A Wild New World 6:
Mapping Knuckler Turf

by Fur and Fantasy
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"I'm still not sure why you find this so fascinating," Carmidin said to Keldina as they took one of the trucks to meet up with the survey crew that was flying in. "It's just a survey. There shouldn't be any action."

"I'm wondering how you plan to map miles of Knuckler-warren without taking a small army down to do the job," she pointed out.

"We are sending a very large army, just not people," he chuckled and shook his head. "The technology that makes this beast work as well as it does can also create very small things, like our com units," he tapped his shoulder near the small device. "We'll send an army of little robots down to map the place."

"That's why I'm along," Rama pointed out excitedly, poking her head up from the back. "We sure the area you're going in is clear?"

"Very sure, Rama," he assured her even as a plume of dirt and rocks erupted from the center of the area with three of their aircraft, all larger and bulkier than the skimmers, had landed. "By the time we get there, anything that is going to crawl out of that hole will have been dealt with."

"Okay," she nodded, focused on the aircraft around the plume of smoke. "How come you never came around here before?" She asked curiously, considering their population and technology.

"We only found this area recently," Jaysa explained easily.

"Oh," she nodded. "Is that from your exploring, or just from opening things up?"

"It should be from opening the tunnel system up," Carmidin said. "A small explosive so the bugs can get in."

"From the times I've run into them before, I'd say bugs don't have any problem getting down into the tunnels," Keldina pointed out dubiously.

"Those are animals," Jaysa chuckled as they pulled to a stop between two of the aircraft. "These bugs are machines, and we need the hole for access. You'll see the setup in a minute."

"Stay put," Carmidin ordered as he got out and walked up to the group of a dozen and some PEF officers. Most were heavily armed security, their protective armor making them look almost more like matte black robots than people. Four others, wearing the lighter uniforms that Carmidin and Jaysa preferred, were closely gathered around a cylinder of silvery metal with a glow above it.

Rama waited a moment, then tried to get up to go look, but she was stopped by Reclin's aged hand on her shoulder.

"He said to stay here, little one," the Elder pointed out.

"Sorry," she blushed.

"Carmidin just wants to make sure that any retaliation for our damage to the tunnel is over with before we get near it," Jaysa told her, though he kept a knowing eye on his mate's body language as he spoke with the survey crew. "It's good," he added with a bit of relief as the Puma turned and motioned them forward. "Let's go," he grinned and hopped out of the truck's cab.

Rama was out first, followed quickly by Keldina, who was keeping an eye out for any trouble.

"They don't do things quietly, do they?" Selia asked with a chuckle, helping Reclin out.

"They can, but it's not usually the quickest way, and after what happened to Tanya there's a bit of a drive to do something quickly, even if the long-term plan will take years," Jaysa explained. "Rama, be careful about touching the equipment. The security systems will be set on out here."

"I'll be careful," she called back in promise before going Cayto caught up with her for the guided tour.

"That will keep her busy for days if we let her," Jaysa chuckled softly and lead the others towards the group and the visible hole in the ground.

"At least," Reclin chuckled, inclining his head respectfully to the officers waiting for them. "Welcome to Aecra's Bluff; I wish a better cause had brought you here."

"Thank you, Elder Reclin," a female Panther with rank insignia matching Carmidin's inclined her broad head to him. "I am General Cataia, head of geologic mapping. It has been far worse in the past. No one died."

Even as she spoke, it was difficult to take his eyes off the metal cylinder that came up to his chest. Now he could see that it had many buttons and lights on it, and the glow at the top was actually a translucent image of the terrain for several miles around them, including the hole they had just created.

"A useful magic," he murmured. "And while that's the case, I still wish that your subject hadn't been attacked while our guest. I am grateful that you don't take offense though. Is there any way I might be able to help with this?"

"I do not expect so," Cataia said gently just as the cylinder beeped. "It is quite automated. Dump the first box in," she ordered, prompting two of the soldiers to take the hinged lid off a large metal box full of small black bead-like objects and shift it to pour them into the hole they had blasted. "You are welcome to watch and ask questions."

"Be grateful that our Engineer is still elsewhere," Reclin chuckled. "I assume those are the 'bugs'?"

"Yap," the Panther grinned and walked over to a different box, opened it and picked one the large, dark cockroach-like thing to show him. "If you look at the projection, you can see that they have begun to map. One will remain at the opening to ensure a connection to the main mapping unit. The rest will spread out, an equal number in each direction they can go. When they loose contact with the closest transmitter, like the one that stays at the entrance, one will back track until it has contact, and become a new relay transmitter. When all of them are transmitters, they send a signal to ask for more bugs."

"What happens if they can't get through an area? And what sort of transmission are you talking about?" the Elder asked in fascination.

"If they can't get through an area, they backtrack to investigate another new area, gathering the transmitters no longer needed on the way," she explained and put the bug back in its box with thousands of fellows. "The transmission is radio, like most of our communications."

"I don't know how it works, but you'll want to be careful. We know that mental and magical transmissions can be blocked by some of the substances the Knucklers use, we're not sure where," he offered.

"Thank you," she nodded in acceptance of the warning as the holographic three-dimensional began to grow in both directions from the opening with remarkable detail. "If we run into a transmission dead zone, we will try different kinds of transmitters until one works, or we will send in the more advanced bugs that scout, record the information internally and return to give it to us."

"After this, what do you plan to do next?" Keldina asked as she watched the map expand.

"What we learn will determine the most effective method to attack them and remove the Knucklers as a serious threat," the Panther said easily. "Most likely we will use a gas, simply because it is underground and likely largely contained. However, the mapping might reveal that is impractical."

"If your means are visible, they probably have other openings in various locations," Keldina pointed out. "Will your bugs look for that?"

"Oh yes," she smiled. "They will map every bit of the system. Entrances, dead ends, what kinds of rocks, the size and placement of the tunnels. Everything they can detect they report."

"I hope they don't have any way to defend themselves," Selia chuckled. "Or some housekeepers may be getting rude surprises."

"Nothing more than being very difficult to squish," Cataia grinned at the much shorter human. "Like real bugs, these are designed to be individually expendable."

"That's good," Selia nodded. "Nobody's likely to do more than talk about that... do you want this kept quiet?"

"They are programmed to remain underground, so they shouldn't be found by any Builders, but it is probably best if it's not spread too much. It's difficult to know how much the Knucklers can learn by spying," Carmidin said. "It's not a big secret, but we'd rather they didn't know it was coming."

"How long do you expect this to take?" Selia asked curiously.

"It depends on how large their network is," Cataia said. "From a day to two to weeks or longer. We should have any parts under your city mapped out by morning, though."

"That'll be good," she nodded.

"So, what does it mean if something starts blinking?" Reclin asked them.

"It means they found something of interest," Cataia said easily as she turned to check out the readouts that already had her crew rather excited. "Definitely of interest," she murmured.

"Enough for a team to go down?" Carmidin asked, looking around her shoulder.

"Probably not before we clear the area out," she shook her head. "It's probably a power supply."

"Or one hell of a weapon," Carmidin pointed out.

"Something the Knucklers would be likely to be able to use?" Keldina asked, new concern in her voice.

"If they haven't already, they probably never will, but it's always a possibility," Carmidin told her.

"You'll want to be careful then, it might be able to stop whatever you do to take them down... but if it's supposed to be advanced, then you're probably right. They're not that smart, I just don't like unknowns like that."

"We intend to gas them," Cataia said. "It is very unlikely that device could protect them against it. From the report, I do not like the idea of sending a team down if we don't need to."

"Which Keldina would be the first to agree with," Reclin promised. "She doesn't have the best way of saying it, she just wishes your devices could give us more information."

"Sometimes I really do to," Cataia agreed. "We do have more effective probes, but they are larger and require some control from up here."

"Send one in, Cataia," Carmidin ordered as much as requested. "Full defensive unit. We need to know if that thing is worth going after. Maybe the ROV can bring it back."

"Yes, yes, we can do that," she nodded. "Mark, get Etila ready."

"Yes, ma'am," one of the scientists nodded and hurried to a ship to get the person-sized remotely operated crawler ready for to investigate the energy source.

"It is what it's for," Carmidin said with a gentle chiding.

"You never had to explain loosing one of those to Command," she flicked her ears back at him.

"It's just a robot," he rolled his eyes.

"It's just a nine million dollar robot," she shot back, her thick black tail lashing sharply. "Etila is costs more than an entire continent exploration."

"It's still just a robot," Carmidin back down a bit.

"Is there a problem?" Rama looked up at the sound of raised voices outside the transport aircraft she was looking around with her chaperone.

Cayto paused, listening carefully to catch the just of what was up and shook her head. "Nah. Carmidin's just teasing Cataia about Etila."

"Who's Etila?" Rama asked with polite curiosity, turning her attention back to the synthetic materials she was examining, considering what she could feel, see, and smell and how they might be able to replicate... or at least imitate... the process back home. "I'd love to apprentice to one of your researchers," she offered with sincere respect.

"Etila is the team's ROV -- remotely operated vehicle," the Wolf explained. "If you're willing to leave home for the opportunity, it may happen."

Rama's head twisted back towards her, her large eyes glittering with renewed interest.

"Remotely operated? Can we go see how it works?" She asked hopefully, realizing that she'd apparently been funneled away from something very interesting happening outside, intentionally or otherwise.

"Of course," Cayto smiled and nodded. "This way," she motioned her charge to follow her outside. "You might even get a chance to operate it, if you can convince General Cataia that you won't wreck her baby."

"She built it?" Rama asked as she followed. "I understand why she'd want to be careful with it."

"Nah, it's just worth a fortune," Cayto chuckled as they left the ship and entered the bright light outside where the warriors were on edge, and a mechanical spider-like thing with a body about as large as Rama and as tall as the waist of the Red Fox prepping it for it's mission. "That contraption is worth more than the exploration of this continent, or so she says. Loosing it would force to her explain why to the higher ups."

"Whoa," Rama murmured, starting forward until Keldina took her shoulder.

"Until we know how it works," Keldina said quietly.

"All right," Rama nodded. "Does it have any sort of weapons on it?"

"Not really," Cayto shook her head. "I think it has a shock that can deter things attacking it, and it can defend itself, kinda, with the probes and sample gathering devices. It's not meant to go into dangerous places."

"They're looking to see where the blinking part of that came from," Keldina explained, indicating the hologram. Rama's eyes focused on it, and the device that created it.

"Projecting an image onto air?" She mused, looking around it carefully. "Why doesn't it just go everywhere?"

"It has to do with the energy field the image is inside," Cayto explained. "The projection is more an interaction of the field that will contain the image and the projector, rather than just a simple projection of light."

"It has to do with how light works," Cayto explained. "I don't understand all the details, but when you project the images the right way they interfere with each other so you only see them where you're supposed to," she explained, giving the facts while trying to keep it simple enough for somebody who might not even understand refraction.

"Like when we project a ghost," Rama murmured. "Without anybody pretending to be one."

"What is that for?" Cayto asked with real curiosity.

"Entertainment, mostly," she shrugged. "It can be a neat trick, impressive if you don't know how it's done, but it's not really practical for anything more than the occasional show or gag. Some traders are impressed, but not most of them."

"Ah," the she-wolf nodded.

"Okay, she's ready," Mark stood and shouldered a harness that hooked up to his uniform at several points along his arms, legs, body, tail and helmet. Attached to the strips that went along his arms were short rods with several buttons and small switches. He made a small motion and the person-sized robotic spider stood up on delicate looking legs and began to walk as he moved, though it made far more movement that he did.

"How can you tell where it is, if you can't see it?" Rama asked them.

"The helmet he's wearing projects information on what's around it on the visor," Cayto said. "It's location will also appear on the holo-map once it enters the hole."

"Incredible... it can see in the dark?"

"Yes, in much the same way that the bugs can," Cayto nodded and stepped up to one of the boxes to take a large mechanical cockroach-like object out. "These are what are making the map. They're exploring the Knuckler tunnels for us. Radar, infrared and ultra-low-light cameras are all on board."

"Are those as expensive as the big one?" Rama asked, considering it.

"No," she shook her head. "We mass produce these little ones. There will probably be a couple hundred thousand dumped in to map the tunnels before it's over."

The Engineer whistled lowly, looking at it.

"Would you be willing to trade for a sample?"

"Jaysa, General Cataia!" Cayto barked, getting their attention. "Trade value on one?" she held up the bug, waving it a bit as the pair walked towards them even as the ROV crawler made its way into the hole they'd made.

Carmidin joined them, exchanging looks and quick, concealed hand signals before they nodded in agreement.

"A piece of ancient tech," Cataia said, though her tone left it fairly clear she wasn't aiming for a major item.

"I'll talk with my family, see what we can arrange," Rama nodded. "We have some artifacts we've been working on, but we'll make sure it's still functional."

"Agreed," the general nodded. "Cayto will keep one for you. Jaysa and Carmidin can agreed on the fair trade for it when you know what you have. Would you like to watch us, or explore the ships a bit more?" she offered, trying to be friendly.

"I'd like to watch," Rama said. "There's been some interesting finds in warrens before, I'm curious about what's down there... and I'd like to see your system at work."

"All right," the Panther nodded and turned back to take her position at the central display unit. "Whatever is down this is interesting."

Etila scuttled through the tunnels of the Knucklers amid the echoes of clicks from a half-dozen steps back. The spider-like drone was navigating slowly through the tunnels, directed towards the most efficient route to its target. Feedback from the bugs was sending data about surface quality along its link to its operator, who guided it around danger spots. The cameras swiveled, keeping an eye on its surroundings.

Small figures peeked out of crevices, looking at the giant metal spider with guarded curiosity, but the ROV didn't - couldn't - care. Its operator did though, and kept as much of an eye on them as was possible, but as long as things stayed away from the ROV itself, they were not of direct concern.

It didn't take long to reach the energy source; as expected from the concentrated signal, it was small. Turning its sensors to the energy source, it quickly analyzed it. Advanced metals, unknown material beneath them... no voltage, despite the massive energy potential that was obvious to its sensors.

One of the tiny figures was approaching Etila when it extended a probe to touch the device. There was a sharp crack as the discharge melted the tip of the probe, despite the rubber coating, and very nearly overloaded the Etila's resistors. The display was scrambled for a moment ... but when it recovered, the creature was gone, shrieking from further down the halls.

This was some sort of capacitor with incredible power; despite the massive voltage that had been discharged, the device still read a high level of energy inside. It had to be retrieved ... fortunately, now that the Etila knew were the terminals were, it could do so without damaging itself again. Mark wasted no time in ordering Etila to pick the device up with a two of it's limbs without contacting a terminal, and head back to the surface.

"What did that?" Jaysa asked, his ears flat as he heard the report of the electrical discharge down below.

"Lightning jar," Rama said. "We've found them a few times before... not that useful for us, but you guys might have a better use for them, since you use electricity."

"If that's what I think it might be, yes, we do have use for them," Cataia nodded.

"No kidding," Cayto murmured. "That much of a charge is a really nice battery."

"What do you think it might be?" Reclin asked curiously as they heard the ROV starting to click back towards the entrance.

"It's either a battery to store energy or a generator that creates it, and either way it's of interest to us," Cataia said. "As Rama said, our society runs on electricity and that has an impressive amount by our standards."

"If it turns out to be useful, we would be interested in trading for the others you have found, if you are so inclined," Jaysa added.

"Only in ones in its condition, or in ones that have been rendered safe to handle as well?" Reclin asked. "By our standards," he added. "I'm sure you have ways to handle something like that, but we have some that we have drained the energy from, so they could be studied."

"That depends on how advanced or different it is compared to what we have," Jaysa said. "If it is quite different, then yes, we would be interested in the drained ones as well."

"Please let us know what you discover then," Reclin nodded respectfully. "We will be glad to work with you on this."

"I'm sure we will," Rama agreed absently, looking down into the hole as Etila climbed up carefully. "A fascinating machine."

Mark glanced at Carmidin, who nodded.

"Ma'am, if you'd like to control it once it's delivered the find, I can teach you a bit, if the General permits," Mark looked at the Panther in charge, knowing full well she wouldn't go against both FCT-1's leaders.

It earned the Puma and Maned Wolf a glare that spoke of dire consequences if any more damage was done to the ROV, but she nodded acceptance.

"Will the rig fit?" Rama asked, considering what he was wearing compared to her own much smaller frame, and decided lack of a tail.

"Not exactly," he admitted. "But there is a control system that isn't quite a precise as this one that you can use."

"I won't be doing anything fancy," she promised as Etila climbed into view and Mark had to focus on placing their find carefully on the ground. "I'd love to try it out."

"All right," he nodded and moved Etila to a wide, open space between the ships and settled it down.

A Wild New World 6: Mapping Knuckler Turf


22 KB, Story is Complete, Series is in Progress
Written January 14, 2009 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Ayrth, Gre'and Alliance

Primary Races: Fox, Human, Panther, Puma

Contents: Furry. Gen. All Original Characters, Crossover, Genocide

Blurb: The Builders are far too excited by the mapping of Knuckler caves for Carmidin's tastes, but he humors them anyway.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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