Session 6: The One Where They (Kind of) Become Baby Killers
After the battle, the PCs decide that they should go to the bottom of the canyon, as they aim to go to the habitable zone (which is noticeable from their height, though it’s obvious that it will take days to reach the zone). However, before they leave, they notice a huge ball of flame in the sky, heading in their direction. Pip comments that it’ll hit where they are soon, so they run down the narrow ledge to find cover. Ashlee and Sarah manage with ease, but Joel and Adriana quickly trip and nearly fall to their deaths, before Pip saves them with some strain. The unknown object hits the formation lightly, sounding more like something landing than something crashing. The PCs can faintly hear a whoosh, as if a door was opening. Sarah hears the faint sound of whistling and, cursing, she goes back up the ledge to find the whistler. Unfortunately for her, she isn’t stealthy, and the unknown being immediately realizes someone is there. He calls out, ready to attack, and Sarah recognizes the voice as Marco’s. After calling the other PCs to go up and meet him, the group reconciles with Adriana and Marco particularly happy to see each other. Marco informs the group that he was sent to warn them of three incoming Synodian ships; Loki’s gambit was forced to leave the vicinity, and they were to continue the mission in radio silence (as Sarah’s communicator was broken, leaving them no way to speak with the ship). The group resolves to go to the canyon bottom, but not before taking a portable communicator with them and setting a trap on Marco’s pod. This unfortunately takes the better part of three hours. While Joel and Adriana help Marco, Sarah and Ashlee take watch outside. After some time, Sarah realizes that mountains appear to be moving closer to them, albeit slowly. She calls Pip over, who confirms that there is a boulder sandstorm moving in their direction. Ashlee insists that the group inside hurry, but they refuse to listen until Joel (using his mask) learns that the sandstorm will reach them in about 12 hours. The PCs then set off, pod trapped and communicator handy, to the bottom of the canyon.
They walk for hours along the cliff sides, trying to find a good spot for cover for when the sandstorm reaches them. After some time, Marco notices something shifting in the sand. He calls the group to a halt, and moves closer to investigate. Figuring that firing his baton would be a good idea, he shoots at the sand, piercing what appears to be a sting ray, which flings itself into the air. Ashlee recognizes it as a sand ray, from her time watching Discovery Channel, and tells the group of their poisonous sting. The sand ray continues the screech, and the sound echoes throughout the canyon. Fearing the consequences, Joel shots the ray down with a ball of blue flame, and it falls dead as Jorel hisses in the background. The PCs take the sand ray with them. Just as pebble sized rocks begin to fall around them, signaling the proximity of the sandstorm, they find an outcropping with a fair amount of cover. They immediately head inside. Unlike the outside, which had few signs of life, this outcropping appears to have more signs of living creatures, though nothing so large as to threaten their safety. The PCs agree to take shifts for watch, with Adriana going first.
During her watch, Adriana skins and filets the sand ray. The outside was somewhat charred from Joel’s fireball, but the inside was cooked at all, so she decides to leave it out for Joel to cook during his watch. Time passes uneventfully, though she uses her knowledge to extract a black and viscous poison from the sting for Sarah and Marco’s weapons. Joel takes the next watch. Unfortunately for the group, he isn’t familiar with cooking without instructions, so instead of cooked filets he makes sand ray jerky. They’re sandy, since Adriana had taken the skin with her (and discovered that it was insulating, she kept warm while sleeping). Marco uses the poison to coat some of his weapons, and Ashlee has an uneventful watch. During her watch, Sarah coats her longswords with poison and entertains Pip by telling him the histories of Middle Earth (which he confuses for the contemporary Middle East, and thus is very concerned about Earth’s safety with respect to Sauron). The sandstorm eventually passes, and the PCs venture outside. Realizing that they are walking parallel to the habitable zone, they send Marco to climb up the cliff side and look around. Using his communicator, he tells the group to join him, as he sees light reflecting in the distance. Curious, the PCs meet him, and Joel uses his mask to learn that the reflection is coming from a ship—likely the Synodian ship they were sent to find—about 170 miles away. The group sets out, with enough food rations for five days—thanks to Joel’s sand ray jerky—and water for three days, as well as the water Joel can give them from producing ice at the end of the day.
The journey is hard, as they have to move through shifting sand dunes and a harsh wind. They take turns using the sand ray skin to shield themselves from the sun, which doesn’t move in the sky (luckily, as this serves as their navigation point). By taking walking/resting shifts—three hours of walking, one of resting—the group travels for hours before finally finding what appears to be a sufficient outcropping. However, before they reach it, Adriana senses a disturbance in the area, and she quickly turns to see something moving underground on a dune behind them. She starts screaming “Dune! Duuuune!” but the rest of the PCs have no idea what she’s talking about, and instead assume she’s suffering from heat stroke. She explains to them what she saw, and, carefully, the PCs watch the dunes until they see movement: something at least feet across, steadily coming towards them. In a panic, the group splits up, with Marco and Sarah sprinting to the outcropping, Ashlee stumbling but still running, and Joel and Adriana falling straight into the next dune. As they scream, a giant sand ray erupts from the ground and comes to rest over them. Making a sound almost like purring, it runs its wings over them. Adriana still wears the sand ray cloak, but Joel is covered in dead sand ray from his cooking escapade. The creature immediately takes Adriana under its wing and hisses at Joel, raising its sting in a threatening manner.
Scared, Joel tells Pip to make the same noise as the sand ray, meaning its happy purring noise. However, Pip—being an unnecessarily literal creature—hisses impressively and shines brightly. The sand ray immediately jumps into the air, still carrying Adriana. Thinking that they’re in great danger, Sarah and Marco turn around and sprint over to help. Adriana turns in water, and in her haste to escape she leaves the sand ray skin behind, and she flows back to the ground. The creature falls and lands on its back in shock. Sarah, not realizing that Adriana is safe, lunges at the sand ray and attempts to stab it with both of her swords, but they don’t even pierce it’s skin. Marco then takes a running leap, ready to stab the sand ray in its mouth, but he tumbles into Sarah and they both fall on top of the sand ray. The others stay still, not sure what to do—and kind of hoping that they can make this sand ray a pet. Sarah and Marco simultaneously realize that the sand ray is holding dozens of sand ray babies, and that the sand ray they had killed earlier was also a baby. This sand ray, a father, was only trying to protect its young. Screaming “Babies! It’s got fucking babies!” Sarah rolls off the sand ray, narrowly missing its young. Marco does the same a moment later. As soon as it’s free, the sand ray launches itself into the air, before flipping over and diving back into the safety of the sand. Ashlee and Joel mourn the loss of their almost pet, while Marco and Sarah think about how they were nearly monsters. Adriana reforms from the water, and the PCs take a moment to think about what had just happened.