.
So harsh. Here we go then. One. Two.
I wrench the offending spike free from our chest in a decidedly gory fashion. The sharp increase in pain has me doubling over for a minute while I wait for it to pass. It may have been rather unwise to preempt my countdown like that. Missive’s temper feels rather short at the moment and that will have only made things worse. Still, pain does the body good.
Ow, jeez. You would think that.
Now then, we can move freely. It would be prudent to get the lay of the land while daylight still favors us.
What’s that thing over there?
The offending “that” seems to be a battered chunk of metal plating. While I cannot make out any identifying marks, it most likely came from one of the exterminators.
Getting the jump on one of them while they’re injured would make things much easier.
We are injured as well. It would be inadvisable.
In that case, I’ll ask Consensus what they think we should do.
 – Scale the plants and get a bird’s eye view of the environment.  – Find the exterminator before it finds us or has a chance to regroup.  – Remain where we are and focus on regenerating.  – Something else.
*** Since daily updates to one story seem to be detrimental to voter turnout and /eientei/ desperately needs activity, I suppose now is as good a time as any to finally post this. Here's hoping I don't cock everything up.
There was some debate, but Consensus says we should heal up and make some improvised weapons.
Ah, very sensible. Thank you, Missive.
Considering our chest wound is not burning with horrible acidic agony, I can assume our stomach is still intact. Very fortunate, that. Without it, regaining lost biomass would be a chore. Alas, one of the only proper food sources is the sort of plant we landed on.
The word you’re looking for is bamboo. It’s supposed to be a decent building material and apparently it’s edible when processed.
It takes time to adequately alter my jaw and teeth to be suitable. While that happens, I simply gather up what should be enough to feed and craft a few rough spears besides. The plants prove bitter and difficult to stomach. The sacrifices I make for survival…
Don’t be a baby. It tastes fine, certainly much better than what you usually like.
You would like bitter things.
What’s that supposed to mean?
By the time I finish eating and begin sharpening spears, the sun is fast approaching its zenith. It has been far too long since we were able to enjoy a sunny day, but I suppose that will just have to wait a while longer.
Hey, you know it got kind of quiet all of a sudden, right? Like, no birds chirping.
I did not notice, but I suppose that is why we are partners. That is rather odd.
So figure out what’s causing-aw hell.
A vague, person-shaped shadow falls over us. I heard and saw no prior movement.
I hear a terribly familiar click as the figure indicates that it is armed. “Don’t move, monster,” crackles his voice through his helmet speaker.
Well, this must be our missing exterminator. Apparently he can still move around. How nice.
If nothing else, we healed the worst of our injuries first.
 – Move!  – Fight.  – Try diplomacy?
*** Day 15: I've somehow survived to the halfway point of NaNoWriMo. Hooray!
I dive forward, grabbing what I can of the spears as a deafening blast goes overhead. I hurl one back without stopping to look. No slowing down. Stillness is death.
We’re like a shark, that way.
Not now, Missive! Need to find better concealment.
Another two booms sound and reduce the bamboo by our head to burning splinters. Not good not good not good!
I leap across a stream as another shot sounds out. There’s a sharp stinging as one of our hands bursts apart. It proves difficult to pitch more spears back with a freshly cauterized stump on one arm, but I make a valiant effort.
Throwing spears back at least buys us more time to get away. The exterminator’s next two shots cleave their way into the distance, but fail to hit us. Good, now he has to reload.
A series of large red orbs pulse into existence ahead of us. A woman appears to materialize from thin air, grumbling in rather archaic Japanese as she frantically brushes burning fragments off her jacket.
Skirt, jacket, seemingly unarmed. Civilian?
The hellish eyes, bunny ears, and that energy burst say no. Probably a new sort of demi-human engineered for combat or something.
“What in the name of…” She takes a step back upon seeing us, hand curling into a finger gun.
 – “Help me!”  – Blitz past her. She can at least serve as a distraction.  – Back the other way. Better to face a known threat than an unknown one.
*** Day 17: Write-ins are always an option in this story. A little ingenuity can go a long way.
The woman blinks. “Okay, so you can talk. What the hell are you and what are you running from?”
As if on cue, another boom topples a nearby line of bamboo and pelts us with burning splinters. We take the brunt of them, but the woman hisses as some hit her mostly exposed legs.
“Seriously? If that’s you, Fujiwara, you are so gonna regret this.” Pulling down on something immaterial above her head, she fades from view.
What a strange person…
Another boom nearly takes our head off, searing flesh and cloth as it grazes a shoulder.
Why did you stop moving, you dumbass?
Another two shots blaze their way through the forest as I run. What follows next is a strangled cry filtered through a helmet speaker.
That demi-human girl works fast, huh?
After half a minute goes by without any more shots, I come to a stop. The woman bounds up to me shortly afterward. She’s carefully holding the exterminator’s bulky rifle.
“Your friend is going nowhere fast. Good thing, too. You two have a hell of a lot to explain, starting with this.” She gestures to the rifle. “This is hardly Earth tech.”
“We call them meteor rifles. Normally, they are used in mining and processing asteroids, but the exterminators modify theirs to best hunt down their prey.”
Heat wounds are a real bitch to fix.
“The easy assumption here would be that you’re spacefaring aliens and that the other guy looks like you under that exosuit. But then you probably wouldn’t be fluent in Japanese. You won’t get anywhere if you run away now, so here’s how this is gonna go down. You’re helping me lug that other guy back to Eientei so he doesn’t just bleed out and then you get to explain to my boss what you’re doing here.”
Just like someone else I know.
 – Go with her. She just took down an exterminator like it was nothing.  – Not a chance. We have not made it this far just to get captured by someone else.
"You're awfully well spoken for a... whatever you are," the woman says, leading the way back to the exterminator.
"I simply find that eloquence puts others more at ease."
Except when you need to get to the point.
That would be your job.
The exterminator is looking delightfully miserable. Shoulders don't normally hang like that and typically his combat knife would be on rather than in his leg.
"You are very good at what you do," I tell the woman.
"Just get lifting."
Even with two bodies carrying him, the exterminator is heavy. The woman is handling his wounded side less than gently, leaving me to hold the functional one. I cannot tell if he is still conscious, but I make a point of whispering to him just what will happen if he does something foolish like breaking our neck.
The woman says nothing during the course of our journey. She merely trudges onward, eyes ahead.
Soon enough, a grand building materializes out of the forest. It looks to be an old sprawl of a palace, remarkably well preserved from the elements.
That's gotta be some pretty strong cloaking tech.
"This," the woman says, sliding open the door, "is Eientei. Of late, it's become something of a hospital."
We pass through an entry room with what is most likely an information desk. The building's inhabitants scatter upon seeing the strange trio we make. They all seem to be normal rabbits or short demi-humans with wide, floppy rabbit ears.
We dump the exterminator in a medical office and the woman shows us to another room. "You don't seem terribly bothered by your injuries, so treating you is a somewhat lower priority. It would make everything simpler if you would wait in here until I finish with the other one. My master may come to speak with you before then, though."
"Ah, wait! Might I at least know the name of my savior?"
"Reisen. Around here, it's considered polite to introduce yourself before asking someone's name."
Name, huh? That's a tricky one.
 - Names are unnecessary in a collective. Tell her you have no name.  - I am Voice, speaker for the consensus.  - Provide a name for the sake of convenience. (What?)
*** Day 22: The computening continues.
>>26033 Original, with a number of sources of inspiration.
"I, we, have no name. But that will prove inconvenient. I am Legion, for we are many."
"Legion..." Reisen studies us intently. "Very interesting. I have some things to do now, but I'll be back to take a look at you soon." With that, she departs, leaving us alone in an examination room.
Oh yes, very odd.
As the room contains nothing of particular interest, I set our body to shifting into what should prove a less disquieting form. As usual, Missive provides a welcome distraction from the shifting pains.
Hey Voice? How did we get here?
That is an excellent question. The last thing I recall before waking up here was stowing away on that research vessel.
Yeah. Consensus is pretty lost on the details too.
I suspect we experienced severe head trauma. It would not be the first time.
After approximately two hours of waiting, the door opens. Thankfully, we finished shifting a short time ago. Experience has shown the process to be unpleasant for observers.
In walks a tall woman in a labcoat and a strange red and blue dress. Her calculating blue gaze sweeps once over the room before settling on us. An improbably long silver braid stretches down her back and what I can see of her body is both well toned and unblemished. By any human standard, she could doubtless be called attractive. Following behind her is Reisen, frantically writing something on a clipboard.
"Udonge, this is much more human than you described." The woman's voice is soft, yet carries a steely edge.
No baseline human is anything like this woman. We will have to be perfectly on guard.
"It didn't look like that before..." The Reisen of now is as far from the blunt, willful woman she was when we met her. Is this the effect this new woman has on people?
"As I am inclined to believe my apprentice, now I'll ask. Who and what are you? How I am to treat you changes a great deal with your answer."
I don't think just saying we're Legion is going to cut it this time.
At the same time, being fully honest will be just as damning as lying through our teeth.
 - Only tell her the essentials.  - Be as open as you dare.  - (Write-in.)
*** Day 24: Now comes the dreaded travelling for Thanksgiving part of the month.