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The Spider Bus Returns


Actaeon

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Once the board collapse is over and everyone is outside staring at the rubble of their new home, I march into the rubble and search through it until I find the shopping list, crumpled and dirty but still intact. I glare at Trinit Eye. "...D... D... D... oh, forget it. I am not pleased." I stalk back the the bus, somehow slamming the bus door behind me.

 

After a few moments, Dikiyoba opens the door again and steps out. "Anyone who wants to come grocery shopping, come aboard. We still need to eat."

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Sylae does a quick lap in the air to remove any stray dust, shooting Trinit Eye a glare. "Maybe with all those eyes you could look for Jewels," she gumbles to herself as she lands next to the Spiderbus and trots in, taking the closest vacant seat.

 

"Figured y'all might need some help reaching the tall shelves," she says, slightly sarcastically.

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Finding the bus door slammed shut, Harehunter rams his new antlers into it, and using them like a can opener, cuts a hole into the door big enough to climb through.

 

Hearing Dikiyoba's call for boarders, Harehunter climbs aboard the bus.

As he hops toward the back of the bus, Actaeon glares another glare at him.

 

"I have posted more than ten times here, and I have yet to pun once."

 

Dikiyoba looks toward Harehunter, and crouches as if to strike.

 

"No, I did not say 'pounce', I said 'pun once'."

 

Dikiyoba settles back into seat, an expression of disappointment on face.

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The Reverend dives out of the collapsing hall to avoid another chunk of falling wall. In the process he gets a nice grass stain on his robes, to match the rest. He approaches Trinit Eye.

 

The Reverend: "Should you feel the need to make peace with your demons and find focus in your new ... state ... I find that transcribing the live performances of the Great One can bring mental clarity."

 

The Reverend attempts to hand Trinit Eye a vinyl, but being unable to find any hands to hand it to (just eye stalks, which seem to lack fingers and opposable thumbs), he leaves it on the ground underneath the floating eye.

 

He then hops on the bus, takes a seat, and takes out his guitar.

 

The Reverend: "Any requests?"

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Excalibur sees Actaeon sleeping behind the driver's seat. He then looks over at the Reverend, "Ooh, do you know any Fleetwood Mac."

 

(Edit: Oops, I didn't notice the third page, my bad)

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Harehunter takes note of Mmxerts distraction, and sees the blue dot as well. The last time he remembers seeing such an object, he was in a deep discussion with Randomizer on the topic of themodynamics. Could this be Maxwell's Demon manifesting itself?

 

"Randomizer. Do you see what Mmexpert is seeing? What could be the meaning of this? Are we about to experience some strange effect of space-time shifting?"

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Actaeon wakes with a start. He finds himself surrounded by frightened, dusty Spiderwebbers. In the distance, he sees a plume of smoke rising from the new boards.

 

Actaeon: "What the?"

 

He finally notices the blue speck.

 

Actaeon: "Oh no..."

 

As the last fleeing Spiderwebber boards the bus, the scene shifts. Outside, dense forest obscures all but a little patch of blue sky.

 

Actaeon: "I forgot to turn off the engine..."

 

Excalibur: "So, did we travel in time, or just...?"

 

Actaeon: "Only one way to find out, I guess."

 

Dikiyoba: "Do you suppose there's a grocery store nearby?"

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Dikiyoba turns the driver's seat over to Actaeon. Dikiyoba heads to a seat and pull out a copy of The Field Guide to Every Tree to, Like, Everywhere. It's a huge book, so finding anything in it will take a while, but given enough time Dikiyoba is sure Dikiyoba can identify enough trees to figure out where we are.

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Sylae hops out of the bus and flies a quick circuit around the area. Nothing but trees as far as she could see under the cloudless sky. She lands and announces loudly, her voice echoing in the small clearing the bus rests in, "I'm going to do some scouting, see if there's any civilization around. Try not to wander off, now." She takes off and soars up into the sky and picks a direction at random, heading east.

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The Reverend was just finishing his Hendrix/Dire Straits/Fleetwood Mac set when the bus lurched forward and the scene outside shifted. He follows Excalibur out of the bus, and attempts to start playing "Voodoo Chile", but finds that no sound comes out of his guitar.

 

The Reverend: "..."

 

Strange - no sound comes out of his mouth either. He steps back onto the bus, and finds his guitar works again, and then steps off, and it goes silent once more. What was in that Skribbane Bourbon??

 

Edit: The Reverend notices that the pony seems to have no trouble talking outside the bus. Curiouser and curiouser.

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It remains eerily quiet in the wood as Sylae flies along. She has a sense of being watched.

 

Dikiyoba, meanwhile, discovers species of Betula, Cercocarpus, Fraxinus, Aster, Rhododendron, and a dozen other plants native to most of North America. Finally, a great hulking shape looms into view.

 

Dikiyoba (whispers): "Sequoia."

 

From the distance, the Spiderwebbers hear a shout.

 

Dikiyoba: "I know where we are!"

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A small man suddenly appears, stepping out from a particularly dense part of the woods. He is clad in what can only be loosely described as armor. It is a patchwork thing of foil, duct tape, bits of metal, and some leather showing underneath. A helmet fashioned out of a 5 gallon bucket covers his face. Across his back however, is an overly large sword, in relatively good condition.

 

The man's manner matches his appearance. He shambles along, stumbling into bushes and trees. He doesn't seem aware of much, and hardly notices the people (and animals) gathered about.

 

However, at Dikiyoba's shout, he wirls around and finally realizes his surroundings.

 

Charles: "What the..? Who are you people? Why are you out here in the woods... with a bus?"

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Trinit Eye peers after the departing bus. Its path does not remain within one plane, in any sense, but with his mysteriously upgraded vision, he can see it clearly. There is no need to hurry after it. It has not really gone very far. It's just that the shortest route to it goes through some unexplored spaces, and so the usual tracking algorithm would send a party the long way around. But Trinit Eye is a monster, now. He can respawn anywhere. He can catch up whenever.

 

More important than speed is not overlooking anything. 'Overlooking' — a silly term, of course. It should be 'underlooking'. How could one possibly look too much?

 

The iBeast notices a pale and wispy shade drifting among the ruins, flitting through what used to be the spaces between the pixels, but now the spaces are filled in. The Eye sees all. But what is this shade? An afterimage? Or a vision of the future?

 

Or is the question about this shade not What, but Who?

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With a flash and a whoosh, Triumph appears outside...some ruin?

 

"Umm...Spiderweb?"

 

Since ascending to another plane of existence recently, Triumph has spent much time exploring the Moderator Board, a secured area connected to Spiderweb yet phased shifted so as to be protected, and also inaccessible to the plebes. Now he returns...

 

"I know spent a while reading up on arcane lore on the mod board...but did I really lose track of time so badly that Spiderweb crumbled into ruins along the way? I mean, I'm getting more absent-minded the closer I come to be a professor, but that would be ridiculous."

 

Looking around in bemusement, Triumph spots a gazer...err, iBeast, complete with armored aluminum unibody, floating on the other side of the ruins. Friend? Foe? Guard...beast? Triumph, a humanoid figure wrapped in light, levitates into the air and drifts toward the iBeast; perhaps it will have some answers. He could walk, of course, but the novelty of indulging in modly powers like levitation hasn't worn off yet, and levitating is more fun.

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The Big Man watches enviously as Triumph levitates around the place. He would like to float around too, but lacks the arcane know-how.

 

Lost in a reverie, he almost bumps into the small armor-clad man who introduces himself as Charles.

 

Big Man : Hey, watch it. Oh, hi, we're tourists. What, don't tell me you actually live in this place ?

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Harehunter approaches Randomizer, who is still digging in the rubble for his book on thermodynamics.

 

"Hey, Random, since that spot was blue, does that mean we got transported forward or backward in time? If I recall correctly, blue means forward and red means backwards. Or is that the other way around in reverse?"

 

Out of one corner of one eye, Harehunter catches the hint of a glimpse of a feline form lurking in the woods.

 

"Awww, now that's all we need. Who let Schoedinger's cat out of the bag?"

 

Then a large shadow covered the party. As Harehunter looked up, he saw a large dirigible, with the name "Heisenberg" emblazoned on the side.

 

"That is so wrong on so many counts."

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"Well, I was going to say we are in California, but that's clearly not the case." I throw the field guide aside and pick up a dictionary. "Since we seem to get further from a cure everytime I look around, I guess it's time for a temporary solution." I spend several minutes perusing the dictionary before making my choice.

 

I step outside the bus. "Hey, Sylae, did you see any berry bushes on your scouting trip?"

 

"No, uh, sorry. I wasn't really looking for them."

 

"That's okay. Dinky Yoda will start searching off that way." I point north.

 

"You're calling yourself dinky Yoda now?"

 

I sigh. "Yes. It was the best I... er, dinky Yoda could do."

 

"You know what you should call yourself? Dick y—uh, why are you trying to step on my hooves? You know that doesn't work, right?"

 

Grumbling, Dikiyoba heads northward. "This day just gets worse and worse."

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Charles: "Tourists, eh? Well I'm not native to this area either. I'm from a bit further north. Is this sort of thing common where you're from? Buses appearing from nowhere, talking ponies and dinosaurs, floating eye things? Oh, that reminds me, I was looking for a remote group of people. They called themselves the Spiderwearer's, or some such thing. I've heard good reports of them, and wanted to meet them."

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Sylae heads west now, flying slower and between the trees rather than above them, searching for bushes. She growls as yet another stupid bird flies in her path, squawking indignantly as it's kicked by a passing hoof. She sighs, glancing around for more idiotic featherbrains.

 

A flash of something shiny on the ground distracts her. She stops and lands next to it, her downdraft exposing more shiny. Using her hoof she clears dirt and dead needles out of the way, exposing what appeared to be the corner of a chest. "Well, this is strange," Sylae mutters as she clears away more dirt, wishing for a shovel. Wait, why would a shovel help? I have hooves... No matter. Within minutes she has the soil cleared away, and a grimy metal-coated chest soon stands before her. The single lock, made nearly entirely of rust, snaps open easily when she hits it, red dust shimmering down. She opens the chest slowly, peering inside.

 

A dusty helmet stares back at her. Well, who would bury a helmet? she thinks to herself, picking it up and blowing the dust off, absently noting that more items lay underneath. It was peculiar, almost antique in design, but clearly designed for a pony, with ear-holes in all the right places. Glancing around, she grins and shyly dons it, wondering who the owner was. It fits perfectly, like it was made for her. Well, the thing's been here long enough, I'm sure the previous owner is too dead to mind.

 

Sylae glances back into the chest, then smiles. More pieces of steel armor, as well as a scroll and a pair of saddlebags. She empties the chest of its contents and examines the remaining armor, placing it upon herself lightly. A culet-like piece extending from her neck all the way back, and a matched pair of greaves for her legs. It feels solid, yet light enough that she doubts it will impede her flying. She then moves on to the saddlebags. They're aged-looking, yet made of solid leather, and, for some reason, embossed with a d20 symbol just like her cutie mark. "That's strange," she says, opening the pockets but finding nothing. She sighs and throws them across her back

 

"Now, what's that scroll say," Sylae asks herself, unrolling it carefully. A minute later, she rolls it shut and looks up, gazing sadly as the sunset glimmering between the trees.

 


 

Actaeon glances around from his seat on the Spiderbus, his stomach rumbling lightly as he stretches. Many of the others had wandered off, although he had told them to stay within eyesight with the bus, due to the strange lack of sound outside. Now that was peculiar, most of the members went completely deaf once they stepped outside the bus doors, unable to hear a thing, even themselves. The only exception was those who were transformed by the Spiderbus when they had landed at SW. Even when they were outside the bus, anyone could hear them clearly. In addition, they had all said they were able to hear the normal sounds of the forest and were able to hear the unaffected members speak, even outside the bus.

 

"This is a strange place," The Reverend says, idly playing a mellow-sounding tune from his seat. "It's almost like the forest is calling to us, like a siren's call."

 

"That's silly," Actaeon says, "It's not even making a peep. You can't hear a thing outside this bus. How could it be calling us?"

 

"The forest works in mysterious ways," he replies quietly, strumming softly, "Oh, look, there's that pony."

 

Actaeon looks out the bus windscreen to see Sylae landing, sporting a set of armor and bulging saddlebags. He frowns as the pegasus mare boards the bus, saddlebags brushing the door as she trots on, "Sylae, where did you find that armor?"

 

"Oh, this?" Sylae says as if it was a stupid question, "I just found it. I also found some berries," she continues, opening one of the saddlebags with her teeth. A mass of tiny berries spills out, littering the floor of the bus. He raises an eyebrow as she unceremoniously opens pocket after pocket, a pile of berries slowly materializing on the closest seat.

 


 

About an hour later, Sylae is sitting in her bus seat, idly rolling the scroll back and forth between her front hooves. Dikiyoba comes back and sits in the seat behind her, peering over the stained imitation vinyl of the seat. "Dinky Yoda wanted to thank you for bringing berries. What is the scroll?"

 

"Oh...nothing," Sylae replies hastily, putting it away in her saddlebags. "If you want, we could go collect some tomorrow. It shouldn't be too far of a walk to the orchard. Er, grove. Garden?"

 

"I--Dinky Yoda believes the term is 'patch'." Diki answers.

 

"Oh, well, the patch then. There's plenty of berries there, I barely touched it when I filled my saddlebags. Could prolly feed everyone for a month--although that's a long time sitting in a bus," she says.

 

"Perhaps," Diki says, frowning. "Sylae, look at Dinky Yoda." The pony complies, squinting confusedly, "Hmm, nevermind. I thought I saw something."

 

"Saw what?" Sylae asks, concerned, glancing around for any threats.

 

"Oh, nothing. For a second it looked like the glint was missing from your eyes."

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Having run out of fizz from the bottle of champagne, Upon mars found himself materialised in the rubble below.

 

As fast as quicksilver, the latter blew up the rubble of below with strange fire from the his personal heat ray.

The smell of hydrogen sulphide was all around and a blanket of purple black smoke rose from down under.

So dense was the fog it could be cut by knife and still continue leaking from the ground.

 

Then the smoke stopped and hole opened up.

 

What was left of gremlins and devils which had survived the radio incident flew out like light-drunken moths, confused and grimacing as they went out in the countryside.

 

Then rising from the pit which was in fact a hole in the driver's front desk, Upon-mars crawled out and grew into a great figure in height, between two or perhaps three meters tall, clad in a black and blue pressurised suit of great strength and durability. Red googles surmounted what seemed to be a face, a face barley visible thanks to the opaque blue mist inside.

 

The oxygen in the air was making him strong and large, despite the increased weight and pressure the planet earth imposed to all it's inhabitants.

 

The creature having grown with it's armour cried-out with eyes of flame:

 

"I have bread and butter if you like. And I can make toast with scrambled eggs. I heard someone wanted some jelly? Hell I can make some with berries."

 

"How come you have eggs, butter and bread all of a sudden when Sylae had go into the forest to get all of his stuff?" inquired Captain Charles.

 

"I am the illegitimate son of David Copperfield. No. Actually I just carry this stuff with me. Comes in quite handy at time. Like this piece of wearable celery. Edible and fades purple when rain is about to hit. Nice to meet you Charles. The name's Upon-mars."

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Munching on a piece of toast with eggs, and popping berries in his mouth in between, Charles boarded the bus. The forest outside was getting on his nerves. Few of the people he met could talk, and those that did seemed to think they were in some kind of ruin. At least one of them had food.

 

He's very surprised to find another pony, this one with wings and steel armor, sitting on one of the benches. He enviously examines the metal plate.

 

Charles: "Is that armor real?"

 

The pony glares at him.

 

Sylae: "No, it's fake."

 

Charles thinks for a moment, then sheepishly turns away and goes to the back of the bus.

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The Reverend continues to strum on his guitar and ponder the situation. He notices that the pony (now dressed in a nice set of armor) has brought some berries, and they appear to be piling up on the seat in front of him. He idly grabs a handful and eats them. And then another, and another. The seem to have an almost addictive quality to them. After a few more handfuls, he notices that his ears are beginning to tingle. And the quiet forest is just a little less quiet ...

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Jewels tried her hardest to follow Actaeon and Sylae when the ceiling collapsed. When Sylae took off to circle the ruin, Jewels found she couldn't fly up after her. She made for the bus but found she couldn't climb on board. Her body phased right through. And when the Spiderbus finally took off, she was left behind.

 

Jewels: "Great... what am I supposed to do now?"

 

It was incredibly frustrating, this being a ghost. She couldn't talk to anyone, she couldn't move anything... what use was it to be a ghost if all you could do was float around? Having nothing else to do, she returned to the rubble and floated through it. Out of habit, she looked for things that could still be useful if salvaged though without the ability to pick anything up it was pretty much useless. After the third time of having her hand pass through something she thought interesting hopelessness set in.

 

Jewels: "Stupid bus! Stupid trip! Stupid... everything!"

 

She kicked at a chunk of rubble in her frustration only to be left dumbfounded when it flew across what used to be the commons room.

 

As if the movement itself weren't enough, it skittered to a stop in front of the floating iBeast which unnervingly stared straight at her with it's largest eye. One by one each of its other eyes, which had watched the progression of the masonry, turned upward to stare in her direction and a shiver of trepidation ran down her spine. She floated towards it in a round about way keenly aware that its eyes followed her every move.

 

Jewels: "So... you can see me?"

 

It only stared at her.

 

Jewels: "I mean obviously, you must be able to see me, but can you hear me?"

 

The big middle eye blinked slowly at her followed by each of the eye stalks blinking quickly one by one.

 

Jewels: "Um... is that a yes?"

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Nikki raises an eyebrow, being wherever the current action demands he be, adjusts his bowler hat, and slouches against the side of the bus waiting to do something amazing. Because c'mon. It's going to be amazing.

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Now that I've eaten and it seems like we're going to be staying put for a while, I wander west to see if I can find any alchemy ingredients (or any food besides berries, otherwise the bus' bathroom is going to get ugly really quickly). Perhaps some sort of potion can undo my transformation.

 

I don't mean to go very far, but the forest is so fascinatig that I end up traveling a lot further than I intended. I find myself in a narrow canyon. A small stream winds its way through the gravel and decaying logs at the bottom, while the canyon walls are carpeted in mosses and ferns. "This looks strangely familiar. Have I... er, has dinky Yoda been here before?" I stop, suddenly uneasy. The canyon suddenly seems like a sinister place. I turn and head back.

 

I hear a screech and a thud behind me. I turn around and see a small creature getting to its feet. It is about the size of a goose (if geese came with a long bony tail), covered in downy feathers, and a sickle-shaped claw on each foot.

 

"OMIGOSH OMIGOSH OMIGOSH!" I shove all the plants I gathered into my pack and rush after the Velociraptor. I scoop it up and clutch it to my chest before it has a chance to run away. It bites deeply into my arm, but in my excitement I barely notice. "OMIGOSH! A real dinosaur! I don't care that you are a ferocious carnivore with a heartbreakingly short lifespan. I'm taking you home with me!" I hear another screech on the clifftop above me. "Wait, aren't you guys supposed to hunt in packs?"

 

Dikiyioba hears another screech on the clifftop. Suddenly over a dozen Velociraptors are sliding down the cliff towards Dikiyoba. Dikiyoba suddenly realizes that Dikiyoba is totally screwed. Dikiyoba runs back towards the bus (still holding the struggling Velociraptor), screaming at the top of Dikiyoba's lungs. "Help! Raptor attack! Raptor attack!"

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Triumph, luminous figure that he is, glides cautiously toward the unresponsive iBeast. As he approaches, he notices that the iBeast is starring at...another figure? It seems to be some kind of spectral creature. The two odd figures seem to be having a staring match (which the iBeast will no doubt win, for obvious reasons). Triumph halts, glances around wondering again how Spiderweb came to look so...creepy and deserted, and then calls out from a safe distance.

 

"Hail, iBeast! Hail, shade! Umm...well met! Err...I come in peace?" In the absence of an immediate response, Triumph tries to invoke the traditional Spiderweb greeting. "If you're new here...ah, sorry about the mess. Please leave your sanity...where? At the door, I think, or wherever, since the doors are missing. The debris will make more sense then. And rub the tummies of the fluffy turtles. Or something like that."

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Randomizer is still digging through the rubble trying to find his book on Maxwell's Demon. Harehunter starts to go over to help him, when suddenly there is a major uproar coming through the trees. As Dikiyoba comes into view, carrying what appears to be some sort of dinosaur, Harehunter hears Dikiyoba's screams. A couple of half moments later, a pair of six packs of velociraptors that are giving chase come into view.

 

Being more foolish than wise, Harehunter steps into the gap that separates the predators from the predator with a pet. With a loud squeel of brakes being applied, the velociraptors come to a halt. The lead Velociraptor points over to Dikiyoba, who is still holding the dinosaur, and screams something in Velociraptorese. Having had some exposure to ancient languages, Harehunter is able to glean the gist of what the Velociraptrix is saying. (Yes, the gender did change. It is hard to tell just by looking at them, but once she started to speak, it became very clear that the Velociraptrix is the matriarch of one of the six packs. Apparently, her clutch sister is in charge of the other six pack.)

 

"DIkiyoba, I think she is demanding that you return your pet to its parents. If I say so myself, I believe that they do have half a case. "

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The Big Man, ever the peaceful phlegmatic and having remained unfazed at the raptor attack, is feeling happy towards the world in general and bestows a tranquil gaze upon the nice little dinosaur.

 

Big Man : Oh you little cutie pie, where's your mamma ?

 

He reaches over and paternally pats Dikiyoba's velociraptor on the head. At this, the lead velociraptor bares it's teeth, growls and steps closer.

 

Big Man : Uh-oh.

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Charles looks out the bus window, surprised at both the rubble of a large castle he didn't notice, and a pack of velocirapters apparently negotiating for the return of one of their babies from another dinosaur, one that Charles recognizies from earlier as Dinky Yogurt. Or maybe that's not right.

 

However, more surprising still is that the raptors are speaking with a giant hare, with antlers! They're speaking in a strange tongue.

 

Charles: "Uh oh. This could get ugly. Better help out."

 

He quietly gets off the bus, sword drawn.

 

Charles: "At least that settles what time it is."

 

He pulls out a large watch that only tells the year, and sets it correctly.

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Excalibur attempts to lurk among the trees but the inexplicable silence and schh-schh of his jeans betray him. Disconcerted, he lazily surrenders his back to a nearby tree. The tree replies bluntly, causing the young one to wince as the abrasive bark unseats some of the skin from his back. His head strikes the wooden behemoth with an unnerving *thunk* and his eyes rise up in a lackadaisical fashion toward the sky. Scattered sunlight penetrates the cool branches of the mighty Sequoia. He sighs blissfully and admires the way in which light appears to fall through the canopy like crystalline water passing over an old-fashioned washboard. He knows he cannot stay long, but a reassuring thought advances the time yet another moment...it is then that he glimpses a figure of brilliant green hue fluttering through the sky, a figure he immediately recognizes as Sylae. He grins, "back so soon to feed the chicks, eh?"

 

Excalibur gathers himself and advances quickly in the direction of the bus, this time sparing no care for concealment. He rejoins his fellow Spiderwebbers and thanks Sylae for the recently acquired berries. Some of the passengers appear dumbfounded by his mostly casual demeanor; after all, the surrounding forests remains so pristine and mysterious. "You know, maybe we should check this place out," he suggests. Taking his own advice, he hops out of the bus and meanders into the forest yet again. The faint fragrance calms his nerves and he rests under a nearby tree. He begins to wander into deep thought, only to be interrupted by a nearly undetectable sound gracing his ears. The broken silence is welcoming and simultaneously off-putting.

 

He rises abruptly. The sound wastes no time making its presence known and soon he can discern an approaching cry for help. A wavering hand grasps the hilt of a mighty sword on his side. A once distant noise grows into a cacophony of stamping feet and he now recognizes the oncoming voice. "Help! Raptor attack! Raptor attack!" dinky Yoda...er, Dikiyoba screams. He braces in trepidation as Dikiyoba flees into his section of forest with a disgruntled, writhing velociraptor in tow.

 

"A velociraptor!? What did Sylae put in those berries..." Excalibur mutters, his mouth agape. "...hey, are these the philosophical variety of velociraptor?"

 

"No! They're the feathered, meat-eating variety of velociraptor!" Dikiyoba hurriedly exclaims.

 

"Oh... well I guess that makes this situation a bit more difficult. I thought maybe these velociraptors were conscientious objectors," Excalibur says poignantly.

 

Suddenly, his brain puts two and two together and responds accordingly, "AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! Velociraptors!!! RUN!!!" He sprints in Dikiyoba's direction. The forest races by and he finds himself in front of the Spider Bus, a velociraptor desperately trying to escape Dikiyoba's grasp, and Harehunter attempting to strike a conversation with another velociraptor. Terrified, he turns around and his eyes witness the rapid descent of a dozen hungry velociraptors. Excalibur draws his sword. Its sheer luminosity dumfounds the terrifying carnivores, who reel their heads back in confusion. The velociraptors uneasily shuffle in place for a few seconds, but one of their rank takes initiative and lands a wickedly sharp hind claw in Excalibur's thigh.

 

"AAAAAHHHHHH!!!" Excalibur swings wildly at the offending creature; its now-incapacitated body falls to the ground with a sickly thud. The undaunted velociraptors lurch forward as Excalibur retreats in desperation to the doors of the bus. Another velociraptor claws at his leg as the doors swing together and smack the carnivore in the face.

 

"Relax chum. Just a velociraptor." He looks up and sees Nikki smiling cooly. The velociraptors are undeterred by safety glass and bat at the door like overly-evolved zerglings. Excalibur glances behind and notices the others boarded the bus safely (inculding BMA, who fearlessly pats Dikiyoba's velociraptor on the head). He collapses and his own blood smears across the floor. The scabbard of his sword glows furiously, causing the gaping wound on his thigh to clot at an unnatural rate.

 

Excalibur points weakly at the door, "uh...velociraptors...uh..."

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With the advance of Captain Charles and Excalibur, Harehunter realizes that his attempt at negotiation has come unraveled at the seems. He reaches back for his bow and ...

(Segue the Pun Thread http://spiderwebforums.ipbhost.com/index.php?/topic/16048-best-puns-and-jokes/page__st__315#entry249999)

Screaming in frustration, Harehunter beats a hasty retreat back onto the bus, only to find himself already sitting there listening raptly to yet another of The Revs display of the minstrels art. Nonplussed, he takes a negative view of this situation. However, as there is nowhere else to sit, he takes a seat beside himself.

 

"I wonder if that blasted blue spot had something to do with this."

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Actaeon: "Of course it has something to do with it, Harehunter! We've obviously either travelled back to the Cretaceous, or somewhere else that looks a hell of a lot like it. In any case, if everyone would kindly find a weapon and help me see to the defense of the bus!"

 

So saying, he pulls a bow from under his long coat and begins to string it.

 

Actaeon: "Still alive out there, Diki?"

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The Reverend looks up from his latest shovelful of berries, and notices that Excalibur is bleeding on the floor of the bus. He quickly heads over to patch up his wound.

 

The Reverend: "Hmm, it seems that your thigh is healing itself - does that glowing sword have anything to do with it?"

 

Just to be safe (gotta prevent infection, especially in Cretaceous - who knows what bacteria grows in that era?), The Reverend pours a bit of his Skribbane Bourbon over the wound, and bandages it with a handkerchief from his bag.

 

Exacalibur: "#$!%#! THAT HURTS. What's in that bourbon???"

 

The Reverend: "Apparently something called Skribbane, but I have no idea what that is. Some strange Gremlin gave it to me back before all this craziness started happening."

 

The Reverend finally notices the velociraptors clawing at the door, and sees the others preparing to defend the bus. He is suddenly inspired to grab his guitar, and starts playing a strange tune that he's never heard before. As the music picks up, the guitar starts to glow, at first imperceptibly, and then brighter and brighter. An aura extends from the guitar and surrounds the bus. The velociraptors look dazed and begin to back away.

 

The others look at The Reverend questioningly.

 

The Reverend: "I have no idea ... It's never done that before. I wonder what will happen if ..."

 

The Reverend heads towards the bus doors. Before the others can stop him, he opens them and steps outside. In order to fit through the door, he has to stop playing momentarily. The velociraptors begin to advance again, more cautiously this time, but as soon as he clears the doorway he resumes the tune and the velociraptors retreat from the aura. He also notices that he has no trouble hearing the guitar, the velociraptors, or his singing. It must be those berries Sylae brought - perhaps eating something from this time was necessary to retune his senses to be in sync with the current era?

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Sitting low in a tree, Charles fends off a couple of the velociraptors that have taken notice of him. He had tried to get behind the pack, but the situation changed dramatically when the beasts got violent and started attacking. The others boarded the bus safely, but Charles opted to get up a nearby tree.

 

He's relieved when the two raptors retreat, and turns to see a robed man playing a beautiful tune on a glowing guitar. The velociraptors are keeping well away from him, and Charles using the chance to jump down and retreat to the bus.

 

There he finds a man lying in blood with a bandaged leg, and several other people (and the hare) preparing weapons.

 

Charles: "What now? Do we drive them off? We could simply escape with this bus of yours. They can't get through the glass."

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Trinit Eye is dismayed to realize that his latest upgrade has left him without a mouth. With hardly any ports at all, for that matter. Well, he'll just have to download nutrients wirelessly. Later he may need to go wardrifting. At least he's shiny, now. A little more physical resistance never hurt anyone.

 

How to communicate, though ... Humph. Well, everything is really just zeroes and ones. On and off. Open and shut. So, eight bits will do a UTF-8 byte. One more eyeblink for a checksum. And the central eye can do punctuation. The only really important punctuation is eye-rolling, anyway.

 

Trinit Eye starts winking and blinking at Jewels and Triumph. Once they understand about the conspiracy, they'll be sure to help. Right now, though, there may be some urgency after all. Trinit Eye has glimpsed some other monsters, right over there, near the bus. Hopefully Jewels and Triumph will figure this out.

 

01001010 01101001 01101101 01101101 01111001 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110011 00100000 01100110 01100001 01101100 01101100 01100101 01101110 00100000 01100100 01101111 01110111 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110111 01100101 01101100 01101100 00100001 00001010 00001010 01001110 01101111 00101100 00100000 01110111 01100001 01101001 01110100 00101100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100111 01110011 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01110010 01101001 01100111 01101000 01110100 00101110 00001010 00001010 01000100 01101001 01101011 01101001 01111001 01101111 01100010 01100001 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01100101 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100011 01101000 01100001 01110011 01100101 01100100 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01110010 01100001 01110000 01110100 01101111 01110010 01110011 00100001

 

"What's that, iBeast?" asks Jewels. "Jimmy's fallen down the well?"

 

The big eye rolls violently.

 

Maybe only seeing is believing. Trinit Eye pivots in place and stares hard into the shadows. There is a surprisingly bright flash, revealing the previously dark terrain squares. Suddenly it is obvious to everyone within sight how to go around a few impassable textures to where the raptor pack is gaining rapidly on Dikiyoba. Trinit Eye is ecstatic. The hunt is on!

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Now that the Reverend has lured the velociraptors away from the bus, one on the Harehunters steps off and wanders back toward the ruins.

As he approaches, he hears a binary bit stream emanate from the eye beast. (Thank goodness he was only transmitting at 30 baud.)

 

Trinit Eye: 'Jimmy's fallen down the well!"

 

Jewels: "What's that, iBeast? Jimmy's fallen down the well?"

 

Trinit Eye: "No, that's not right. Dikiyoba is being chased by raptors!!"

 

Following Trinit Eye's lead, Harehunter joins the Eye beasts lead and joins the hunt. As he draws his bow, he is pleased to find that it is his old trusty yew bow, and his quiver is full of iron tipped arrows. (Whew, that's a good break.)

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Jewels is disoriented by all the sudden movement. First the iBeast's eyes start blinking crazily and then her whole surroundings shift. One minutes she is in the ruin of the Spiderweb forum and the next, she is in a forest next to the Spiderbus along with every other active Spiderweb member that had been poking around in the rubble. At least they're all together now. Her relief in being with Sylae and Actaeon again is short lived, though, as the reality of the situation comes into focus.

 

Carnivorous dinosaurs?! Spiderwebbers bearing arms?!

 

Jewels: "I thought they were just going out to the store!"

 

The iBeast blinks at her a few times before taking off towards the mahem; a dangerous glint in its eyes. Jewels turns to Triumph who seems to be mouthing words without actually saying anything. She is relieved that he seems to be looking right at her.

 

Jewels: "Thank goodness you can see me! Can you hear me too?"

 

Triumph: "..."

 

His lips mouthed yes but his voice said nothing. He looks just as frustrated at it as Jewels feels. Jewels turns back to the bus where some members have fled to the refuge inside and others have taken up battle stances outside, weapons drawn. Most curious is one with a guitar playing a gentle melody of magical warding. It seems to be working for the most part but how long can he keep it up?

 

Jewels: "Come on, let's try to help."

 

Triumph follows her soundlessly. Not even the crunch of leaves under his feet reaches her ears.

 

Jewels: "I don't even know what I can do in this form... What do ghosts do?"

 

She remembers how Nikki had shivered when passing through her. She could at least try to distract or disorient them with that... Jewels steps up to one on the fringes of the music as it shies back. It takes no notice of her floating there but the close up vision of it's razor sharp teeth and three inch long claws is still quite unnerving. At least... at least it couldn't hurt her... could it? Bracing herself, she slips into the same space as the raptor waiting to see how it will react.

 

She feels the heat of the living, its blood pulsing, its heart throbbing. Hunger pangs and instinctual rage demand it hunt its prey, but the light... the glowing light, it hurts. Stabbing prickles of ice push it back. She hears its screech of surprise from the added cold but her cold doesn't hurt. Her cold actually blocks the pain. The beast gravitates towards her cold, accepts her protection from the pain... accepts her.

 

Jewels: What the...? ("Rrawr...?")

 

Jewels takes a step back, but so does the raptor. She tries to run away, but it follows her. She stops and turns to run the other direction only to have the raptor mimic her every move. She lifts a clawed hand towards her face with a sinking feeling.

 

Jewels: Oh great... as if being a ghost wasn't bad enough. ("Rawrr.. rraaaawwrrr.")

 

She slowly walks back towards the group only to come face to face with a sword pointed at her nose. Triumph is red-faced and exerting much effort in yelling but the silence from him screams louder.

 

Jewels: Oh... hey Triumph. Don't suppose you can still see me... or hear me? ("Rr... raawr. Raaawwwwr... rawwr?")

 

Triumph raises his sword ready to strike.

 

Jewels: I was afraid of that. ("Raarwwr.")

 

Jewels throws her stubby clawed hands in the air and runs away from the advancing Triumph and around the bus in a circle.

 

Jewels: Somebody tell him I'm not really a dinosaur!! ("Raaaaaawr!!")

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Triumph is deeply confused. One moment the iBeast is blinking furiously and the shade seems about to speak. Then he's in a forest, the iBeast is chasing dinosaurs, the shade disappears into a dinosaur, he's holding a sword, he can't talk, and he can't hear anything except a guitar. Curiouser and curiouser. Triumph is glad he ate a good breakfast, because this could be a most peculiar day.

 

The apparently possessed dinosaur, trailing tell-tale bits of spectral emanations, turns and opens its mouth as if to roar. Nothing happens (at least not that Triumph can hear). He discards the peculiar sword, wondering if the Beta-XII A Entity is involved somehow (nah, highly doubtful). Since the ground is a bit cluttered with toothy things, he levitates higher and cruises toward the bus, pausing momentarily to turn and wave the ectoplasmic dinosaur to follow. Upon reaching the bus, he speaks wordlessly and gestures inarticulately.

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Charles joins the fighters, swinging aimlessly at the enemy. His blows are inaccurate and wild, but he manages to keep the raptors away from him. He nearly jumps out of his skin when a glowing figure with a sword suddenly appears next to him, attacking a very confused velociraptor. However, instead of retaliating, the raptor runs away, claws in the air. Something about the exchange seems not quite right, as the figure throws down its sword and runs after it. It must know something Charles doesn't.

 

While he's distracted with these happenings, one of the velociraptors jumps on Charles, and tries to claw open his chest. Luckily, that is where the most substantial part of his armor is. A piece of corrugated sheet metal keeps the raptors claws from doing any real damage. Charles swings wildly with his sword, panicking completely. He manages to graze the beast's side and stab its leg, all the while stumbling back towards the bus.

 

The raptor finally off him and retreating momentarily, Charles surveys the battle.

 

The rest of the group appear to be experienced fighters and are doing rather well. At least two have bows, and are landing excellent shots on the raptors. The rest are fighting off those brave enough to advance upon the man with the guitar.

 

Charles takes a moment to catch his breath and think through the situation.

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After firing several shots through the window of the bus, Actaeon stows his bow, pulls out a cutlass, and prepares to enter the fray. As he descends the steps, however, he encounters the floating blue speck going the other way. As it touches him, he finds himself transformed into a large, reddish stag.

 

Actaeon: « Damn. Well, I suppose this was inevitable. »

 

He plunges ahead, head lowered and prepared to gore the next raptor to come his way. He finds, however, that the raptors are already in full retreat. The sole remaining dinosaur approaches cautiously, and appears to be miming something.

 

Actaeon: « What in the world? »

 

The raptor continues forward and, with Actaeon too flummoxed to respond, embraces the stag.

 

Actaeon: « Jewels? »

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Being a typical spellcaster, the Big Man dislikes those forms of attack that involve physical exertion. He whips out his Wand of Brahma and chuckles inwardly as he thinks about what combination of spells can best dispose of the raptors. Standing well away from the dinosaurs (for mages are vulnerable to teeth and claws) he begins to pick the lot off, one by one.

 

Big Man : Evanesco! Diffindo! Incendio! Expulso!

 

One of the retreating raptors suddenly swings around and bites off one of Harehunter's antlers. The Big Man helpfully points his wand at Harehunter, opens his Handy Book of Spells, Grade III and flips through the pages for a good healing spell.

 

Big Man : Hm....healing spell, healing spell....aha !! Episkey !

 

Harehunter grows a new antler and happily returns to the fray but is disappointed to find that the raptors are running away.

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Jewels: Actaeon! I saw what happened! You just, BOOM, turned into a... a reindeer or whatever you are. And look at me! I'm a dinosaur! With sharp CLAWS! And deadly TEETH! Can you believe it?! ("Rarrw! Rraarr! Rrwa, RAWR, rrar... aaarrrwar. Rrarr! Rawwr! RrrRAAARr! ArrAWRRR! Arrawr?!")

 

Jewels gesticulates wildly making a big point to show off her CLAWS and TEETH and then tries to smile at Actaeon who takes a tentative step back and cocks his head at her.

 

Jewels: And you didn't understand a word I just said did you? ("Rrarwwwrrrarr?")

 

She puts her heavy head into her clawed hands and shakes it in despair. Where's a translator when you need one?

 

A little blue speck catches her attention out of the corner of her eye. It floats around her head then around the other spiderwebbers' heads until it finds its way to Nikki and Tyran, both popping a berry into their mouths as they stare at the speck. It begins to circle both of them first up high and then down around at elbow level.

 

Tyran: "What do you suppose it wants?"

 

Nikki: "How should I know? But I bet whatever happens, it will be brilliant!"

 

Tyran: *gulp* "I hope so..."

 

The blue speck spins faster and faster so bright it leaves an afterglow in everyone's eyes. No one ever sees it touch either Nikki or Tyran but when it shoots off into the sky and they blink back to sight, they are faced with a blue box.

 

Actaeon: "What the heck is that?" (<< What the heck is that? >>)

 

Trinit Eye: "It's a police box obviously." (Blink blink blinkety blink.)

 

Jewels: "Not just any police box... I can understand you two! It's the TARDIS!" (Rawwrr... wwaaarrrraa! ArRRAW!)

 

A man wearing a bow tie and a fez stumbles out of the door lifting his hands in the air in victory.

 

Nikki: "I told you it would be brilliant! Didn't I tell you it would be brilliant? Oh, Tyran..."

 

He gives the police box a pat on the side.

 

Nikki: "You've never looked sexier!"

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