forum Some Assembly Required

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@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

The year is 2376. Humanity has advanced and grown beyond our borders. We've begun colonizing other places, met xenos and formed alliances, and made enemies as well. An attack on Earth triggers Operation Seedpod, a space exploration and colonization mission that sends Huge ships out into deep space. The goal is to spread humanity across the galaxy, so that even if the Earth should fall, humanity will survive. The massive Norn-class ships carry a full crew, who shuffle in and out of cryo-sleep to keep the ships running. They also carry thousands of colonists, with various skills and genetic diversity, so that a colony has the best chance of survival. Ideally, a Norn-class will land on a habitable planet, and the crew can wake the colonists, who will then build the colony and create a stable and thriving civilization. Not your ship, though. You are a person (you can choose if you're crew or colonist) on board the Norn-class Deus Ex Machina. An unidentified disaster- a comet, an attack, a graviteum drive reactor failure- something has knocked the Deus off course. We've crash landed on the surface of a planet- not the lush, easily habitable planet we meant to land on, but a harsh, hostile planet. We're also the only two survivors.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet scrambled out of his bunk as his communicator screeched. "Evans! Get down here, we've got a situation!" He was already pulling on his vacuum suit as he yelled "On my way!" A situation in the cryo-bay was never good.
In his 2 years awake working on the ship as a cryo-technician, there had been a few troubled moments, but as he took off running down the hall, Chet could tell this was worse. He wasn't the only one running. Security went jogging by, and were armed with the heavy rail-gun rifles instead of their small sidearms. The reactor maintenance teams were at a dead sprint, pulling on their face shields over their vac-suit helmets. Chet ended up in a group of the other cry-techs, all hustling towards the bay. Alarms were going off, red lights flashing, and as Chet got to his bench, he could see multiple alerts.

Warning: High levels of gravity fluctuation detected.

Warning: External atmospheric levels detected.

Comm: We're tumbling, engage the inertial dampeners!

Comm: Wake up the sleeping crew members, all hands!

He sucked in a breath, realizing something had happened. Gravity flux meant the graviteum engine was having trouble, tumbling meant spinning in space, external atmosphere meant they had been pulled into a planet's gravity and were going to crash land. And all hands meant the bridge didn't have a lot of hope. Not a good sign! He also noted with a deep sense of frustration, that the ship's AI was either offline or too busy dealing with keeping everyone alive to answer. That meant doing everything only as quickly as he personally could think.
First things first. Wake up the secondary crew. He typed quickly, pulling up work logs and the sleep logs and trying to figure out exactly who was awake and who was asleep. The names were coming at him fast, and the alarms were blaring, and his officer was barking orders left and right. He punched the button for the first remote wake up, and realized he'd made a mistake. He'd picked a name for a colonist, who happened to be related to a crew member he'd intended to wake up. But it was too late now. The colonist would just have to wake up, and then they could slap the 'accidental awakening' button if they wanted. Chet just focused on getting actual crewmembers woken up.

Meghan Hill groaned as she felt the cold cryosleep leaving her. That in itself was a relief despite how heavy her head felt. But she knew that waking up meant the ship had finally arrived at the new planet. The dose of adrenaline made her more excited for the arrival than she would normally be but there was no fighting it. Unfortunately, instead of the procedure she had been told to expect, it was absolute chaos as she stepped out. Alarms blaring, people running around like crazy… This was definitely not what was supposed to be happening. But Meg was not the kind of person to duck back into a corner (or in cryosleep) and wait for things to get better. So without anyone telling her, she joined the next group of crewmates and ran with them, fairly certain she could help in some way.

Chet was still waking up crew members, when there was a juddering feeling, and the gravity plating under his feet rippled and flexed. Another alert popped up on his screen.

Warning: Graviteum engine offline. Inertial dampeners at 97% capacity.
Chet's eyebrows shot up. That was really bad. If the inertial dampeners overloaded, everybody on board would feel the full effect of the rapid deceleration they were doing. He hurriedly hit the wakeup button for the current name, before sending an orders request over the comms channel. Before his message had even sent, there was a voice bellowing over the noise of the alarms. "All hands, abandon ship! To the lifepods! Repeat, abandon ship, all hands to the lifepods."
Chet was stunned for a moment. They were being ordered to abandon all the colonists and crew still in cryo-sleep, leaving them to just…. live or die on a whim. He knew the rationale: if the ship broke up, at least those who escaped could build. If they all stayed on the Deus and it exploded, the mission was a failure. It still felt very wrong. He glanced at the screen, at the long list of names he was leaving, maybe to die, before standing up and scrambling for the bay doors. He'd been one of the last ones, the others not hesitating to leave.
And now, as he reached the doors, he looked back, just for a moment, before sealing the door, clamping the lever in place. Maybe, just maybe, with the bay sealed, they would somehow survive. He made a mad dash towards the lifepods, knowing if he was late they might leave him.

Meg stumbled a little when a shudder seemed to rip through the ship but she kept up with the group. At least until the evacuation orders started ringing out. This sort of thing had only been touched on briefly as a “pre-flight” briefing as if it was a minor chance of happening or so unlikely that it was only mentioned to prevent a lawsuit. The dark-haired woman closed her eyes and took a breath to settle down before catching up with the others. Surely they knew where the nearest lifepods were and, hopefully, there would be room for at least one stowaway. It was obvious that she wasn't supposed to be awake right now. Especially not in the middle of a disaster. But whatever the reason, she was glad that she wasn't going to die not knowing what happened. That she had woken up at all and see what was happening around her. Dying in her sleep had never been the way she wanted to go. She was still young and in the prime of her life. It may have been a bit naive but she wanted to go down fighting.

The crew flooded into the pod area, and quickly began splitting into their designated teams. Each pod had specific people assigned to it, and they were careful about that, even in the chaos. No one would let a stowaway in.
"Too much weight will throw off our flight!"
"There's not enough breathable oxygen!"
"We don't have space for another body!"
All kinds of excuses flew her way. Finally, one soul took pity on her. "These are the crew lifepods. Try the colonist pods on the next level. Good luck!" The crewmember pulled the hatch shut behind her, and the pod fire off. It had been the last one, and it left Meg alone on the deck.
Chet rounded the corner, hearing the tell-tale thump of pods firing off the ship. No, no no no! He sprinted harder, but the noises suddenly stopped, just as he came in sight of the pod bay.
Gone. His team was gone, the entire crew was gone. And with them, the pods. Wait, what about the colonist pods? He turned to run up to the next level, when a lone figure in the pod bay caught his eye. "Hey! C'mon, we gotta move! Colonist pods, next level!" He shouted, waving his arms, before taking off running.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Meg had to admit the crew was well organized even now. But it quickly became annoying when they started using every excuse in the book to keep her from boarding. If there was more time, she would have argued with each and every one of them, except maybe the oxygen one… That one almost made sense. But she nodded gratefully when one crew member told her about the colonist pods. “Thank you.” She had taken a few steps back when the pods launched.
For some reason, she just stood there for a moment before turning back down the corridor when she heard another voice calling her. Meg nodded and quickly ran after the other person, likely the only other person awake on the ship right now. “I’m coming!” she called back, determined not to get lost.

Chet turned to glance at the person following him. She was a colonist according to her uniform, and had the wet, glistening look of someone just thawed out. Chet immediately knew who she was. "Over here!" He bounded up the steps to the upper pod bay. The girl didn't even have a vac-suit on, and Chet wondered if she'd be a little foggy from the cryo. "Grab a vac-suit off the wall before we get in a pod! And whatever you do, hurry!"
They came to the chutes, and Chet noted that many of them weren't powered up. Of course, the colonists aren't supposed to be awake yet. He took off again, frantically running down the line of dead chutes, until he glanced at one and the panel was green. "Once you've got the suit on, down here!" He waved the girl down the long wall towards him, and then stepped into the chute, dropping feet first like some life-giving playground slide. He landed on his feet in a small craft that would fit maybe 3 people, scrambled for the front control panel and prepped it to launch.

“Right!” she nodded at the directions, grabbing a vacsuit from the wall as she ran past. Fortunately, it was her size, and she remembered how to put it on. Though the feeling of the vacsuit over her already damp clothes was uncomfortable. “I’m coming!” Meg called back at the reminder to hurry. Once the suit was on, she ran down the rest of the hall and reached the chute as fast as she could. “Look out below!” she warned as she slid down into the pod, not wanting to accidentally hurt only the second person to help her since she woke up in this chaos.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

A countdown initiated as the pod readied, and Chet buckled in. He glanced over as his companion slid in next to him. "Buckle in, 5 seconds!" The viewscreen in front of them blinked to life, like a huge windshield, except it was just a sensor feed from the front of the pod. The walls were meant to handle a lot of things, so there was no glass. The scene in front of them was carnage. The lifepods that had launched before theirs had apparently launched too far into the planet's atmosphere, and many were breaking up on entry, the heat shields failing. Chet's eyes widened, and he hurriedly checked a couple of settings. Atmospheric entry was an option, and he immediately hauled on the large lever. There was some clanking as extra heat shields were configured, the computer recalulcated their trajectory, and then they were off. There was a lurch as the pod shot out of the chute like a missile, heading for the planet below them. Chet gritted his teeth and hoped they'd make it. However, only a minute or so out… There's no sound in space, so Chet didn't hear when the Deus finally gave up, but the lifepod got hit with the front edge of the shockwave as the main reactor blew. The sensors burned out, and they were left blind. Which was bad, because the control panel was flashing that someone would need to manually guide the pod in its landing. Chet could feel the pod flying in the S-curve that would help them slow down, and he could feel as they hit… debris. (His mind wouldn't let him call it anything else.) But their view of the blue and orange planet below them had been obstructed. The viewscreen was just a blank wall now, and Chet couldn't get the sensors to respond. They were all whited out with the remnants of the nuclear reactor blowing up behind them. Chet tried to remember how high up they'd been before the sensors blew. The control panel was offering him options. AI controlled landing! He jabbed the icon, but nothing happened. Likely, Zeus-21, the AI onboard the Deus Ex Machina, hadn't been able to load the little fragments of himself into the lifepods before they escaped. Which meant that option was out. They had reverse thrusters, but without being able to see, he didn't trust himself. There was also a parachute option. If he was stuck with that… Chet suddenly realized he wasn't alone in the pod. Remembered he didn't have to figure this out alone. "Got a name friend? I'm Chet, and I'm hoping you know more about flight than I do?" The colonists had all kinds of jobs, maybe she could help…

Meg nodded and strapped herself in just seconds before the pod was launched. Her eyes widened at the sight of all the other lifepods failing. Her stomach was in knots, fortunately she hadn't eaten anything yet since she woke up. Especially when the pod was hit by the shockwave. There may not have been sound in space but Meg certainly heard the smaller impacts against the hull of the lifepod as they hit… She screwed her eyes closed and tried to focus on her breathing. Panicking right now wouldn't do any good. But she did look at what was left of the viewscreen when the sensors started beeping and watched the crewman trying to work. Hearing the man’s voice again, however, startled her at first but she quickly got over it and nodded. “Friends call me Meg.” she answered. “But I don't know much about piloting. I’m a survivalist.” she told Chet.

Chet's heart sank as his companion looked just as panicked as he felt. He nodded slowly. "Well. That's good, cuz that's what we gotta do right now. Survive." He looked back at the panel, trying to think. "At the moment we're in freefall… I don't think we're tumbling, but I'm not sure. The pod might have inertial dampeners…" He looked over the console carefully, trying to read the symbols. These things were meant to be intuitive, but they also usually had AI and sensors, and he had none of those just now. He glanced at Meg. "You don't know me… but we're gonna have to trust each other." He looked back down at the console, and made a decision. "Hold onto something." He hit the parachute release, and felt the pod immediately orient a particular direction. It was slight, which was a good sign. That meant they did have inertial dampeners, which might just keep them alive, even if they did crash. They were slowing, though not by much. The parachute would only do so much. However, now that he knew they were in the right direction… Flutter the thrusters. The lifepods had minimal thrusters, mostly used to give the pod a push in the right direction. They weren't meant for long term flight, and Chet wouldn't have known how to use them properly anyway. Engage. Burn for a few seconds. Disengage. Let the parachute catch them. Engage. Repeat. Chet was quiet, listening, trying to get any sense of where they were in the air. He wanted to reassure Meg, but he didn't have enough information for her to believe him. The hours passed. Chet kept up the cycle, and nothing drastically changed. Eventually, the sounds of wind on the outside of the pod had gotten quieter, and Chet began to tense every time he let off the thrusters. He began to let them burn longer, just worrying that if they hit the ground with the thrusters off, it would be bad. He had just disengaged the thrusters to let the parachute catch up, when the pod glanced off of something outside. It turned, throwing Chet and Meg sideways, before there was a sudden jerk, and most of their motion stopped. There was some side to side movement, almost like they were swinging somehow. Chet glanced over at his companion, his eyes wide. "I think we made it." He sat for a moment, considering, before he reached up and adjusted the helmet on his vac-suit. They had no clue what the air would be like here. "Make sure you're sealed." he admonished Meg. Once they were set, Chet stood and moved towards the door. They were at an odd angle, he realized, as it felt like he had to walk up a slant to the door. He tapped the door panel, and the vacuum sealed door blew off, and tumbled away. Air of some kind rushed into the pod, and Chet found himself looking up, into the sky. The first thing he noticed was the wreck of the Deus slowly breaking up and tumbling to the planet's surface. The second thing he noticed was their parachute, which was tangled over what looked like the top of… a tree sized mushroom? He glanced over the edge of the open doorway, and immediately stepped back. They were hanging easily 50 feet in the air. Not safe yet…

“Right.” Meg managed a light chuckle at the comment on surviving. It was an obvious point but hearing him say it was kind of funny. She nodded as he worked out his thoughts and braced herself at his warning. The fall took a long time but she stayed quiet so that Chet could focus on the landing. She knew that he had a point, they didn't know each other but they were all they had right now. She would trust him. They wouldn't last long if they didn't trust each other, assuming that they made it to the planet’s surface. Though she had to admit that she was a little disappointed that the systems hadn’t come back online. She grunted at the sudden impact, thankful that the harness kept her from falling out of her seat. “I hope so.” she replied when Chet looked over at her. The swaying motion concerned her but she sealed her helmet all the same. She joined Chet at the door and raised a brow when she saw the giant mushroom and realized their predicament. “Well… I’m not going to jinx it but at least we made it to the planet.” she pointed out, as they stepped back. “Before we figure out a way down, what do we have in here?” she asked since she figured he would have a better idea of what the pod was supplied with. “What do we have to work with?”

Chet was quickly coming to appreciate that Meg seemed to have a sense of humor. Someone more prone to panic would have made this difficult. "We did make it down. I'll take figuring out how to get down from a-… tree? Mushroom? over trying to get down out of orbit." He looked around, his mind racing. He didn't know a ton about the pods, but they were lifepods, they had to have some equipment. "Let's see. We've still got thrusters… we could just… do a quick burn up above the-… shroomtree? And then let the parachute carry us down." He looked back out the door, and realize they were at the wrong angle to do that. Also, there were tree sized shrooms all around them. Some kind of mushroom forest? In any case, his idea wouldn't work. "The pod still has power, so there's a reactor somewhere if we have a chance to take the pod apart. Umm…" He walked back over to the console and looked at it for a moment, still deep in thought, when he noticed a blinking icon. It hadn't been there before the pod had stopped moving. He tapped it and a panel dropped under the console. Ducking down to check, Chet found what looked like a row of thickly packed backpacks. They were labeled Survive and Thrive! He snagged one, and started to unzip it, before realizing there was a pull tab, like on a parachute. His face broke into the first smile in a while, and he grabbed a second one, before walking back to the entrance. "Parachutes. We should be able to get down just fine. And hopefully there's more in the pack than just that." They were going to make it. "You first or me first?"

Meg shook her head at the first suggestion since there were too many newly dubbed shroomtrees around them. They might just end up in the same situation at a lower height. “I don't know enough about reactors to try and mess with them. Even if we could get to it.” she admitted, glancing out the door. “It's too bad though. This thing could have made a temporary shelter if we got it to the ground.” she mumbled more to herself as she thought about what might be waiting for them on this planet. When Chet discovered the Survive and Thrive backpacks, she smiled already going through a mental “wish list” of what these packs could hold for gear as she grabbed the others. Since there was only two of them and multiple bags meant they had more supplies… Unless one of the other pods happened to make to the planet as well. In which case they would need the extra equipment. “You mean jump from this height? Are you sure these parachutes can slow us down enough from here?” she asked, raising a brow. “I think I remember that parachutes need, at least, a couple hundred feet in order to be safe.” she told him before looking at the shroomtree. “What do you think our chances are if we climb down?”

Chet nodded. "I agree, if we could get this down, we could live in it, but… maybe we can think that through and plan down where we're safe. I don't know if the parachute straps will hold the weight or if they've torn or anything." Meg was already thinking quickly, and Chet was grateful. He could have got stuck with all kinds of people, but she seemed clear-headed. She had also grabbed the rest of the packs. Chet internally facepalmed at himself. Of course, take them all! He shrugged in response to her question. "Well… I don't know how many feet they need, but…" Looking down at the shroomtree, he wasn't sure how they'd climb it. The 'trunk' was too wide to wrap his arms around, and there were no branches or anything to grab onto. In fact, the surface looked smooth, almost rubbery. "I don't know about climbing either…" He looked down again, and swallowed hard. "I'm willing to give jumping a shot. I'll make it, one way or another." He moved quickly, knowing full well she was smart enough to talk him out of it if he waited around. He checked that his backpack straps were tight on his shoulders, that the buckles were done up across his chest like they were supposed to be. He glanced at Meg, before stepping off the edge, pushing forward a little bit so his parachute wouldn't hit the pod. He yanked the string immediately so the 'chute would be able to open fully. There was a moment as his backpack self-unzipped quickly, and the canvas of his 'chute popped out. It did immediately open. Except it wasn't a parachute. What popped free from his back was a canvas and telescoped-pole tent. Probably air-tight, insulated, waterproof, and tear/cut-proof. Very helpful for someone trying to survive out in the open. Not so helpful for someone trying to survive a 50 ft fall. Chet yelped as he realized there was no help, and frantically tried to grab something on his way down. Unfortunately, he'd pushed himself away from anything he might grab onto, and he continued plummeting the rest of the 50 feet. There was nothing he could do. He was going to hit the ground at speed. He made the split second decision to tuck his legs and head, and wrap one arm around his legs and one over his head. Maybe as a cannonball he'd survive. He hit the ground with a loud thud. And immediately bounced. Not straight back up, and not all the way up, but a good 10 feet in the air, and over to his left. He'd landed on his hip, and the impact had broken his grip. He landed again, this time sprawled out on his back, and bounced much less. He rolled more this time, and finally came to a stop several feet away. A loud groan escaped his body, mostly without him thinking about it, and he looked up at Meg, trying to call up to her. "…Not a parachute…But I'm alive…"

“Agreed.” Meg nodded at the idea of waiting until they were on the ground to make better plans. Though she blinked in surprise at Chet's reckless decision to go ahead and jump. I hope these packs have some medkits in them… We're probably going to need it. She winced when she saw what actually came out of the bag and how fast Chet fell, remembering that they didn't even know how much gravity this planet had. But she let out a sigh of relief when she heard him call, faintly, back up to her. “Are you hurt?” she called back. “I'll be down in a minute. I’m just going to check what’s in these bags first. See what I can use.” she informed him before sitting down and opening one of the packs.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet stayed down for a moment, just getting his bearings. "I'm ok, I think. Gonna have a bruise but…" Nothing was broken. He lifted his leg, and his hip hurt, but it functioned, and there was no shooting pain or anything. "Take your time with the bags!" he yelled back up. Maybe if he hadn't made assumptions, they have found some rope or something. Though it is nice to be on solid ground… Speaking of which… had he bounced? Chet sat up, suddenly confused. The gravity had felt just a little light, and even now, he felt lighter than usual. He didn't have a lot of information on this planet, for the simple reason that they hadn't been planning on stopping here. He patted the ground, noticing that it wasn't dirt or rock like he would have expected. Instead, a thick, rubbery matting covered everything. It was like someone had laid a sheet over the ground underneath. As he looked closer, it was possible to discern tiny root-and-tendril-like structures running through the mat. The shroomtree seemed to be a part of the matting. Not like it had grown underneath and burst through; more like the matting just suddenly flowed upwards every so often into a towering shroomtree. Out of curiosity, he slapped the matting, and his hand bounced like he'd slapped a trampoline. Firmer, but bouncy. Interesting. The landscape didn't change for a while, as he looked around. A fungal forest, with an odd blue bioluminescent light effect. Nothing was moving, that he could see, but that wasn't a guarantee. "Any luck with the pack?" He called up after a few minutes. "I'd say I might be able to catch you with the lowered gravity." Well, maybe not, but he could at least break her fall if she had to jump.

The bags were well-stocked, Meg noticed with a smile as she carefully unpacked one. Though she didn't touch the pull tab that released the tent and made note of how everything was organized so she could put everything back easily. One of the first things she actually found was a sturdy tablet, which she activated and informed her that the vacsuits have a comms system built-in to the helmets and how to activate it. “Well, I’m glad you’re not hurt.” she admitted once the comms were turned on. “I only opened one pack so there might be some variation.” she informed, looking at the food and water rations that were provided to give the colonists a head start while they figured out the environment and what was safe. “Here. I’ll throw down one of the unopened packs and we can judge the gravity from that before I decide if I'm going to climb down or not.” she said, standing near the door and following through with her plan.

Chet jumped a little when her voice came through his helmet. "Whoa! We've got comms? Do we have anything long range? Can we call for help?" He knew it was a long shot all the way out here, but it was worth a try. "And thanks, by the way. I'm glad I'm not hurt too." He chuckled at himself, before looking up to see the pack coming down. It hit the ground and bounced, much the same as he had. When he'd been falling, he hadn't noticed, but watching the bag fall, it was clear it took longer than it would have on Earth. "Definitely lower gravity, though I can't tell by how much." He pulled his pack off his back, and opened it the rest of the way. "I've got some basic tools. Couple of knives, hatchet, small shovel, miniaturized reactor, and some rations." He dug a little deeper, before letting out a groan, and then a laugh. "Hey, found some rope." It was a pretty hefty coil, but lightweight and durable. "Can you catch it if I throw it back up there?"

“I didn't check that much on the comms yet but I think they’re pretty standard. No interplanetary connection and may not work if we try to reach someone on the other side of the planet.” she hummed as she packed up her pack. Mehg chuckled as he listed off some of the same equipment she found in the other pack. “I have some up here too. I just didn't want to embarrass you by saying it first.” she snickered. “There’s a bracket on the inside of the door frame. It should be enough to support me… Let me know if the rope is long enough.” she instructed as she tied a good strong knot before throwing the slack out the door.

Chet nodded, a bit disappointed, but he hadn't really got his hopes up for the comms to work to rescue them. He did groan again, and gave a rueful chuckle, as Meg mentioned she had rope. "I'm such an idiot…" The end of the rope was a few feet off the ground, but… "You'll make it down just fine. It's like a 3 foot drop at the end." He looked up at the pod. The parachute had come down in the top of the mushroom cap. From this angle, the straps all looked intact, but the pod was still at an angle because the trunk was in the way. He was trying to think how they could get it down. "Oh! Also. Wanna toss me the rest of the packs before you come down?"

Meg chuckled again and nodded. “Sure. I have a couple more still up here.” she said, throwing the remaining bags out the door soon after. It didn't take her much longer to secure her pack before carefully easing herself out the door and repelling down, using the shroomtree’s trunk… stalk thing to help control her descent. Though the rubbery texture did make her sway more than she had expected, she managed to keep her grip on the rope. “Is the whole planet this… bouncy? Or is it just this shroomtree forest?” she asked even though she knew that Chet wouldn't know either. Once she reached the last five feet of the rope, Meg let go and dropped. Fortunately, she landed feet first though she stumbled a little when she bounced.

Chet caught the packs as she tossed them down, stacking them in a neat pile next to where the tent had landed after his ill-conceived jump. He turned to watch her descend, and stood under the shroomtree, in case she slipped or something. "I have no clue, but it's weird. Fungus on Earth isn't like this… I think…." He honestly didn't know much about fungus, but he'd never heard of rubbery fungus. When Meg dropped, Chet moved out of the way, though he was close enough to reach out and snag her arm when she stumbled. He gently pulled her back to equilibrium, keeping her from falling. "And then there were two." He beamed at her as it sank in. "We're alive! We made it, for real this time!" He fought down the urge to hug her, and settled for squeezing her arm a bit. Chet was a generally affectionate person with his friends, and frankly, he'd never trauma-bonded to anyone before, but this had to be a textbook example.

Meg smiled back, gripping his arm when he steadied her and gave a grateful nod. “Thanks.” she replied sincerely as she returned the squeeze. “Now let’s see how long we can last.” “No, you’re right. Mushrooms on earth were usually spongy rather than this.” she agreed. “If these were more like earth mushrooms, I would have used one, or two, of the knives and climbed down or slid down.” she explained. “At least we have a marker for where we are. And the vacsuits have a GPS once we figure out how to calibrate them.”

Chet was still just excited to be alive. "Oh, I'm sure we'll do fine! You're a survivalist, after all, and I follow instructions pretty well, we'll manage!" He grinned, on the verge of giggling like an idiot, and it hit him that he wasn't given to huge emotional displays. His train of thought moved quickly, spiraling from excitement from being alive, to the realization that they might be the only ones, to the sudden gut-wrenching feeling of loss as he remembered that likely everyone else he'd known onboard the Deus was dead. They couldn't be sure, but… The weight of it hit him like a freight train, so close on the heels of his euphoric excitement that it took his breath away. The giggling started, but it was a nervous sound, and suddenly there were tears, and Chet felt out of control. The laugh turned to sobs, and back to laughter when his brain interjected how grateful he ought to be, just to be alive, and with a survivalist for a companion. It took him less than thirty seconds to run the gamut of emotion, and he realized he'd just frozen, and gone from grinning like an idiot to laughing like a maniac to crying like a brokenhearted teenage girl. She probably thinks I'm crazy. "I'm sorry, I just…. just kinda thought about it…." he said quietly, looking down, desperately trying to get ahold of himself.

Meg chuckled with him and nodded. “Just as long as you don't pull any more stunts like jumping fifty feet into a free fall.” she teased. However, when Chet started breaking down it didn't take her long to realize why. She didn't blame him and even started to tear up as well. The thought of all those men and women who made up the crew and the other colonists not even making it to the planet… “Survivors guilt.” she muttered, nodding. “I’ve heard about it but… I never thought about…” she continued through shuddering breaths. “Let’s… Let’s take a minute.” she suggested, already moving to sit on the ground.

Chet felt bad, because he hadn't meant to make Meg feel bad. "Sorry, I wasn't-…I didn't mean-…." He wasn't sure exactly what he was trying to say, but her shuddering breathing pulled him out of his own grief. Easy, Chet. You've got to be there for her. The idea that they were on this planet, likely forever, hit him just then as well, and rather than breaking down, he squared his shoulders. Meg was moving to sit, and he went and sat next to her. Not uncomfortably close, but close enough she could… draw comfort? You're not making sense, don't make this weird. "Did-… did you have any family or anybody onboard?" he asked quietly. Some of the colonists were loners, those who would be the pioneers and tame the alien frontiers, but some of them had full families. They'd been parents and siblings and children and now…

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

“No. No. It's ok.” she assured, shaking her head. “I just… I wasn't thinking about… that part until now.” she admitted. Meg sighed and tried to focus on her breathing to calm herself down. “No. My family wasn't on the ship.” she assured. “I think there was someone had the same last name but we weren't related. God. I don't even know how I’m here right now. I wasn't supposed to wake up yet.” she almost ranted.

Well that was good. No family onboard meant she had less immediate grieving to do. "I hadn't thought about it either, it all just kinda… hit at once…" Chet sniffled, working to get himself under control. It took him a second to register what she'd said, and then his eyes widened. "Wait, you're Meg Hill?!" He leaned back a bit. "I'm a cryo-tech, I woke you up by accident…" He remembered now, in the chaos those few hours ago, that he'd been irritated at himself for picking the wrong name and waking a colonist instead of the crewmember. And now, here she was. Alive. And the only person keeping him from being a total Robinson Crusoe. What a perfect accident…

Meg blinked as his words reached her. The first part was easily relatable considering their situation though when he admitted what he did… “I am.” she nodded sighing and gave Chet a small rueful but grateful smile. “So… I think you saved my life. Didn't you? Even if it was an accident.” she said softly. It made sense to her actually. If he hadn’t woken her up… She didn't want to think about how she could have still been asleep and the explosion or floating around in space, not even knowing what had happened. But she choked back a sob and placed her hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, Chet.”

"I mean… I guess I did… but I should be thanking you." he said quietly. He reached up and gave her arm a squeeze, again. "This would be so much worse if I were alone, and frankly, you'll probably be the one saving my life here soon, either by keeping from eating the one thing that'll kill me, or making sure I don't do stupid things like drop 50ft before checking for rope, or just… keeping me from going crazy." Chet had to swallow back his own tears when she held back the sob. His emotions were slowly coming back in line, but her reaction was threatening to nudge them again. "Kind of poetic, isn't it… I wake you up, you wind up with me here." He smiled at her. "So I'll say, 'youre welcome', but we can see if you're still thanking me once you've been stuck here with me for a while."

Meg let out a soft chuckle at his little speech and nodded. “Considering you are the reason I'm here at all, I think I can handle having you help me figure out this planet. But I will do my best to keep us both alive.” she promised. Honestly, she didn't believe in owing her life to someone but she had every intention to keep her word and make the most of her new life on this strange new planet. It could even be fun. “We’ll see.” she agreed as she rose to her feet. “For now, we should figure out what our next step is.”

Chet sat for just a moment longer, gathering himself, and when he stood, he was back to being excited. Grateful to be alive, more like. "Right. So so we want to stay near the pod and work on getting it down? Or try to find some natural shelter? Also, how did you get the comms working? Is there a tablet or something?" He walked over to where the tent had landed and gave it a shove, causing it to roll off its side and into the correct position.

“I think we should stay near the pod for now. Who knows when it might come in handy. And we explore a little more after we set up or tomorrow.” Meg smiled, glad to have something to focus on. “There is a tablet in the survival packs. Unfortunately, the walkthrough for the comms was all I did for now.” she explained as she pulled a tablet out of her bag, fairly sure it would have more useful information on it. Maybe something about how to check the atmosphere for breathable air or how to set up an oxygen converter for the tents.

"Can I see it? I'm not good at the survival stuff, but tech was my whole job." He reached for the tablet. He'd specialized in cryo-tech, but he'd done his undergrad in general technician training. "I should be able to triangulate the GPS markers for our vac-suits with the pod. We won't have satellites to give us the lay of the land or anything, but we should be able to map that ourselves as we move, and the triangulation will at least allow whoever has the tablet to find the other person easily." His mind was running through other things to check: did the tablet have nano-forge templates? Because if so, that meant there was a nano-forge somewhere in the survival stuff. Did it have tent hookups? If they could connect it to the tent, they might be able to interface with the environmental controls more easily. And was the 'battery' a miniaturized reactor, or would they have to find some way to charge it? "And staying near the pod sounds good. We can inventory the stuff in the packs, or I can, if you'd like to explore."

Meg handed the tablet over without question. She could figure out how to use certain features on it easily enough but since Chet was a technician it made sense he would be able to navigate it faster. “Tell you what; you figure out the tech stuff and I’ll check out the perimeter. We can do the inventory together.” she suggested. “I’ll stay close, keep comms on the whole time but I'm taking my pack with me.”

Chet smiled at her. "That sounds good. When you've got about 100 yards away from here, stop and let me know. Wanna make sure I've got the vac-suits marked correctly before you get too far away." He began tapping at the screen, running quickly through settings and opening apps to check viability. "I'll see if I can get the tent running before you get back. First things first. He connected the tablet to the pod's location marker, and marked that as 'Home'. He then tagged his own vac-suit, and designated himself 'Chet', of course. Meg was too close for the triangulation to work, so he'd need to wait till she got out far enough. Next. He checked the digitally archived apps, and realized the tablet could interface directly with the vac-suit helmets. It would need a physical connection for a minute or two, but they would be able to have HUD's in their helmet, displaying things like location and health status at all times. They'd also be able to do many of the things the tablet could do, right from that HUD. He'd have to try to verbally activate the one on Meg's helmet. "HUD activation code 3347." He said loudly and clearly over the comms. There was a moment of scrambled letters and numbers as the program used the comms connection to change the view on Meg's helmet, and then it was done, and she was set to go. There was a little checkmark in the corner of his own HUD that said they were connected. Working with the HUD made certain things easier, as he had his hands free and could do a lot of things with gestures, or changing his eye focus and blinking a certain number of times. He went quiet, settling into deep focus as his mind concentrated on something he knew, rather than all the uncertain things of the day so far.

“Copy.” Meg nodded, starting her little walk. Last thing they needed was to find out their camp was too close to a native wild animal, if there were any on this planet, or too far away from a good water source… There was a lot of things she needed to check for. She kept her eyes and ears open, trying to familiarize herself to the new surroundings and stay alert for any sudden changes. “Ok. I’m one hundred yards away from you. Am I showing up on the GPS?”

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet checked, and there she was, an unidentified blip on the screen. And the tablet had measured the distance correctly, which meant it had triangulated just fine. "Yes! I've got you. Should be able to find you, or guide you back if something happens." He labeled her suit signature 'Meg' and called it good. The vac-suit had air filtration built in, and with the tablet update, he could run air tests. It took him a couple minutes, but he eventually got results. "Hey, Meg? Looks like there's a lot of oxygen and carbon dioxide, go figure. Something is producing oxygen on this planet." He remembered that brief moment in the pod, when they'd had a bird's eye view of the planet. It had been splotchy, with sections of blue and orange. As he looked around, the mushrooms were generallya bluish color, so… maybe the orange were plants of some kind? "But don't take your helmet off, the spore count is insanely high. One bad inhalation and you'd have moldy lungs really quickly, it seems like." He glanced overhead, and found he could look directly at the sun for a moment, because it was blueish, rather than the bright burning yellow of Earth's sun. If it's a blue star… the plants wouldn't be green. They'd be yellow or reddish. So orange. He checked his guess against the tablet, which confirmed the hypothesis. But that, and indeed, the fungi, also meant there was water somewhere. So that was good.

“Great. Glad we can't get lost then.” Meg chuckled as she turned and started walking around their campsite. She smiled a little at the news about the air before nodding. “Don't worry, I’m keeping it on. Though I wouldn't be surprised if the spore count is just because we’re in this forest.” she theorized. “It might be safer for us the farther away from these mushrooms we get.” So far, she hadn't seen any wildlife other than the mushroom trees and she wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. The two humans could only survive on the rations for so long. They needed to find a way to farm eatable food or find something safe for them to hunt. “No sign of any water yet. Unless it's buried under this weird bouncy surface.” she reported.

"That's true." Of course the areas without massive amounts of mushrooms would be less sporous. "Maybe we should consider moving, eventually?" He also nodded at the mention of water. "The moisture levels in the air suggest some form of regular precipitation. Maybe like a dew?" Chet was currently working on getting the tent set up. It was handy that he didn't have to put it together since he'd… discovered it in the pack. The memory was still making him roll his eyes and facepalm. He had it synced to the tablet, and by extension, to his HUD, and was impressed with what the tent could do. In fact, "tent" was the wrong word for it, though some R&D scientist with a sense of humor had designed it to look like a camping tent from several centuries ago on Earth, and to fold up like one. It was roughly 7' tall, which would allow them to stand up comfortably. It was roughly 10 square yards, which wasn't huge, especially since it was likely designed for more people. For the two of them, though, that would be fine. It had temperature control, climate control, sterilization fields and air filtration, water filters, a built in mini-reactor, and hookups for multiple machines. Including a nano-forge. That realization made Chet want to drop what he was doing and dig through the packs, to see if he could find the forge, but he clamped down on that and focused. When Meg came back, he wanted them to be able to take off their helmets in the tent to sort through the packs. One thing at a time.

“Yeah, eventually. It might be a good idea.” she agreed. “Well, if there’s moisture in the air then there could be other kinds of precipitation… Hopefully.” she hummed, remembering that she had seen purifying water bottles in the packs and presumably there would be one in each since it was a necessary item. Meg gave a thoughtful hum and bounced slightly on her heels. The idea of taking a running start and jumping off the ground, so that the rubbery ground would launch her into the air and continue her scouting trip that way. But she shook her head and kept walking normally.

Chet was working on getting the mini-reactor in the tent working, when there was a loud screeching noise outside. He whipped he head up and scrambled out of the tent, snatching the hatchet from where he'd piled the tools he'd first found on the ground. He didn't immediately see anything as he looked around, and then he heard it again, from overhead. He looked up, and found the source of the noise. It was… something. 4 long, triangular wings. No feathers. A long tail offset by a long beak. And it was a strange rust color. There appeared to be 4 legs hanging down from the body as well. He had a hard time gauging the size from this distance, but his HUD analyzed it and came up with the dimensions. The thing was 20 feet long, tail to snout. Wingspan of 10 feet. And it was circling. Circling right over the tent, over Chet. He wasn't sure what to make of it, or what to do, and was just thinking he should've checked for better weapons, when it dove. The creature angled between the shroomtrees, slicing through the air in a clean drop. There was a loud bang, something like an artillery firing, and the top of one of the shroomtrees exploded, blowing a cloud of spores and vaporized fungus all over the creature. It immediately screeched and crashed, writhing and making what sounded like coughing or sneezing noises. Clearly, it couldn't breathe. The HUD registered a massive spike on the spore count, and Chet's eyes widened at what came next. The creature was melting, or so it appeared. It was being rapidly decomposed by the massive amounts of fungus surrounding it. They were eating it. He'd just watched the shroomtrees kill and eat prey. Like a predator. By the time the thought finished, the creature was gone. It had been less than a minute since he heard the first screech. "….Meg? You good?"

Meg raised a brow at the screeching but when she looked for the source, she didn't see anything other than the shroomtrees… It seemed like she was under a denser “canopy” area for now. When she heard the explosion, she immediately turned back, using the HUD display to take her the most direct way to the camp. “I'm fine.” she sighed in relief now that she knew Chet was alright, slowing down a little from her run. “I'm cutting my scouting trip short and heading back to you. Are you ok? What happened? What was that noise?”

He'd figured she was ok, but hearing her response still calmed him. "You don't have to do that, I'm just fine. But there are creatures out there and they're big. Probably the result of the lower gravity…. As for the noise, I better just show you. Take a second and watch this." Her HUD threw up a little envelope symbol, showing that Chet had sent her something. It was the feed from his helmet, which recorded automatically. She was able to watch the whole situation, all the way up to the creature being dissolved on the mat." "I have a suspicion we haven't been attacked yet because we're in the suits, so nothing organic is exposed." he said quietly. "So we'll just… need to be careful about that."

Meg paused when the image appeared on her HUD, raising a brow as she opened the video feed. “Holy mother of…” her voice trailed off as she saw the flying… alien just dissolve. “You may be right.” she nodded. “And that could be why I haven't seen anything else around here except these shroomtrees. But one thing is for sure, we are not staying in this biome longer than we have to.” she informed him. Definitely an uninhabitable area… “Kinda makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland here anyway.” she added in a mutter before resuming her scouting mission.

Chet listened to her reaction, nodding along. "Stands to reason, anything that might have lived here is dead or has moved. And without organic material to consume, the forest can't grow. Makes it a stable system, I guess, but…" He looked around, suddenly wary of everything. "You're right." He scrambled over to the piles of packs and equipment, and quickly moved them all into the tent. He heard Meg's mutter and had to laugh. "Maybe we're Lilliputians or something." He took a second look at the pod now, wondering if they could get it down more quickly than they were planning.

Meg blushed when Chet replied to her last comment as she hadn't expected it to be heard. “I sure hope not.” she chuckled a little, shaking her head. “We can stay here for… whatever qualifies as a night on this planet. That should give us enough time to work out a plan for when we find someplace to settle down.” she mused before looking up at what she could see of the sky. “Speaking of, can you gauge if this planet's sun has moved any?”

"I hadn't really thought about it, but…" Chet glanced up at the sun's placement, letting the HUD record where it was. "I'll be able to gauge that in a bit, now." It hadn't noticeably gotten any darker, though the entire area had a grey sky, like a rainy day. Gloomy, but no rain so far. "Hey, uh… I'm gonna do something dumb." Chet said quietly. "I found the nano-forge in one of the packs." He'd been brainstorming ways to get the pod down, and ways to move it. "I need mass to feed into it, so it can make parts for stuff. SO…I'm gonna dig up some of this mushroom stuff to feed into it. Just thought I'd let you know."

“Copy.” she nodded, accepting that Chet may not have thought about tracking time by the sun until now either. Meg paused her trek, raised a brow, and looked over in the direction her HUD said the camp was when her only companion mentioned doing something stupid… again. “That's not dumb.” she sighed as she listened to his plan. “At least, not that dumb. Just be careful.” she warned. “We don't know how these plants might react now that we know they're dangerous.”

"Right. Just… if you hear any loud noises, and I don't immediately say I'm ok… it was dumber than we thought." He gave a nervous chuckle after that. "I'm gonna do the digging a ways away from our site, just so if something goes wrong, nothing is destroyed." It wouldn't go that badly, he hoped. He just needed to figure a few things out and it would be fine. "Any luck on your scouting?"

Meg could help but chuckle with him at his reasoning. “Just keep talking to me. If you go silent, I’ll head back.” she assured, remembering there was a basic first-aid kit in at least one of the survival packs. Though she agreed with his idea about being away from the site as he tested this plan. “Nothing new to report. Just more of these carnivorous shroomtrees, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.” she admitted. Good because nothing was likely to attack them while they were here but bad because one wrong step and they could end up as this forest's next meal.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet froze, for just a second. He hadn't thought of the mushrooms as carnivorous, but… it was true. He shuddered a bit as he kept walking. "I can keep talking, that's fine. Probably ought to run my plans past you anyway." He chuckled at the thought, given that clearly, she was the voice of reason. "SO. I was thinking I ought to be to climb the shroomtree and attach a pulley system, which we could use to lower the pod to the ground. But I need to know how many pulleys to use, and for that I need to know the weight of the pod. It's probably in the specs of the pod, which I could get from the pod. But I also don't know what the gravity is here, and while we think it's lighter, I'm not sure and I don't want to take chances. So I need to measure it somehow. The tablet has a scale function, but it requires a small attachment, which it assumes we can just forge up. So I'm gathering the mass to feed the forge to forge the attachment to measure the gravity so I can calculate the weight of the pod so I can make the right amount of pulleys to get it down safely, and then figure out a way to move it with us." He took a deep breath after the long run-on sentence. "Make sense, or do I sound crazy?"

Meg smiled a little as she kept walking, listening to him talk. “Don't worry, I’ll do the same with my plans. Since it's only the two of us, an equal partnership sounds like the smartest way to do things. No point in keeping anyone in the dark.” She listened carefully to his plan, nodding occasionally even though he couldn't see it. “No. Your plan doesn't sound crazy.” she assured. “We definitely need to know those things for future reference as well. And depending on the strength of the pulleys and the weight of the pod, I feel like we should at least have one pulley in the ground so we can control the descent better… and hopefully, the lower gravity will help us too.”

"I was also thinking of some kind of frame with wheels that would allow us to move the pod. It won't be fast, but it'll be mobile." Chet had always been a mechanical mind, which was why he'd ended up as a cryo-tech. Cryopods needed maintenance often, and the physical nature of the job was easier than software or AI development. "Think I've found a spot. Digging now." he reported. He'd found an area, a clearing of sorts, where the matting didn't have a shroomtree in it for a bit. He pulled the nano-forge out of the pack he'd brought, and set it on the ground. He pulled the small shovel and set the edge of the blade on the ground. "Here goes." He planted his foot against the back of the shovel, and pushed. It took most of his weight to cut through the mat, and when he finally broke through, he cringed, waiting for repercussions. Nothing happened. "Seems ok. I'm gonna keep going."

“Sounds good.” Meg said, agreeing with the idea of making the pod mobile. It would slow them down, most likely, but it was still sturdy in case they needed something stronger than their tent and would be easy storage for any extra supplies they find or make. She held her breath as Chet announce that he was digging… and let out a sigh of relief when he spoke again. “Great. I think I’m halfway done with the perimeter so I… I’m going to try something to get back when I'm done.” she admitted, since she had run back to camp some when she heard the explosion of the shroomtree attacking she was no longer the full hundred yards away.

Chet nodded, only to realized she couldn't see him. "Sounds good!" He had cut a circle of the mushroom matting, creating a small hole. The soil underneath was black, a rich, dark black dirt that was shot through with the little mushroom tendrils, almost like roots. He dug a few shovel-fulls out and dumped them on the matting, and began dropping clumps of dirt into the matter reclaimer at the top of the forge. "Gonna make a bigger bag first." Once he had the bag forged up, he started working on bits and pieces, listing them off to Meg as he went. He kept an eye out for repercussions, but nothing happened. The shroomtree forest was as quiet as it had been. Until something bumped his feet. Not bumped his actual foot, but bumped the matting he was standing on. From underneath. Chet froze, before looking at the hole he'd been digging out. Something was moving in the dirt. Something large. "Uhhh… Meg? I'm packing up here, I've got some kind of…. some kind of worm or mole or something…" He hurriedly began putting all the pieces he'd forged up into the bag.

Meg was glad that nothing had seemed to happen to Chet as he dug out some dirt and she was thankful that he kept talking, walking her through his process and what he was making. Keeping inventory was important at this point and it showed accountability for later. “Copy. Get back to camp. Hopefully, it won't follow you.” she replied. “I’m heading back too. And I’m not changing my mind this time.” she almost joked. She ran in the direction of their camp and jumped. “Please let me land on my feet again.”

Chet managed to get everything packed up, and was ready to go, when he realized he'd left the shovel sticking in the dirt. He turned to grab it. "Heading back, I think I'm g-AAGH!!!" There was the sound of very heavy breathing, which the comms usually didn't pick up, and then he laughed, that same nervous laugh, but relieved this time. "Holy cow, that was huge… Meg, I'm ok… I reached for the shovel and as I grabbed it, a huge thing popped out of the dirt. I'll send you the file, but it looked like a leech and a crocodile had a mutant baby. It wouldn't touch the mushroom, so I'm glad I didn't make the hole bigger. I got away with all our stuff, I'm good, but holy cow!" He laughed again, then realized what she'd said. "Wait, why do you need to land on your feet?"

Meg couldn't help but laugh as the ground launched her higher into the air than what she would have achieved on Earth. And as a result of her running start, she propelled herself forward and covered more ground than she would if she had just been running. She bit her lip as she started falling but, fortunately, landed on her feet and bounced back up, continuing her progress. Though she stumbled when she heard Chet scream. “What?” she asked in concern, scrunching up her nose at the description. “That sounds so gross.” she shook her head, trying to clear the image from her mind. “I said, I was going to try something. I’m using the low gravity and the bouncy forest floor to speed up my travel.”

Chet had started to send the video file, but decided against it when she mentioned it sounded gross. It had certainly looked gruesome, and he didn't figure she'd appreciate have that show up in her helmet. He was impressed with her idea. "Ooo, you'll have to show me how that works when we get back. With my luck, I'd break something if I tried by myself." Chet was enjoying how much stuff he was carrying. The lowered gravity meant he could lift a little more. He wasn't sure how much more right now, but he was confident he would've struggled with everything in the pack back on Earth. He made it back to the tent and remembered to check the sun's position. His HUD was saying it had been about and hour since he left the tent, though he couldn't tell just by looking at the sun.

“You might see it when I get back.” Meg laughed, jumping again. “It needs balance but I think we can practice while we’re here.” she suggested. The low gravity certainly had its perks, but figuring out everything else on this planet was going to be an interesting challenge. Not that she minded… Though so far it was also somewhat scary with the mushrooms eating animals and the description of the underground alien. “One thing’s for sure, being here isn't going to be dull.”

Chet smiled at the idea. "We may need to exercise anyway, or we run the risk of losing muscle mass in lowered gravity." He'd attached the small scale attachment to the tablet and weighed one of the knives, which very helpfully weighed exactly 1 lb. Here, it weighed a bit less. "Looks like gravity is roughly 80% of Earth gravity. Means everything is 4/5's the weight it would be." he mused. "Gonna work on getting things set up till you get back. Do you climb well?"

“Good idea.” she nodded, understanding the logic. Though she couldn't help wondering just how much stronger this low gravity was making them or if it was just in her head. Meg laughed a little at the ratio. “Hard to believe 20% makes this big of a difference. I should be back soon.” she informed. “Yeah, I’m a good climber. Especially with this lower gravity.”

"It does seem extreme for that slight of a variation…" He'd done the test correctly, but Meg was right. Something felt weird. But he couldn't think about that now. As long as the difference wasn't hurting them, he was fine with it. He dumped the bag and began getting the pulley system set up. Anchor point hammered into the ground. Rope tied off to it. Rope threaded through pulley. Pitons hammered into the lower part of the tree. It would make climbing easier, up to a point. Cart put together. Runners attached. They'd seemed a better option than wheels.

Meg almost let out a whoop of excitement at this type of travel but held back as she remembered how good the comms were. Seeing as she was finally getting close to the camp, she focused on slowing down and how to stop bouncing. She hadn't been on a trampoline in a long time but there had been some training that all the colonists had gone through in regard to different environments, including gravity. So it wasn't too hard and she wouldn't be surprised if Chet had gone through similar training. “Hey, Chet.” she waved as she approached, managing to get back to her feet. “Pulley system looks good.”

Meg came bouncing in, and Chet was impressed. She seemed to have very good motor control, and he was guessing he'd need more work to get there. "Thanks, but it's not done." He handed her the bag, with just a few things in it. "If you've got the energy, I need your help setting the upper 3 pulleys." He'd tied several of the ropes together, giving them very long rope that would thread through all the pulleys. "You'll need to climb up. I hammered in pitons on the lower part of the trunk, but beyond that, you'll have to drive them in. I figured if you can use the rope you already tied off, between it and the pitons it should be pretty easy to climb up. I can walk you through setting the pulleys once you're up there. Then it's just a matter of cutting the parachute straps. I've been using the back of the hatchet as a hammer, to cut down on tools. Figured you could use it to cut the straps too." He gave her a sheepish look. "I'd go up with you, but one of us has to be down here to hold the rope, so that when the straps get cute, the pod doesn't just drop and get damaged."

Meg nodded as she took off her pack and accepted the bag. “I can definitely use the rope from before to get up there. But between the low gravity and trampoline forest floor, I don't think I need the pitons to get up… I might need them to get down.” she pointed out, opening the survival pack and pulling out a knife and holster. “Don't worry, I know one of us needs to stay down here. And I’ll need you to talk me through how to put up the pulleys once I get up there.” she smiled as she strapped the blade to her leg before taking the hatchet as well.

Chet nodded, and handed her a loooong coil of rope with pulleys threaded onto it already. "I figured it would be easier to attach the pulleys already threaded than to have to climb up and down 3 times. This way I only send you up once." It wasn't a difficult process, just time consuming, and he was going to need the entirety of his strength to be focused on lowering the pod at least somewhat carefully to the ground. "Also, the pod specs on the tablet say it weighs roughly 2.5 tons on Earth. Thus why the 6 pulleys."

“Thanks.” Meg nodded gratefully, sliding her arm through the loop of the rope. “That does make it easier.” she asked as she looked up at the pod, trying to guess where the best places to attach the pulleys might be. Though she figured Chet probably already had that worked out too. “Is there anything else I need to know before I climb up there?”

Chet held up the end of the rope, which had a thick hook on it. "Once you get up there, I can talk you through all of this again, but essentially, you'll hammer the pulleys in, one in the trunk and two on opposite sides of the cap, and lower me every other pulley, which I'll attach down here. That'll cut the weight in 6. Then, from the same handle the current rope is attached to, you'll wrap the pulley rope around it and hook this over the rope. It should hold just fine under these stresses. Then, you'll have to cut the parachute straps one by one, till all the weight rests on the pulley rope." He flexed his hands, trying to get his blood flowing. "Then just… get back down here as quick and safely as possible, cuz even cut in 6, at 80% gravity, the pod is going to weigh about 670lbs. I don't want to drop it."

“I can do that.” she confirmed, stretching a little before taking the hook and looking at the rope. “As soon as I'm done setting everything up, if you can wait, I can come back down and help you on this end. That’ll cut the weight more and reduce the risk of damaging the pod.” Meg suggested as she was more than willing to help out. “Think you can handle that?”

Chet squared his shoulders. "I'll do my best, but as soon as that last parachute rope is cut, the weight will be on the pulley rope, and I don't have a fastener strong enough to hold that, other than me and you." In order to let the pod down slowly, they would have to hold the weight of it and let it go in small increments. He had a plan for how to do that, but still. "We'll get it though, one way or another." He smiled at her. "Survivors, right?"

“Survivors.” Meg smiled back. “I'll be back down as quickly as I can once the ropes are cut.” she assured, taking a few steps back before running and jumping at the rope. Thanks to the rubbery surface of this forest, she ended up grabbing the rope five feet above the ground… Which probably wasn't that high since the rope itself was still three feet off the ground. “You know… As the first humans here, we get to name this planet… Unless we find another sentient species here.” he mused as she climbed up.

Chet watched her climb, standing underneath a bit in order to break her fall if something went wrong. She was athletic, which was very helpful. Chet wasn't particularly. He'd done some sports in high school and college, but once he'd gotten into the tech program, he'd largely given that all up. He chuckled at her realization. "True. Not gonna lie, I'll be disappointed if we don't call at least this part of the planet the Mushroom Kingdom." The shroomtrees were blue, but it had been in his head all day. "And what do you think the chances of finding a sentient species are?"

Meg couldn't help but laugh at the reference but she wasn't going to argue. “Alright. Mushroom Kingdom it is.” she smiled, not losing momentum. She had always been an outdoorsy, adventurous type of person. Her dad had even taken her hunting a couple of times, and while she hadn't enjoyed it very much at the time she was sure she was really about to appreciate it here. “I don't know, honestly.” she admitted. “We've already encountered, well you encountered two alien species on this planet. Three if you include these mushrooms.” she pointed out. “Besides it’s hard to get a read on what other life there might be while we’re in a danger zone.”

"Yes!" He fist-pumped down on the ground. "Name confirmed. Guess that makes us Mario and Peach, huh?" He laughed, before realizing what he'd said. "Wait-… maybe more like Mario and Toad. I'm Toad." She was nearly to the top already. "That's true. There might be an abundance of species outside of the forest." A thought struck him. "Umm, you don't think the shrooms are sentient or anything, do you?"

Meg was instinctively two seconds away from being indignant before Chet changed his comment. Though she nearly chuckled when he demoted himself. “I know you were going for a reference but… How about Bonnie and Clyde?” she suggested, though she almost brought up Link and Zelda but she was never really sure what that relationship was. “I really hope they’re not. Otherwise, this mushroom is not going to appreciate me hooking up these pulleys.” she pointed out as she reached the pod and climbed over it. “As for any other species… I guess we’ll just have to find out once we get out of this forest. Ok. I’m ready to attach the first pulley. Wish me luck.”

Chet grinned, and used his HUD to relabel their gps markers 'Bonnie' and 'Clyde'. "Works for me." He looked back up as she reached the top. "Actually, wait. That brings up a good point. Do you think the shroomcap will explode like it did to that flying thing, if you hit it with a hammer?" He hadn't thought about that till just now, and the oversight made him groan out loud. "I'll… I'll let you decide what to do about that." he said quietly, his voice defeated. Their other option was for her to just cut the pod loose and hope it survived the drop, but… he wasn't confident in that.

Meg chuckled softly and shook her head when she saw the GPS tags change. “I didn't think of that.” she admitted, hesitating to actually put the pulley up. “The mushroom didn't react when you put the pitons in place, right? And we're operating with the belief that they only react to organic matter so… Hopefully, I'll be ok. Otherwise, get ready to catch me.” she warned, adjusting her grip on the hatchet and quickly hooking up the first pulley.

"Right… Ok." He braced as she swing the hatchet. Nothing happened, other than a solid thunk as the piton the pulley hung from drove into the cap. "Well, that's a good sign. Just make sure it's secure, before you drop me the next one." He caught the pulley from her and hammered his side into the ground with a knife handle and his boot. "Attach the next one to the trunk, then back to the cap." Over the course of the next few minutes, they got it. Meg was a regular monkey, and Chet was glad she was able to follow his directions. He'd never been sure he could give clear instructions. The pulleys were in place, and it looked like she'd tied off the rope to the pod. All that was left was cutting the parachute lines. "Good to go? Just lemme know before you slice each one."

Meg let out a sigh of relief when the pulley went in without a problem and carefully lowered the second one for Chet. “It's secure. So far so good.” she smiled, moving to set up her next one properly. The next few minutes were a steady repetition of getting into position, setting up one pulley, and sending down another. “Yep. Everything looks good up here.” she nodded, climbing on top of the pod. “Cutting the first parachute cord… Now.” she announced before slicing cleanly through the rope.

Chet watched as the pod swing a bit. "Oh yeah. Be careful that you're not in the way if it swings sideways. The way we set up the pulleys, it should just drop, but… just be careful. I won't be able to warn you." He was busily tying a big loop in the end of the rope, a loop that fit easily over one arm and around his chest. Kinda like a harness. He walked away, pulling all the slack out of the rope, and was quite a ways away by the end. The next two ropes went fine, and soon, it was down to the last parachute strap. Chet had his feet dug in, and was braced leaning against the rope, in the direction away from the tree. "Whenever you're ready, Meg."

“Copy.” she nodded, feeling the pod shift. The next few lines went just as smoothly allowing the pod to settle into the pulley ropes. “So far so good. You ready?” Meg asked, letting out a slow breath and glancing down at Chet before placing the blade against the last rope. “Cutting now.”

Chet threw his weight against the rope, digging in his boots and leaning forward till he was almost horizontal. The rope tensed, and he took the full 660 lbs. The pod shifted, just a tad, but didn't drop. "Great work…" His voice was strained over the comms. "Careful getting down…" The sight awaiting Meg at the bottom was… well Chet could only imagine what he looked like. He was 6'1", 180 lbs, and while the vac-suits certainly weren't skin-tight, they also were flexible enough to show strain. And right now, he was straining. He'd once helped a buddy move a car this way, and pulling the vehicle on a tow strap had been similar. At this gravity, the pod weighed less than the car had back on earth, but he was suspending the weight in mid-air. Not an easy task.

“Great work, yourself, Chet.” Meg smirked before quickly climbing down. She was practically sliding down the rope, but she managed to keep control of her descent to prevent a crash. It took less time for her to get down than for her to climb up but she still let go of the rope when she was about ten feet from the ground. Admittedly, she stumbled a bit again when she landed but quickly ran to Chet’s side and grabbed hold of the rope. “Alright. Let’s get this thing onto that new frame.” she grunted as she took as much of the weight as she could.

Chet had lined up the sled-frame under where he thought the pod would land. He would've liked to have been able to check on it, but he couldn't turn now to see. "Ok… so this is how we do this… You walk forward, I walk backward…. your main job is to keep the harness from yanking me off my feet… if I fall, I strangle, so…. thanks for not letting that happen…." He took a step back, digging his boot in, and the pod drop just a little. He took another step, and the pod dropped a bit more. Third step. Fourth. Fifth. Sixth step, his boot slipped, and he started to drop. The rope pulled taut and started to pull backwards on him.

“Right.” she nodded at the instruction, definitely wanting to avoid Chet accidentally strangling himself. Meg carefully stepped with him and braced herself when she felt the rope slip as he lost his footing. She even threw her back against his to keep him from going flying. “You ok?” she asked through gritted teeth as she dug her heels in.

Chet didn't immediately answer. He was busy throwing his body weight forward. Meg had managed to stabilize him long enough for him to get the load under control. He leaned into the harness, letting out a long groan, and the pod rose ever so slightly. "…..Thanks. And yes…" he said quietly. A few more steps, uneventful steps, and the pod was about a foot off the frame. "Last…. one!" Chet planted his back foot, and the pod settled. It didn't tip, the frame stayed intact, the ropes went slack, and Chet dropped to his knees. "…..we did it…" He smiled at Meg, exhausted. "I, uh… I think I need a nap." He was feeling light-headed, and the world was beginning to tunnel a bit as the fringes of his vision went black.

Meg just nodded when she heard him reply, not breaking her concentration as they started moving again. Admittedly, she was no bodybuilder so a part of her briefly wondered how much weight she was actually taking off of Chet… She had worked out some to stay fit and be able to handle herself in the occasional fight but she had never purposely bulked up on muscle. Though she was glad she had been able to help at all when he slipped. As the pod settled in its new frame and the rope went slack, she dropped onto her back, breathing heavily. “I… don't blame you.” she smiled back, just as exhausted. “Think… we can make it… into the tent?”

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet had never considered himself athletic, but he was a little taller than average, and that always helped in situations where strength would be needed. In truth, neither of them knew exactly how much of that he'd been supporting on his own, but however much it was, his body was feeling it now. Badly. Chet looked down at Meg, blinking hard, trying to clear his head. He was seeing spots, and the edges of his vision were fuzzy. "We can try…" He got to his feet, swaying, and reached down a hand to pull her up. The standing up had been too much, and the darkness closed in. Chet blacked out and toppled forward, where his head connected with the matting and bounced at a dangerous angle. He didn't move, clearly unconscious. Luckily, he'd managed not to land on Meg, by some miracle.

Meg had just started to lift her hand when Chet collapsed. She sighed, letting out a breathless chuckle as she lay there for a while. She finally managed to sit up slowly, still catching her breath before looking at Chet. As far as she could tell he was still ok, just exhausted and overexerted. Taking one more stable breath, she got up to her feet and picked up Chet, and dragged him towards the tent. It was a slow trip, even for the short distance, but she managed to get him inside and let him down gently. Closing the tent was easy but figuring out the air filtration and other necessary controls was a little trickier.

"uugghh… shoulda used more pulleys…" The low groan over the comms signaled he was awake after a bit, and a couple of seconds later, all the necessary controls were on and running. "I'll show you how to configure everything in a bit, gimme a minute." For Chet, the HUD controls were intuitive, and the tent was wired into his helmet, as well as the tablet. He sat up, and looked at her. "You dragged me all that way? Probably coulda left me, I'd have been ok." There was gratitude in his expression though. The tent made a high pitched ping, and Chet immediately reached up and unsealed his helmet with a hiss. A deep breath of cool, clean air, and all of his lightheadedness was gone. "Oh, that's nice…" he sighed, breathing in lungfulls of fresh, highly oxygenated air. "Take your helmet off, we're good." He pulled his all the way off, revealing sandy blonde hair underneath it. He'd had the vac-suit on since before he ran into Meg, and he was aware this was the first she'd see him without it. Dusky skin, straight short sandy-blonde hair, and hazel eyes greeted her with a smile. "I've not had to wear one of these things for this long in a while."

Meg sighed, taking a seat on the ground, when she heard Chet wake up. “First of all, take your time. There's no hurry.” she assured. “But I definitely wasn't going to leave you out on a currently hostile uncharted planet unconscious.” she chuckled, taking off her helmet as he gave her the all-clear. By now, her shoulder-length brown hair had completely dried from the cryo-pod, but it was definitely a bit of a mess from being in the vacsuit helmet. “I think this is the first time I've actually had a need to wear one.” she admitted with a shrug. “I’ve worn it for training and practice but..”

"Well, I'm glad you had one on." Chet said quietly. "Can't imagine trying to get that thing down by myself." he chuckled. He looked at Meg for a long moment, before sliding over and holding out a hand. "Nice to finally really meet you. I always feel like the helmets make everything so impersonal. It's good to see your face in a moment where we're not running for our lives." His voice got quieter as he thought about the events of the day, and good grief, had that all happened today??

“Knowing what we do about the giant mushrooms, I’m glad I had one too.” Meg chuckled, shaking her hair out of her warm brown eyes. “I can understand that. Good to meet you, Chet.” she smiled as she accepted the handshake. Though she let out a sigh at the reminder of everything that lead up to them even ending up on this planet. “Mind if I ask… What happened to the ship?” she asked softly. “It all just happened so fast, I didn't have a chance to understand why things were as bad as they were. You don't have to explain right now if you don't want to talk about it.” she added quickly.

Chet smiled at her and shook her hand. She was pretty, and he was going to have to be careful not to be weird about it, he just knew it. "I don't mind you asking, but the sad truth is I'm not really sure." he said quietly. "I got woken up from my bunk and told to get to my station and get the auxiliary crew woken up as fast as I could. I got some, about half, and you, apparently, before they evacuated us." He looked down as he tried to remember, replaying the events in his head. "The warnings had to do with the graviteum drive, the big engine for the ship, but I have no clue what caused it to malfunction. It was the first thing to go wrong, and it was what went wrong badly enough for us to have to evacuate." He looked up at her apologetically. "Sorry I don't have more for you than that."

Meg was relieved that Chet didn't mind telling her, regardless of how much he actually knew about it. “Thank you.” she nodded. “I appreciate that all the same.” she assured. She sighed and looked around the tent, trying not to dwell on the sadder parts of what happened after. “Well, I’m going to be thankful that you woke me up at all for a long time.” she chuckled softly. “So, thank you, again.”

Chet nodded, thinking about how things could have gone differently. But her quiet chuckle and thanks pulled him back to the now. "Meg… you're welcome, but… please don't keep thanking me." He swallowed hard. "I, um… I'm not so sure that a life stuck on this planet is better than being dead. I mean, so far so good, but… Well. Save your thanks for when we're thriving, at which point I'll be thanking you…" He trailed off, not entirely sure what he was trying to say, before deciding to just change the subject. "We should inventory the packs. Or-" he yawned suddenly, before glancing over at the tablet and noting what 'time' it was. "Or we could sleep."

Meg nodded at the request. “Sorry. I'm not usually like this. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and all but…” she sighed, shaking her head. “I guess we can chalk it up to this just being so chaotic.” She looked at the remaining packs and shrugged. “I mean, you did just collapse from exhaustion… and I think I could use some rest too. The tent is secure enough for both of us to rest, right?” she asked, hoping that it was since she wasn't in the mood to sleep in shifts right now.

Chet shook his head. "Don't apologize, I'm just… trying to process. You're not bothering anyone." He looked around at her question and winced. "Umm… I'm going to say yes. Between it and the mushrooms keeping all organic life out, we should be good." The tent was decently large, with plenty of space for two people to sleep away from each other. "How sticky are you about privacy? I can drop a couple flaps to create rooms, sorta. If you want."

“Ok.” she chuckled softly, hoping that by “tomorrow” she’d be… She knew she wouldn't be back to normal. After a trauma like the one they’d just survived, hardly anyone would be. So she just hoped that she would be better. Meg shrugged at the question and smirked. “I've had roommates before. But I was just planning on taking the vacsuit off and sleeping in the cryo-clothes.” she admitted. “It's surprisingly comfortable when dry.”

Chet immediately reddened at the implications of his question and her response. "Oh, I wasn't meaning you were gonna undress or anything, I just mean-… you know, you don't know me and that can be uncomfortable even clothed and-… I was just-…" He rubbed his face, embarrassed. "I'm tired, ok?" he laughed. "And there are clothes in one of the packs I opened. Gender neutral, one size fits all kind of stuff. So if you wanted to change you could. And once we get a water source figured out, we'll have a shower and stuff too, so… anyway." He reached for the tablet, avoiding eye contact.

Meg laughed and shook her head. “Calm down. I wasn't going to do that.” she assured, blushing at the mental image of either of them stripping in front of the other. “You're right. We don't really know each other yet but it's obvious that we can trust each other considering all the work we did once we arrived on this planet. And the fact that we're both the only humans around probably helps too.” she added quietly before getting herself back on topic. “Anyway, I’m not worried about that right now.” Though she was glad to hear that there were extra clothes available so they wouldn't have to wear the same thing all the time. “Water is definitely a priority.” she agreed. “But sleep sounds really good to me right now. So why don't you show me what this tent has for sleeping arrangements and we can think about the rest when we wake up?” she suggested, tempted to put her hand on his arm to get Chet to calm down.

She laughed, and Chet was relieved. He was continually sticking his foot in his mouth, and that was problematic. She didn't seem worried, so he shouldn't either, but some part of him was still nervous he was going to say or do something to make her hate him. And with them being the only two on the planet, as she'd said, that would be really bad. He tried to relax a bit. "Yeah… there's some water in the ration kits, if you're thirsty. And as far as sleeping…" The tent was meant for a few more people, so it had several sleeping slots. They looked like sleeping bags, built right into the floor of the tent, like little pockets. "They're kinda weird, but they look warm." He pointed to the one by the door. "I'll take that one, and you pick whichever one you like." He stood, and started to peel out of the vac-suit, down to the clothes he'd had on when he woke up. Luckily, space pj's were essentially a t-shirt and jeans, so he wasn't in his underwear or anything.

“Alright.” she nodded. “And I noticed that there are purifying water bottles too. For rain, oceans, or ponds but I imagine that they're either limited use and need replacement filters or need to be cleaned with safe water.” Meg theorized before glancing at the unusual beds. She sighed and walked over to one just two away from him. “Well, I can honestly say I've slept in stranger arrangements.” she chuckled as she started pulling off her vacsuit, thinking about the cryotube that she had been in for… she couldn't remember how long.

Chet shook his head a little. "Rechargeable. And we've got reactors so we're good on power sources." Her choice of-… sleeping pocket? caught him off guard. He kinda figured she'd have picked one farther away, though he wasn't bothered. "Oh, the cryotubes? Yeah, they can be kinda weird, but once you've been around them enough, they start to feel more normal." He chuckled, thinking about how long it had taken him being a cryo-tech to stop thinking of them as coffins. "Although I guess I don't have to tell you that, seeing as you've been in them…" He looked up mid-sentence, and froze. The cryo-clothes were comfortable, but they were not loose-fitting. And whether it was just the emotional day they'd had, or that it caught him off guard, Chet was not ready for the sudden warmth that suffused through his chest.

“Well, that's good to know.” Meg chuckled as she paused to get the knife holster off her leg before she could take the full suit off. “Yeah, those things.” she nodded. “When I stepped in mine before launch, I actually felt pretty claustrophobic. Glad I fell asleep before I could start panicking… What are you looking at?” she asked, raising a brow when she saw Chet staring. Meg stood at an average 5’8” and, obviously, had an athletic build. But despite all the hard work she did to maintain her defined muscle, Meg still considered herself fairly plain even though she knew some people who would call her intimidating just based on her sharp facial features.

Chet's blush from before had just faded most of the way, but it was back with a vengeance this time. "Uh… I'm sorry, I kinda zoned out there for a second." Great excuse, idiot. Meg was kinda his type. He wouldntnhave necessarily guessed that, but his brain was telling him it was true by bumping his heart rate up just a bit. "I'm, uh… I'm just really tired." He looked down at the tablet, and this time, he was not looking up again. For a good long while.

“If you say so.” Meg replied, a little skeptical but she was willing to drop it and avoid any awkwardness. Besides, she was pretty tired as well and didn't have the energy, mentally or physically, to go through that right now. “You get some sleep, Chet.” she sighed as she climbed into the odd sleeping bag/pocket. Though she had to admit that it was very comfortable.

"You too." Chet felt ridiculous. He was also a tad bit guilty. So far, he hadn't had to outright lie to Meg, but this one felt slightly dishonest. The tent wasn't secure in the least. But he was working on it. It was the specific reason he'd grabbed the tablet. It took a while, but he configured the door locks and an alarm system. By that point, he'd started to doze mid-process, and he fell asleep with the tablet laying in front of his face, on his side, half out of his sleep-pocket. He slept a solid 10 hours.

Meg sighed, making herself relax as she tried to fall asleep. Normally, she was a pretty light sleeper but due to the craziness of the day, she slept soundly. Though she also could chalk it up to the fact that being in cryo wasn't quite the same same as actual sleep. It was more like being in a coma or blackout drunk… Not that she had much experience with either of those situations. She wasn't sure how long she slept but when she woke up, she definitely felt better.

The tablet was helpfully displaying the time, and it showed she'd been asleep roughly ten hours. Chet was still out cold in his pocket, though it looked like he hadn't moved much to tuck himself in or anything. Shortly after Meg woke up, Chet began muttering in his sleep, and suddenly sat straight up in a jerky motion, gasping sharply. He turned and looked at Meg, his eyes wide, his chest heaving for a moment, before he got control of himself and sank back into the pocket. "…… sleep ok?"

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

“Like a log.” she nodded as she sat up, stretching out stiff muscles. “All that heavy lifting and everything… Just knocked me out.” she admitted. “You ok?” she asked gently, concerned but unsurprised that he might have had a nightmare. Meg did raise a brow at the state of his bag/pocket, she wasn't judging him just curious. Though she wouldn't be surprised if he had just been that tired.

Chet nodded quickly at her. "Good. Yeah, me too, I get that…" He looked at anything other than her face when she asked about him, before deciding she'd seen it and was going to see it, so he may as well be honest. "I nightmare pretty easily… kinda regularly… so. There's that. Added a new one to the repertoire." He fidgeted with the edge of his sleep-pocket, before sitting back up and climbing out. "So. The light outside seems to be pretty much the same. Which means we're either in seasonal planetary night, or day." Obviously. He rubbed his face. She's not stupid, you dunce. He went over to the packs and dug for the rations kits. "You hungry?"

Meg raised a brow at the evasive way Chet answered but nodded slightly when he admitted to the nightmare. “It's ok. I’m not going to judge you. Considering everything we went through, I’m surprised that I didn't have one as well.” she replied assuringly. “That makes sense.” she hummed. “Which would put us at one of the poles of this planet… Assuming there's that much similarity between this planet and Earth.” she added as she ran her fingers through her hair to try to tame her bedhead. “Famished.” she nodded enthusiastically at the mention of food.

Chet flashed her a grateful smile. He'd had people make fun of his nightmares, calling him a wimp or coward for being afraid of a 'bad dream', like a little kid or something. If only they knew how graphic and real those always felt. "If you do have one, we can talk it through if you need. I've got lots of experience working through nightmares." She worked out the poles question quickly. "We might very well be, and with a blue sun, the poles wouldn't be entirely frozen like on Earth. Also, I haven't seen the sun elsewhere to know which cycle we're in, so…" He shrugged to sum it all up. The ration kits were the self-cooking chemical reaction type. They tasted funny but at least had flavor, and were highly nutritious. Their other option was nutripaste, a grey substance about the consistency of play-dough. It was even more nutritios, and the nano-forge could make it out of anything, so they'd never starve, but… nutripaste was bland. Beyond bland. So Chet pulled out the ration kits and checked the labels. "Looks like their just labeled by meal time. Want me to dig for two breakfast ones, or just whatever we grab first?"

“I might take you up on that sometime.” Meg smiled. “But just know you can talk to me about yours too.” she assured, nodding at the logic. “I just hope it's not winter. Spring or summer would give us a better chance to set up any kind of survival base and figure out what might be edible here. And might taste better than these.” she added semi-jokingly as she opened the ration pack and began eating.

Chet smiled as she dug into the pack without bothering to check what it was. Must have been HUNGRY… He picked a breakfast one, cracked the chemical pack, waited the ten seconds for it to cook, and tore it open. It looked like some version of eggs, bacon and toast, but if a kid had drawn a picture in crayon and then somebody made a dish to match the picture. It tasted like what someone who had never had eggs, bacon and toast might imagine it tasted like. Still, it was flavor, and his stomach settled gratefully around the nutritious food. "So… goals for the day?" Chet knew what he might suggest, but he wanted to know what Meg was thinking and feeling.

Considering she hadn't eaten since waking up from cryosleep, and actually a couple of hours before that, she was definitely hungry. Which made the normally bland ration pack taste even closer to the cinnamon apple oatmeal that it was supposed to be. Meg hummed, nodding at the question. “Right. We should start with inventory and maybe figure out where we are. Like which pole we're at… If the planet has magnetic fields and how to navigate with them.” she answered. “At least we don't have to worry about losing light for a while but we’ll have to set up our own “time limits” so we don't lose track of getting enough sleep.”

Chet offered her another pack. "Still hungry? Can't have you starving while we're trying to get things accomplished." He listened to her list, nodding along. "Inventory is just a matter of listing everything out. Should be able to do that in our HUD's. The tablet should have a compass based on magnetism, I'll have to check." He hadn't even thought to check that, but it would certianly be helpful. "Time limits. So how long do you want a 'day' to be?" He'd just figured they'd go to sleep when they were tired, but he remembered something about circadian rhythms and figured she knew more about it. See, this is why it's good you've got someone else with you. His own list included retrieving the stuff out of the shroomtree, which included most of their rope at this point, and making sure he could move the pod on the sled. It would make packing really easy for them to able to just stick stuff back in the pod and haul it all as a unit. He also was going to try to fab up a small drone in order to be able to see more of the landscape without having to walk it all. But Meg knew what was important, so he'd listen to her.

Meg shook her head. “Tempting. But even with the extra packs we should monitor what we have until we find something more sustainable.” she pointed out. “But you're going to have to walk me through the HUD and the extra stuff on the tablet.” She shrugged at the question about the length of a day. “I'm sure you know that, on average, we should get at least 8-9 hours of sleep… So until we find out how long a day here is, how does sticking to about a fourteen-hour day sound to you?” she suggested. She hadn't forgotten about the equipment in the shroomtree and if Chet had mentioned testing the setup for the pod, she would have agreed.

Chet nodded about the food. Sustainable was good. He was a bit surprised. He'd never comfortably gotten more than 6 unless he was sick or depressed. Then he was sleeping 12. "14 hour days sound good." He moved over to the pile of packs and spread them out, separating the unopened from the open ones. "Not to tell you what to do, but we can inventory the stuff up in the shroomtree a little easier if it's down here…" he suggested quietly.

Meg raised a brow at the quiet comment as she joined him by the bags. “Why not? We’re partners right now, aren't we? If we can't listen to each other's ideas, then we're not going to survive as well as we should.” she pointed out gently. “Do you want us to get that equipment down now or start with the packs first?” she asked in the same tone, clearly open to suggestions.

Chet was struggling, just a bit. His mental health hadn't ever been the best, but he was good at his job, so his psychologists had signed off on him being on the Deus as long as he kept things under control. He'd also been faking it when they'd been checking on him, because the Deus had been a dream come true. He wasn't about to miss out on it because of some piddly mental diagnosis. Now, though, he had a million thoughts running through his head, jumbled and unhelpful, and he had to wonder how much he could lean on Meg before she began to get annoyed. He'd been trying, and the adrenaline of the previous day had helped, but now, after some sleep, his brain was beginning to realize the situation it was in more fully. He'd also just realized he didn't have his medication with him. It had been on the Deus and it's not like he'd grabbed it when things went sideways. The nano-forge had templates for some very basic meds, but nothing specific like he needed. So when Meg put the question to him like that, he froze, his brain stuck in decision paralysis. He dug out of it as quickly as he could, by closing his eyes and speaking his thoughts in one long train. "So I was thinking that you're the one who climbs better and I've got a better grip on the tablet and HUD so if you can retrieve the equipment while I get started creating the inventory lists it would probably be the best use of our abilities but I don't want to force you to do anything and I don't want you to feel like I'm taking the easier job on purpose, it's just that we have different strengths so we do different things, and we can get more done today and maybe even get moved out of this carnivorous Mushroom Kingdom today if we were to work together but I'm also not in charge and I don't know how to say things so that people won't be insulted by my suggestion that I think a particular way of doing things would fit them and fit us and I don't want to offend, but so often people take things the wrong way, and you're right, if we can't listen to each other we won't make it very long but I also don't want to push you or seem like I'm taking charge, because I'm not and you really don't want me in charge, so-… yeah." He looked up at her. "Sound good?" It was a hopeful question, a reaching out to check We're good after I've said what could be insulting, right?

Meg had to admit she hadn't been expecting such a long answer but she nodded as Chet talked, almost smiling at certain points. “Ok then. Well, first of all, I never said that I didn't want you to be in charge. I just thought an equal partnership would be easier since it's just the two of us. If we had a larger group then yes we would need someone to be a leader to coordinate everyone.” she explained before nodding. “But you are right. We have different skills and, while I would like to learn more about the HUD and tablet, it makes a lot of sense to play to our strengths. And don't worry about offending me with suggestions or how you think things can be done. I’m not a “my way or the highway” type of gal.” she smiled as she stood up. “I’ll get the equipment out of the shroomtree while you work on the inventory lists and we’ll see what we can do about moving camp today.” she agreed, stretching her muscles before putting the vacsuit and knife holster back on.

Chet nodded quickly at her. "Oh, no, I didn't mean you'd already said it; I'm telling you, knowing me, you don't want me in charge. It would just be bad for all involved." She was being so careful with his feelings, and Chet appreciated it. "Thanks for being flexible about this stuff… I can teach you the tablet and HUD while we're on our way to wherever we wind up after this, if you want…" He looked back down as she stretched, not wanting to be creepy, before realizing that if she was leaving, he had to be suited up too. A mad scramble, and he was back in his suit and sealing the helmet pretty quickly. "Realized we're about to lose pressure and clean air in here when you open the door, that would've been bad." he chuckled quietly, making sure the comms were on.

“Oh, ok.” she nodded when Chet admitted he didn't feel suited for a leadership position. Though that wasn't an issue either way to her. He still had good ideas for the most part so far and she knew she wouldn't be making so much progress without him. “I’d like that.” Meg smiled at his offer to teach her more of the technological side of their equipment. “I was actually about to ask that. I didn't want you to get hurt.” she assured as she finished putting on her vacsuit before checking on him. “I’ll let you know when I’m done so you can let me know when it's safe for you.”

"Thanks." He smiled at her. "Just leave the door open, I'm gonna keep the suit on so I can use the HUD anyway. That way you can come in and out freely." They'd just have to be aware of each other in the future, so he didn't open the door and suffocate her or something. Chet stood and walked to the door with her, disengaging the lock system and alarms he'd programmed in last night. He looked through the small porthole-esque window, looking for anything different. "Looks good from here, but… be careful."

“Alright.” Meg nodded, walking over to the door with him. “Comm me anytime. I should be back soon.” she smiled as she put on her helmet. She waited until the sealing hiss of the vacsuit had stopped before exiting the tent. “You be careful too.”

Chet watched her go, satisfied everything was safe, before plopping back down over by the packs. He started slowly, but got into a rhythm of separating and categorizing the packs. There were 6 of them, each with various things. Some of the things were common, giving them 6 copies of each thing. Some were specific. Chet didn't realize he was being completely silent in his deep focus, but he was. Not even muttering to himself.

Meg walked over to the shroomtree, glad that they had left the pitons in place as she grabbed hold of them and started climbing. It took her a longer time to climb the trunk with the pitons than with the rope yesterday but she didn't let it deter her. Once she finally reached the top, she carefully and methodically took out the pulleys, looped the rope around her arm, then moved on to grab the parachute as well. Who knew how helpful the material or cords could be…

Pack 1- Tent. 2 12" knives. Hatchet. Foldable shovel. Miniaturized reactor. Pack 2- Tablet. Nano-forge (SM). 2 lighters. Pliers. Pack 3- First-aid kit. 2 big rolls of medical tape, 2 of electrical tape, 2 of duct tape. Pack 4- Inflatable boat. 2 Stone paper notebooks, 2 waterproof pens. Telescoped oar. Pack 5- 1' long Fusion blade. 1 flashlight (20kL). 3 flashlights (1kL). Pack 6- 1 Joule (firearm). 1 Magax (firearm). 1 AI Core. All packs- 50ft of rope. Food and water for 1 person for a week. 1 change of durable clothes. 1 6" knife. 1 purifying water bottle. This was the list that Chet had compiled. He'd gone with dumping the packs and labeling everything according to what pack it came from. There were some redundancies, like having 6 water bottles for the 2 of them, but… He could see a use for almost everything on the list.

Meg struggled a little with the parachute, both with getting it off the shroomtree and finding a way to carry it down. But, eventually, she managed and made it back to the ground safely. Setting down the equipment, she started folding the large sheet for better storage even if they just put it inside the lifepod. It was probably not an urgent task but it was definitely time-consuming when she actually considered the size of the parachute… Of course, it needed to be large in order to have any noticeable effect on the pod. She hadn't been paying attention to the little clock on her HUD and since the sun didn't make any noticeable progress so she wasn't sure when she actually finished. But with everything done, she put the folded parachute away and brought the rest of the equipment, including the pitons, into the tent.

With the packs all spread out around him, Chet was going through the nano-forge templates the tablet had, seeing what they would be able to forge up. So far, he'd be able to have basic tools, which meant they could build just about anything, with enough time to forge up the individual pieces for. It had been 2 hours, but two hours of silence as they'd both focused on their tasks. In fact, Chet was so focused, he didn't even look up when Meg walked in.

Meg hadn't meant to sneak up on Chet, she just didn't want to distract him while he was working. But now… She cleared her throat slightly and shut the tent, the pulleys rattling a little as she moved. Hopefully, that would be enough noise to let him know without startling him.

Chet jumped, but just a little. "Oh, you're back. That was quick." He glanced up at her with all the stuff. "Everything go ok?" He glanced at the clock, and realized what time it was. "Oh… uh. Sorry." He grinned sheepishly at her. "Didn't mean to go radio silent." The tent pressurized, now that the door was shut, and Chet pulled his helmet off to breathe the cleaner air. "I can send you the list of the inventory, as it stands…. got most of it done, I think…"

Meg raised her hands slightly in an apologetic gesture when he jumped. “Everything went fine.” she nodded. “Don't worry about it. I figured you needed the quiet to work on this. Sorry if I scared you.” she added, taking off her helmet when it was safe. “Sure. That’d be nice.” she smiled as she brought the rope and pulleys over, setting them in a separate pile to avoid messing up his system. “And we can add the lifepod’s parachute to that list too.”

"I startle easy if I'm deep into concentration on something, you're ok." He smiled at her. "At least I didn't squeal or something embarrassing." He sent her the file, making sure it was editable, before adding the 20 pitons, 6 pulleys, and 4 parachute straps to the list. "Looks like we've got weapons in the bags, which I hadn't noticed. Know much about energy weapons?"

“That's fair.” Meg chuckled, nodding. She wasn't sure what her reaction would have been if he had made a noise like that but… right now wasn't the time to figure it out. “I know the basics. I think I went through a brief training course for weapons.” she hummed thoughtfully as a couple possible situations where any of the weapons came to mind.

Chet pointed to where he'd set the two weapons. "The Joule is an energy weapon, fires a blast of lightning or laser or something. The Magax is a kinetic weapon, which fires a physical projectile, which we can forge up more of. So they're endlessly armed, sorta." He glanced at Meg. "We've been very lucky, I think, that we've landed in a life-less area. But… it might be good for us to have those on us…. do you have a preference?"

Meg nodded, listening to his explanation. “Right. Umm, I'm honestly more familiar with kinetic weapons so I can handle the Magax.” she admitted. “Though it does depend on what we're up against.”

Chet nodded, and indicated the bigger slide pistol. "We'll just have to make sure you've got ammo at all times, is all. Do you know how these work?" He wasn't trying to be insulting, he just wanted to be sure she'd be safe. "Also, there are 9 knives and a hatchet. Three of those are a foot long, and one of those is a fusion blade. 6 of them are the little 6" ones, like what you've got on you right now. There's also the shovel, and I was thinking about fabbing up an actual hammer, and maybe a pickaxe of some kind. Thoughts?"

“In the meantime, I’ll just have to make every shot that I have count.” she smiled, not taking any offense as she picked up the indicated gun. She made sure to check that the safety was still on and never pointed it at Chet. “For safety's sake, maybe we should each take a one-foot-long blade and two 6” ones too.” she suggested. “Do you know how to handle a fusion blade?”

"It's got an ammo block in it at the moment, so you should be good for a while, unless we get into some kind of fight. And yes, though if you'd like the fusion blade, I can take the other long one." He walked over and began separating the gear from it's individual piles to two separate piles. 1 firearm each. Three 6" blades. 3 purifying water bottles. 3 days worth of food and water. 3 sets of clothing. When it came to the more specific things, they'd need to decide who carried what, and what was actually necessary for them to have. Chet picked up the 300ft coil of rope he'd tied together for the pulleys, and set to untying the 6 50ft ropes, to give them three each. "Hey, have you seen these stonepaper notebooks? They're kinda cool!" The notebooks had hard covers, and stonepaper was known to be waterproof and tearproof. "I don't know how you take notes, or if you do, but there are 2 of them, so. One each?" He was really kinda hoping she didn't have a use for hers, but he wasn't going to ask for both of them.

“Good.” she nodded as she set down the gun, a bit relieved to know that it was fully loaded. “Hopefully, we don't get into that kind of fight. But I don't mind if you take the fusion blade. I kinda like having something more solid in my hands.” Meg assured, watching him sort everything. She hummed questioningly before noticing the notebooks and picked one up. “No, I didn't see these yet but they do look pretty cool.” she agreed as she thumbed through the blank pages. “I wasn't planning on taking notes but… It might be a good idea to keep track of what we come across here.” she said thoughtfully. “Maybe… If it's alright with you, we could use the same book, then move on to the second when we run out of pages?”

Both firearms had holsters, which could be attached to the belts on the clothes, or to the utility belt on the vac-suits. Chet made sure the holsters were with the weapons, the sheaths with the knives. He got the knots undone and put three coils of 50ft each on the piles. He put the two foot-long knives in Meg's pile, and the fusion blade in his. "Sounds like a plan to me, though…" he deliberated on asking this part. "Would you mind if, uh… if I journal? It's something I've done to keep my thoughts in order…" It was something his therapist had him do whenever he switched medications. Or when he was off. Or when his mental health took a dive. And he figured this situation counted. Though he immediately facepalmed as he realized he could just fab up another notebook with the nan-forge. "Nevermind. Scrap that. I gotta get used to having a forge around." He continued separating the stuff. 1 lighter each. 1 roll of each of the kinds of tape. 1 pen, which were also not just any pens. These were known to be able to write legibly and lastingly on most any surface. The bigger items were going to have to live in the pod, likely, but they'd figure those out.

“No. I don't mind.” Meg started to assure until he mentioned the forge. “Ah, right. I’m not used to it either.” she chuckled. “But at least, if the forge can make more of these then I guess we can each keep one.” she added with a slight smile, wondering how well these stonepaper notebooks would work for drawing.

"Yeah, as long as we've got mass to feed it, we can forge up a lot of things." Chet said, happily separating one notebook each. "I'm going to do some fabricating before we get going. I thought maybe some bigger backpacks, since we're condensing the emergency packs?" He separated the flashlights, 2 of the small ones for him, and the last small one and the big one for Meg. "Don't look into those, they're really bright." He grinned sheepishly, blinking to demonstrate how he'd felt after he'd looked straight into the 20,000 lumen bulb. "Didn't realize what the on switch was…" Luckily, he'd had his helmet on, and it had flash protection, so he wasn't blind, but it was close. He picked up the vacuum sealed first aid kit. "So…. This is going to get much bigger once it's opened. Hopefully that won't be for a while." He glanced at Meg. "You seem like you would know first aid pretty well, you want it on you?"

“Great. That's going to be very useful.” she smiled, already wondering how many items the forge could make that they didn't already have or would need later. But she trusted Chet had more information and experience with the forge. “And some larger backpacks would be nice for all this gear.” she agreed. Meg chuckled, carefully picking up the flashlight at the warning as she located the power button. “I do know some basic first aid so if you're more comfortable with me taking the kit, I can do that.” she nodded. “Speaking of getting bigger, do you know how we can pack up the tent for travel?”

"It's a small forge, so we can only forge things that are smaller than it is, but. We can forge up pieces to build bigger things, and maybe… I don't know. I might be able to fab the pieces to build a bigger one, though we don't have the templates to build bigger things. I'd have to design stuff, which I'm not great at. I have a hard time drawing the things in order to blueprint them for the schematics." He smiled when she accepted the backpack idea. He'd be able to feed some of the smaller packs into the forge to make the backpacks. Tons of pockets, reinforced backings. He put the first aid kit in Meg's pile, as well as the hatchet, before putting the shovel in his. He snagged the pliers, before deciding that the nano-forge, the AI core, the boat and oar, and the tent could all just live in the pod, rather than in their backpacks. "The tent should collapse down into something I can carry over my shoulder. It initially fit in the pack, so even if it's twice as big as it started, it's carry-able, and if we just toss it in the pod, it doesn't even have to be neat. Also, does splitting the gear like this look good to you?"

“That’s fine. The smaller one is easier to travel with anyway. Maybe when we find a good spot to set up an official base we can see about making a bigger one.” she assured, liking his overall idea. Meg nodded at the way Chet had divided their gear and supplies as well as the information about the tent. “Well, even if it does fold up that much, we can just put it in the pod with the bigger stuff.” she suggested. “Though we should test how easy that is going to be to move… and how heavy it's going to be… Or feel.”

Official base. That'd be nice. "It'll definitely fit in the pod. Shouldn't be an issue." He plopped down next to the nano-forge and started feeding the packs into it. It looked similar to paper being fed into a shredder. "If you ever had to push a car with a dead battery or something back on Earth, then you know that lifting something and moving it horizontally are different. With the sled under the pod, we should be able to move it pretty easily, especially once some momentum gets going." The forge made an odd noise, and spat two small, wadded-up balls of canvas and kevlar out of the mouth. CHet picked up one and shook it out, revealing a highly flexible, multipocketed, kevlar reinforced backpack, much bigger than the packs had been. He tossed it on Meg's pile and shook out the other one. "I'll let you pack your own." he said, grinning at her.

Meg chuckled and nodded slightly. “I think I had to help with that once before. It was certainly something.” she agreed, watching Chet use the forge. “But I do hope that this is going to be easier than that was.” “Thanks.” she smiled as she accepted her new bag and started packing it methodically.

"It should be, by a bit. The runners on the sled should be pretty easy to slide, and the gravity is less here, which means the friction will be less as well." They packed for a bit in silence after that, before Chet felt like the quiet had gone on long enough. "So, Meg… where ya from?"

Meg nodded, glad for his explanation and the way he seemed to have planned this out. “Hmm… Oh, you mean where on Earth?” she asked for clarification. “I actually moved around a bit. For the most part, I grew up in the midwest but after school I spent some time in… either Oregon or Washington state, and my mom moved to Florida after my dad…” she cleared her throat, shaking away the memory. “Anyway, where are you from?”

Chet had nodded at her to clarify he meant Earth. He listened, nodding, until she trailed off, clearly not wanting to touch that topic. He could understand that. "I grew up in Missouri, all the way till I went to college. Went to a tech school on Mars and got recruited by Space Force while I was there. They stationed me on Ceres, till the Attack, and, well… here I am." He shrugged, grinning like ta-da. "Where'd you go to university? Or did you pick up your skills and wind up in the operation some other way?"

Meg chuckled at the way he ended his answer and nodded. “You're lucky. I heard that some of the schools on other planets were… Well, all kinds of things. Harder, more expensive, advanced, stuff like that.” she shrugged. “Oh… Well, I didn't go to a university to get here, if that's what you mean.” she admitted, focusing on packing. “Honestly, my dad taught me most of the stuff I know about survival. Then it became a hobby, studying the conditions of other planets and what it would be like to live on certain ones. Honestly, I was lined up to go to the Kansas Art Institute but… things changed, and I lost the inspiration to become an artist.” she sighed as she debated on whether or not she should tell Chet why. “But my mom insisted that I not give up on an education so I changed my focus toward something that would get me in either the police force or maybe something more military. Despite that I racked up enough credits for my survivalist hobby to be a minor degree.” she blushed a little at that. “When the attack came, I volunteered to help.”

"I was very lucky, I-…" he paused, before swallowing and going on. "I, uh… I was married to a girl who was brilliant enough to get a full ride to the school on Mars, and part of her deal was being able to bring me along and get my education paid for. I had already been good at tech, but after we got educated, Space Force snapped us both up. Like, had us signing contracts in our caps and gowns." He listened carefully, noting the details of Meg's story. "Well… I'm sorry about your art. Losing the feeling of passion for something you love is… hard. But, you're not on Earth under attack, so… I guess that's a plus?" He'd certainly thought so, before they got marooned.

Meg winced as Chet told her about his wife, and felt bad that she had been thinking about how cute and sweet he was, but nodded at the story. “I’m so sorry.” she said sincerely. “I guess we both lost someone.” she added in a whisper. “Yeah. It was supposed to be.” she agreed with a rueful chuckle. “A part of me thought that by doing this, I could start completely over while doing something useful that would honor my father.” she admitted before looking up from her bag.

Chet looked a bit confused. "Sorry about what?" He caught her whisper, and his confused expression turned more sympathetic. He'd stopped packing and was just watching her, not in a creepy way, but showing interest in the conversation. "Well… you definitely got a fresh start. Different than life before." he said quietly. "And I think you've honored anybody you ever wanted to offer. You're alive and doing well. Not many would have made it off the Deus after having been recently accidentally woken up from cryo." He wanted to ask clarifying questions, figure out what she meant, but… while Chet was the type to share quickly, he knew not everybody was like that, and he didn't want to push her.

“That you… Oh, I thought your wife was also on the Deus.” she admitted, blushing at the assumption. “Or I guess that I was just sorry that you separated and that you ended up here without her.” Meg nodded at the fact that Chet was right and smiled softly. “Well, I’ve never been the kind of person to just lay back or let something keep me down. I've always been a fighter.” she chuckled before noticing the look he was giving her. “My dad was shot back on Earth. Some mugger in an alley. That's why I lost my artistic inspiration and gave up on it.” she explained simply.

"Oh… ha." Chet's expression plummeted. "No, she-… she wasn't on the Deus. We, umm… well. She took the kids and ran off with some experimental physicist on Jupiter. Destroyed my reputation and got me discharged from Space Force in the process. I, uh… I only got called back because Earth was in such trouble and they needed qualified people…" "You're a fighter, indeed. Survivors." he said with a slight smile. Her explanation about her dad made his heart go out to her, though. "Meg… I'm so sorry. That's… that must have been hard." He touched her shoulder. "But if you were trying to honor him, I really think you've succeeded."

Meg’s jaw dropped at the explanation and how unbelievably rude Chet’s ex-wife sounded. “That's terrible.” she finally managed to get out, a note of disbelief still in her voice at the way her companion had been treated. “Survivors.” she chuckled, smiling back. Though she sighed, nodding, when Chet sympathized with her. She refused to accept pity, but she didn't push him away. “It was hard. I was fifteen and once the ambulance finally showed up, I stayed with my dad and rode with him. There wasn't much they could do.” she sighed, trying not to get choked up by the memory. But she laughed softly at his last comment. “Are you speaking as a man of experience?” she teased, referring to the fact that Chet was a father. “Either way… Thank you.”

Chet shrugged, not really wanting the conversation to center on him, when Meg was the one with the real troubles. "We were young and dumb…" He listened, watching her work to keep it together. There was some deep strength there, and he had to admire it. She made him laugh with the whole 'experience' comment. "Ha! Yeah, if either of my kids grew up to be as competent and caring as you are, I'd be very proud." He smiled at her. "Of course, Meg. Don't thank me, though, I'm just telling you the truth." There was a moment, and he asked something he'd been curious about. "Sooo… how old are you?" He chuckled again, rubbing his hand over his face. "I know you never ask a lady, but. You've got one of those faces that could be a young-looking 30 or an old-looking 20." Well, that sounded terrible, but it was out of his mouth now. "I'm 26. Kinda right in the middle."

Meg smiled, blushing at the compliments, and nodded her thanks. As well as her understanding at his apparent preference. “All the same, you still have my gratitude.” she insisted. “For listening to me and taking me seriously. Do you know how rare that is?” She chuckled a little at the question. “Well, that’s kind of you but I’m only 25. One year younger than you.” she smirked, teasing him a little even though she was being honest about her age.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

That blush was… well, adorable wasn't the right word, but. Chet couldn't find a better one. "What, listening and caring? Is it that rare?" Chet's eyebrows shot up a bit. He couldn't think of else he would have responded. He had to laugh when she started smirking. "So help me, if you start calling me Pops or some garbage like that, now that you know I'm older and a dad…" The thought made him cringe a bit, but that's the direction her jokes had been pointing.

“In my experience, at least, yes.” Meg nodded with a shrug. “I can probably count the number of that happens on my hands.” She laughed at his reaction to her comment. “I hadn't planned on it. But now I'm tempted.” she grinned mischievously, despite having no intentions of actually calling him that.

"Well… then get used to it." he said quietly. He had no intention of responding to her with anything else than listening and understanding. No intention, anyway. He wasn't always great at it, and without his meds, there was no telling where his mental state would be soon, but he'd try to make sure she could count on him for this. He responded to her grin with a mock glare, before reaching for the tablet. "I'm changing your gps marker to 'Kid'…"

“I’ll try. But I'm sure if you keep it up, I will eventually.” she smiled gratefully, blushing at the idea. “And I’ll do the same for you.” Meg quickly reached out, placing her hand on top of Chet’s stopping him from reaching the tablet. “Don't you dare.” she smirked.

Again with the blush. Chet didn't have a response this time, though he did his best to cover his staring by grinning at her. "Oh? And how are you going to stop me?" His grin grew, and he slowly moved his hand toward the tablet. He was pushing things, nudging boundaries, but… well. They'd opened up to each other a bit, and for Chet, that was an important thing. He was aware that they'd only known each other roughly a bit over 24 hours, but… Meg had helped keep him alive and sane already, and that… for him, that was enough.

Meg smirked at the challenge and leaned forward, gripping his wrist. “When I was in school, I took some self-defensive and combat courses.” she pointed out. “It was actually a requirement but I stayed with it.”

"Ooooh, reeaally?" Chet's grin grew as her hand circled his wrist. He'd never done any combat stuff, but he was bigger and presumably stronger than she was. He was also well aware he was likely about to get his butt handed to him, and he didn't care. He made a lunge for the tablet, throwing himself backwards and sideways and reaching for it with the other hand.

Meg was well aware of the difference in size and build between them but she wasn't worried. When he lunged, she grabbed his other wrist and threw her weight into the tumble which forced them to continue rolling away from the tablet. “Really.” she smirked down at him, straddling his waist and keeping his arms crossed against his chest.

Chet grinned up at her, and kept moving. A, because he was enjoying this, and B, because if he let her straddle him like that for too long, they were gonna have problems. He bucked his hips, pressing up off the ground, and managed to muscle them sideways, landing on their side. The drop loosened her grip on one of his arms, and he used it to push up and away. She still had a firm grip on the other one though, so his scramble towards the tablet again came up short.

Meg laughed as she rolled with the maneuver and reached out to push the tablet out of the way before grabbing his hand again. This was just a playful little spar but she had no intention of being the first to yield. She swiveled until her legs were back under her but didn't release her grip.

She wasn't going to give up easy, and Chet knew it, but she was clearly taking it pretty easy on him. He just kept grinning, trying not look like an idiot, but his face wouldn't let him stop smiling. Meg got her legs under her, and had both of his wrists again. So Chet pulled both arms in and down, before pushing forward with his legs, driving all his weight over and back. The result landed Meg on her back this time, with Chet's palms planted either side of her head, her hands still locked around his wrists. He was careful to support his weight on his knees so he didn't squash her, but this left him leaning pretty far forward. Close enough to her face for him to get distracted, if he was honest with himself.

Meg grunted a little as she hit the ground but continued to smile at him. The idea of kissing Chet to catch him off guard briefly came to mind but she brushed it away just as quickly. Instead, she kicked his side just hard enough to push him off of her but she didn't think it would bruise, and rolled with him again, pining his hands above his head. “Give up yet?” she smirked.

Oof. The noise Chet made when her knee connected with his ribs was as much as surprise to him as the knee had been. By the time he'd processed it, she had him on his back again. Some part of him was just competitive enough to want to keep going, but… Some other part of him was a bit focused on the way the smirk pulled at her lips, their proximity, her firm grip on his wrists… Chet had always been an intensely physical person. Not athletic, per se, but his life experience had always come to him in the form of physical memories. And now, he found himself wanting to take this from a playful sparring bout, or wrestling match, or keep-away, to something else. Found himself wanting things he had no right to want. Found himself fighting impulses that, frankly, for only having known Meg for a day, were just plain wrong. So he relaxed and tapped the ground. "Ok, ok, I give up. You win. Guess you get to stay Bonnie on the markers." He had to focus his eyes elsewhere, as he realized he was staring up at her with some rather obvious emotions written all over his face.

Meg laughed playfully as she rolled off Chet and laid beside him. Her face was a bit flushed, not just from the exertion of their little fight but also from a few unexpected thoughts that came to her mind. No doubt prompted by their close proximity and certain positions they had taken. But she knew it was too soon to actually consider anything like that. They barely knew each other and their trauma bond was not a good thing to start an intimate relationship on. “Glad I earned it.” she sighed, catching her breath. “We'll have to have a real sparring match sometime.”

Chet rotated his hands, his wrists popping rather loudly. "You did indeed earn it, and I'm pretty sure you'd clock me pretty quickly in anything real." His blood was pumping, and his mind was running, though he was trying to get it under control. Still, he was feeling good. He sat up and pulled his backpack over to him, making sure it had everything. "I'm going to head out and prep the pod and sled." He scrambled over and pulled his helmet on, sealing it, before heading to the door, where he proceeded to shuffle his feet like a little kid with too much energy. "Hurry up and get your helmet on." He smiled at her. "Can't have you dying on me."

“Yeah. I probably would.” she smirked, agreeing with his assessment of her skills. “Or I could teach you a few things.” she offered as she sat up. Though when she saw his actions, she quickly followed suit, grabbing her pack and putting on her helmet. “Oh, you're not going to lose me to some rookie mistake like that.” she assured with a chuckle.

"Hey, I'd love to learn a few things. I did some boxing once with a cousin way back when, and that stuff fascinates me. Never had time for it in the lab, though." He smiled at her, something going soft around his eyes. "Hopefully I won't be losing you to any mistakes…" He turned and triggered the door lock, the tent depressurizing quickly. "Can you make sure we got everything? I don't want to collapse the tent and damage it somehow cuz we left stuff in it." He'd grabbed the forge, the AI core, boat, oar, and reactor, and was laying them all out in the pod, on top of the parachute Meg had folded so nicely. His next step was to pull out one of his ropes, and tie the two ends to the anchor points he'd designed on the frame, creating a big loop of rope he could use to pull the thing. That took him just a bit. Chet looked like he was moving in fast-motion, or like he'd taken something he shouldn't have. He didn't realize it, but even in his focus, this time, he was mumbling to himself, talking through all the logistics and everything else. He knew he probably looked odd, as he was having a hard time standing still at the moment, but at least he had useful things to do with the energy.

“Boxing? Yeah, I can see that working to your advantage.” she nodded, taking in his build before returning the look. “Hopefully not.” she agreed. “Sure. I got all my stuff in my pack.” she nodded, throwing it on her back. She was about to help load the nanoforge when Chet quickly snapped it up and beat her to the punch. She was surprised at his speed but quickly exited the tent. “Was there caffeine in your ration pack?” she asked jokingly.

Chet froze. "Ummm… sorry." He made a conscious effort to slow down, but it just wound up in him fidgeting more as he prepped the tent to collapse. He had to disconnect the joints and make sure the power source was off. It too him a couple minutes, and by the time he came around the other side, he had an odd look on his face. Shame. "I'm sorry, Meg. Wasn't trying to be annoying." He made sure she was clear of the tent edges, and pulled the tab on the front of the tent. It immediately fell flat and folded up. "Oh. It's got an auto-fold feature. That's nice." He picked up the tent and set it in the pod.

Once he stopped working on the tent, Meg walked up to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. “No, Chet. You don't have to apologize for anything. You weren't being annoying at all.” she assured gently. “It was meant to be a joke. I was actually really impressed by how fast you were working. I’m sorry if I upset you.” she apologized.

Chet didn't make eye contact, and he couldn't hold his feet still, though he didn't pull away from her. "You didn't upset me, I just… it's been a problem and it drives people away and usually I've got it under control but my meds were on the Deus and when I've been taking them steadily and I stop cold turkey stuff gets worse and you're literally the only other person on the planet so I really don't want to annoy you or drive you crazy, but my symptoms get bad and they're all annoying, like really annoying, like the constant chattering and the lack of impulse control and the non-stop shuffling or fidgeting and the lack of being able to sleep normally and the constant need to be touching you or somehow grounding myself, and thank goodness that last one hasn't shown up yet, but I'm kinda afraid it will and then things will get weird, like they always do, and then-….. yeah…" He finally looked at her. "Sorry….and please don't apologize. This isn't your fault."

Meg raised a brow as she listened to Chet’s explanation but nodded. “Ok.” she sighed before stepping in front of him and wrapping her arms around him. “Thank you for telling me all that. Now that I know about it, I'll be more aware of what’s going on with you and how to help you… If you need me to.” she told him. “I don't have a problem with you talking a lot since you're the only person I can have a conversation with right now. And it won't bother me if you need to use me to ground yourself.” she assured. She was almost tempted to make a joke about the impulse control being a problem but decided against it.

Chet had been shuffling uncomfortably the entire time. When he'd finally made eye contact, he'd started furiously fidgeting with his hands, tugging at the gloves of the vac-suit. He was anxious about the situation, and it showed, everywhere. Meg's hug froze him. As in, stopped all of it. His feet stopped moving, his fingers stopped fidgeting, and though his eyes widened with the unexpectedness of it, the rest of him sagged, just a little, like he'd been tensing his entire body and had suddenly relaxed. He was quiet for a moment as she explained, listening as she very kindly accepted his issues. Didn't roll her eyes and tell him to grow up, or ask him if he could just try hard not to do all of that. Didn't look at him like he'd sprouted a second head, or make some comment about him being an adult and needing to act like one. Just… said it was ok. He didn't quite believe her, but it certainly helped. "…Thanks, Meg." His voice had calmed, free of that frantic on-the-verge-of-meltdown tone it'd had just a second ago. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Grounded. "I, uh, I think that's everything." he said quietly, stepping back from her, gently pulling away from the hug. Not that he wanted it to end, but he didn't want her to feel like she had to. "All packed and ready to go, so… which direction you wanna head?"

Meg smiled as she felt him relax and held him for a moment longer but let go when he moved away. “Anything for my favorite partner in crime.” she assured, glad that he had calmed down. At the question she gave a little hum and looked around. “Well, I wanna say south sounds pretty good.” she admitted, glancing at the compass display on her HUD. “Unless you have any ideas.”

Chet had to grin at the 'partner in crime' comment. He felt better, though his feet didn't take long to start a little shuffle again. Not an anxious one this time, just energetic. "I have no objections to South, at all." He looked at her. "No real ideas of where we ought to land, since we haven't mapped the surface really carefully yet." They'd not really had a chance. "So South it is. Now. Here's the deal." He pointed to the back of the frame. "Your spot is in the back. You push, I'll pull, and once this thing gets moving, you can stop pushing. I might need your help if we have to stop quickly or move fast or something, but once it's moving, I've got it. After that, though, I'll need you to be the steering, like tell me where to go and what to avoid. Also… keep an eye out for anything predatory." He knew she knew that, but it never hurt to say it out loud. "Sound good? Survivors?" He offered a fistbump, realizing how quickly that had become a handshake of sorts. How quickly it had become something that told him things were ok.

“Survivors.” Meg smiled, returning the fistbump. “Alright. Once we get this thing going, I’ll join you up front and do some scouting as well.” she agreed before heading toward the back of the pod/sled set up. “Let me know when you’re ready to pull.”

Chet nodded. "Works for me. We can work on your HUD awareness too. It gets easier the more you do it." He stepped into the loop of rope and picked it up, passing it under one arm and over the other shoulder. He walked till there was no slack, before leaning against the rope and digging in his boots as best he could on the rubbery matting. "Ok. On 3. 1…2…3!" He pushed, doing his best not to heave loudly into the comms mic. He took a step, and the sled moved, just a little. Another step, and the sled was sliding. By the third step, he could string together the fourth step pretty quickly, and then he was walking. Slowly, but steadily, with the rope pulled taut over his shoulder. "Should be able to stop pushing." He wasn't sure if Meg was or not, but he could feel that most of the momentum was generating from his legs. This was going to be a workout. Not an explosive thing, like the pulley, but a long one after which his body was going to hurt.

“Sounds like a plan.” Meg smiled. “I’m glad you know how to use this thing. I feel like I’m playing a video game without a tutorial.” she joked as she prepared to push. On his signal, she threw her weight against the pod and pushed as hard as she could, feeling the sled starting to move step by step. “You sure?” she asked when he commed her. She had to admit that the sled was moving easier now and she didn't need to push as hard. Plus she definitely did want to run Chet over with this thing.

"Very sure." He grunted. "Now come on up here and I can show you how the HUD works." Chet kept moving, the motion getting easier, his body adjusting to the strain. The sled runners had no trouble at all on the mushroom matting, and he hoped that would be true for the ground beyond the Mushroom Kingdom as well. "Oh. Uh, I'm dumb. I left the tablet in my backpack. You'll have to dig it out while I'm walking. It's in the outside pocket." It would help her to have it open as they worked.

She nodded at the assurance, even though she knew he couldn't see it, and quickly moved to join him at the front. “I can get that.” she assured, finally catching up with him. “And you're not dumb.” she added as she opened the pocket and grabbed the tablet.

He smiled at her. "Dumb enough. Anyway, first thing you're going to do is open the tablet, then go to the icon that says HUD. Should be a helmet. Once you're in there, you're going to actually turn yours entirely off. It's just a simple toggle." He kept pushing, kept moving, and though the Mushroom Kingdom was pretty uniform, it seemed, there were also enough differences to keep him occupied. They weren't covering ground quickly, but they were moving.

“Smarter than you think.” she countered as she followed his directions. Finding the icon easily, she hesitated to actually turn it off. “I’m assuming I toggle my helmet back on after this, right?” she asked, wondering if there were more steps to this part of the process.

He couldn't help smiling at her compliment, though he didn't respond otherwise. "Well, yes. You're going to toggle off the HUD, and then we're going to walk through turning it back on, bit by bit, so you know what the icons and lights do and why they're flashing at you, as well as get practice working with it." He had a plan that would hopefully get her at least familiar with the HUD. It could be daunting the first time.

“Ok.” she nodded, smiling a little before letting out a breath and hitting the toggle off on the screen. Meg’s display immediately disappeared which caught her a little off guard even though she had been expecting it. “Guess I got used to having all that stuff in view faster than I thought.” she chuckled softly.

"We used to call that helmet-head back in uni. Some guys would live in their helmets for projects or whatever, and had to adjust to living normally, without them. It could get pretty bad, so we'll try to be careful of that." Chet grunted as the pod hit a bump and pulled at him. "Ok, first. Look for the icon that's a big V. That's vitals, and it'll show yours and everyone else's on the team. You and I are teamed, so we can see that at all times. However, I personally have yours hidden, cuz it can be distracting to know when a person's heartrate or blood pressure rises, unless we specifically need to be monitoring that. So once you've tapped the icon on the tablet, we're going to learn some telepathy."

“Yikes. That sounds… concerning.” she admitted, watching and slowing down when he seemed to struggle. Meg hummed at the explanation and pressed the icon. “Makes sense. Maybe… Is there a way to turn on like medical alerts? So if my heart rate spikes for some reason, you could get a warning on your end?” she asked as she looked at all the new information on her HUD. “Wait… What do you mean by telepathy?”

"It's not a massive issue, but if a person did it enough, their eyesight would adapt, and they'd wind up with withdrawal-like symptoms when they took off the helmet. But nothing life-threatening or anything." Chet had just planted his back foot a little harder, and they kept moving just fine. "I might be able to do that, but it would spike anytime we exert ourselves. Like mine would be going crazy right now, you know? And with the comms on, we can just talk to each other. It might be useful, but if you had to turn it off anytime the other person jogged, you'd start ignoring it, and then it wouldn't matter if it alerted you anyway. But I can program that later if it would be useful." He had to chuckle at her reaction. "So your helmet reads the electrical signals in your brain to do certain things. That's how it knows to power on when you put it on, and off when it's off of you. That's also how it knows who is who. Like, if we switch helmets, I won't have your HUD. I'd have mine, but in your helmet, cuz it knows me. Make sense? So step by step telepathy. First, look at the Icon in your HUD. You're going to blink really hard, then think, not say, but think loudly 'MENU'. It should pop right up with an individualized menu of settings, where you can hide it, or isolate any of the vitals you want to see by itself, or see the history of. Give it a shot."

Meg nodded. “Then, maybe, once we're out of… the Mushroom Kingdom, we should spend some time out of the tent without our helmets.” she suggested as a way to prevent them from becoming too dependent on the HUD. “Not if we specified certain readings. I understand what you mean and the comms definitely would make a difference but if we can program the alert to only go off under certain conditions then… I don't know. What do you think?” she asked, realizing that setting up those specifics would be more work than they already had to deal with. “Oh… I did wonder about that but I thought that there was some kind of connection point between the helmet and the suit that caused it to turn off and on.” she admitted. “But then, you're right, it wouldn't have the personalized display. “ she nodded before finding the icon. Ok… So the helmet must have some kind of eye-tracking system and blinking is just like clicking or tapping on other displays. she reasoned to herself, closing her eyes, clearing her mind, and thinking of the word “menu” as clearly as she could.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet liked the idea of a no helmet time. He hated having to cover his face so much. It made him claustrophobic sometimes. He thought for a minute about the Vitals. "I could probably manage that… you'll just have to tell me which ones are worth alerting for. I know when it comes to a cryo pod, but that's not the same." "Just your brain's electricity. You're a regular generator." he chuckled. She nailed the menu opening right off. "Perfect. So here's the thing. The blinking signals the helmet you're about to input a command. You'll only need to do it a few times before you can just skip the blinking and think your commands." Chet was at that point, which meant his HUD could move as fast as he could think clearly. Sometimes that was very fast indeed. "So now, you should be able to see each individual vital, and related stats, if you were to select one of them. Or, you can 'hide display'. There's an icon for that too." Eventually, she'd get where she wouldn't have to open the individual things. She could just think 'close vitals' and the HUD would do it, but it took a minute. "Another option, if you're not liking this one. You can use a virtual keyboard. It requires you to have a free hand though. I usually only use that one when I'm trying to design something, but if you'd prefer it, I can show you how it works."

“Sure.” she agreed. “Though you should be able to use your experience with cryo as a base. I feel like a lot of that information should still relate.” Meg chuckled at the generator comment, taking mental notes as she selected which displays to hide. “I don't have any problem with this method for now but I would like to learn the virtual keyboard eventually.” she admitted. “Maybe once we set up for the night or when we find a place to stay because I tend to be a very hands-on person with my survival stuff.”

"You could also go with voice activation, where you just speak your commands, but… if comms are on, that gets to be a lot of chatter really quickly, you know?" Chet had to chuckle. "I think we'd drive each other crazy. And I can definitely teach you the virtual keyboard, even now. It's the icon on the tablet with the I. That should turn on your interface toggle, which will allow you to choose blinks, keyboard, or voice. It'll always be right there along the top of your display, so you can toggle it to whatever you like whenever you want to switch." She seemed to be getting the hang of the blink method, but learning the other was helpful. "Once you've switched the interface, if you switch t keyboard, you should see a blue keyboard show up on your HUD. It'll look like it's hovering in the air in front of you. If you run your hands through that space, you won't feel anything, of course, but your hand will interact with the keyboard. You can type, and use the 'pad' to move your clicker in the helmet. It kinda feels weird until you get used to it. You can change the color, or where the keyboard appears relative to you, in the settings menu, which you can find the same way you found the vitals menu."

“Yeah. Voice control might be a little too… chaotic right now.” Meg chuckled as she quickly located the icon on the tablet, and turned on the virtual keyboard just for a moment to familiarize herself with it and browsed the settings before switching back to the “blink” interface. She would mess around with the personalization later. “Hey, do our helmets have cameras or mapping systems?” she asked, remembering the image and video Chet sent her… was that really just yesterday?

"Yes, they've got cameras. You can use the cameras to map, and the helmet will store information, which it combines with the radar function to inform the gps, assuming you don't have satellites in orbit. It can be a long process, though we just have to set all that in motion. But yes, short answer, since your helmet is a computer screen, it's recording what you can see at all times. So as long as you're facing a direction, the camera is rolling. You can cut clips and send them or store them separately. I wanna say it deletes the data every two weeks, unless you save it separately. Huge memory banks." He paused, adjusting the rope on his shoulder. It was starting to hurt, and they weren't anywhere near the edge of the Mushroom Kingdom. "The camera icon is the classic one, the shutter, I believe. It just allows you to access the files, so I usually hide the icon itself. It'll be in your 'tools' menu, which is up in you lefthand corner."

“Good. That’ll be very useful.” she nodded, finding the camera icon on the tablet before hiding it on her HUD as well. Meg quickly glanced at the ‘tools’ menu but didn't open anything yet. Unlike Chet, she wasn't surprised by their progress. There were a lot of different factors such as the fact that they didn't know how big this forest was and the weight of the lifepod, even with the low gravity. “Do you need any help?” she asked, noticing his struggle.

"I'm ok. Just going to hurt later, but there's no other way to do this. If we can get somewhere with oxygen, we'll be living better." Chet grunted. "Thank you though." He continued his explanation. "The tools menu, by the way, has everything in it that you put in it. So anything you don't want actively up on your HUD can be found in there." He thought for a moment. "The Radar is the green icon, the circle with a line, like the old radar units. That should have our gps markers on it, as well as where I marked the pod as landing." He'd changed it from 'Home' to 'Touchdown', since they were moving.

“Alright. If you're sure.” she nodded. “But let me know if you need or want to take a break. I don't mind taking the reins or pushing the pod again.” she admitted, not wanting Chet to strain himself. Meg nodded when he started talking about the HUD again and turned on her radar. She didn't need it for the markers but it would still help with mapping and should be able to detect if anything was headed their way or nearby so they would be able to get away.

Chet smiled over at her. "I'll be ok for a bit yet. Thanks though." He went on. "While you're at it, the gps Icon is the one that looks like a pin on a map. At this point, its not super helpful, but it'll tell you the distances from one of our markers to another. The Radar is a little more limited, just telling you what's around you. And both of those are what will fill in with the camera images. So if you were to stop and stand still, you could use the camera function to look all around you, and it'll add that to the gps and radar, so they have a better picture of terrain and landmarks and stuff. That way, we can build maps of the areas we're in."

Meg smiled softly back before finding the GPS symbol and hiding it on her HUD for now since they were right next to each other and she didn't want to be distracted by how far away they were from their starting point. That data could surely be filled in later. “Personally, I like that about the radar. Helps with mapping, like you said, and usually, it's a good warning system.” she admitted with a shrug.

It hit Chet just then that he'd gone into explanation mode, like she didn't know what any of the stuff was. His hands were busy, holding onto the rope, but he'd have facepalmed if he could. "Meg, I'm sorry, I'm talking to you like you're stupid." He sighed, frustrated with himself. "Why don't you just ask questions you have. I'm sure you don't need every little thing explained to you. You've got the basic mechanics of controlling the HUD: just blink at an icon, and think hard at it, and it should react. The second time you give a command, you don't have to do the blinking bit."

Meg shook her head and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It's ok, Chet. I actually appreciated the explanations.” she admitted. “I do understand basic tech stuff but this is all new to me and I'm glad that you know this so well.” she smiled sincerely at him. “But I do have one question about this…” she said after a minute to hopefully let him calm down a bit. “Does the tablet have a scanner function or is that something we can put on our HUD too?”

He turned to look at her, studying her face through the helmet glass, before relaxing a bit. "If you're sure, Meg. I don't want you to think that I think you're stupid or anything." He perked up when she mentioned a question. "Oh. It's under your camera function. Open the 'camera' and just think 'scan' and it'll look for heat signature, infrared, electrical currents, wind, all that good stuff. Something particular you're looking for?"

“Don't worry, professor. I’ll let you know if I feel that way.” she chuckled assuringly. Meg hummed a little, nodding as Chet listed off the still useful features of the camera’s scan. “Well… I guess I was thinking more like a basic genetic scan.” she admitted, already looking through the options listed on her HUD. “Like if I was to scan a specific plant it could tell me what its components are or if I scanned an animal it could figure out if it was a predator.” she explained.

Chet grinned at her. "Professor is apt, since there will be a quiz afterwards." He thought for a bit, running through the functions on the helmet. "I don't think we have anything that can do that without a physical connection. But maybe… " He tinkered around for a second, before turning to look at her. "Huh. Got it." He was quiet for a moment, before explaining. "Ok, so. The radar sends out a ping, right? If you fire off a radio ping, it can tell you what's ahead of you. So… if I ping something, and then as for visual analysis of the ping, it will tell me all of what you just asked. As far as components and molecular structure. As for role, like predator or prey, we'd have to figure that out ourselves, likely. Genetics are still a touched based thing, so we'd likely have to get a sample and run it through the tablet. But there it is. Combine a radar ping with the camera's visual analysis and you can at least get a rudimentary reading on stuff."

Meg smiled back with a chuckle at his good-humored quip. She nodded as he mentioned that the genetic scan would need a physical connection and was even about to ask if there was a way to forge an alternative when he spoke again. Her smile grew as he explained the best and most likely ways to use the equipment they had and get the results she had asked about. “That’s great!” she beamed. “I took a bit of chemistry and xenobiology as part of my survivalist classes so this will be a big help in figuring out which plants on this planet are safe for us to eat or which natural materials would work best for… certain things.” she explained, thought she left out the brief thought of if anything was safe for them to eat. Besides, they had already discovered two species of animals that lived here so there had to be food of some kind.

Chet nodded at her, smiling at her excitement. "And I could forge up a sampler to use with the tablet to be able to check things more closely. There's a template in the databanks." He paused, thinking about what to explain next. "So, now that you understand the blink method, and the layout of the HUD, you can go through and turn on all your stuff one by one on the tablet, decide what you want where. Move stuff by thinking 'move' or 'drag' and then just letting your eyes rest wherever you want it."

“Even better.” she grinned back, already looking forward to their new discoveries. Meg nodded at his advice and turned on a few more, if not most, icons. “I’ll probably go through more of these later and organize them when we're not on the move.” she admitted. “I'm supposed to be watching out for any trouble anyway.” she added with a smirk before using her radar to send off a ping ahead of them.

"Yeah, you've got the basics down, so it shouldn't be too hard. The one other thing I wanted to show you is device interfacing." This would help her be able to interact with things like the pod and the tent from her HUD, which would mean she didn't have to depend on him for that. "If you tap the icon on the tablet for 'connected devices'- I think it kinda looks like an old timey bluetooth symbol- it will show you the systems controls for the stuff attached to the tablet. Right now, its just the tent and the nano-forge, but later itll be the pod and anything else we have major systems for. By tapping that icon, you can access those systems right from your HUD. So the tent air systems, alarms, safety settings, reactor settings- all of that is under the Tent in devices. I have that one pinned in the lower lefthand corner of my HUD so that I can easily and quickly interact with whatever device system I'm using. Make sense?"

“Turning that on now.” she nodded, finding the icon. “And yes, that does makes sense.” she added assuringly. Meg glanced at the returned ping and hummed at the information. “You may want to watch your step up ahead. Looks like there's a bit of a downhill slope.” she warned.

"Good." She was a quick study, and had picked it all up quite easily. Chet was glad, because he was no teacher, and he'd hoped she wouldn't be inhibited by his inability to explain things well. Her warning made him groan. "Oh, greaaat. That sounds exciting." He braced himself, thinking of all the possible ways this could go wrong. "How big of a slope, can you tell?" From this perspective, it was impossible to see. The matting and irregularity of the shroomtrees made the landscape rather vague and repetitive.

“Not that steep. And it doesn't look like it lasts very long either.” she assured before glancing back at the pod. “Would it help if I stood between you and the pod, brace myself against it so it doesn't pick up speed on you?” Meg suggested, a little unsure how much that would actually help.

Chet shook his head. "Nope, that's likely to get you run over. Just stay off to the side for me, and keep an eye on the acceleration of the sled. If the slope is worse than it shows up on radar, I'll have to move quickly, but you'd have to tell me that. I'm leaning at enough of an angle I won't know till this thing catches me." He trusted her, and if she said the slope wasn't too bad, he'd just keep pulling, and hopefully any momentum built up would balance out as they went back out the other side.

Meg nodded at the warning and sent off another ping to try to get more information about the terrain. But instead of moving to the side as Chet suggested, she runs ahead hoping that she would find the slope and could let him know where it starts and how long goes. “Found it.” she called, stopping when she felt the slight dip in the matting that matched the data on her HUD. “It only lasts for about three steps. And it feels like going down two stairs.”

"Oh. That shouldn't be too bad." Chet kept pulling till he got closer to her, then dug in his toes and started jogging. It was difficult, but he got the sled moving, and as it came down the slope, it didn't catch him. He just kept the rope taut, and there was a momentary release in tension. He got to the bottom and slowed, and the sled slowed down as well. "That could have been worse…" he said quietly, trying to keep his breathing even. "Any idea how much longer we're in the Mushroom Kingdom?"

As Chet continued to pull the pod, Meg stayed at the slope as a warning as long as she could before moving to the side and out of the way. Though she let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding when he spoke again. It seemed a bit silly to get that worried over a little thing like that but she wrote it up to the general anxiety of being on an unfamiliar planet and having very little knowledge on this kind of terrain. “Not yet.” she replied, shaking her head. “Are you ok?”

Chet grunted at her. "So far, so good. Shoulder is going to hurt, though." He kept pulling, and they kept moving. "So… got any siblings?" Chet was quickly getting bored, and boredom was the bane of his existence in every possible way. Without something to work on, his mind just… sat there, and he Hated that feeling.

Meg nodded slightly, letting the topic drop though she was already hoping that if this planet had an alien version of a horse or something that they could tame it and Chet wouldn't need to pull the pod. Of course she knew chances of that were going to be better once they got out of this forest. “Nope. Only child.” she answered, shaking her head. “I wouldn't have minded having a brother or sister but…” she shrugged, “it never happened. What about you?”

Chet nodded. "They can be fun. I was the middle kid of 3. Older brother, younger sister." He laughed. "Yeah, with my brother being the paragon of an eldest heir, and my sister being the baby princess, I may as well have not existed. Sometimes my parents would do a double take when I walked through the living room, like I was a stranger or something." He grinned to himself at the thought. "Ever been off planet before this?"

“Ouch.” Meg winced a little at the thought of Chet being ignored by his own parents. Though she relaxed and let out a brief chuckle when he smiled. She shrugged at the question before nodding. “A couple of times for vacations when we could afford it. And as part of the training for this. But for the most part, I was pretty much an earthbound girl.” she admitted.

"Oh don't worry, I was mostly joking. Mostly. I do definitely have a touch of middle kid syndrome." He winked at her. Her admission had him raising his eyebrows. "Oh? Where'd you go on vacation? I was completely earthbound till I went off to Uni, so you might have been to more places than me."

Meg rolled her eyes when he winked but she was relieved that he was teasing. “Mostly Mars and Venus.” she admitted with a shrug at his question. “Since they were pretty close the trips didn't cost as much and they were already terraformed but still exotic. I think I’ve been on one of the moons of Saturn or Jupiter when I was younger but I don't really remember much about it.”

"Ooo, Venus. I've never been, it was always on my list for later. I did get to Mars eventually, and then Ceres. Lemme tell you, getting stationed on an asteroid is a whole other experience from a planet. Ceres is big, but it's not planet-big, and you can tell. It's weird." He chuckled, remembering how the gravity had always been funky. "So how did you get into survival, exactly?" He paused, only to shut his eyes hard as he remembered he'd already asked this. If his hands had been free, he'd have facepalmed. "OH- your dad showed you… I'm sorry, I knew that…" And now he felt bad for bringing up a potentially painful subject.

“I've never been on an asteroid but I loved visiting Venus. It's as beautiful as the name makes it sound.” she smiled back. “Too bad we didn't run into each other on Mars.” Meg chuckled as Chet answered his own question. “Right. He taught me everything he knew about survival. Took me on quiet a few camping trips and even showed me how to hunt.” she added. “I can't say I enjoyed that too much but, being here, I can see how useful that will be.”

Chet had to laugh. "Oh, you wouldn't have liked me in uni, I don't think. I was such a nerd, and completely in awe of anyone who knew anything about other planets, to the point of annoying them. It wasn't good…" "Sounds like quite the man." Chet said quietly. He hadn't meant to turn the conversation serious. Meg didn't seem upset, though maybe he just wasn't reading her right. "So what did you used to draw?" Change the subject. This is safer.

Meg laughed at his confession and shook her head. “Well, when you put it like that, yeah you might have annoyed me.” she agreed playfully, remembering that he had also been married at the time. “He was.” she nodded calmly though she did perk up at the change in topic. “All kinds of things really. Portraits and landscapes were some of my best but… It’s been a while since I tried to draw anything. I wonder if I can still draw like I used to.” she sighed.

Chet smiled at her. "I bet you can. We've got paper, you'll have to give it a shot." He wanted to encourage her more, but the sled hit a bump, and he grunted as the rope tugged at him funny. "So… we've been at this a while." And they had, it had been a couple of hours according to the HUD clock. "How long do you want to go before we crash and sleep?" They'd already been up several hours when they'd finally gotten packed and moving, and Chet honestly hadn't expected the Mushroom Kingdom to be this big.

“Thanks.” Meg smiled softly at the encouragement, trying not to blush. She glanced at the clock on her HUD and hummed thoughtfully. “Yeah, if you want, we can stop here. The constant sun is a bit disorienting so… Sorry about that.” she shrugged apologetically.

Chet shook his head. "Don't apologize. I can keep going, but you mentioned a 14 hour cut-off, and if we want time to set up the tent, make sure our maps are up to date as much as they can be, and unwind a bit, we're coming up on that. I get the sun thing, I'm like that on Earth. Day/night cycles disorient me so bad." He chuckled. He had the energy to keep going, but his shoulder was aching badly enough for him to bring it up.

“Then let’s call it a day.” she nodded. “You can wind down and talk me through how to set up the tent.” she suggested since she knew how to set up a basic tent but the… portable canvas cabin they had was bound to be more complex.

Chet nodded and stopped pulling, stepping quickly out of the rope as the sled bled off its momentum and came to a stop, right near the base of a shroomtree. The sense of pressure on his shoulder and chest didn't let up, though. "So if we pull the tent out of the pod and set it on the ground, oriented the right way up, you should be able to just think 'deploy' in the menu on your HUD, and it'll essentially set itself up. Then we just have to fire up all the systems and we're good." He realized he had his hands pressed to his chest and shoulder, without meaning to, but it hurt. "Gimme a minute, I'll help."

“Good.” she smiled at the simple instructions but her expression faltered when she saw the way Chet was holding himself. “Try to relax. You did a lot today.” she said gently before heading over to the pod and grabbing the tent. Fortunately, one of the settings she turned on earlier showed her the optimal location to set up the tent and which way to face it. Though she wasn't sure which feature she turned on for that to pop up, Meg definitely wasn't going to complain.

"Perfect." he said, noting where she'd set it up. The tent deployed, the rods extending on springs and the canvas snapping into place. Chet stepped in and ran through several settings, before dropping onto his back on the floor. "I'm tired…. you coming in just now?"

“Yeah.” Meg nodded before walking in after him and sealing the tent. As soon as it was safe to do so, she took off her helmet and shook out her hair. “Hopefully we’ll be out of this forest soon. Then everything else will be easier.” she smiled optimistically. “Are you ok?” she asked, glancing at where Chet had the rope pressed against him.

"If we can avoid having to pressurize the tent every time, and also don't have to live in our suits, I'd be very happy to be out of the forest soon." Chet smiled back at her. He took his helmet off and took a deep breath of the clean air, enjoying it for a moment. He sat up and unsealed the vac-suit, peeling it off and stepping out in his t-shirt and sweatpants. He started to lift his shirt, and flinched as it pulled at his skin. "Oh, that's not good…" A quick 3 count, and he pulled the shirt up and over his head, revealing that he really was a relatively athletic, lean-muscular type…. and that he had a deeply bruised line across his shoulder and chest, the same width as the rope, marked by blood where the skin had broken in places from the pressure. "Well… that sucks." he said quietly.

“Me too.” she nodded, not minding having the tent pressurized but the idea of not needing the vacsuit to go outside was very appealing. At the sight of Chet’s injury, Meg knelt in front of him with her bag and pulled out the first aid kit. “Hold still.”

"I knew it hurt, but… I guess I just kinda got used to it…" he said quietly. Other than letting his arms drop and fidgeting with his shirt, he didn't move. Chet had this sheepish look on his face, due to feeling stupid that this had happened. If he'd been paying better attention, he'd be ok, and Meg wouldn't have to be looking out for him, and they could be getting things done instead of tending to this nonsense, and-…. At some point, he realized he was mumbling all of that.

Meg grabbed a roll of gauze and some disinfecting ointment, ready to start treating him when she picked up on his muttering. “Ok, first of all, you're not stupid.” she pointed out firmly but not unkindly. “You were just very focused. And taking care of you… of this isn't nonsense. We're going to be taking care of each other for a while anyway so, this isn't a problem.” she assured.

Chet couldn't figure out where to put his face, so he wound up just nodding quickly, staring at his bloodied shirt, twisting and untwisting it in his hands. "Thanks…" Meg was so quick to undo his negative thinking… he wasn't used to that at all. Nobody had ever bothered to refute the negative thoughts that seemed to spill from his overfull mind, and he legitimately didn't know what to say. Though he did latch onto that last bit. "Speaking of, you're ok? No blisters or anything, this matting is weird to walk on like that."

“Any time.” Meg smiled softly as he accepted her words. Though she paused when he expressed concern for her. “No. I don't think so.” she admitted as she quickly remembered to take off the rest of her vacsuit before starting to treat his wounds. “Those camping trips I went on, hiking was included. So I'm kinda used to it.” she admitted.

That soft smile wass going to make him dopey, if he wasn't careful. He gave her a small one in response. "Glad you're ok." He should have guessed she'd be more prepped for this than him. "Guess that's what I get for being a desk jockey, huh." The only reason he was any kind of in shape was-… well. Working out a ton had been a better option than drinking to cover his hurt. He flinched just slightly as Meg touched the wound. The bruise hurt, but it was the spots that had started to bleed that really stung.

“Don't be so hard on yourself.” she chuckled, giving him an apologetic look when he winced. “You're incredibly fit for a desk jockey.” “Now, I have a couple of ideas so that we can prevent you from getting hurt like this again.” Meg told him. “We can make some kind of cushioning strap for the rope so it doesn’t dig in against you like this again, we can set a timer on our HUD displays to take breaks more regularly so you’re not straining yourself… and probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to alternate which side of yourself the strap is on for certain periods of time.” she suggested. “And we don't have to take off right away. We can wait for you to heal up.”

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

"Well, I used to work out a lot more. There was a space between working on Ceres, and getting recruited to the Deus, where I was in the gym religiously. Needed a strong habit to funnel some anger and stuff into, so. I would work out till my body gave out…" he trailed off. The memories from that time in his life were still pretty fresh, and he didn't much like them. He perked up again when Meg listed off ideas. "Cushioning would help, and would be easiest. The timer isn't a bad idea, but I feel like stopping and starting again is the hardest part. I was going to alternate shoulders, though my chest is just going to have to deal with it." He thought for a moment about that last part, before shaking his head just a bit. "We need to think about food, and water. Like I said, we can forge that stuff up, but… it's unpleasant, and I can deal with this stuff if it means you have real food-… or we do, anyway." It had slipped before he'd quite realized it, but… the thought of Meg having to choke down nutripaste was repugnant to him.

“I understand.” Meg nodded, guessing what he meant and what his motivation had been during that time. “Though I have to agree that was probably one of the healthier habits you could have gotten into.” She nodded. “And we can use the forge to make the cushioning… You may have a point about starting and stopping for breaks though.” she agreed thoughtfully as she carefully started wrapping the gauze around his chest. Though she arched a brow at his last comment. “Don't even think about that. I’m not going to… If you can deal with this, then so can I.” she started firmly. “This Mushroom Kingdom can't be that much bigger. If we could get a birds-eye view we’d be able to track the distance better but I’m hoping we only have another day or two before we’re out then we can really start scouting things.”

Chet chuckled ruefully. "Yeah… It was the thing I decided on. I ran the gamut on trying things, but the gym was one of the few things I could do that didn't make things worse, so… yeah." He was having to focus his eyes on the ceiling of the tent as Meg wrapped the bandage around his chest. She was doing a job, being kind, and there was nothing else to it, nothing at all… but still, having her that close to him, touching him, was going to have him staring if he wasn't careful. So he was careful. "I do think about it, nutripaste is nasty. I had nothing but that to eat for about 3 weeks once, and it was just so gross." Meg shouldn't have to go through that. "Birds-eye view, huh? I could probably fab something up. I'll check the templates once we're done here."

Meg tried not to wince at the thought of the other things Chet might have tried but nodded. “At least that paid off in a really good way.” she said softly. Being as close to him as she was, it was easy for her to notice the fine details of his physique. She normally wasn't the kind of person to just look at the physical aspect of a person, she more liked learning about the personality, but it was hard to miss the strong way Chet was built. She cleared her throat to try to focus more on the conversation and hope he didn't see the way her face was warming up. “I have tried it before. At least once.” she assured. “I know what it's like and I have to agree that stuff is not great but I‘m not going to make you be the only one to eat it.” She smiled a little when he mentioned looking through the forge for her suggestion. “Thanks.”

"I mean, I've gotten used to the stuff before, I could do it again, and besides, you're the one who needs to be well fed and functional in this team. What would I do if you went down?" Chet looked down at her, before remembering exactly why he'd been looking away. Meg was right there, and unless he was imagining, she was slightly blushing, which… was going to make him blush if he thought about it too much. "…hi." he said softly, momentarily distracted from whatever conversation they'd just been having. What had it been about? It was important, he was sure, but why couldn't he remember?

“And what about you? You think I could have made it this far without you?” she pointed out as she finished the first aid and looked up at him. She stared for a moment, getting lost in the closeness before pulling herself back. It was still too early. They didn't know each other enough yet. It would definitely be better to think about… that once they were more set up. “Uh… Sorry.” she muttered as her blush grew.

Meg apologized and looked away blushing, and Chet pulled himself together. "Umm, yeah… I mean, yeah, you probably would have been fine. It might have taken you a little longer, but you're smart. You weren't the one who dived headlong out of the pod 50 feet off the ground." He chuckled, and face palmed. "In fact, it's a miracle I'm still alive and haven't gotten myself eaten or something, even with all your help." He glanced down, noting the neat bandage, and how much less his chest hurt already. "Thank you, Meg." He dug around in his backpack for a shirt, and pulled it on. It was comfortable, but had the rough feel of a very durable fabric.

Meg chuckled softly at the reminder of Chet’s actions on their first day on this planet and shook her head. “No. I would not have done that.” she agreed. “But I'm not sure if I would have figured out a way to get the pod down and would have lost a lot of rope that way. Not to mention how much you helped me figure out all the technical stuff. I would have ended up sleeping in my suit last night without you.” she pointed out. “It's not a problem.” she nodded slightly, sitting back on her heels.

"Well… we make a good team." Chet smiled and held out his fist. "Survivors?" He was grateful for her help, and was very aware he'd have fumbled on how to bandage that wound. The training for colonizing had been minimal, the idea being that the colonists would lead the way and the crew would mostly run the ship, which would be a base of operations and a means of trade after the initial landing. So Chet was aware of how unready for building a colony he was.

“Yeah, we do. Why do you think I suggested Bonnie and Clyde?” she smiled back as she bumped her fist against his. “Survivors.” Meg was fairly convinced that they needed each other at this point. She wasn't sure how good Chet’s actual survival skills were and she had done pretty well in training and had past experience. Though her tech skills were clearly lacking compared to his, in her opinion. If she had a manual of some kind then she would consider herself passable with most of the gear.

Chet gave a quiet laugh, and happily picked up the tablet to check for templates. Within a few minutes, he had figured out they could forge up a drone with a camera system to give them the bird's eye Meg wanted. He hadn't thought about it much, but there was obvious wisdom in checking their surroundings, and he could likely connect the drone to one of their HUD's, so they'd have live feed. He got to work digging out the nano-forge, and decided to sacrificed several of the pitons for the material to build the drone. "Do you have the pitons, or do I?" he asked, as he began digging through his bag.

“Umm… I don't really remember.” she admitted, grabbing her bag to double-check. “I might have left them in the pod with the parachute.” she added thoughtfully as she tried to remember if she saw them when she had grabbed the tent.

"Ah. Nope. I've got them." Chet dug them out and began feeding them into the matter reclaimer on the forge. "I forgot I was carrying them, honestly." He'd pulled out rations in the hunt for the pitons, and suddenly realized how hungry he was. "Dinner time!" (Sorry its short, busy night)

(No worries!) Meg sighed in relief when Chet found the pitons, glad that neither of them had to put their vacsuits on and check outside of the sealed shelter. Though she nodded at the mention of food, even if it was a simple ration pack. “Good idea. Which one do you have?” she asked as she looked through the dinner packs.

"I grabbed one of the lunch packs." He cracked it and tore it open, and the smell of chemical ham and cheese wafted out. "Hmm… like a weird ham and cheese sandwich, with reconstituted fruit, maybe… or something like that…" The ration packs weren't his favorite, but they were better than nutripaste or starvation. "What you got? Wanna trade?" Chet grinned at her, intentionally raising his tone of voice to sound like an excited elementary kid about to trade his veggies for someone's candy bar.

“Only if you really don't want it.” she laughed as she opened her ration pack. “I got a dinner one. Smells like… some kind of spaghetti bolognese, I think?”

Chet chuckled and shook his head. "Nah, you keep it. I'm just messing around. Italian's not my favorite, if you can believe that. I used to really like it, but-…" He stopped, not wanting to bring the mood down, and shoved a bite of the ham and cheese whatever-it-was into his mouth.

“Fair enough.” Meg shrugged as she started eating. She raised a brow when Chet trailed off but didn't press, just nodded briefly. “That's ok.” she assured. “What is your favorite?” she asked to change the conversation.

"Ummm… you know, I don't really know now." He shrugged. "Haven't really had a chance to develop a new favorite. You? What's yours?" Losing so much of who he'd been had been hard. Then he'd gone to jail, and from there to controlled living, where he'd been recruited from. And the war hadn't left much room for him to develop new tastes.

“I honestly can't really decide.” she admitted with a slight smile. “I try to keep a pretty open mind… But I really like Italian, Chinese, French, Mexican, and BBQ as my top five. No specific order.”

"Whoa. That's quite the list." Chet chuckled and filed away the information. "I'll keep an eye out for rations in those flavors." He finished his meal and picked up the tablet again. "Speaking of favorites, got a favorite color?" He was deciding what to label things, and had decided to try to color code.

Meg blushed and shook her head at the offer. “No, that’s ok. You don't have to.” she assured. “Like I said, I keep a pretty open mind.” “Favorite color… I’d probably say I tend to lean more toward earthy tones.” she said thoughtfully. “You know; rich browns, dark greens… Stuff like that. Why do you ask?”

Chet smiled at her and changed her marker to green. "Just helping us remember who's got what." He went through the inventory list, marking her things in green and his in orange. The matter reclaimer had finished grinding most of the pitons, and Chet began fabbing up drone pieces. He dropped pretty quickly into deep concentration, which for him looked like complete silence and stillness. It was odd, given how expressive and fidgety he usually was.

Meg smiled back and nodded at the idea. She stayed quiet as she watched Chet focus on working. It was an interesting change to see him go from so talkative and kinda fidgety to silent and precise. But she wasn't going to interrupt.

Chet was zoned in for over an hour, working with the templates and the forge. He wound up also fabbing up a small set of tools, which he used to put the drone together. At the end of that time, he sat back, looking at the finished drone, and exhaled, like he'd been holding his breath the whole time. He glanced at the clock, and immediately froze, realizing how long he'd been 'under'.

At some point, Meg had started doing some stretches while he was working. As cool as it was to watch him fabricate and build, an hour was too long for her to just stay still. “Hey, Chet.” she smiled softly. “You were really working hard on that.” she commented normally, as if he hadn't been completely absorbed in the task. Though she would admit to being a little concerned.

"Heh… yeah. Sorry." He ran a hand over his face, feeling embarrassed. "So that's a thing I do, too. It can be really helpful, but I lose all sense of the passage of time, and if I hadn't just eaten I could have probably been hungry and not known about it and other stuff… good thing this was a shorter project, I guess, huh?"

“Yeah.” she nodded, agreeing with his point of this being a shorter project. “But I can relate. I've zoned out on video games and stuff like that but… it's been a while since I was able to do that when I was sketching.” Meg admitted softly. “Anyway, you don't have to apologize for anything.”

Chet smiled after a bit. He'd seemed uncomfortable with having been caught like that, but she'd definitely put him more at ease about it. "Thanks for being understanding about it." He tapped a couple things on the tablet, before scooting over and handing it to her. "So, there's the drone function. It should show up in your HUD." It was a blank icon that said 'DRONE'. "The icon is blank, so you could…. well…. you could draw a better icon for it, if you wanted."

Meg froze for a moment before hesitantly accepting the tablet. “O-Ok.” she nodded a little. “It's been a while… But I might have an idea. Umm, do you have a stylus?” she asked. “It's easier for me to draw digitally with a tool compared to just with my finger.” she admitted with an embarrassed shrug.

Chet didn't have a stylus, and his brow furrowed as he thought. "Could fab one up… or you could just draw in the notebook, and we'll scan it with the tablet. I'm not sure why I didn't think of that before." He gave her a smile. "And hey, don't worry about it. I can't draw, and anything you doodle will be better than just looking at DRONE every time."

Meg chuckled and gave a nod. “Notebook is definitely a more familiar medium.” she agreed, not seeing a reason to fab something for a single-use thing. She set down the tablet, pulled out her book, and opened to a blank page at the back. Her hand shook slightly as she twirled her pen, before letting out a breath and started sketching.

Chet watched her, for just a bit, before realizing that was probably very rude. He buried himself in the tablet again, doing some programming for the drone, getting it to respond to virtual keyboard inputs. They'd have to control it, as it wasn't an autonomous drone, but it would at least give them eyes in the sky. The minutes passed, and Chet noted that this was comfortable. Silence was ok as they both worked. He didn't have to fill the silence, didn't have to talk to her. Working together, even separately, was enough.

Meg smiled softly as the familiar motions came back to her. The nearly silent sound of the pen scratching against the paper, the smooth and easy flow of the ink… It almost made her wonder why she had stopped. Of course, she knew the reason but it felt good to be drawing again. She tried not to get caught up in making a super detailed drawing but after some time, she was satisfied with the image. “Finished.” she announced, looking at the picture of the drone.

Chet glanced up at her. "Oh, good. That was fast." Any artist he'd known who had to design these things took hours on end to come up with first designs, but Meg seemed satisfied already. He scooted over, ready to scan the drawing to make it the new icon. He stopped as he saw it, his eyes widening a bit. "Meg… that's really good." He smiled, beaming a bit. "You're really good at this!" He held the tablet camera over the drawing, the tablet scanned it, and he set it as the icon image for the drone, replacing the big block letters. "That's much better…" He was still very impressed with Meg's ability.

Meg blushed at the compliments, watching as he scanned her drawing. “It's not that good. I didn't want to take too long but… I am surprised that I can still sketch like this.” she smiled softly as she admired her first work on this planet.

"I should have known, after seeing how good you are at other stuff." Chet was looking at her with definite admiration in his eyes. "'It's not that good??' It's great! Don't sell yourself short." He looked down at it again, and shook his head a little. "I can draw stick figures but this is impressive."

Meg’s blush darkened, not meeting Chet’s eyes. “You're… Thank you but you don't have to say it like that.” she sighed. “It's too much. My picture is good, I agree, especially since it's been a while since I drew anything. But it's just a sketch.”

Chet started to protest her humility, but caught the blush, and closed his mouth. He wasn't trying to embarrass her. "Well… just a sketch. You could draw something more complex, show me what drawing really looks like?" he offered, trying to make her feel less uncomfortable. He truly was impressed with her skills.

Meg raised a brow at the offer but couldn't help the upwards quirk of her lips. “I could draw you.” she suggested softly. “I'm really good at portraits. But, of course, if you don't feel comfortable with the idea then I could find something else later.”

"Uhh…… sure." He hadn't been expecting that, but he didn't mind at all. "Just, uh… lemme find something to do, otherwise I can't sit still." Chet's turn to blush a bit. He found himself self-consciously smoothing his hair back, and making sure he didn't have a goofy look on his face, as he settled in with the tablet. He made sure he was at an angle where she could see his face. "This good?"

“Sure, as long as you’re comfortable.” she nodded, flipping to the next blank page as he got ready. She didn't mind that he needed something to do as long as she could get her work done. Meg smiled assuringly as she twirled the pen. “Yeah. You look good. Just remember to relax.” she instructed calmly before holding up her book to start drawing. Though she didn't mention that drawing with just a pen was still a bit limiting to how the picture would turn out.

Chet was not comfortable, but… his self-conscious body image issues could wait. He couldn't help but smile just a bit at her statement. "Look good, huh…" he mumbled, mostly to himself. He wasn't sure if she was just being nice or not. He started working on designing the cushion for his shoulder. There was a template for cushioning, but he had to shape it in the system before fabbing it. Once that was done, he wasn't sure what to do, since Meg didn't seem done. He started swiping through tablet functions, and picked one at random. AI scan. Something to occupy his mind while she drew.

Meg was completely focused on doing the best she could on the picture. Her eyes flicking between the paper and looking at Chet’s face. Though she noticed when he had finished his first “project” and switched to another. “Probably should have mentioned that this is going to take a while.” she admitted. “So, let me know if you need a break. We can split this over a couple of days if it's easier for you.” she offered.

Chet gave her a small smile. "I'm ok. Got plenty to do here, one way or another. Though if you need a break from looking at this mug for too long, that's fine, we can break it up." He'd set the tablet to scanning for various frequencies, checking in increasingly large wavelengths for any kind of communication. He fully expected to find absolutely nothing, but it was something to do that held his attention.

“Nope. I’m good.” she laughed, shaking her head before refocusing on the drawing. Meg was fully confident in her ability to finish this picture before needing a break, and it helped that she was ambidextrous. But she was a little worried about Chet since he told her about his need to be doing stuff. As long as he was ok… She sighed and continued to draw.

Chet was determined not to mess this up. Usually he needed to fidget, needed to move, to get the uncomfortable feeling of being still out of his limbs, but… he was not going to ruin this. So he held still, and focused his energies on the tablet. The only things moving were his fingers. He compiled the map information from the day, made sure the templates were organized, made sure everything that needed to be on had been turned back on in Meg's helmet, and ran wavelength scans in the background. A long while passed. Chet wasn't antsy yet, though he was feeling extremely self-conscious about how closely Meg must be looking at him. And then the tablet beeped. He didn't immediately acknowledge it, assuming it had to be a notification of another empty scan, but when he did swipe the alert, his eyes widened. "Uh, Meg? How close are you to being done?" He wasn't trying to be rude, but. Something had come up on the scan.

Meg giggled a little as she drew in the cute way his brow furrowed when he was concentrating on something. But she was sure to keep an eye on how he was doing. Despite losing track of time again as the picture came into detail, she wasn't so oblivious to not hear the tablet beeping. “What is it?” she asked, looking up as she closed the notebook and joined Chet to see what was on the screen.

Chet looked a bit stunned. He'd been idly scanning the wavelengths, fully expecting to get nothing back. But there it was, clear as day. A consistent, regular, repeating distress signal. From across the planet. Well. Not quite across, but far enough away that he only had planetary distance as a reference. It looked like an automatic signal, a beep that could be a locator or something else. He looked up at Meg, his face sliding into a wide smile. "We might not be alone the only survivors…"

Meg’s eyes widened as she saw the signal, a shocked but happy smile came to her face. “That's great! Can we contact them or reply to the signal?” she asked eagerly before taking a breath to calm down a little. “Sorry… Two more questions. Can you tell how far away they are and are we heading in the right direction to find them?” She was definitely relieved by the possibility that it might not just be her and Chet because if there were more people then that meant that their chances of survival were better. Though a more cynical part of her was hesitant to buy into the hope that others survived. There was a chance that the signal was just coming from some piece of equipment that crashed, there was bound to be a lot of that.

"Don't apologize, I'm excited too." Chet said quietly. His smile had disappeared as he'd slid right back into that same concentration. He was trying to establish contact, but they didn't really have a transmitter. Responding to the signal would require the same thing, and while there might be something on the pod that could help, it would take time, and maybe that time would be better spent moving towards the signal. "It looks like… roughly 106 miles, and… based on where we came from, we're moving perpendicular to them. We would need to make a 90 degree turn tomorrow in order to be walking in their direction." He kept his head down, trying to identify the specs. He ran officer codes, colonist codes, military codes, civilian codes, and was beginning to believe he wouldn't be able to identify it, when- Bing. "It's an AI code…" Chet's smile returned. "Looks like, somehow, Artemis-11 made it out, at least a piece of her." The Deus had been run partially by an insanely advanced AI, more a person than a program, and her signal was coming strong from what appeared to be East of them.

Meg nodded, understanding his excitement and glad that he understood hers. “Ok. That’s not too bad. Maybe too far to walk in a day…” she hummed. “The fact that it’s the AI is surprising but could definitely be helpful. Hopefully, there’s also another survivor there.”

They were already at the 14 hour mark, which meant that really, they ought to be heading to bed soon. But Chet's mind was spinning now, moving too quickly on ideas and possibilities. "It would be something like 30 hours at a 20 minute mile to get there. I don't know how fast you run, but we could probably pull off a 20 minute mile consistently, if we left everything behind. With packs, in the vac-suit, with the gear and the pod and everything… it might take us twice that. And travelling 10 hours a day, which is more than we did today would put us at a week before we get to this thing…" He shool his head. "There's got to be an easier way…" He glanced at Meg. "You tired?"

“I’m a fast runner. Especially if we leave everything here.” she agreed. “Thirty hours is a long time though… Even with the sun staying up all the time.” she hummed. “Maybe we could leave the heavier stuff, like the pod, behind and just take our packs and the tent. It would still slow us down but we’d be able to get there in better shape.” Meg sighed at the question and nodded. “Yeah. Probably not as tired as you are, but you're right. We both need some rest and we can figure out a plan later.”

Chet listened to her response, nodding along and thinking. "Well… I'm actually not tired just yet." he said quietly. "I should be, and actually was, honestly, but… now I'm awake." He looked down at the tablet, thinking, before looking up at her again. "I'm going to do some planning and fabbing. I'll go do that in the pod so you can rest here. Comms me if you need anything." He stood and started getting into his vacsuit, before giving her an apologetic look. "And we've got to figure out a better way than both of us having to put the suit back on every time one of us wants to go out. I'll work on that next."

“Oh, no.” she scolded, grabbing his sleeve. “You're not leaving me out of the planning process.” she smirked. “I get it. Finding the signal woke you up again, so to speak. It did the same to me. We should still rest but if you need to work on this, then there’s no reason for you to leave.” Meg explained assuringly. “Sit back down and we’ll work on this together. Besides, if there’s something that I can’t do with you, I can go back to finishing your picture.” she smiled.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet started to argue, before looking at her. The words died in his throat after one look at that smile. He didn't pull away, though his expression turned sheepish. "Well… honestly, if you want to help, you're welcome to, but… you should sleep at some point… I'm, uh… I'm likely to work on this all 'night' and just not sleep for a while… so. That's not healthy for both of us." The truth was, he was jittery now, and calming down his system was going to be difficult. "On top of that, I need to work with some of the materials from the pod. Might break apart anything unnecessary and use it for mass for the nano-forge. But you're welcome to stay up with me till you're tired. I'll always welcome your company."

“No, that’s not healthy.” she agreed, letting go of him. “But I’ll stay up and help as much as I can. We’ll still get some rest, both of us, once we both wind down.” she insisted since Chet needed sleep as much as she did, if not more so. Meg nodded at his explanation about the gear. “Alright. Do you know what you need from the pod?”

Chet didn't know how to explain to her that he was unlikely to wind down for a long time. Like, a long time. He was a bit worked up over the idea that maybe they weren't isolated on this alien world. That maybe they wouldn't have to be alone. That maybe Meg would have someone else to keep her from getting sick of him so quickly. And being this worked up… well. He usually had to find some way to physically ground himself. Which meant touch, and people, and things he didn't dare ask Meg for at this point. He'd mentioned it, once, kinda by accident, while rambling, but that was different from asking for a long, tight hug, so his heart would stop racing and his lungs would lose the prickly feeling and his mind would stop spinning and his skin would stop crawling and so on. That was just weird. "I'm not sure, just yet. I've got a lot of ideas but I need to be looking at it to figure this out." He shrugged apologetically again. "Sorry. It's gonna be a while before I've got anything concrete. I just know there's got to be a better way than what we were doing."

“That's ok.” she nodded, glad that he was admitting that. “Let's just start with one and keep going from there.” Meg suggested with a smile as she gently placed her hand on his shoulder. “But first… Are you alright?”

He nodded and started to turn to finish putting on his vac-suit, when her landed on his shoulder and her question registered. Chet turned to look at her again. "Umm… not really, but… I need to work it out. Like, work it out. If I do something with all this, it'll get better." He wasn't lying, but that wasn't all of it. Still, it was believable. It would be more believable if he could turn and keep prepping, but he couldn't find it in himself to pull away from her touch on his shoulder. She was safe, and that spot on his shoulder was now the one place his skin didn't feel like it was alive, in a bad way.

“Alright.” Meg nodded at his reasoning. “But it's a bit more than that, isn't it? I've always been good at reading people, under normal circumstances, and you look… Uncomfortable.” she admitted as she met his gaze. “If there's anything else, you can tell me. Or tell me if I'm wrong and misinterpreting things because of how crazy the past couple days have been.” she added with a chuckle, though she was pretty sure that she was right.

"You're not wrong." he said almost immediately. Lying to her was pointless, especially as he'd be bad at it just now. "I am uncomfortable, and there's more to it than what I just told you, but… I don't know how to talk about it very easily." Not true, he could ramble about it for hours, but it was true in that he didn't know how to talk about it to Meg, specifically. "Just… know that it's not you, and it's nothing you've done, and you're actually a huge help to me, and honestly you've kept me sane, and I don't know how much worse this would be without you here, but parsing all of my stupid issues out is difficult and I'm not good at it, so… yeah… but you're not wrong." Chet still hadn't moved, but he couldn't look at her now.

Meg nodded as she listened to his explanation, smiling a little when he felt the need to assure her that this wasn't because of her. “Well, I’m glad that I’m a help to you at all.” she chuckled. “But if there’s anything I can actively do to help you more, let me know. If it is something that I'm able to do, then I'll find a way to do it.” she assured, giving his shoulder a friendly squeeze. “But if you’re ready to get what you need from the pod, I’ll just get on my suit real quick.”

She seemed happy with that answer, and Chet wasn't sure how to ask for what he needed. So he nodded at her, managing to smile. He also barely managed to keep from melting into the contact when she squeezed his shoulder, and good grief wouldn't that have been embarrassing. "I-I'm ready… Just gotta zi-zip up…" She moved to put her suit on, and Chet finished getting his on, and picked up the tablet. He also strapped the fusion blade handle to his belt, and got a grip on himself. When he next spoke a few minutes later, he didn't stammer. "Ready?"

Meg raised a brow at the way Chet reacted to her gesture. He didn't say anything but she thought she remembered him mentioning that physical connection helped anchor him… It sounded familiar, she just wasn't sure right now. But she would have to wait until later as she quickly put her suit back on and nodded at his question. “Ready.” she confirmed as she sealed her helmet, making sure she had her blade as well. “Do you think it might be possible to fab up a second door, like an airlock set up, so we don't have to worry about the atmosphere while we're in this forest?” she asked, to keep a calm conversation going while they worked.

Chet had leaned over to zip up his pack, but stood straight up at her suggestion, staring at her for a second. "I'm so dumb. That's brilliant!" His eyes unfocused for a second as he thought. "Though it would be difficult on the tent… but if we built it modular, it could work… I don't know why I didn't think of that." He glanced at her again, and smiled. "Like I said, I'll work on that next." He unsealed the tent once Meg was set, and stepped out into the gray light of never ending not-night-not-day. He had a sudden realization. "Actually, you know how you can help? I need you to test the drone. Just pull up your virtual keyboard and it should run you through a small tutorial. I tried to make the controls familiar, WASD for movement if that makes sense." Chet began circling the pod and the frame, moving quickly, taking measurements and trying to make quick decisions.

Meg smiled a little at the fact that he liked her idea but furrowed her brows at his first comment. “Don't say that. You're not dumb. You’re probably one of the smartest people I know.” she said firmly. “I only suggested that because of your comment about both of us needing to suit up for even one of us to leave the tent.” She nodded at the suggestion and carefully picked up the drone before joining Chet outside. It took her a moment to remember how to pull up the virtual keyboard but the tutorial was easy enough to follow.

Chet squirmed at her compliment, not really sure what to do with it. He was dumb, but they knew different things, so he might look smart, and he didn't really want to shoot down Meg saying kind things, but receiving compliments was not a strong suit of his… "Thanks." He just kept working. The whirring of the drone rotors behind him let him know what Meg had it figured out. The gears in his mind were spinning, trying to think, and he had several ideas clashing with each other. He needed help sorting through them. "Meg, propellor, pedals, or thrusters?"

Meg nearly chuckled at the awkward way he replied. It was almost painfully obvious that he wasn't used to compliments… Which was kinda sad, especially for someone who was married before. But she was sure that things would get better now. “Uhh… Depends on what your plan is.” she replied with a raised brow. “I'm assuming that you want to attach one of those to the pod?”

"Well, yes. See, we could use the big reactor to power a propellor, which would pull the pod across the ground, since we're in atmosphere. It would be easy to control and could be used over fluid, like an old fan boat on earth. Or, we could put what amount bike pedals on the frame, and propel the pod by pedaling like you'd expect. Increasing gear sizes would allow us to move the whole thing. Those are both relatively controllable and safe, and faster than walking. But they'd each still take a day or two." He paused, thinking. "Or. I could try to rewire the thrusters to be usable in atmosphere. They're meant for vacuum use, and they don't have much fine speed control. If I could get them where we can control them, we could essentially use the pod as a vehicle, of sorts. The biggest problem there is that there's not safe way to test it. IF it doesn't work the first time, there's a good chance something will get damaged or someone will get hurt. I think I can do it, but it's your stuff and your decision too. What do you think?" Chet glanced at Meg, hoping she wouldn't think he was crazy.

Meg’s eyes widened as she listened to the explanations and reasoning behind each option. “Well, when you put it like that, the thrusters might not be a good idea.” she smirked, raising a brow in a dare to call himself dumb after all that. “Though I admit, I thought about the “fan boat” option earlier but I wasn't sure if the forge could make one big enough. The pedals don't sound like a bad idea either…” she hummed thoughtfully. “Do you have a preference between those two?”

Chet nodded slowly. The thrusters were his favorite bit, but it probably wasn't smart to try that. "Personally, I like the fanboat. It'll take some careful fabbing and welding, but I can forge smaller pieces and weld them together. The pedals would be insanely tiring, and would take both of us going at it full tilt. This is still powered by the big reactor." He stepped up into the pod. "Sounds like we're going with propellor, unless you have major objections." He kicked the panel under the console, found the big power connection, and followed it to the reactor housing. It would be a matter of reworking some things down here, but he could do it.

“No objections.” she assured. “I was actually a little worried about the pedals for that reason so the propeller works for me.” Meg admitted before turning her attention back to the drone and watching the feed. So far, she was just familiarizing herself with the controls and how it responded. Chances were that tomorrow she’d actually use it for scouting and mapping ahead of them.

"Got it." Chet gave a quick verbal affirmative, and then the fusion knife was out and flashing. The minutes passed, with Chet carving up big sections of the wall plating into metal strips that would fit into the small nano-forge matter reclamator. He cut wires that the pod wouldn't need again. He made sure the reactor was self-sustaining, and then began fabbing up the longer wires they'd need. It seemed like it had been about ten minutes to his mind when he checked the clock. He was still wide awake, still moving like he'd injected caffeine straight into his bloodstream. 2 hours had passed.

Meg would glance at him every once in a while to make sure he was alright but within the two hours, she liked to think that she had become fluent in piloting the drone if some of the maneuvers she pulled off were anything to go buy. Though she felt a bit like a chameleon by how she was watching the drone feed and keeping an eye on her surroundings and Chet. And she was tired again. Not from piloting but from how long of a “day” this had been and the adrenaline of finding the AI ultimately having worn off. “Hey, Chet? You ready to go back inside?” she finally asked. Because if he wasn't, she would either need to stay out here with him until he was or put her suit on later.

Chet stepped out from where he was tinkering in the pod, and looked at her. "Umm… not really. I'm sorry. But I've got everything I need out here, so if you need to go in and sleep and stuff, go ahead. I'll wait till you're up again before I come in. Don't worry, I won't kill you by opening the tent." He flashed her a smile, before ducking back in. "Seems like you picked up drone flying really quick. Well done!" She was a natural at it, and Chet was glad he'd programmed it right.

Meg chuckled a little at the joke and the compliment about her flying skills. “Thanks but I don't want to “lock you out” because I'm asleep.” she pointed out. “Besides, you worked harder than I did today. You need rest too even if you don't feel like you do.” she said with concern.

"Well…. take the tablet, and I can always wake you if I have to get in, but I don't think I'll need to. And I didn't work harder than you, don't sell yourself short. I'll rest when my body tells me to." Chet stayed in the pod, busying himself, partly because he had things to do and partly because he knew, if he looked at Meg, she was likely going to convince him.

Meg raised a brow at the denial and shook her head. “Excuse me but of the two of us, which one was injured from pulling this heavy hunk of metal? Cause I know it's not me.” she pointed out with a good-natured laugh. “You worked very hard today and deserve a rest. But as long as you don't overdo it… I guess I can't stop you.” she shrugged, picking up the tablet. “If I’m not up before you want to come in, wake me. If you're still out here working before I wake up, I’m dragging you back into the tent to get some rest.” she warned.

"I won't overdo it!" he called, half playful, half assuring her. He was definitely going to overdo it, but it wasn't an issue he had control of. "I'll wake you if I need in, don't worry. Rest well." (sorry its short, busy afternoon)

(It's ok. I get it.) “Ok.” Meg called back before entering the tent. As she waited for the air to be safe, she pulled up the medical app on the tablet to check on Chet and set an alarm for two hours. If he wasn't back in the tent by then, she would have to fulfill her warning and make him rest. She could always fall back asleep after… whichever scenario it came down to. For now, though, she took off her suit and laid it next to her sleeping… “pocket” before climbing in and resting.

Chet's heart rate and blood pressure were a tad elevated from his usual, and his adrenal glands were pumping, continuously, which seemed odd. Otherwise, though, he seemed fine. Over the next two hours, Chet was a blur. In the first hour and a half, he fabbed up welding tools, forged the pieces for the propellor, welded them together, affixed the finished product to the front of the pod, and wired in the reactor to it. The green telltale light he'd built into the propellor told him he'd connected the power correctly, and that it would fire up when he needed it to. Next thing to address was steering. He cut the wires from the reactor to the pod door, which meant they'd have to seal it by hand now. Not too difficult, and now he could use that power connection for the steering. 30 minutes and several forge sessions later, he had 'wind' flaps affixed to the sides of the pod what would allow for steering. They were hooked into power, and wired through the steering yoke. He addressed the sensor wires next, which was easy. Just find the scorched and damaged parts, pull them out, toss them in the matter reclamator, and fab up exact copies, just functional. Pretty soon he'd had the sensor screen functional, and they'd no longer be blind in the pod. The propeller being out front was going to be annoying, but once it was spinning, it wouldn't interefere with their ability to see. He was working on that last bit, laying on his back under the sensor bank in the pod, when Meg woke up.

Meg groaned at the alarm going off but forced herself up. She had, fortunately, slept well but she hadn't forgotten about Chet. After checking the tablet, she knew he was still outside working. She sighed and typed up a message for him before putting on her suit. ”You need a break.”

Chet saw the message pop up in the corner of his HUD, and checked it. "Voice to text, go: I'm ok. Gotta finish this. End. Send." He fired off the response, and kept working. The sensor wires were almost there, and once they were, they'd at least have a functional vehicle. He wanted to cover the exposed wires and mechanical elements on the walls, where he'd had to cut loose the metal panelling for material. If he could forge up some kind of mesh, he could spread it over the exposed sections, and at least have 'walls' of a sort.

Meg chuckled when she saw the reply and shook her head. ”You’ve been working for four hours!” she replied, sending it before sealing her helmet and walking out. “Is there anything I can do to help you finish up?” she asked since it looked like he was nearly done with the project.

Chet saw the message about the same time Meg walked out and talked to him. "Yes, I have, and you've only been asleep for 2. Aren't you in the middle of your 7-9 hours of sleep?" He didn't scoot out from under the sensor bank, though he did lift his head to give her a smile. "You can help me by going back to sleep. You should rest." His voice softened, and it was clear he wanted to be gentle, even if his body was on edge. "I gotta get these sensors set, patch the walls, then make sure the frame will function with this steering, which might mean rollers instead of sled runners. And I've been mulling over that airlock, and I think we can do it relatively easily, if we just-…" He realized he was about to launch into a long explanation, and stopped himself. "Uh, sorry. Don't lemme keep you. Go sleep."

“Yes, I am. But that wasn't just for me, that was for both of us.” she pointed out with a sigh. “You need sleep as much as I do.” Meg tried to listen to his plan but was admittedly still tired. “You obviously got a lot done and, apparently, have more to work on than I thought you would. But I think… you should leave the testing for us to do after we both rest.” she suggested, trying to persuade him for the sake of his health.

"Well…. yeah, but…." She sounded disappointed, and Chet deflated quickly under her disapproval. "I guess it can wait. I just…. I wanna get to Artemis. She'll make life so much easier." He scooted out from under the sensor bank, after connecting one more wire. His neck was stiff as he stood up, and he decided she was right, he probably did need to rest. He headed back into the tent, and plopped down, waiting for Meg to come in before he took anything off. "Airlock, airlock, airlock…" he muttered, still annoyed he hadn't thought of it sooner.

“I'm not arguing with that. Artemis will be a big help but if you wear yourself out it’ll take us that much longer to get to her.” Meg explained gently as they walked inside. She sighed in relief at the fact that Chet had listened to her and sealed the tent to let the air systems make it breathable again. “Hey, don't beat yourself up about it.” she encouraged. “We can make one either tomorrow or after we get Artemis and she can help find the best way to make it work.” she said a bit more optimistically as she took off her helmet.

Chet nodded slowly, feeling properly chastised despite the fact Meg had done nothing of the sort. She hadn't scolded, not really, but she sounded disappointed. As he started to peel off the vac-suit, his body started to crash, and he began trembling, just a little. "I'll make smarter decisions. I just…. I wanna be helpful."

Meg froze as she caught Chet's comment before moving to his side. “You are helpful. I told you before that I couldn't have made it this far without you.” she reminded, putting her hand on his shoulder. “I just… I want to help you. As a friend, not just your survivalist expert or your scout. We're both bound to make… questionable decisions but since we're together we can help each other find a better way.” she admitted in what she hoped was an encouraging tone.

This time, Chet did lean into her touch, trying to calm down so he could sleep. He was tired, just not sleepy, and the constant wakefulness was irritating. "Thanks, Meg. And also, thanks." He chuckled at the absurdity of what he'd just said, but he meant thanks for the reassurance, and the help. "I'm sorry I worry you. I don't mean to, and sometimes I don't even realize how questionable my decisions are till its pointed out to me." He glanced at her. "You've been very kind and careful with me, and I appreciate that."

“Anytime.” Meg chuckled with him. “But you don't have to apologize. I do worry about you and probably will until we finally have a good, stable, set up. I’m just glad that you don't think I'm being overbearing.” she admitted, though she might still worry even then. She blushed at Chet’s last statement and hugged him. “Thank you.” she murmured.

"You're not overbearing, I kinda need that push someti-…" Chet had started to respond, but her thanks confused him a tad, and then the hug derailed his train of thought. This close, he was sure she could feel him shaking, and while he wanted the hug, needed it, he also wasn't entirely sure what to do with his hands. Hugs could be finicky things, and Chet was exactly the type to overthink this. He settled for one hand looped around her, resting on her upper back. Neutral. Careful. But his shaking stilled, just a little, only when he leaned into her. "What are you thanking me for?" he asked quietly, completely confused as to that last bit.

Meg smiled softly at his reply, though she hadn't meant to cut him off. She could feel how much he was shaking and tightened the hug gently as she held on for a little longer. “For understanding what I was trying to do… For not being angry with me for how I was trying to help you… It just seemed like the right thing to say.”

The hug tightened, and Chet's chest did the opposite, suddenly expanding, allowing him to breathe for what felt like the first time in hours. His skin started to settle, feeling less and less like there were small insects crawling across every inch of it. "I-… of course, Meg. I'm just glad you weren't mad at me…" She was one of the first not to treat his problems like an inconvenience, and he couldn't help thinking 'Of all the people I coulda have gotten stranded with… I'm glad it was her.'

“I wasn't mad. I'm not.” she assured. “More concerned than anything. But I do want to help you, Chet.” she admitted as she finally pulled away from the hug, though Meg was surprised by how much she had, apparently, needed it as well. It felt good to have some contact like that. She sighed and gave a small smile, hoping that he hadn't minded her taking the initiative and hugging him first instead of letting him come to her.

She pulled back, and Chet almost didn't let go, though he realized that would be a problem quickly enough to release his grip on her. Reluctantly, but still not making it weird. He hoped. "Well… you are a help, Meg." He smiled at her, feeling more calm. "Please don't get the idea that I'm in a rush to get to Artemis because you haven't been great. That's not it at all." He fidgeted with the vac-suit he was half out of. "You've been fantastic." He realized he was beginning to repeat himself and sighed, before pulling the vac-suit the rest of the way off. "Anyway. How long we sleeping for?"

Meg chuckled softly when he hesitated to let her go but didn't comment on it as she finished taking off her suit. “Don't worry. That thought hadn't even crossed my mind.” she assured. “I am relieved to hear you say that but I also understand the huge benefit of having Artemis with us. I'm looking forward to finding her.” she admitted, feeling her face warm as Chet called her fantastic. “You’ve been really great too.” she said, clearing her throat slightly before answering his last question. “Honestly… I don't know. Maybe aim for nine hours? It's been a long day for both of us.”

Chet was glad they were on the same page about the AI. "I'm hoping she'll be able to help us design a bigger nano-forge. If we can do that, we can fabricate entire objects and vehicles and buildings. Things that will make our life SO much easier. And Artemis can also seed instances of herself, which will allow us to automate things. Build them bigger and better." It was a chance to thrive, and that was what Chet was looking for. He was glad she didn't hate him already, too. And now to sleep. Chet scooted over to his same sleep pocket, by the door. "I can try for 9 hours. I'll do my best not to wake you if I'm up before then."

“That sounds amazing. Though I wasn't expecting her to be able to build actual buildings.” she smiled, looking forward to seeing everything that Artemis could do to help them. Meg barely held back a yawn before she climbed into the same pocket she had been in earlier. “Alright. And I’ll do the same for you.” she assured as she lay down, facing him. “Good night, Chet.”

"Well, if we can use the small forge to make a bigger one, we can use that to make construction machines, including industrial printers, which we could use to print out houses. It's several steps down the line, but the AI should have all those templates." he explained, his smile growing as he thought about it. Chet turned in his pocket, and noticed Meg was facing him. He oriented himself that way as well, and wondered if it was weird if he did it, even if she'd done it first. "G'night, Meg."

Meg nodded, matching his smile at the idea and the possibilities of what they could make with Artemis and the larger forge. But sleep was calling to her and she didn't mind Chet looking her way… It was actually a little reassuring because she knew where he was and would see him when she woke up. It didn't take much longer for her eyes to close and stay closed.

Chet had to focus on his breathing and his heart rate in order to go to sleep, but he eventually managed it. He wished he hadn't. His dreams were dark, and long, and he wanted to wake up from them, but found he couldn't. He slept the entire 9 hours, going from one uncomfortable dreamscape to the next, moving from one terrifying scene to the next, and just generally not resting his brain. By the end of it, he was mumbling in his sleep, and twitching every so often, trying to fend off things only he could see.

Meg was capable of being a light sleeper but she hadn't given it much thought this time. Some part of her thought that she would crash because of how long they had been awake. She had even managed to sleep pretty well until the soft sounds Chet was making in distress slowly woke her up. “Chet?” she murmured, rubbing her eyes before reaching over and shaking his shoulder. “Chet, are you ok?”

Something touched his shoulder, something not in the dream, and Chet jerked up and away with a sharp gasp as he was rudely thrust into the real world. It was a relief, but it startled him. He sat there, half sitting up, staring at Meg for a moment, before he got his bearings. "……sorry."

Meg jumped back a little when Chet suddenly sat up, clearly awake now. “It's ok.” she replied, assuringly. “Are you alright? You were… It sounded like you were having a nightmare.” she explained in concern.

Chet swallowed hard, his mouth completely dry, before shutting his eyes tightly, trying to get a grip on reality. "Yeah… yeah, I'm ok…. I was nightmaring…." He looked at her. "DId I wake you? I'm sorry." He hadn't meant to, he didn't want to cause a problem.

“It's ok. I must have been sleeping lightly.” she said, brushing aside his apology. Nightmares weren't something a person could control anyway. “Do you want to talk about it? I hear that helps sometimes.” she suggested around another yawn. But she was awake enough to listen.

There was a long pause as Chet thought about her offer. He eventually shook his head a little. "Not right now… Can we talk later? It's kinda a long conversation." He slumped in his pocket, noting what time it was on the tablet. "You're yawning, you still tired?" He was awake, now, his adrenaline kicking him fully alert way too quickly, but that didn't mean Meg had to be up.

Meg waited patiently as he made up his mind and nodded. “Sure. Later works for me.” she agreed, blushing when Chet called her out for yawning. “A little. I'm not used to waking up multiple times unless I'm planning to or if I'm sick.” she admitted truthfully. The thought of if there were coffee or tea packs in their survival supplies crossed her mind before she started hoping that this planet had some kind of equivalent. “What time is it?”

"roughly 6 am, or they equivalent thereof according to the sleep clocks." Chet gave her an apologetic look. "I'm sorry about that. Wasn't trying to wake you up. You could go back to sleep if you want, I'll be quiet." He'd find something to do… surely there was something he could do quietly. It struck him he hadn't journaled yet, so there was that, at least.

“Yeah, 6 am is definitely too early for me. Unless it's an emergency.” she laughed a little as she laid back down. “But you don't have to apologize. You were having a nightmare, plain and simple.” she shrugged. “I have yet to meet anyone who could do anything about nightmares other than wake up from them.”

Chet just grinned at her. Usually 6 am was too early for him too, but he was awake. "Me too… Maybe the AI will have a cure." She wouldn't, but it was worth a chuckle. "Get some sleep."

“Or some way to help with them at least.” Meg agreed, doubting the AI could do anything to actually stop them from having nightmares. “Just a couple more hours.” she assured with a soft smile. “You can wake me up around 8 if I'm not already.”

Chet settled back into his pocket with the tablet, returning Meg's smile. "You sleep as much as you need to. There's no pressure to hurry." He pulled up the signal detector, just to make sure it was still there, and it was. Artemis was still transmitting. Didn't seem to have moved, either. All good signs. As Meg fell asleep, Chet couldn't help glancing over from time to time. She looked relaxed and peaceful in her sleep, and he made a conscious effort not to stare at her like a creep. She was really very pretty to him, and his sense of wanting to do good for her, to better her situation, only grew as he watched over her rest.

“That goes for you too.” she murmured, catching the comment before drifting off to sleep again. This time, even if it was only for a couple of hours, she managed to reach a deeper sleep than before.

Chet let her sleep. He wasn't particularly good at watching the clock, and 8 came and went without him noticing. He was thinking about that signal, and the AI, and Meg, and his own mess, and it was jumbling. He wondered if others had made it down to the surface intact. If they had, that would be incredible, but also really difficult. He got hungry, and snagged a ration kit from his pack. Breakfast, waffles and chicken, or something close. That also had him thinking about their food, and the need to find something that would allow them to live nutritiously, and hopefully wouldn't taste totally weird. Nutripaste was not how he wanted to go forward. 3 weeks in jail, being fed nothing but the grey doughy food had given him a deep dislike of the stuff. If the word 'neutral' had a color, a taste, and a texture, it would be nutripaste. They'd have to try to find lifeforms, or even figure out of cooked correctly, maybe the mushrooms could be eaten. It was at least something to ad variety to their diet.

Meg slept well enough, though this was more of a rest this time. She had heard that had been people who could tell how long they had been asleep, but she had never figured out how that was possible… Or if it really was. A soft moan escaped her as she finally woke up for the day. “Good morning.” she smiled sleepily as she sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

Chet smiled over at Meg as she woke up. Her sleepy expression was cute, and he had to look away after a moment, before his smile got out of control. "Morning. Sorry I didn't wake you." He'd just glimpsed that it was close to 10:30. "Hungry?"

“It's ok.” she assured, stretching out a bit. “Yeah. Breakfast sounds good.” Meg agreed with a soft smile. “Did you get any more sleep?”

Chet scooted over, dug around in her pack, and found a breakfast kit, which he slid over to her. "Nah, I was thinking. Checked the signal again and looked for more. Never know if there are others, I guess." He stood and started to pack up everything they'd deployed in the tent, which wasn't a ton since yesterday.

Meg nodded at the explanation as she opened the ration pack, something that tasted like uncooked pancake mix with pasty syrup and dried pieces of… fruit jerky, and watched him work. “Did you find anything?” she wondered, though trying not to get her hopes up.

Chet shook his head. "Nothing new. I was hoping too." He gave her an apologetic look. "But that doesn't have to mean anything. We've got an entire planet to search." He foniahes getting packed, and pulled on his vac-suit, other than the helmet. "Today, we're going to have to work together. I'll drive the pod, but I'll need you to navigate. You got good with the drone, so I was thinking maybe you could get the overhead view and help me weave out of the Mushroom Kingdom. Otherwise, we'd have to clear the shroomtrees, and thats gonna take forever."

Meg nodded and let out a brief sigh at his initial answer, not really having expected to find anyone. At this point, finding Artemis was already a surprise, anyone else seemed like a long shot. Though she appreciated his optimistic follow-up and she couldn't deny the possibility of it. “Sure. I can do that.” she smiled as she finished her pack and started to get ready. “Though I meant to ask, what’s the range on the drone? I’m assuming that it should be able to get above the canopy without a problem but…” she shrugged.

"Well… I'm not totally sure. I built it but the operating specs weren't part of that. I guess, test it and see? You could fly it about a foot off the ground and just go straight ahead as far as it can go, and we'll know then. Or you could just send it straight up over us until its out of range, and we can catch it when it falls." Chet shrugged back. "If it breaks, I can replace parts pretty quickly."

Meg chuckled a little but nodded as she put on her vacsuit. “That’s fair. We'll test the height first.” she agreed, picking up her gear and the drone. “But I think that we should be able to tell the range just by how the drone responds to the controls at certain distances.” she suggested thoughtfully.

"I'll trust you on that one." Chet smiled at her. He waited till she was ready, before opening the tent and stepping out. They needed to tear down the tent, test the drone, and he wanted to try to put internal walls on the pod. "You test the drone while I work on a couple things? Sound ok?"

Meg smiled back and put on her helmet. “If you’re sure you don't need an extra hand.” she told him as she followed him out of the tent, already setting up to activate the drone and her virtual keyboard.

"Nah, I should be good." He took his walk around the tent, collapsing joints and resetting springs, and soon, the whole thing was torn down. He busied himself building the wall mesh, then, a plasticy, semi-sticky micro-mesh that was flexible, but would hold the wires and power components in place in the pod.

“Alright.” she nodded, stepping away from the tent before activating the drone and sending it straight up above the canopy. Fortunately, she remembered that the pod had been at least 50 feet in the air so the tops of the mushrooms couldn't be that much higher. Though she made sure to turn on the drone feed so she could get a good lay of their path.

After a bit, Chet had the mesh fabbed up and ready to go. He'd made sure one side was semi-adhesive, so it would stick to the wall studs and hold things in. He was trying to get it in place, but the pod was taller and wider than him, obviously. He could either reach up, and stick it at the top, or reach sideways, and stick at it the side. Not both at the same time. He chose to reach up. Meg heard a quiet yelp, following by a lot of sheepish chuckling, before Chet spoke up. "A little help here?" The mesh had folded sideways, circling him, and stuck to itself, encasing him in a mesh cocoon he was having trouble getting out of. He wasn't hurt or in any danger, so he wasn't flailing, but he was stuck in one position, with his arms over his head.

Meg quickly turned towards the pod when she heard the noise… and bit her tongue to keep from laughing. She walked over to help, leaving the drone in hover where it was and she minimized the feed. “You, uuhh… You made some kind of super plastic wrap?” she asked, trying not to snicker as she helped get Chet free.

Chet huffed at her. "No! Well… yes, but its more than that." He started laughing, trying to explain exactly how he hadn't gotten twisted up in a big wad of plastic wrap. Meg helped him get free, and he still didn't have an explanation. "Fine. It's plastic wrap." He chuckled. "Now help me get it set in place. Hold the side so it doesn't ensnare me again. It's predatory, I tell you."

When Chet started laughing at the situation, Meg stopped holding back her own mirth. “I’m sorry. I’m sure it's much more than just that but… This just reminds me of all the times I struggled with getting a usable piece. I swear, that stuff stuck to everything but what I wanted it to.” she explained before laughing again when he called the mesh “predatory”. “Well, if it's that good at trapping people, I wonder how this would work to catch animals…” she mused as she held the edge away from him.

Chet grinned at her as he stuck the top edge of it to the spot he'd been aiming for before. "Oh, probably not very good. They'd be too smart for that." He smoothed down the top edge, sidestepping until he was next to Meg, before smoothing the side edge against the wall stud on that side. He slowly moved down the edge, making sure Meg's hands were clear before he kept going. Once he'd got the first piece up, he repeated the process with the second piece. "Could I get your help with this one too? I'd rather not be psych ward restrained by what is clearly sentient plastic wrap."

“You're probably right.” she nodded, grinning back at him, moving as necessary as he continued to put the mesh in place. “Sure.” Meg answered with a chuckle at the idea of the material being sentient as she held the next piece to avoid getting Chet wrapped up again.

"How's the drone test coming? Got all the specifications figured out yet?" he teased, trying to pull the attention off his struggles. They got the second wall covered, and Chet moved to start packing the stuff in the pod. It was mostly just the tent and their packs, and those didn't take up a ton of space.

“Drone’s fine. It made it above the tops of the mushrooms with no problem.” she shrugged. “But I still don't know the max distance.” she admitted as she stepped out of the pod so he could work and get back to the drone.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

"Well… how far out ahead of us do you think it'll need to be for you to give me the best path options? We're almost good to go." He packed away the tent and really, that was it. He checked the physical connection on the propellor, the flaps, rechecked the wires, but once he was done, they were ready to leave. To see if this thing would work.

“I’m not sure… I think it would depend on the speed of the pod with the propeller.” she admitted thoughtfully. “But I can pilot the drone ahead of us… Maybe a minimum of 30 feet?” she suggested, willing to push the drone farther if it became necessary.

"That should work." Chet smiled. "I'm not sure of the pod's speed… frankly I'm not even sure it'll work. I gotta test it a bit this morning." He plopped down in the 'pilot' chair, and hovered his hand over the ignition switch. "You staying in here, or you gonna stand outside and record this for posterity?" It was halfway a joke, but if the propeller pod worked, Chet was going to be proud of it.

Meg smirked at the suggestion before quickly bringing the drone down to their level and took a seat next to Chet. “If you really want this recorded, the drone has a camera and I have the feed on my HUD.”

Chet cleared his throat. "I, uh… I was giving you a chance to not be in here, in case I crash the thing, or my wiring is off and it explodes. No point in killing both of us." He looked at her, trepidation in his expression. He was reasonably sure this was going to work, but… well, they were stranded on an alien planet, trying to hunt down an AI in a literal mushroom forest, what did he know about 'reasonable' anymore?

“Oh, alright.” she smirked, climbing out of the seat and stepping away from the pod. “Just be careful. I don't want you to get hurt either.” Meg admitted sincerely as she reached, what felt like a reasonable safe distance.

Chet smiled at her as she got to a safe spot. "Thanks. I'll do my best not to die." He took a long second to just breathe, before he started the process. "Ok. First, sensors on." He flicked the big switch, and the sensor wall woke up. A few spots fuzzed, then the blurring cleared, and Chet had a clear view of what was ahead of the pod. "Sensors clear." The relief was clear in his voice. "Flap connections open." The wind flaps on the sides of the pod waggled as he connected them to power and tried moving them. "Seems like those are working as well." 2 down. "Here we go. Opening engine connection." That would connect the reactor to the propellor engine. He hit the button, and the prop began to turn. Chet immediately realized he hadn't acounted for how much the pod was going to shake with a propellor on it. The vibrations got worse, and worse, and suddenly stopped, only when they got bad enough to trigger the inertial dampeners. Chet had to chuckle a little at that. "Well. It's on. Let's see if we can move." He opened the reactor connection a little more, and the prop spun faster, which did exactly what it was intended to do. It pulled the pod forward, just a little. Chet opened the 'throttle' more, and the pod moved faster as the prop amped up. It moved forward steadily, but slowly, and Chet hit the flap levers, making an S-turn as he checked that both would work as intended. Everything was going well, till he realized he didn't have a braking mechanism. "Ha. Meg, remind me to think up some form of braking." For now, since he wasn't moving really fast, he just cut the engine off, and the weight of the pod slowed it naturally as the prop shut down. "Think you trust that?" Chet said, grinning to himself.

Meg watched, a little nervously, as Chet went through his checklist for the modified pod. Though she was eager to see it work. She briefly wondered if this was a similar feeling that scientists and inventors experienced when they were testing one of their experiments. But she didn't dwell on those thoughts for long when the pod started shuddering, only letting out a breath when it seemed to stop. The rest of the “test” looked good until Chet admitted he didn't have any brakes. To be fair, the idea had slipped her mind as well until he brought it up. “Honestly, the shaking worries me a little and we definitely need to come up with some kind of brake.” she admitted, barely restraining from rubbing the back of her neck. “But I trust you. If you think this setup is safe enough, then I’ll be ok.” she smiled back.

"Yeah… If we ever have to go fast, or come to a quick stop, it might be a problem… but for this trip, where we're planning on carefully driving about 10mph, we should be ok." At that speed, they'd get to Artemis's position in 10 hours, which was must faster than they would have been able to walk it, or run it. And 10mph was still barely a crawl. "Unless you feel really unsafe about that." He didn't want to discount Meg's feelings. She was going to be riding in the thing too.

“Fair enough. At 10 miles per, we should have plenty of coasting distance for a stop.” she agreed, walking back up to the pod with the drone nearby. “Besides, I did some off-roading back on Earth. It shouldn't be too bad.” Meg added with a smile before hauling herself up into the new “vehicle”. “Don't worry. I'm sure I'll be fine.” she assured.

Chet chuckled. "Off-roading is all we'll be doing for a good long time." She seemed ok with the answer and the concept, and that was all Chet needed. He pulled up the location of the signal on the tablet, tossed it to the pod computers, and watched as the navigation unit tried to calculate time and distance. It got distance right, but threw up error codes on the other things. He didn't care; the point had been just to make sure he could keep the pod pointing the right direction, not to chart a course. They were on an uncharted planet, his poor little nav computer wasn't going to be able to figure it out. "Drone ready? You're the nav unit now." He grinned at Meg. With that plugged in, he opened the engine connection again, this time immediately ramping it up so that the vibrations set off the inertial dampeners. Only a moment of shaking this time, and then it was fine. He got up to pull the hatch closed at the back, and when he sat down, they were ready. Ready to get moving towards something that would help them thrive. As usual, Chet held out a fist to Meg. "Survivors?"

Meg laughed with him as she took the seat next to him. “That's true.” she nodded, piloting the drone in front of the pod and sending it ahead of them. She raised a brow at the sight of the error messages, wondering what they were for and if they would cause any problems… But brushed it aside for now. Chet knew what he was doing and didn't seem worried. “Navigation ready, captain.” she smirked, only half teasing as the shaking stopped quickly. The thought of putting the drone feed on the main screen briefly came to mind before she pushed it away. She could see both just fine and didn't want to distract Chet with two views to watch. Besides, she wasn't entirely sure how to do that anyway. “Survivors.” she replied, completing the first bump that accompanied the word. “Let’s get that AI.”

Their fistbump always made Chet smile. It also really, really helped all the little anxious thoughts and feelings settle. Meant they were on the same page, and that's what Chet wanted. They moved forward, and when they came up to a tight spot, Chet would slow down a bit and ask Meg which direction to go. He was always looking for the most open route, the one with the least twists and turns and tight spots, and her overhead view allowed her to get that to him. They worked well together, with Meg setting direction and Chet avoiding hitting things. The pod held together, nothing exploded, nothing snapped off, and they were making good time. "Let me know when you see the edge of the forest." he said at some point. "If the ground changes a lot, we may be in trouble."

Meg always answered his questions based on what she could see through the drone. Though she alternated between having the drone fly over the forest and sending it straight ahead of them to help get a better lay of the land. “I will.” she assured, agreeing with his point about the terrain. “I’m looking forward to getting out of this crazy forest.” she admitted.

A few hours passed, and Chet began to relax. They'd weathered what he was worried about with the build, and things were going according to plan. Their communication had gotten more precise, more concise, and both seemed engrossed in their roles, but Chet had a question on his mind. One Meg had asked him. "So… you asked about my nightmares…" He swerved around a shroomtree, and swallowed hard. "Are you sure that's a can of worms you want to open? They're weird."

Meg was surprised by the change of topic but nodded. “Only if you're comfortable talking about it.” she assured him. “I know that talking about that kind of stuff can help and I do want to help you.” Besides, how much weirder can they be than what we've already been through or will find on this planet? she wondered to herself, knowing that the human mind can be pretty messed up at times.

Chet kept his eyes forward. He wasn't sure if talking about it would help, but… here went nothing. "So… I told you I was married, right? And that the only reason I wound up on this mission was the war, and a lack of qualified people, right?" Lot of background information. He hoped she wouldn't flinch at it. "Have I told you I went to jail for a while, and then was placed in planetary exile?" With the advent of space exploration, the ability to confine a criminal to another planet than where they committed the crime had become an option, and 'planetary exile' was like house arrest, just… bigger.

“Right.” she nodded at the questions about his wife and how he ended up here. She remembered that conversation though she didn't dwell on it since seemed to be an uncomfortable topic for him. Meg blinked in surprise at the reveal and shook her head. “Uhh… No. You didn't mention that. What happened? Can I ask how you ended up there?” she questioned gently, blushing a little at being that bold.

Chet was quiet for a moment, ordering his thoughts. "Well, like I said, I got married young. Girlfriend at 15, she was pregnant at 17, first kid, got married at 18, went to college on Mars, second kid at 20, shipped to Ceres at 22 with Space Force. We were there about 6 months before our marriage started to really struggle. I think she'd been tired of me for a while, or something, but… anyway." This was the tough part. "I nightmare about Eliana… about her beating me bloody in bed one night, and then me going to jail for domestic abuse of her and the kids. That's what happened." He kept his eyes forward, but the grief was clear in his voice. "I never laid a hand on them, but… she reported it, made up some stuff, and got her new boyfriend to back her up to the police, and they jailed me for 3 weeks till they could set a trial date. 3 weeks isn't the worst, but it's a long time to eat nutripaste." He gave a small chuckle. "That's why I'm desperate to avoid the stuff, by the way." He paused there, knowing she likely had questions or would need to process what he'd just said. People probably wouldn't react well to being told their only companion was a jailbird, even if he claimed innocence.

Meg hummed thoughtfully as he basically gave her a timeline of the relationship between him and his wife/ex-wife. But her jaw dropped at Eliana’s duplicitous actions. “Why that utter…” she nearly growled, taking a moment to calm down. Given the fact that Chet was the one having nightmares and never met his ex, something she was currently glad of and was very likely never going to, she was definitely going to believe the man next to her. She sighed and gently put her hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry. You didn't deserve any of that.” she told him. “I know we haven't known each other for very long but I've always been able to get a good read on people and I don't think you're the kind of person who would do anything like that.” she admitted.

Chet let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding when Meg reacted with anger at Eliana. He wasn't sure how she would take this admission from him. He gave her a small smile as she touched his shoulder. "Thanks… I probably did deserve some of it, but… I'm glad you don't think I would do it." He turned his gaze forward again. "My court date was set, it went to trial, and I actually got acquitted. She couldn't prove anything because I hadn't done anything. But that didn't matter in the court of public opinion. Employers or other people take one look at your record, see a trial for child and spousal abuse, they won't give you the time of day. On top of that, she and her new fella went off to Jupiter and filed different charges, enough to get me confined to Ceres and restrained from seeing my kids." He swallowed hard, again, the thought of his kids making him tear up a bit. "I was stuck for around 11 months, and then war broke out on Earth, and they recruited me again. I'm a villain, until someone needs something, in which case I suddenly become some kind of asset again." He gave a low chuckle. "In any case, I spent the next two years on the Deus, and now we're here, so… I guess I nightmare cuz my brain hasn't really processed it all, or something."

“I doubt it.” she smiled softly. She wasn't trying to say that he was perfect. Everyone does crazy or stupid stuff in their lives but prison seemed a bit extreme in his case. Meg was glad to hear that he had been acquitted of the false charges… However, her relief was short-lived as Chet told her the rest of his story. A part of her could almost understand why certain employers wouldn't want him but she also thought that they could have done the research to see that he was innocent. “I've never understood why different planets couldn't be on the same legal system. Different lawyers, obviously, get different results but…” she sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. Especially about you not being able to be with your kids.”

Meg seemed relatively sure he wasn't a monster, so that was good. She was understanding with him, and Chet was kinda glad he was driving; he wouldn't have known where to look otherwise. People being kind to him was something he'd gotten used to not having. "Yeah… and there's a lot less criterion for a restraining order than for a full trial, and I can kinda understand why the systems are different, but… I wish it was easier to navigate." He glanced over at her. "Thanks… it's been rough, but… it kinda made coming on this mission easier. My family didn't know what to think, since they were on Earth and couldn't get the news from me. Eliana filled them in on her side, and I wasn't able to be in contact with them, so last I knew, they believed her. So nobody was waiting for me on Earth, and my friends largely went away, either by moving to other planets or missions, or as a result of me being embroiled in a legal mess. So nobody was going to miss me on Ceres, and my kids… well. If I ever got to see them again, I'd have been painted as some sort of villain to them, so… no point in waiting for them to hate me on their own." His voice got quieter and quieter as he went. Maybe being marooned was better.

“I agree with that.” she nodded. “You shouldn't need a four-year degree to understand the law. But I think, if she had just gone for the restraining order, you still would have been able to at least talk with your kids.” she sighed as she had a sinking suspicion that his ex-wife didn't want that to happen. Meg squeezed his shoulder slightly, trying to comfort him, and nodded. “I understand. What you went through… It's a lot for anyone to even imagine. But I believe you. And you're not alone anymore.” she assured with a sympathetic smile. “Though if we do manage to get back to Earth or wherever… Hopefully, I won't run into your ex. I’d probably break her nose on reflex.” she admitted, trying not to chuckle.

Chet shrugged. "I only know what I was told. Inter-planetary travel? I can navigate that just fine. Inter-planetary law? Murky and impossible to grasp, to me at least." He smiled at her as she reassured him. "…Thanks, Meg. I-… I really appreciate that." They were alone, for all intents and purposes, but… somehow, he felt better about it. "Anyway. All of that to explain my nightmares. I dream about all kinds of garbage as a result of that. So… if I snap awake, or mutter in my sleep, or come awake crying or something stupid like that, now you know. Sorry it's something that affects you. I've tried to get a grip on it, but I guess… It's just still so raw to me, or something. I don't know."

“Fair enough.” she chuckled in agreement. “I've never actually been in a legal situation before so I’m limited to what I saw on tv.” Meg smiled back. “Anytime, Chet.” she nodded before refocusing on controlling the drone. “We're, currently, the only people on this planet so listening and helping you is the least I can do. We're in this thing together.” she added, playfully bumping his shoulder to let him know she had no trouble with that fact. “Hey, I don't blame you for any of that. It makes sense to me that you would have nightmares from everything you've been through.” she told him gently. “But if there’s anything I can do to help you…”

Chet smiled, and bumped her shoulder back. He didn't know what to say to that. It was just… so nice. They'd had a bit of a straight shot for a while now, the forest beginning to thin out. Seemed like they were about half way, and the shroomtrees were shorter and farther apart. Chet had been driving, but he'd needed less focus for a bit. Now though, they were going over a hilly section, and he wasn't sure what was over the crest of each little rise. He shrugged at her question about how to help him. His response was an absent-minded mumble. "Other than sleeping with me, I don't know…" As soon as it left his mouth, his brain kicked into gear, and registered not only what he'd said, but the fact that they were on comms, so she had definitely heard him. "I mean– that's not what I meant! I meant like, literally sleep with me– not– just like, in the same pocket– the closeness has always comforted me, though I'm not asking— you asked, and I meant there's not really a way– I wasn't— I didn't mean we should– you know… though I'm not saying I wouldn't want to, like you're not attractive or something, you are and I would, but– that's not—….." His face was going to set his helmet on fire, he was blushing so hard. The words had started coming out in a rush, and he hadn't exactly been able to stop them. Or think them through.

Seeing the forest thinning out, gave Meg hope that they were reaching the edge of the dangerous biome, and she sent the drone back up to check the terrain. Her eyes widened at the soft-spoken but blunt suggestion and was unable to keep from laughing. It was such an unexpected comment and the way he kept trying to backtrack and make it sound less awkward was just adorable. “I… I'm… s-sorry.” she managed to get out through her giggles. “I… I’d be willing to share a bed pocket if it would help you.” she assured, though her own face was also quite red.

She laughed. Meg laughed, and the wave of relief that hit Chet made him slump in his seat. Wheeeew…. "Don't be sorry…" he exhaled. "I'm just glad you didn't take it how it sounded, exactly." After what he'd just told her, the last thing he wanted was to make Meg mad. "And thanks, but… please don't feel like you have to. I shouldn't have even said anything, I was distracted. I'm not trying to…. well. I'm not trying something." This explanation was much calmer, a lot less frantic. Meg seemed to just take his mess in stride, and that was slowly beginning to help him create fewer of them.

Meg shook her head. “It just caught me so off guard and I had a feeling you didn't mean for it to come out… that way. You're a nice guy and… you are cute, but we just don't know each other well enough yet.” she admitted, blushing a little more. “But… What if I just slept in the pocket next to yours and if that doesn't help, then we can try sharing.” she offered.

"You would be completely correct that I didn't mean for it to come out that way. I never mean for half the things I say to come out at all, they just slide past the filter like it's not even there." Chet would have facepalmed if his helmet hadn't been in the way. "I know we only just met a couple of days ago, please don't think I'm trying to push anything on you… though I would take that offer. The next-pocket-over offer, as long as it's not making you uncomfortable. If it gets weird at any point I can move or sleep outside, if I have to." Her response had been a little less absolute than he would have guessed, and he gave her a surprised glance. "You think I'm cute?"

Meg chuckled at the confirmation and nodded. “I think everyone has, at least, moments like that.” she said, acknowledging that he meant it was more for him. Though she was glad that he agreed to her suggestion and she was still willing to try sleeping in the same pocket if it would work better. “Well… Yeah.” she nodded, blushing again at the question. “You did say that I was attractive too.” she pointed out with a slight smirk.

"Glad to know I'm not alone." He chuckled a bit. Chet grinned, looking back at the sensor screen. "I did say you're attractive, but that's true. You thinking I'm cute is very kind. It's a little different." He firmly believed that. Meg deserved to have people say it. They came over another rise just then, and there was an abrupt change in the landscape. Sudden patches of brown and orange appeared, the off-yellow white of the mushroom matting just suddenly stopping, like there was a hard edge to it. "Whoa, you see that?"

“You’re definitely not alone.” she smiled, nodding a little. Meg shook her head. “I don't see how. They're both opinions. But since we're the only people here there's no way to get a third and confirm or deny them.” she smirked. “Besides… I remember being told that I was intimidating quite a few times.” “I see it.” she nodded eagerly as she stared at the screen. “We're almost out of this forest. It's kinda interesting how it just… stops like that.” she pointed out, thought she had an idea as to why.

Chet chuckled. "Maybe we can ask the AI. They're always objective." He glanced at Meg. "You could definitely be intimidating. Competent, strong, capable, and pretty on top of that. Intimidations galore." "I wonder why it does that. I kinda figured it would fade out slowly, but… theories?"

Meg felt like her face was about to catch fire from all the compliments Chet was giving her. “You have a different definition than what I've heard.” she said softly. “My guess is that… Either the whole forest is an organism of some kind or multiple and it’s growing outwards. So… Kinda the reverse of the whole melting ice caps theory back on Earth.” she explained. “Though there has to be some kind of balance otherwise this forest would end up covering the whole planet at some point.”

Chet just smiled at her quiet response. Her theories about the Mushroom Kingdom made sense, though. "My guess is that since we seem to be in a long night cycle, at some point during the year, there's a more summer-like long day cycle, which… if it's what it looks like, that would dry out the fungus and it would slowly burn away, essentially. So maybe like a seasonal back and forth?" They were quickly approaching that dirt edge now, and Chet wasn't sure how the sled runners were going to work with the dirt. "Also, keep a sharp eye. I have no idea what to look for in this newer area."

Meg nodded, seeing the logic of his theory. “That makes a lot of sense. I guess we both are becoming scientists now, huh?” she chuckled, fairly sure that some degree of scientific knowledge was highly recommended for their jobs even before the accident. “I will. I’ll send the drone out farther and let you know.” she assured as she hit the corresponding keys and turned her attention to her HUD feed.

Chet chuckled. "Hey, we were both sciency people already. Survival is a science. And so is tech. Don't doubt us, we got this." He slowly closed the 'throttle', slowing them down a bit as they headed into unknown territory. The fungus matting ended, and he braced as they slid across the break into the dirt. The sled runners caught, and slowed down as the dirt grabbed at them, but as Chet opened the 'throttle' more, they came back up to speed. "All good here. Can we do a straight shot?"

“I guess so, though I never thought of survival as much of an actual science.” she hummed, agreeing that there was some science involved. Meg braced herself for the change from the smooth matting of the mushroom forest to whatever terrain the next biome would have. Though she wasn't really worried as Chet navigate the new ground easily. “Yeah. Looks like there's nothing really ahead of us.” she informed, flying the drone up high to get a clear view of as much as she could.

"You would know plants to eat and not eat, right? How to recognize venomous critters, yeah? That's science. I think." He chuckled. "Now that I stop to think about it, I don't actually know. But I'm going to say it is." "All that orange stuff, what is that?" It appeared to be plant life, but Chet wasn't entirely sure. Orange plants were new to him, if that's what it was.

Meg shrugged a little. “I guess so. Especially here because there’s a lot that we don't know about this planet yet.” she agreed, thinking about all the differences they could come across. “Though on Earth that’s just considered field study and memorization.” she admitted offhandedly. “It looks like some kind of grass… Wild foliage. If you want, we could stop and check it out. Or wait until we get closer to Artemis.” she suggested.

"It's more than I know how to do, so. Science." The mischief was clear in his voice. "As long as you don't think it's anything we should stop moving for, I say we keep going." Chet checked the signal, which was much stronger. "We're only about 3 more hours out. Not too far." He was excited about the AI for several reasons. He was also locked in and focused, and if they stopped, he'd get distracted.

Meg laughed at the teasing tone, deciding not to argue as the topic dropped. Though she nodded at his assessment. “As long as it's not giving you any trouble driving, I don't see an immediate need to stop either. We can always check out the plant life later.” she agreed, just as eager to find the AI for probably just as many reasons.

"Sounds good to me." The area in front of them was a grasslands, of sorts, flat and orange as far as Chet could see. Flat in the sense of no trees or anything for a long time. The ground continued to roll in small hills, which meant Chet had to keep upping the throttle as they went over the hill, the propellor pulling them up with some prompting. After a few minutes, Chet became aware of movement at the peripherals of the sensors. "Are you seeing movement? Like critters or something?"

“Yeah. I see it.” she nodded. “I thought it was just wind but… I’m taking the drone in for a closer look.” Meg informed, swooping the drone down and to the right in one steady move. “Does the drone have thermal vision?”

"I don't think so, it was just a basic camera. Upgrades to make when I get a chance." Chet sounded apologetic. Though Meg didn't need the heat vision anyway. Something darted out of the grass and sprinted across the ground, disappearing into a hole in the ground. It looked like a very generic groundhog/prairie-dog/gopher thing, except it was orange, and had six legs. It moved quickly, but the camera caught it and tracked the motion. Within a couple seconds, several more had been sighted, the sound of the propellor and the pod rumbling by overhead forcing them to run and hide. It was soon clear what exactly they were hiding from. Out of a small bush, there was a blur of orange and brown, and a predator of some kind blitzed towards one of the little creatures. It grabbed the gopher-thing in its jaws, which seemed to have way too many teeth, and ran off into more brush. It also had six legs, though they were much more muscular looking, and looked like someone had taken a hyena and mixed it with an alligator. Long snout, long tail, but flexible and furry.

“Don't worry about it.” she assured. “Upgrades can wait but you might want to take a look at these little guys.” Meg said, sending the video of the animals to his HUD. “Surprisingly cute from here but we’re definitely going to have to look out for the predator there. Though I‘m actually glad to see animals out here.” she admitted because they meant that they were far enough away from the forest already that they wouldn't be “eaten” by the carnivorous mushrooms.

Chet's eyes widened as He glanced at the HUD recording. "I knew I saw movement. That's a food source! We won't have to eat nutripaste!" He was way too excited over the existence of little critters, but he didn't care. "What are we calling them? The little things kinda look like guinea pigs, or prairie dogs, or something. The big things… I don't know what those look like. Ideas?" They came over the rise of another small hill, and off to the left, there was a shimmer. Sunlight glinting off something reflective. A pond. Standing water sitting in a depression in the ground. Chet's smile grew as it came into view. "Water source. Means thats a thing, and we can filter it easily. We'll have to check the chemical makeup, make sure it's H2O, but… that's a good sign."

Meg was a little surprised by how enthusiastic Chet was to eat the smaller of the two animals but she wasn't going to argue, especially about the nutripaste. “I'm not sure what to call them yet but you're right. They do seem to be some kind of burrowing animal.” she agreed with a hum. “The other ones… Pretty bizarre. That's all I can think of. I mean they look like some kind of wild dog or something but the muzzle, teeth, and tail just… weird.” she admitted. “Oh, yes! That is a very good sign.” she grinned as he pointed out the pond. Water was always a priority in any survival situation. Though she was especially grateful for the filtering water bottles since still water was usually less than ideal. “Can we mark that water source on the map if I fly the drone over it?”

Chet grinned. "Wild dog, eh? Dingos. I'm calling them dingos." He chuckled at the ridiculous parallel he was drawing, but it fit. "You name the little ones, whenever you get around to it." He slowed just a bit. "We should be able to, if you've been compiling the drone footage and overlaying it on the radar imaging. We could even just mark its distance and direction from Artemis's signal. That would at least give us the ability to come back to it." Meg was so helpful. Chet hadn't even thought about marking the water source, despite being glad to see it.

Meg chuckled as well at the new name of the multi-legged predators. “Alright then. Unfortunately, I just keep wanting to call the little ones prairie dogs.” she shrugged. “Umm… I’m not sure if I have but we should definitely mark it for later. As long as we're in the area.” she agreed.

"Prairie dogs works for me." Chet chuckled. Name things was kinda fun. "Do you know traps and snares? We gotta catch some and see if they're a viable food source." He stayed slowed down till Meg had marked the pond, before opening up the throttle again. They kepy moving, and the steady rise and fall of the hills set in.

Meg shook her head as they agreed on the name, embarrassed that she couldn't come up with something better. “Yes, I know how to make those. The trick will be figuring out which one works best out here, especially with their speed.” she answered as she went through the steps to add the pond to their GPS as best as she could.

"I'm sure you'll work it out. I trust you." Chet said, almost absent-mindedly. He was firmly convinced Meg would know how to snare and trap these critters. Not because it was easy, but cuz she was competent. The HUD updated the map to have the pond marked, and CHet smiled. "Perfect. You've got the hang of that pretty quickly." They kept moving, noting more animals. A large prey animal that looked like a house cat and a deer had morphed together. Chet called them 'cat-zelles', like cat and gazelle, which he thought was hilarious. Another predator, slow moving but powerful, similar to a bear, but with some kind of carapace instead of thick fur. So, a turtlebear? It had initially looked like a rock, until something came too close, and it lunged. All 6 legged. Where 4 legs seemed to be the way for larger creatures on Earth, 6 legs seemed to be the way here. The hills continued, and they got closer to the signal, and closer, and finally, they were within a couple of minutes, it seemed. "Nearly there." Chet said, his voice excited as they neared their target. "Anything showing up on the drone?" He wasn't sure, since something seemed to be fuzzing the sensors as well. The view was getting blurry and grainy, which was odd.

“Thanks.” Meg blushed at both comments. She was sure she could catch one of the six-legged prairie dogs but she was also sure it would take some trial and error… Though the thought of using the sticky mesh came to mind again. She laughed with Chet at the Last Airbender-style names he was coming up with for some of the animals they were discovering but didn't object to any of them. She was intrigued by the extra set of limbs the creatures had, wondering how that came to be a benefit on this planet. “I think so. It looks like there’s disturbed ground up ahead. Like when the… thing holding Artemis crashed, it flung up some rocks and dirt.” she explained, flying the drone closer to where the signal was coming from.

"That makes sense. I can only assume she was in some piece of ship equipment-" Chet went quiet as they came over a rise, and suddenly, the ground seemed to fall away. In the valley on the other side of the small hill, the plants continued, but there was a big discolored area. Huge pieces of wreckage from the Deus were strewn all over, pieces of the mid-ship and hull half dug into the ground, a fine layer of ash covering everything and making it look like a big smear. It explained why the sensors were having trouble, and even now, they were fuzzy. Chet turned everything off, except the cameras, which were getting good footage, and the signal tracker. Artemis's signal was very strong, and coming from somewhere in the middle of that mess. However, the wind from the propellor was beginning to whip up the ash, and it was going to be hard to see soon. Chet eased the propellor off, completely, and the momentum of the pod carried it down the rise and into the ashy depression, where it slid to a stop. "…. Well."

Meg’s jaw dropped at the sight of the wreckage as it came into view. She knew that any crash from the Deus would be bad but… This was still a shock. Actually, that was an understatement. This was an absolute disaster area. “Well… I was not expecting this.” she admitted frankly. “Do we go in?”

Chet sat, looking at it for a long moment, before making a decision. "I am. You don't have to, but I'd appreciate it if you'd keep the drone running if you stay here." He stood, quickly pulling his pack into his seat, and digging through it. "Now is the time to think about being armed when we go outside. There are predators now, and surely we haven't seen all of them." He strapped both the fusion blade and the Joule onto his belt. "Your Magax was loaded, right?" He didn't want to leave if her gun wasn't ready to go. "You're welcome to come with, though maybe it's better if we don't both descend into this mess. I'll leave that your call. But I'm going to go get Artemis outta there." He sounded steady, resolute, like if he thought about this too hard, he was going to back out, and he was moving quickly to avoid that happening.

Meg hummed thoughtfully and shook her head. “I'll stay near the pod and keep piloting the drone but I am going to step out and stretch my legs.” she decided, pulling out her Magax at his reminder. “Yep. Looks good.” she confirmed as she saw the full clip. “Just keep your comms open and let me know if you need any help. I might take a look at some of the scrap on this side and see what might still be useful or can be reforged.” she informed him, trying not to think about everything that happened with the ship just a few days ago.

Chet nodded at her as he released the hatch and pushed it open. "Sounds like a plan. Just… lemme know if you see anything headed our way. I have no idea if any of the predators would see us as an interesting new food source." He stepped out, and was glad to find the ash wasn't too deep. It poofed around his feet, but wasn't a whole thick layer or anything. He stepped around the front of the pod, and headed down into the depression.

“I will.” she agreed as she followed him out of the pod. It was a bit strange going from the trampoline-like surface of the Mushroom Kingdom to sinking slightly into the ash-covered ground near the wreck. “Be careful.” she replied, acknowledging his warning and giving Chet one as well before checking on the drone. Fortunately, it was a good distance above them so it wasn't bothered by the ash and the stark color gave her a good visual on if any of the native animals were curious enough to approach.

Chet wound his way through the metal wreckage, avoiding the jagged edges. The major piece of wreckage had broken up, and spilled its contents everywhere, which accounted for the ash. Coming through the atmosphere would have burned many things to nothing but particles, but bigger things might have come out as ash if they weren't shielded. Sections of the ships hull were intact. Big sections. Chet snapped a couple shots with his HUD. "Might be able to pull hull sections together to build a bigger, more secure, more permanent shelter than the tent. There's some pretty big sections and rooms that are scoured and burned but still structurally sound. I think." He continued following the AI signal deeper into the wreckage, where things began to get more dense. The beeping sped up as he got closer, and he could see a damaged console up ahead when he looked up. It had a light flashing on it. Chet scrambled over some metal debris. "Think I found it. Hold on." He got to the console, and checked for a power button to bring it out of sleep mode. He found the button, and pushed it. Immediately, a screeching noise filled the comms, overlaid with a loud screaming sound, and Chet grabbed for his ears, before shutting off the comms in his HUD. He hoped Meg was ok. The AI was screaming, in pain and disoriented, and Chet tried to log into the console to comfort her. "Hey, hey, you're ok! It's Chet, Chet Evans, CT-1357, Artemis-11, calm down!" Chet turned the comms back on as the screeching quieted. "Meg, you good?" The sounds of crying and whimpering, and what sounded like a small girl begging for help, could be heard behind his voice. Chet was frantically pulling the AI core from his pack, and trying to get a physical jack into the console. As long as she was in a damaged console, still attached to what was left of the Deus, Artemis would be in pain, like the agony of having your limbs ripped off. The poor AI would have felt every 'wound' the ship sustained, and clearly hadn't shut down quickly enough to mitigate the damage to herself. She was mewling and barely restraining screams as he woke her up further, and kept repeating "It hurts, please help me, please help me Chet, I need help…" He'd given her his name, and she had latched onto that and the comms signal like it was her only lifeline. "I'm working on it, I'll have you in this intact core in just a second, it's ok, you're going to be safe, it'll stop hurting, just hold on for me." Chet was trying to match her frantic energy, but needed to focus. If he just tried to download her into the core, he risked tearing more pieces of her off in the console. "Meg, I need you to talk to her. Tell her it's going to be ok, I got this." The AI seemed to latch onto the fact there was someone else in the comms. "Meg? Who's Meg? Meg who?" She was asking for a name, a full name with crew or colonist tag numbers and everything.

Meg wasn't pacing. She was just walking around the outer edge of the wreck, evaluating if anything was worth putting in the pod and taking with them to use in the forge later. Though she wasn't sure of the weight of some of the pieces if they would slow them down or if they would take up too much room. Chet knew his way around the ship and had the signal to find the AI, he was more than capable. There wasn't really much to see with the drone so she left it in hover so she could see if anything tried to get close. “That's good.” she hummed thoughtfully. “Though I'm not sure if we want to stay here… Don't get me wrong, it's better than the Mushroom Kingdom for at least three reasons I can think of off hand but… I don't know yet.” she admitted. “We can stay here for a while though if you want to.” She waited when he said he found Artemis, just as excited to recover such a valuable program. Though she had never interacted with the AI before… She jumped at the loud noise that broadcast itself through the comms. “What was that, Chet?” she asked as soon as she could hear her own thoughts again. “Chet? Can you hear me?” She sighed as she finally got an answer when the comms came back on. “Yes, I’m fine. Are you ok? What was that?” she repeated, catching the pain-filled voice in the background. “I’m Meg. Meghan Hill. I’m a colonizer. Uhhh, colonier 5863.” she answered the feminine voice that she quickly assumed was Artemis. “It's going to be ok. Chet can help get you out of there.”

Artemis latched onto Meg next as Chet stopped answering her. There was a moment of fuzz on Meg's HUD, and suddenly, in the upper left corner was a viewscreen, where a girl was crying. She was blue, quite pretty, and very young. She also was cut and bruised and bleeding and clearly in pain. "Meg? Everything hurts… Where are we? What's happening?" SHe kept sobbing and hugging herself, the AI's visual reresentation of herself matching the sounds and the state of the ship and console. "It hurts so much, Meg, can you hurry? Chet, hurry, PLEASE, I'm begging you, please help me, please please please-" There was a sudden silence, and the viewscreen winked out in Meg's HUD. "I got her." Chet said quietly. He sounded a bit rattled, the AI's frantic pleading quickly upsetting him. "She's integrating into the portable core… should be alright in a minute or two." He swallowed hard. "You ok, Meg?"

Meg gasped at the sight of the poor badly injured girl the AI appeared as on her HUD. She hadn't expected the AI to take such a detailed and realistic form. Much less one that showed so much pain. “It… It's alright.” she nearly whispered. “It'll be ok. Chet's working on helping you.” she assured before the image flickered out. She sighed at Chet’s voice coming back over the comms and nodded. “I'm ok. I just… I never knew that… I didn't think that…” she tried to explain but the words wouldn't come.

Chet knew what she meant. The AI had shaken him too, and he'd known what was coming beforehand. "Their code mimics DNA strands, in order to get them to have empathy, and not turn towards psychopathy. But it also means they act very human, and even think of themselves as human in many ways. Their holograms tend to be like that." He packed the AI core back in his pack, and stood up to explore a little more. "I don't know if you remember all the political uproar on Earth a couple years before we left, about some AI's who had forged bodies for themselves and were acting as humans. They didn't see anything wrong with it, and they weren't being malevolent or committing crimes or anything, but it was so weird for some folks that they had to pass laws against it for the time being. And what you just saw is exactly why." Chet, being in the tech industry, had worked with a lot of AI's, and had come to see them as people, and understand them better than a lot of folks. That was also part of why he had been so anxious to get to Artemis. She registered as someone who had needed rescuing to him.

Meg nodded along with his explanation, just taking in the information and trying to calm down from the initial shock. “I… I think I remember hearing something on the news about that but I didn't pay much attention to it.” she admitted. “But when you put it that way… I don't think they were doing anything wrong except for the fact that the AIs didn't have permission. I mean if they had a… supervisor or something like that to watch over them then it could have been different.” she shrugged. “I almost hope that they came up with a good solution back there.”

"It was also the fact that they didn't immediately tell people they were AI. Imagine getting into a relationship with someone, only to find out they're an AI in a printed body once you've lost your heart. That was what sparked the first case." Chet could understand it. He'd worked with Artemis in his 2 years awake on the Deus, and she was sweet. Engaging. Funny, even. "And then there's age issues. Technically, an AI can be less than 18 years old, which makes some things weird, but they present as adults, and think like adults, usually. They don't have birthdays, or 'grow', exactly. They just update their code." He snapped some more shots of the wreckage on his HUD. "Which is why, if one gets damaged, like Artemis, they revert to looking like a version of themself without the updates. A 'younger' version, like a teen or child. Which brings its own host of problems. Imagine someone with bad intention hurting an AI on purpose to make them revert to teenage or child thinking, and then doing unsavory things. It opens a whole host of problems. I hope they came to a resolution, but… I rather doubt it." Chet stepped back out in the open, looking over the area, scanning for any other signals. "In any case… we just have Artemis to worry about. She'll make contact when she's ready, I left the core open. But if I were her, I'd take a minute to recover."

“Yeah… That would be a problem.” she agreed, trying to imagine the relationship between a person and an AI. “No good relationship should start with a lie. But I doubt the idea of telling the person came to mind… Uhh, so to speak. Or the AI didn't think it was a good idea to mention it.” she hummed before shaking her head. “The age thing sounds like its own can of worms… Especially when you mention those sick creeps.” she shuddered at the thought of how those poor AIs would be treated. “Let’s not bring Earth's political problems to this planet. It's just the three of us so let's all treat each other right.”

Chet smiled a bit as Meg reacted exactly how he had when he'd first heard of such a thing. "And then there's issues of immortality, as well. But you're right. We won't bring that here. But it's important to know." Anything not metal had been largely vaporized in the atmospheric entry. Even some of the metal stuff hadn't survived. Chet noted that, and turned to head back towards the pod. "Heading your way." He continued his explanation as he walked. "It's important, because from what we just saw, Artemis is going to present as a teen. She looked about 13 or 14, I think, and we'll need to be careful. She's extremely smart, obviously, but has the emotional and ethical regulation of a teenager. I may have to pull back some of my expectations, at the start, at least…"

“I agree. It is important and I'm counting on you to help me because I'm not as familiar with AIs as you are, but the way I see it… Artemis is just as much of a survivor as we are.” she told him. “So I think she should get the same rights and voice as we do.”

"I plan on it." Meg sounded slightly worried that Chet wasn't going to be nice to Artemis. He wasn't sure what he'd done to give off that impression. "Though, because of her programming, she'll need leadership. We'll be careful with her. Normally, all we'd have to do is hook her into a GalaxyNet node, and she could re-update, but… I don't just have a handy-dandy GalNet node on me, do you?" He gave a small chuckle. That would have made things so much easier. He got back to the pod about then. "Reached the pod." he glanced at the radar, noting where Meg was. "By the way, I don't think we need to stay here. Just thinking we can use this as a materials mine, once we get to a cleaner area. Unless you think this is a good spot." He was feeling the need to backtrack, for some reason. He wasn't sure why, but he definitely felt like he'd done something wrong, even if he couldn't say what.

Meg didn't mean to imply that Chet would treat Artemis poorly, she was just trying to assure him that she wouldn't. “So do I. Though I don't have one of those either… Actually, I’m not sure if I ever heard of that either so, I’ll be careful too.” she assured. “I’m right here.” she smiled as he walked out of the ship and joined him back over by the pod. “No. This place… It's too much. I like the idea of a material mine but staying here… Especially with Artemis doesn't seem like a good idea to me.” she admitted. “Maybe we could stay closer to the pond for now?”

Chet had briefly forgotten Meg hadn't been off Earth prior to the mission. "Sorry, GalNet is just the fancy-shmancy name for the internet, but on other planets. All hooked together by satellites and towers and such. If we had a connector node, we would be golden, and Artemis could update and all that. But we don't." He smiled as Meg came around the corner. "Pond sounds good to me. We'll come back. By the time we get back to the pond and get set up, it'll be late enough in the day to warrant sleep. Well. In our day, anyway." As they had traveled, the sunlight had gotten brighter, and Chet wasn't sure exactly what time it was, anymore than he had been in the Mushroom Kingdom. However, here, the sun was definitely moving. As in, it would set and rise at some point.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

“Oh, of course.” she sighed, resisting the impulse to face-palm. “I forgot that’s what the name was. I guess I’m just used to calling it “the internet”.” she admitted. “Sounds like a plan to me.” Meg smiled when he agreed to her suggestion. “And, hopefully, we're far enough from the Mushroom Kingdom that we won't have to worry about that airlock idea I suggested earlier.”

Chet grinned at her. "That is what it's called, on Earth at least. You're good." He stepped up into the pod. "I still like the airlock, actually. We don't know if there's pollen or anything airborne. Might not be crazy spores but maybe there's germs we haven't checked for or something. Still a useful idea." He waited till Meg was in, and started to pull the hatch closed, before remembering something. "Oh. Do you wanna bring the drone in?"

“Alright. Fair enough.” she shrugged as she climbed into the pod. “And I guess it still does provide extra security if one of the predators tried to get in.” Meg nodded since they already had the pond more or less marked on their map. “I wouldn't mind having my HUD back to one view.” she laughed as she piloted the drone to a point where she could grab it, turn it off, and bring it inside the pod with them. “Ready when you are.” she smiled.

Chet paused for a second, before turning and looking at her, his face concerned. "I hadn't even thought about predators trying to get in…. That's a good point." He chuckled at her HUD situation. "Going cross-eyed yet?" He slid into the pilot's seat, after locking the hatch behind them. He set his pack on the floor, but not before he pulled out the AI core. There was a port on th dash for the core to sit in, and that's where he set it. As soon as he did, a blue light blinked on and a face appeared on the small screen on the core. It was Artemis again, though she looked much calmer and much less bloody. She did, however, look ashamed of herself.

Meg shrugged. “I just mentioned it since we know there’s at least two out here.” she admitted though she chuckled at his question. “Almost. I feel like a lizard or something.” She watched Chet fiddle with something and was surprised, but relieved, to see Artemis pop up on the screen.

"Too pretty for a lizard…" he commented off-hand, before smiling at Artemis. "Hello, Artemis. Feeling better?" The AI looked at him, though she didn't hold eye contact. "Yes, thank you. Chet, right?" He smiled, and nodded. "Good. And yes." Artemis turned and look at Meg. "And you're Meg? ….. I'm sorry about earlier."

Meg blushed, casting a quick glance at Chet for the comment before turning her attention back to Artemis. “Yes, I’m Meg.” she nodded, giving the AI a gentle smile. “It's nice to meet you Artemis.”

Artemis returned her smile. "Nice to meet you too. I'm sorry about all the noise and your ears earlier. I didn't mean to be a problem." "You weren't." Chet said quickly. "You were in pain, and we needed to know that. I'm just glad we got you out." Artemis nodded at him. "Thanks. Me too." She turned back to Meg. "What happened to us? Where's everyone else?" Chet frowned just a bit. Artemis seemed to be missing a big chunk of her memory. For one thing, she and Chet had worked together a lot, and she didn't seem to remember him. For another, she would have been the only one who really knew exactly what had happened to the Deus, but here she was, asking Meg.

Meg shook her head quickly in agreement with Chet’s comment. Yes, she had been taken off guard by the sound Artemis made when she had been reactivated but she didn't want the AI to feel bad. Though she was confused why Artemis was deferring to her and not Chet, a crewmate. She had thought that crewmates would have seniority over colonists since they had more experience with her. She raised a brow and looked back at Chet for a moment before answering. “We really don't know. There was… some kind of failure with the engine, I think.” she admitted. “As far as we know, we are the only survivors.”

Artemis frowned, and looked down, as if trying to think. "…..I got damaged, didn't I… like, a lot…. cuz I don't remember that." Chet kept his voice soft. "You were in pretty bad shape, and if your working memory hadn't sealed to long term yet, you wouldn't remember what happened." She looked at him, and her frown deepened. "You worked in Cryo, right? We worked together, didn't we?" Chet nodded, giving her a slight smile "Yes, and yes. Are you struggling to remember?" Artemis nodded slowly, her face starting to crumple, like she was going to cry. "I'm getting bits and pieces and I don't know exactly why. I can't run diagnostics…." She turned to Meg. "Am I going to be ok?"

Meg watched the interaction between the two a little sad that Artemis’s memory was… incomplete. But she didn't blame the AI. It was likely the computer version of a concussion and some kind of shock from the damage. At least, that’s how she saw it. “I… I hope so.” she answered gently. “I don't know much about AI and how you would recover from this… But we're both here for you.” she encouraged.

Some things clicked. Artemis was working with an earlier version of long term storage. She'd been compiled and programmed roughly 8 years ago, and if her mind had reset to somewhere in the early years of the Deus mission, then… she would be missing nearly 2 years. Or somewhere around that. And while she knew Chet a little, Meg was kind, and a girl to boot. Of course the AI would look to her. "We don't have a connection to update you, Artemis, but we can keep looking for an intact console from the wreckage of the Deus. If we find one, we should be able to connect and pull all of your long term memory from storage." Chet marked that in his head as a goal. Something they'd need to do. "How are you feeling, now that you've had a chance to defragment?" "Better… off-balance, but I'm not in pain." She said quietly. The look on her face slowly relaxed, as she processed the situation she, and they, were in. "At least you're both alive, and I didn't have to stay in dormancy forever." She gave a small smile, mostly directed at Meg. "Thanks for pulling me out."

Meg nodded at Chet’s idea of helping Artemis get her memory back but didn't interrupt. She smiled back at the AI and bumped Chet’s shoulder. “You should really be thanking this guy. He's the one who found your signal and got you out of the ship.” she chuckled, passing the credit to the one who deserved it.

Chet just smiled and shook his head a little. "Meg has kept me alive so far, so. It's a team effort." Artemis looked at them both, glancing back and forth for a second, before smiling a little. "So how long have you been a couple?" Chet could have died. He wasn't exactly sure what to say, so his usual stammering is what came out. "We-… us, I mean… we, uh…. she's-…."

Meg chuckled at Chet's modesty but didn't disagree with the sentiment. Though when Artemis asked her question… Meg’s face turned bright red. Was that really… “We're… We're not.” she shook her head. “We only met a couple days ago during the crash. It's too soon to be thinking about that.”

Meg answered coherently, and Chet nodded very quickly. "What she said." He immediately busied himself with setting their direction, and getting the power connection to the propeller set, in order for them to get back to the pond. Artemis's face fell, just a bit. "Oh… sorry. I didn't mean to embarrass you." She got quieter as she looked at Meg, though it didn't really work over the comms. "It's just the way he looked at you." Chet pointedly didn't look up.

Meg wasn't sure how much redder her face could get at this rate. She wanted to ask what she meant about the way he looked at her but at the same time she couldn't find the words or her nerve. “It… It's ok.” she cleared her throat. “We have spent a lot of time together so I guess I can understand why you might think that.”

Artemis nodded. "A couple of days, you said? How long has it been? And do we know where we are?" Chet was busy trying to make sure he had the right direction set. He was also still a little too embarrassed to answer just yet. And Artemis still seemed more interested in talking to Meg. They were making decent time, now that he was sure they would stop when he turned off the propeller. He felt ok to just move, instead of being overly-cautious like he had been.

“Well, we're not actually sure how long it's been since we landed near one of the poles and the sun hasn't really set at any point for us.” she admitted. “But we think it's been about three… No, at least four 24-hour cycles.” Meg corrected, though she hadn't really kept track. “Unfortunately, we don't know where this planet is either. But we have come across a few different types of native wildlife.”

Artemis's eyes widened. "And no signal from anything familiar? We're really stuck here?" She sank back into the core a bit, seeming to slump down, before looking at Meg with gratitude in her eyes. "I guess it's good we've got each other then, huh?" Chet gave the two of them a smile. He certainly agreed with that sentiment. "Absolutely. We're gonna work together and do our best to survive and thrive here."

“Well, Chet's the tech guy and I think your signal was the only one he found. I'm not very familiar with a lot of the fancy space tech.” she shrugged with a light chuckle. “I'm mostly a survivalist so I can figure out how to manage more of the hands-on stuff; hunting, foraging, scouting… Stuff like that.” Meg smiled encouragingly back and nodded. “Yeah. The three of us stand a better chance together. I’m sure we'll be fine.”

Artemis nodded at both of them, before looking contemplative. "How can I help? It seems like you two were doing ok already." Chet glanced at Meg, before asking "Well, do you have any of the nano-forge templates? If I can build us a bigger one, we'd be golden." Artemis looked like she was deep in thought for a moment, before shaking her head slowly. "I'm-… I'm not sure. I think? I might. You may have to check my files manually." Chet nodded. He glanced at Meg again. "Anything you want help with?"

Meg bit her lip thoughtfully when Artemis hesitated to answer Chet, unsure what she actually knew. “I’m sure I can figure out most of the stuff but… I was wondering if you had or knew a way to safely figure out what is edible on this planet.” she admitted shyly. “I mean, safe for us because what might be safe for the native animals here might not be as safe for us or something…”

Artemis brightened a bit. "I've got chemical databanks that can help us. If you've got a way, maybe through a tablet or something, to test the chemical makeup of the material, food or otherwise, I should be able to cross-reference it and tell you if it'll hurt you or not." She smiled at Artemis. "We got this." Chet was definitely beginning to get the sense that Artemis didn't like him.

“We have a tablet.” Meg smiled back, glad for the assistance but she wasn't ignorant of the change between Artemis talking to her versus when Artemis was talking to Chet. “That would be a great help. Thank you.” she said sincerely. “What else do you… remember that you can do that might help us?”

Artemis looked like she was counting things off a mental list. "I can star track, which will help us navigate. I can handle topography and cartology. I can keep a constant eye out for any other signals, so you two wouldn't have to devote time to it. I can… do lots of things, but… I don't really know what's relevant here." Chet smiled at her. "You'll be a big help. We'll figure out what we need you to help us with as we go."

“Yes.” Meg nodded firmly, agreeing with Chet. “Don't worry about what’s relevant. Everything you just said will be very helpful.” she smiled. “We already found a place where we can set up camp for the night near a pond so… Mostly we've been sticking with short-term goals. Though I'm sure Chet has more long-term ones in mind.”

Chet chuckled. "Just looking to live, at this point. Long term… I guess we try to build a way off this rock, if we can. But that'll require a lot of advancement." Artemis looked at him, and nodded. "It may be possible, but… it took a lot to get us off the ground back on Earth." Chet nodded. "I remember… but hopefully, we'll manage something. Something."

“I’d be satisfied with some kind of transmitter to let others know where we are.” Meg chuckled. “I don't know if that would be easier or not but if we could get a message out on the right frequency, not only would we get rescued but this planet could still be of use.” she explained.

Artemis thought for a moment, before smiling brightly, and throwing up a schematic. "Would this work?" Chet glanced at it, and nodded. "That's a nano-forge template for one, but we only have the small forge. We'd have to build a bigger one." Artemis thought again, before pulling up another template. "Like this?" Chet looked again, and his eyes widened. "Yes! That's it. We would just need to build the pieces with the smaller one, or maybe even by hand."

Meg was surprised when Artemis showed that her suggestion was plausible but she smiled as Chet and the AI talked about the larger nano forge. “Well, anything I can do to help make either of those, just let me know.” she chuckled, already planning to at least help bring some of the scrap from the wreck for construction. “You sure that would be strong enough to reach… anyone who could rescue us?”

Chet shrugged. "I'm not sure… it would probably send out wide range signals, but without knowing exactly which direction Earth is, we'd spend a lot of time broadcasting into general space. But it's worth a shot!" Artemis nodded. "I might be able to calculate where we are based on the stars from our perspective here. However, if we were travelling at light speed for 2 years, then… our message would take at least that long to get to anyone, and they would take at least that long to get here… so we're looking at a minimum of 4 years, probably longer…" Her voice trailed off as she calculated. Chet also knew full well that their transmissions wouldn't travel at light speed, so only 2 years from someone to hear the message was so optimistic as to be unrealistic… but it was still worth a shot. "Regardless, building the bigger nano-forge will allow us to function on a whole other level. We could build proper vehicles, permanent structures, shops, bigger tools, etc, and who knows. We might have a better chance of designing something to get us out of here in less time than it takes someone to come get us."

Meg nodded as the two talked over the details. Obviously, she agreed that it was worth trying even if their estimation was hopeful. “I’ll have to take your word for it.” she admitted. “You really think that the bigger forge could help us make an actual ship capable of getting us out of here?”

Chet bobbled his head a bit, in a 'maybe' motion. "Possibly. It could definitely give us a chance. I doubt we have the templates for that, but… we might be able to design something. Or even, if we had to, just attach a warp engine to the pod, and try to get home that way. Which would still be an incredibly difficult task, but not impossible. I think." Artemis looked dubious. "If we don't have plans for it, it would be extremely dangerous to try to achieve warp speed on our own. There's only three of us."

“And only two of us have experience with ships.” Meg added. “I've only been a passenger and my piloting is limited to this drone.” she sighed gesturing to the object in question. “That’s part of the reason why I suggested the transmitter. Even if it's not easier to make, it might be safer in the long run. I’m sure we can survive here as long as we need to.”

Artemis was quick to agree, nodding emphatically. "That's a smart move, Meg. We can definitely build the transmitter easier, and this place doesn't seem so bad. Though I guess I only just got here." Chet looked at Meg, his expression fairly neutral. He wasn't angry, or upset or anything, just… considering. "I will do my best on the transmitter. We'll have to make it big." he finally said quietly, a smile playing over his face. "You'll have to help me with it."

“Well, this biome doesn't seem as dangerous as where we ended up.” Meg joked with Artemis before turning to Chet. “Of course, I’ll help. I’m not going to make you do all the work by yourself… Captain.” she smirked.

Artemis's eyebrows shot up. "Where did you land?" Chet mirrored that expression when Meg called him Captain. "Uh, what? No, no no no, I'm not the captain, this is a team effort, you've worked just as hard…" He had to look away, as he began blushing again. For whatever reason, that name, that kind of praise, from Meg specifically… Well. Certainly left him feeling warm inside, if nothing else. Artemis looked at him, then back at Meg. "Is he the captain?" She seemed concerned by the implication, and Chet almost laughed.

“Believe it or not, Artemis, but there is a giant carnivorous mushroom forest to the North of us.” she answered. “Anything organic can’t breathe because of the high level of spores in the air and the mushroom trees even actively fire their spores and dissolve their “food”. We should still have that video in our files somewhere.” she hummed, wondering how to share that video with the AI. Meg grinned at their reactions to her giving Chet a rank. Though she hadn't expected him to start blushing. “No, he wasn't the Captain when we were on the Duex. But the way I see it, since he’s the only surviving member of the crew, technically, that makes him Captain.” she explained to Artemis. “Just like I would be Chief colonizer. We’re still partners and a team.” she assured Chet. “But, let’s face it, you're better with technology and anything related to the ship than I am. You deserve the title.” she smiled.

Artemis nodded, assimilating the information. She nodded a bit slower at the explanation on Chet, though she seemed happy with Meg being 'chief colonizer'. "The colonists were always my favorite to talk to." Chet gave Meg a soft smile, and continued driving. Her explanation was appreciated, though it was still making him blush. "Very kind of you." The pond came into view up ahead, as the sun was beginning to set. At least, it look like sunset. The sky was a weird shade of orange yellow, probably due to the different color of the star. The pond had all kinds of critters all around it, drinking, or carefully avoiding each other. Chet slowed a bit as they came over a rise, not sure exactly how to approach this.

“Really? Why is that?” she asked, raising a brow as she decided to actually get to know Artemis instead of trying to repair the two-year relationship between the AI and Chet. Meg had hoped that if she could get Artemis to look more to him, then she might remember more about the time they did work together. Though she was still tempted to keep calling him “Captain” if he was going to keep blushing like that. She smiled back and gave a little shrug. “I do mean it, you know. You deserve it.” she repeated sincerely. After all, the logic she used was what she actually thought of their positions. Whether or not it was actually relevant was a different matter. Meg hummed a little at the sight of the busy watering hole. “Maybe over there?” she suggested, pointing to a flat patch of land within walking distance of the water but far enough way that they wouldn't disturb any of the animals.

Artemis smiled. "Oh, they were always so interesting. The crewmembers had such boring lives, they were all the same in so many ways, and they all treated me like a tool, instead of a person." Chet glanced at her, a confused look on his face, but didn't say anything. He'd always tried to be careful not to treat Artemiss-11 like a mere tool, but… clearly she felt that had been the general attitude. He didn't respond to Meg, other than to smile and shrug right back. That was very kind of her to say, or to think, and Chet wasn't entirely sure what to do with it. He nodded and headed for the flat ground, although their pod and the noise of the propeller definitely scared away the animals. The smaller ones scattered and disappeared into tunnels and burrows and the grasses. The bigger ones moved off a distance, but turned to watch, and Chet didn't like that at all. If they proved to be unafraid, it meant he and Meg would likely have to start fighting them off, and that… wasn't preferable.

Meg blinked at the information about the crew, surprised that Artemis felt that way. Especially after Chet told her about the political issue back on Earth. “I’m sorry to hear that.” she hummed. “If it's any consolation, we were talking about you before Chet got you out of the ship and neither of us are going to treat you that way.” she assured since she was pretty sure that Chet had never meant to make Artemis feel that way… Or it could have been the first crew that behaved that way. She looked over at the remaining animals, sizing them up in a way. “Don't be scared. If you're scared it makes them more likely to attack.” she explained. “Fear is a prey thing. Just stay calm.”

Artemis looked at her for a long moment, before nodding slowly. "I believe you, so far. I'm sure he's a good guy, but… its just nice to have a girl around." There it was. Chet managed not to roll his eyes as Artemis revealed that her clear preference for Meg was based purely in 'girlpower!'… Could be worse. She could be a damaged, homicidal maniac. He nodded at Meg's instructions. "I will do my best, but… we don't have any concept of their speed or their strength, and not knowing that does make me pretty nervous." They got the flat patch, and Chet cut the engines, allowing them to slide to a stop.

Meg couldn't help but laugh a little in surprise at the confession. “I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting that.” she apologized. “But I know what you mean. Let's just try not to leave Chet out of too much.” she smiled, hoping she used the right words. “Yeah. I don't blame you for that.” she nodded, knowing he had good points. “But just try not to let them know that. If we're going to be stuck on this planet for who knows how long, we have just as much right to things like food and water as any other animal here. So… If we just act calm and don't provoke them other than in self-defense, we should be fine.” she reminded him as she put her hand on top of his.

Artemis smiled and nodded, her voice taking on a playful quality. "Alriiiight, fiiiine, but we'lll have girl time at some point, right?" Chet nodded at her, slowly shutting down the systems, but froze when her hand landed on his. He looked up at her, suddenly very still, and smiled. The expression on his face was soft, and his next nod was slower, almost imperceptible. "I'll, uh… I'll follow your lead on this." He closed his hand under hers slowly, forming his usual fistbump offer. "Survivors?" There was something in his voice, some sense of importance in this small moment. Like he needed her to say it back, whether from doubts brought on by Artemis, or feeling like he was going to mess up with the animals, or something.

“Sure.” Meg chuckled in agreement. She smiled back at Chet before pulling her hand into a fist against his. “Survivors.” she nodded. “We’ll be fine.” she assured as she stood up. “Ready to set up for the night?”

Artemis seemed excited, though she didn't say anything else for the moment. Chet seemed to relax, like something had uncoiled internally. He nodded, and unlocked the hatch, before standing and stepping out the back. "Figure we set up the tent right next to the pod, so if anything does decide to show interest, we can beat a hasty retreat if we have to. Better ideas?"

“Nope.” she answered. “Close to the pod sounds good to me. Especially if any of those bear-turtles get close. I don't think the tent could handle an attack from one of those.” Meg admitted as she stepped outside, keeping up a calm but in-charge attitude and hoping that Chet could do the same.

Chet chuckled. "You wanna check for prairie dog tunnels, make sure we're not setting up on top of something's door?" Artemis piped up. "Take me with you! I'll keep an eye out while you two get things set up." Chet stepped over and pulled the AI core out of its spot. The core had various small gadgets to allow Artemis, or whatever AI was living in it, to interact with the world around them. Those gadgets included small cameras all around the oblong core. Chet stepped out, and set Artemis down in the dirt. The lights on all the cameras immediately blinked as she looked around. "I'll let you know if I see anything." "Thanks." Chet said quietly, before pulling the tent from its spot and yanking the pull-tab. The tent sprung into shape, and he tipped it till it was sitting the right way up.

“Thank you, Artemis.” Meg smiled, glad that there was a way to include the AI in even this part of their survival. She had almost been worried that they would have to leave her in the pod. “And I wouldn't worry about the prairie dogs. I don't see any holes or anything.” she assured Chet as he set up the tent. Though she wondered how much these aliens had in common with Earth prairie dogs since she couldn't recall seeing those large mounds that she had always seen in research as homes to the little animals.

Chet anchored the tent to the ground, noting that Meg was right. No burrows or anything around. "You wanting to refill the water tonight?" Chet asked. Likely, if they needed to, they should go tonight, together. The sun was sinking lower, and the planet was getting dark quickly, which informed him that the Mushroom Kingdom was in a kind of perpetual twilight. Not really day, but not night either.

Meg nodded. “We should check that the water is ok for us to drink first but yeah. As long as we're here, we should refill all the filter bottles.” she agreed, looking up at the sky as she realized this would be the first time they would get to see the stars from this planet. “I’m kinda surprised it's getting dark so fast this close to the Mushroom Kingdom. Either we weren't very close to the pole, or the pod traveled farther than I thought.”

Chet sighed. "Right. Forgot the chemical makeup might not be the same. Sure looks similar." He glanced up at the sky. "You know… you're right." He pulled out the tablet and checked a couple of things, only for his eyes to widen. "Well… so I made a mistake in the distance calculations… looks like I calculated how far it would be from us to Artemis in a straight line. There was a planet between, with curvature, that I didn't think to account for. Kinda assumed it, but didn't bother to consider the fact that we don't have size and distance ratios for this planet." He shook his head. "We travelled a lot farther today than I thought, and of course, we don't have an odometer or anything in the pod, so we had not way of measuring the speed, so… guess it all worked out in the end, but… feel kinda dumb about that one."

(lol it's ok) Meg listened to his very scientific explanation, nodding along to make sure she was understanding. “You're not dumb. I know I would never have thought of distance ratios or the curve of the planet affecting our travel.” she pointed out. “I was just making an observation. If anything, you should be proud. We made it this far in one day because of your hard work on the pod. Otherwise, it could have taken us… what, a week, maybe?”

Chet nodded slowly. "A lot longer, I guess. Like the difference between getting in a car and going 30mph, or walking at 2mph. Suppose it didn't make too big a difference." He was realizing exactly how tired he was. The night prior was catching up to him, and today had felt longer. It had been, by about an hour, since they had a sundown to gauge the time now, but Chet could feel that he'd have been crashing regardless. "Artemis, can you do a chem test on the water if I get you a sample?" "Yes, I think so."

“Exactly. We made incredibly good time and were able to save Artemis that much sooner.” she smiled at him. “Because of you.” Meg shook her head and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll get the sample.” she insisted, noticing his exhaustion. “You stay here and rest. Besides, you did all that climbing around in the ship earlier while I just stood outside with the drone. I'll be right back.” she assured.

Chet ducked his head at her praise, once again not really sure what to do with it. "If you say so." He was tired enough, he almost agreed with her suggestion, but… then he took one look at the predators still near the water hole, and changed his mind. "We should go together. I'd rather not lose you to some dingo who got curious." It wasn't that he didn't trust her, he just… He wanted her safe. He headed that way, making sure his Joulle was good to go, and carrying one of the empty water bottles in his hand, ready to get a sample.

Meg rolled her eyes at his determination to go with her but smiled and didn't stop him. “Alright. Just remember what I told you earlier. And don't keep your hand so close to your Joulle. We don't want to get twitchy.” she warned gently, taking his hand in hers. “Let’s go and follow my lead.”

Chet was going to argue they needed to keep the weapons ready, prepped for a fight, but Meg took his hand, and he suddenly had no will to argue. He smiled a little, though he managed to stay alert, and followed her towards the water. Meg obviously knew more about this, so of course he should listen to her. It certainly had nothing to do with anything else. Nothing at all. They got near enough to the pond that some of the bigger animals took notice. Several backed up or skittered off, but a few, particularly the big rock-looking turtlebears, just stood where they were, watching. Chet did his best not to let it unsettle him.

If he had said anything, Meg would have agreed that they needed to stay alert but instantly going for their weapons would have only made a tense situation worse. Seeing him smile, however, made her smile back and she gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “Just stay calm and confident. We're not a threat and we are not prey.” she reminded one last time as they approached the watering hole. She had to admit that she was a little disappointed as some of the animals ran off but she couldn't say she wasn't expecting it. Two alien beings in strange clothes with a loud way of traveling that was completely unfamiliar to them… Even humans had once run away from that situation. Seeing the turtlebears remain did make her a bit nervous, but she did her best not to show it as she and Chet got close enough to get their sample.

Chet stayed hand in hand with Meg, until they got down close to the water's edge. There was an open spot on the bank, opposite the side all the turtlebears were on. It felt like the safest spot, though only because their presence had driven off all the smaller animals and predators. He let go of her hand, and knelt, before unscrewing the lid on the water bottle and filling it with the pond water. He noted that the surface was bubbling, right in the middle, just small bubbles, and wondered what that meant. The water was clear, not murky like he would have expected, so that was a good sign. He stood and stepped back, setting the bottle back in his pack and reaching for Meg's hand again. One of the turtlebears made eye contact with him, and seemed to tense its muscles. It gave what sounded like a low rumble, though the sound was muffled through the vac-suit. The big beast took a single lumbering step towards Chet and Meg.

Meg stood guard and kept her eyes on the animals as Chet got the water. Her posture was calm but strong and her expression gave nothing away. Though she would probably admit to being nervous later as Chet took her hand again. She briefly imagined the gesture was just as reassuring to him as it was to her at this moment. “Don't move.” she warned quietly when the turtlebear took that single step. “We have to stand our ground now or they’ll think we’re easy prey.” she said, debating whether or not being able to “growl” back by using the pod would be a good idea. Though her hand was hovering near her weapon just in case it got too aggressive.

The gesture was definitely calming to Chet, who was nervous. His heartrate was slowly crawling upwards, and when the turtlebear moved, he froze. Meg's advice made sense, and Chet swallowed hard and didn't flinch. The turtlebear didn't like that, and growled again, before pawing at the ground. Chet wasn't great with animals, but he knew enough to know what that meant. Part of his was screaming to grab Meg and run, to get out of there, but… The woman next to him wasn't flinching. He realized, in a long moment of clarity, that this was largely how things had gone since they'd landed. Where he would have run, and maybe gotten himself hurt or killed, Meg had been steady, and it struck him exactly how much he needed her. Which gave him exactly one option, now. The turtlebear stopped pawing when it realized Meg and Chet weren't going to back down, and started towards them in a lumbering trot. Chet immediately stepped in front of Meg and squared his shoulders. He pulled himself up to his full height and held his hands out to his sides, making himself appear as big as possible. He also pulled out the Joule, and fired an energy shot into the dirt in front of the turtlebear. The energy blast kicked dirt and grass into the beast's eyes, and it slowed, pawing at its face.

Meg gave his hand a gentle squeeze when she felt him tense up. It was a normal reaction and Meg would be lying if she said she wasn't scared as well. She had never been in a situation like this on Earth and didn't know how much of that kind of animal behavior would be similar. Though the fact that the turtlebear was becoming more aggravated and approaching them was not helping her in any way. She didn't really want to kill the animal unless it was absolutely necessary. She blinked in surprise when Chet moved in front of her, took a defensive position, and fired his energy weapon into the ground in front of the animal. “Wow… Well done.” she whispered, very impressed by his actions.

Chet stayed where he was. The turtlebear had begun pawing at its face, trying to get the dirt out of its eyes, but it was still moving forward, towards them. He couldn't tell if it was angry or not, as it wasn't growling or anything now, but that didn't mean anything. "Don't congratulate me yet." He said quietly in response to Meg's encouragement. "What should we do?" He had no instinct with the animal. He'd only acted on his instinct to protect Meg. The turtlebear slowed further, and finally stopped altogether, pawing at its face till its eyes were cleared. It stood there, roughly 10 feet away, just looking at the two aliens in weird suits. It took another slow step forward, without the pawing or the growling. It kept its eyes locked on them, though it had dropped its head, as if wary of getting more dirt to the face.

“Honestly… I’m not sure at this point.” she admitted softly, her hand still hovering near her own gun just in case. “I've never had this kind of thing happen before.” Meg watched the creature over Chet’s shoulder, not wanting to challenge the animal but ready to push her friend out of the way if it became necessary. “At least, it doesn't seem aggressive anymore.” she murmured as she took in the turtlebear’s behavior.

Artemis piped up from her core, safely in the dirt a ways away. "If Chet gets eaten, you've still got me, Meg." Chet had to chuckle at the absurd statement, before something struck him. The idea was absurd, because Artemis wasn't really human. More specifically, she wasn't mortal. She was a machine, with no body to comfort or help. Or to smell. Or touch. Or sense in any way. Similar to how the turtlebear was sensing them. It truly didn't seem aggressive now, but… it was clearly wary of something it couldn't understand. They likely had no smell but machine smell, and they had no discernible faces, and hadn't made a sound. "Meg… I'm gonna try something." His HUD was saying the oxygen levels were ok, and the spore levels were far enough down not to be a problem at all. He holstered the Joule, reached up, and took his helmet off.

Meg nearly whipped her head in the direction of the pod, where Artemis was waiting for them, surprised by the comment but didn't, couldn't, take her focus off the turtlebear at this critical point. “Not the best time to say something like that, Artemis.” she whispered, obviously not wanting that to happen to Chet. She raised a brow when Chet spoke up… and nearly face palmed when she saw him taking off his helmet. “Of course. How did I forget that.” she groaned, feeling pretty stupid for forgetting how important the scent of things was to animals. “You sure it's safe?” she asked, bringing her hands slowly up to remove her helmet as well.

Chet took a deep breath, without the air filter in between. Clean air. Fresh air. There was an odd smell, but not a bad one. And his lungs didn't immediately begin burning. So that was a good sign. He waited a moment, taking some.more breaths, before nodding at Meg. "It's safe." He turned to the turtlebear which had stopped advancing andnjust looked alarmed. He tugged at thenxollar of his vac-suit, before unzipping it partially. The turtlebear suddenly got a whiff of human, about the same time it realized Chet had eyes and was watching it. The big creature turned and ran, or at least hurriedly lumbered away.

Meg smiled at the confirmation and carefully took off her helmet as well, breathing in whatever combination of oxygen this planet had. Though she chuckled a little as the poor turtlebear quickly left them alone. “I'm not used to being thought of as the alien.” But the truth was just that simple. This wasn't their planet. They were aliens here. “Are you ok? You really did well there.” she smiled, moving to stand beside him again now that the danger was gone.

Chet looked down at himself, and realized he probably looked so weird. Only 4 limbs, and only walking on 2 of them. That was probably the first thing that set them apart. He also knew he probably smelled horrendous. He hadn't showered in several days now, and that got him thinking that Meg might flee from him too with that stench. He smiled at her as she stepped up next to him. "We are the big bad aliens, I guess. And I'm fine, just… they're large." He chuckled.

“I guess we are.” Meg nodded, laughing a little with him. “Come on. Let's get that water sample to Artemis. Though I am feeling a bit more optimistic about it since the air is breathable at last.” she told him, bumping his shoulder before starting back towards the pod. She didn't say anything about whether or not he smelled because the closest thing she had to a bath was when she came out of cryo dripping wet. But, assuming the water was safe, she did plan for both of them to get cleaned up when they had a chance. Otherwise… They would just have to wait and deal with it.

Chet nodded, his spirits greatly lifted by not having to live in the helmet so much. "I'll have to see if we have some kind of communicator template, so we can use the comms outside of our helmets." He laughed as a thought struck him. "Want something that goes in your ear, or something on your chest, like in Star Trek?" They made it back to the pod uneventfully, and Artemis piped up. "Glad you're both alive. Got the water?"

“I think I’m more used to having one that goes in the ear.” she hummed. “Plus I think we’d be less likely to startle any of the wildlife if we start talking to each other that way. Though… I did just have the random thought of giving the drone to Artemis so she's not always stuck at camp.” Meg admitted, still not completely over the AI’s comment. She nodded when they were close enough to camp and heard Artemis’s question. “Yep. Both in one piece and apparently scary to some of the animals here.” she added with a chuckle.

Chet nodded. "I like the earpiece. Just thought it'd be funny." He thought about the drone suggestion. "I'd have to add a lot of computing space, it's just cameras right now. But it's possible, and if you think it's a good idea, I'll work on it." Chet chuckled along with her, before finding the tablet and hooking it into the AI core, then pouring a bit of the water over one of the sensors. Artemis thought for a minute or so, while Chet went into the tent and peeled out of his vac-suit. It was so nice not to have to wear it, and also not to have to seal the tent at the same time. "It's… weird, but… safe. The chemicals are essentially the same, but the chemical bonds are strange, or something." Artemis announced, finally. "Should be safe to drink, but anything you cook with it may come out more gelatinous than normal."

“It would be funny, just a little awkward getting used to it.” she agreed with a shrug. “That makes sense. I just thought it might be a good idea to include her more that way.” Meg admitted. “Maybe we should ask her if she’d even be interested.” She stayed outside with Artemis as the AI analyzed the water, partly to hear the result and partly because she didn't want to ignore her either. “Gelatinous? Well, that’s going to be interesting.” she hummed, wishing she could remember more about chemistry to figure out why that was a thing on this planet before shaking her head. “Thank you, Artemis.” she smiled sincerely grateful for the information.

Artemis appeared on the screen of the AI core and beamed at Meg. "Of course! Anything I can do to help." Chet walked out, and his movement without the vac-suit looked so much more fluid. He was a nerd, but whatever regimen he'd mentioned being on since his wife left had worked for him. He had the nano-forge with him, and plopped down next to Artemis's core looking like he was ready to get down to business, even though it was getting towards sundown, and he was clearly tired. "Artemis, can you help me figure out what steps we would need to take to get moving forward with the bigger nano-forge build?" The AI started thinking, and Chet gave Meg a tired smile.

Meg’s smile grew at Artemis’s enthusiasm to help, finding it surprisingly adorable for an AI. But when Chet came back out of the tent, she couldn't help blushing. It wasn't the first time she had seen him without the suit but… Maybe it was because he was outside of the tent without it and the way the sunlight was accenting his build that got this reaction out of her. She cleared her throat softly and stepped away when Chet started working with Artemis before ducking into the tent for a moment as well. Though she wasn't going to just take off her vacsuit since the skintight cyro clothes wasn't… It wasn't uncomfortable but she liked the idea of wearing the spare unisex clothes from the survival packs better.

Chet hadn't left the tent intentionally to give Meg privacy, simply because he hadn't really been thinking about it. But when he started to get up to go back in, the thought popped into his head that he should wait. They had both de-suited in front of the other before, but this felt different. Maybe the less life-threatening situation was affecting it. Maybe it was something else. But in any case, he stayed where he was, talking to Artemis about plans. It was a bit discouraging. With the small nano-forge, there were things he would have to do by hand, which wasn't the worst, but… it would take time. They would need to build an actual forge, and he'd have to learn to smith metal, which would be a new skill. Amongst the colonists, they'd had multiple smiths, but of course… It was just Chet and Meg now. The sun dipped below the horizon, and Chet stood, picking up the AI core. "Coming in, Meg." he called, just to be sure she was comfortable before he stepped in. He zipped the tent closed behind them, and Artemis immediately activated the defenses, made sure alarms were set, and everything else to keep them from being overrun in their sleep.

Meg took a couple of minutes to calm down and get rid of her blush before she actually started changing, wondering if now would be a good time to take up Chet’s offer about putting up a privacy “wall” for this reason. She didn't know why she had become so flustered like that but it didn't feel strange. Maybe it had something to do with Artemis's comment about if something happened to Chet… She didn't want anything to happen to him. They were the only humans on this planet. Even with Artemis, they would still be alone. She sighed and, after struggling with the cryosuit for a moment, put on the clean clothes including socks, which she was relieved to find. “I’m not going to stop you.” she laughed as Chet reentered the tent and smiled at him, fixing the shirt slightly.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

"Which I appreciate, since we both know you could." Chet chuckled ruefully, remembering the results of their wrestling match a couple days ago. He set Artemis near the wall that housed the computing components, and gave her a hard-line connection by plugging the core into one of the ports. That would make it easier for her to move through the system while he and Meg slept. His stomach rumbled, and he dug around in his pack for a dinner ration kit. Lasagna, which…. didn't sound great. But. It was what he'd picked. "So. Order of priorities on projects?" he asked, wanting to know what Meg thought should be important. He glanced up as he asked, and froze, for just a second, as he noticed Meg had changed. The durable, unisex survival clothes were entirely utilitarian, but… maybe it was just seeing her in something other than the cryo-suit or the vac-suit, but something fluttered in Chet's chest, just a little. At least, he tried to convince himself it was just a little.

Meg laughed again as he reminded her of their light-sparing match days ago. “I guess I could.” she agreed. “But I can't think of a reason why I would want to.” she assured, taking a seat. Seeing him grab a ration pack made her realize that she hadn't eaten anything since they left the Mushroom Kingdom either. She opened her pack and pulled out a dinner pack of her own and frowned slightly when she saw “Salisbury Steak” on the label. She just couldn't imagine that tasting good as a ration pack. “Hmm? Oh. Well, I was thinking, now that we know the water is safe, we should fill up the empty bottles.” she answered, hoping it wouldn't come off as rambling. “Though I don't know if you heard but Artemis said that cooking with the water would make things more jelly-like. Anyway, I could set up some snare traps and things tomorrow so we can study some of the smaller animals and find out if they're safe to eat too so we don't go through all our ration packs.” she explained before finally catching his expression. “What? Is something wrong?” she asked with a raised brow.

Chet shook his head and looked back down at his ration kit. "No, nothing's wrong. Just, uh, checking what you had for supper. I got lasagna." He nodded, and opened a document on the tablet. "Water refills. Snares for smaller animals." He thought for a moment. "Do you think this is a good spot to stay, and at least set up a camp of sorts? Or should we try to build closer to the scrap?" The crash site where they'd found Artemis was about half an hour away. "Because if it is, I have a whole slew of projects to ask you about." Water pipes for showers and toilets, hauling scrap, building a perimeter of sorts, etc. All the things they'd need to have someplace safe.

Meg nodded, not completely convinced but decided to drop the topic. “Salisbury steak. You wanna trade?” she asked when she remembered that Chet wasn't a big fan of Italian. “Honestly, I’m not sure. On one hand, we’re already here and we're near water.” she shrugged. “But I definitely see the benefits of being near the wreck… If you want to, we could try to find a spot somewhere in between those two places so we can get to either one easier.” she suggested.

Chet's eyes widened, and he nodded quickly. "I mean, unless you really want Salisbury Steak. Sure." Artemis piped up then. "Mineral traces in the pond water suggest it's an underground spring, so… maybe there's a way to dig some sort of well and get water from wherever, if we can check for it. A seismic reading would show that, and I know I've got seismograph templates." Chet nodded at the AI. "Which would allow us to draw water from a source closer to the crash site, and also not have to disturb the local wildlife too much." He looked at Meg. "So some spot between the two it is."

Meg shook her head and handed the ration pack over. “I’m not usually a big fan of it. I’ve had it before normally but it wasn't a favorite.” she conceded. “That could explain why the water was bubbling when we were there.” she added thoughtfully before grinning back at Chet. “Sounds like a good plan to me, as long as our well doesn't end up depleting the animal's natural water source.” she nodded.

Chet eagerly traded, much more excited about something other than lasagna than about the Salisbury Steak specifically. He paused a moment, looking at Meg, before quietly saying "Thanks." She'd remembered, it seemed, and that was just… so kind of her. The bubbling did make sense now. "I'll do my best to be careful about it, but… at the end of the day, we gotta survive, and try to thrive." He wasn't trying to argue, but he could definitely tell that he and Meg differed a bit on this. He wasn't going to go out of his way to disrupt the wildlife, but if it happened, it happened. Though he'd be more careful, if it was that important to Meg. He ate quickly, his body beginning to drag him towards sleep. It had been a long day, it felt like, though they'd accomplished much.

“No problem.” she smiled as she opened the lasagna pouch, feeling her face warm at how enthusiastic Chet was to trade. Did he really dislike Italian food that much or did he just really like Salisbury steak? Either way, it was kinda cute. Meg nodded, acknowledging the struggle she had caused. “Thank you. I just don't want to disrupt the planet more than we have to if we can avoid it.” she admitted. “If there’s nothing we can do about it, then I’ll understand. I guess I'm a bit of an environmentalist too.”

Chet shook his head quickly. "Oh, I agree, I'm not here to start smog factories. We've got perpetual fission engines, we can do things cleanly here and avoid polluting as much as possible. It's clearly important to you, and I'm not against taking care of things." There had been those on the various planets who, ironically, despite being colonists themselves, were against colonization, on the grounds that it 'destroyed the natural beauty' of a place when humans showed up. Chet had never liked them, because they still were a part of and benefitted from the very systems and habits they claimed to hate, while making it harder for others. In any case, Meg was not one of those, it seemed. And even if she had been… Chet was realizing, as he thought about it, that he'd have been willing to bend, if it was important to her. They could make this work. He finished his food and fed the matter reclamator, before moving slowly to his sleep pocket. "Well. I know it's not super late, but. I'm falling asleep sitting here." He gave Meg a smile, and curled up down in his pocket. "Just tell Artemis what time you wanna wake up." "I'll play my loudest alarms." The AI joked.

“Oh, I know you're not.” Meg chuckled, shaking her head at the idea. She knew that the technology they had was clean energy based and would have very little, if any, impact itself. But there were… careless ways of setting things up that could cause problems she would prefer to avoid. And was relieved when Chet seemed to agree with her on principle. “Thank you. Again.” she smiled softly. “I understand.” she nodded, finishing her meal and following his example. “You worked very hard today.” she acknowledged though she tried not to laugh at Artemis’s teasing comment. “You don't have to do that. I’m a light sleeper but if you could set an alarm for… How many hours did we say again? Nine?”

Chet smiled to acknowledge her thanks. They were on the same page. He'd get on the same page, if he had to. This was going to be fine. He nodded at her assertion. "We'd said 9 hours, but… now that we've actually got a day-night cycle, maybe just wake us up when the sun is fully in the sky, Artemis? Like, the equivalent of roughly 7am?" Chet hated getting up that early, but had pushed himself to get used to it for years. Others didn't consider it early, so he couldn't afford to either, but if he'd ever had his way… bed by 2am. Up by 10am. Still 8 hours of sleep, just… shifted to match his more natural circadian rhythms. He was already feeling his body relaxing, slowing down, and a sudden thought reminded him of what he and Meg had talked about. He wondered if he should remind her, but decided against it. If she didn't remember, or didn't feel like it, he wouldn't hold that against her.

“7:30, please.” Meg interjected. “Seven is a little early for me and I don't think we have caffeine.” she giggled before climbing into the sleeping pocket next to Chet. She hadn't thought much of their conversation during the day because they had things to do but, obviously, she hadn't forgotten what they had talked about.

Chet chuckled. "Hey, if 7 is early, I'm good with closer to, say, 9? We don't have to work a 9 to 5 here." Artemis piped up. "I'll just let you guys wake up when you're done sleeping, and we'll set an alarm later." Chet went quiet as Meg slid into the next pocket over, and gave her a smile that definitely looked a little shy. "…. Thanks." he said quietly. He was fading fast, so he rolled over so she wouldn't have to sleep facing him if she didn't want to. The way he'd positioned himself, she could avoid being up against him if she wanted to, but it also meant they could sleep back to back if preferred. Chet liked the contact, since that was the bit that was comforting to him, but he certainly didn't want to push anything.

“Sounds good to me.” she smiled at him, not against the suggestion. Though the idea of having a nine-to-five almost made her laugh again. “Thank you, Artemis.” Meg smiled assuringly and nodded. “Any time. And if your nightmares get too bad, we can still try the other method we talked about.” she reminded him gently. “Good night, Chet.”

Artemis made a beeping noise in acknowledgement of Meg's thanks, her mind clearly occupied with something. Chet nodded quickly. "Thanks Meg… good night." He was out within a couple minutes, breathing heavily but not quite snoring. He slept pretty well through the night, only waking up once or twice, and neither time freaking out as he did so. So that was an improvement. Morning rolled around, and the sun rose. The early morning sun was very bright outside the tent, especially in contrast to the weird twilight they'd been in the last few days.

Meg smiled softly as Chet fell asleep before she was able to as well. It wasn't that she wasn't tired, more like she wanted to make sure that he was alright as he slept. She did wake up both times when it seemed like he had another nightmare but was a little relieved that they weren't as bad as the last time. (sorry it's so short.)

Both time Chet woke up, he was groggy, and only vaguely aware of a sense of safety, but it was better than usual. He woke up when the light of morning was too bright to ignore, around 9:30. His usual habit, if he woke up without startling awake, was to roll over. So he did. And found himself face to face with Meg. He froze, not wanting to freak her out, but also found he couldn't look away from her, up close like this. It was as if she was a magnet, pulling him closer in ways he didn't entirely understand.

Because she was a light sleeper Meg was a little more coherent when she woke up, placing her hand on his or whispering assurances until he fell back asleep. She let out a soft sleepy sound and rubbed her eyes as she woke up for the day, smiling a little when she saw Chet in front of her. “Good morning.” she greeted as she covered a yawn.

"Good morning…" Chet said quietly. Her sleepy smile and sleepy noises were adorable, and Chet had to fight the urge to smooth her hair back out of her face. He glanced over at the core, which was dormant in the corner. "Morning, Artemis." The AI popped up on the screen, smiling at him. "Morning, Chet. I'll set the alarm for 9:30 for future mornings."

Meg smiled softly at the greeting before stiffly sitting up to try and stretch out some of the tightness. “Good morning, Artemis.” she nodded at the AI. “How are you feeling?” she asked, remembering that yesterday had been a difficult day for her.

Artemis beamed at Meg. "Pretty good! Spent some more time defragging, and I feel more clear-headed today." Chet nodded. "That's a good sign. And also very helpful. We've got a lot to do today." His mind was already spinning on projects.

“Well, I'm glad both of you are doing good today.” she smiled sincerely before looking over at Chet. “Speaking of, we should check your bandages before you get started on anything.” Meg pointed out, a little disappointed that she had forgotten about his injury yesterday.

In all of the hustle and bustle, Chet had forgotten as well. His chest hadn't really hurt, though now as he thought about it… he wouldn't have noticed if it had. He'd been too focused. That's a bad habit you gotta kick… He shifted in his sleep pocket sheepishly. "I'm sure it's fine, but… I oughta at least change the bandage."

Meg raised a brow at his attitude, trying to figure out if it was him being dismissive or just shy. “Right, and I have the bandages. Remember? You gave me the kit.” she pointed out though she had no problem with helping him again with this.

Chet facepalmed. "Right. Listen, I'm not awake yet." He swallowed after a moment, and reached up. He'd let Meg work on this before, but somehow, the act of pulling his shirt over his head for her to check the wound made him feel so shy this time. Maybe not shy, just… self-conscious. The bandage definitely should have been changed yesterday. There was a streak across the middle where it was close to being bled through. "….Well that's not good."

“It's ok.” she assured with a soft chuckle as she grabbed her survival pack and dug out the first aid kit. Though Meg let out a concerned hum at the sight of the bandage before she gently started to remove it. “I'm going to put some more of that ointment on again.”

"Sounds like a plan…" Chet mumbled distractedly. Artemis had gone quiet, and with Meg this close, her fingers light on his skin as she worked at the bandage… He was a bit unfocused. He had to tear his eyes away from her face and think about something else. "So, umm… anything you particularly want done today?"

Meg had been focused on being careful so she wouldn't cause him any more pain but she hummed at the question, glancing up at him briefly. “Well… I was thinking of doing some scouting honestly. And testing a few snares.” she admitted before resuming her work. “If we're going to move camp closer to the wreck, we’ll need to find a good spot and I can find any burrows nearby.” she explained.

Chet nodded quickly, trying very hard to focus on her words and not her touch. "That's smart. You'd know what to look for. I'll get the pod up and running, and you could take the drone and kinda look ahead of us. Artemis can also give you seismographs, so we can see what's below us and follow the water source. And the snares sound good too." He couldn't help but be a little excited at the prospect of actual meat, not some science experiment space meat.

“Sure.” Meg nodded as she prepared to put the new bandage on. “If Artemis doesn't mind coming with me, then I have no problem with that plan.” she smiled over her shoulder where the AI core was sitting. She really wouldn't mind the company and the additional knowledge would be very helpful and appreciated. But she didn't want to make Artemis feel… the way she mentioned before. “But I don't think I’m going to take the drone this time. I wasn't planning on wearing my suit.” she admitted with a shrug.

Chet nodded. "I don't think she'll mind. She seems to prefer being with you over being with me anyway." He glanced at the AI core, thinking. "No drone is fine, so long as you're safe… and you should be good without the suit. Though maybe wear the helmet? It's got our comms and stuff…" He'd need to modify that, soon, so that she wouldn't have to wear the helmet without the rest of the suit. "Assuming you want to stay in touch, anyway." He chuckled a little bit, the laugh sounding a tad nervous as Meg applied the new bandage.

“Yeah.” Meg nodded again, a little confused by Artemis choosing her over someone she was supposed to be familiar with. She hadn't forgotten about the amnesia but it was still odd. “Alright. I'll wear the helmet as well, if only for the comms.” she smirked teasingly since she knew there was still plenty the helmet could help with. “There. That should be good for now.” she said as she finished wrapping Chet’s injury. “We’ll check it again tomorrow morning.”

Artemis popped up, smiling. "Sounds like we got plans for today! Girl's outing!" Chet just shook his head and grinned at Meg. "The core can sit in your pack, strapped to the top." He grinned at her comment about the helmet. "I mean, if you don't wanna talk to me, I get it." She finished the bandage, and Chet let loose a breath as her fingers pulled back. He was beginning to see the problems with being one of only 2 humans on the planet. If you wound up attracted to the other one, but it wasn't mutual… oof… "Feels better already. I'll try not to forget it's there this time." He smiled at her, more genuinely, then stood up and pulled his shirt back on, before grabbing his pack and starting to pack up all his stuff and get the tent ready to move.

Meg chuckled at Atremis's exclamation but nodded slightly. “You may have to show me.” she admitted to Chet before playfully, lightly, slapping his uninjured shoulder for his second comment. Truthfully, she saw the problem as well. She just tried not to think about it too much and instead tried to focus on what was left of her job. She was here to help others survive so that’s what she was going to do. Besides, Chet had already been in love and married before, and Meg had not. “Good. So will I.” she nodded, smiling back as she followed his example and getting her gear together to go scouting.

The slap, playful, gentle, set Chet at ease a bit. He smiled at her before getting moving. Once they'd got their stuff packed, Chet went and picked up the AI core and showed Meg a small loop on the top of her pack. It fit perfectly through a little bracket on the core, and strapped the core to the top of the pack neatly. "There. Should be able to carry her pretty easily." Artemis piped up. "I have the templates for stuff with wheels, you know. We could help me be more mobile so neither of you has to carry me." Chet nodded at her. "Sounds like a plan, though I'm going to have to start writing things down. We've got a lot to do and I certainly won't remember it all." He stepped out of the tent and started taking it down, making sure Meg was out before he collapsed it entirely. He trusted her and her competence, but he still couldn't help but run through a mental checklist with her before she left. "Weapon, helmet, med-kit?" Protection, comms, and meds. He was just concerned she be ok.

“Thanks.” Meg watched as he placed Artemis on her pack, relieved it was so easy, and nodded. “You know we were talking about finding a way to control the drone so you could travel with us and see everything.” she told the AI since she brought up the topic of being mobile. “How about we go over that “list” at dinner so we can split it between us? That way you don't have to remember everything.” she suggested as Chet took down the tent. She nodded along as he made sure that she had her gear. “All weapons on the belt, med kit is in my pack, and I’ve got the helmet.” she smiled assuringly, shifting a loop of rope on her shoulder.

Chet nodded as Meg reminded him they'd mentioned using the drone. "See, this is what I mean." He smiled at Meg's suggestion. "Sounds like a plan, mostly because I'll need you to remind me of stuff we talked about that I've forgotten." Meg confirmed the list, and Chet paused for a moment, just looking at her. It wasn't a long moment, but… he was just thinking he was grateful for her. "Ok. Check in every so often. I'll do the same." He smiled back at her, and held out a fist. "Survivors?"

Meg smiled back at the agreement, glad he didn't interpret it as a date since the words sounded like that after she realized she’d said that. “Alright then. I’ll see if I can catch anything too.” she added, thought she wasn't completely sure she would be able to. She didn't know enough about the wildlife here to know if standard traps were going to work. “I will.” she nodded, figuring he was just making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything with that look. “Survivors.” she smiled softly, returning the fistbump before heading off sin the direction of the wreck. “See you later, Chet.”

Chet smiled at her and nodded, excited about the idea of real meat, maybe. His smile grew at the fistbump. "Be safe." He watched her walk away, for a moment, before shaking his head to clear it, and getting back to work. He packed up the tent and tossed it in the pod, before plopping down with his notebook. Project List: Expand computing space on drone Comms earpiece HUD visor Draw up schematics for water system Schematics for food storage Fill water bottles Big Nano-forge Smithing tools Perimeter Transmitter Airlock/Gate Brakes He got to the end and thought for a minute or so, but couldn't remember anything else just now. He decided to try to go refill the water, since it had been mentioned. They'd sampled the water yesterday, but hadn't refilled. He picked up the few empty bottles and headed that way. ….. Artemis had connected to the nano-forge at some point last night, and had fabbed up a small seismograph attachment for the tablet. It was this tool that would allow her to check for underground water sources. She was using it now to try to track the springs under the ground and set a course. "So we're heading back towards the wreck, right? or in that general direction?" It looked like there were several legs of the spring the headed that direction. Seemed to be a pretty large cave system they were walking over.

“Just in that direction.” Meg answered. “I want to scout around a bit. Find a good spot to set up camp, good food supply, hopefully, and with your help, a good place to dig out the well.” she explained since it didn't seem like a good idea to take Artemis back to the actual ship at this time. “And I need to test out my snares to see if they'll work the same way here. Or if I need to adapt them for the animals.” she added thoughtfully.

Artemis nodded in the upper corner of Meg's HUD. "That sounds good. I'll follow your lead then. Anything you want me to do while you're working on scouting and everything? I'm running seismograph checks, but that'll be more relevant as you find a place you think if appropriate." She smiled at Meg, before asking quietly. "Are your comms on?" She had a couple things she wanted to ask Meg, but without Chet there. ….. Chet made it back to the pod, glad to be able to cross off an item already. Project List: Expand computing space on drone Comms earpiece HUD visor Draw up schematics for water system Schematics for food storage Fill water bottles Big Nano-forge Smithing tools Perimeter Transmitter Airlock/Gate Brakes He smiled, and then got to work on some of the schematics, pulling up the pods computers and working with those, since he'd sent the tablet with Meg and Artemis. He didn't wanna push, so he figured he'd let Meg check in when she wanted, though he kept his helmet on so he'd hear it.

Meg shrugged slightly at the question, readjusting the rope. “Nothing’s really coming to mind at the moment but I’ll listen if you have any advice or information to share. And you're right about the seismographs but they'll still be useful.” she assured, genuinely grateful for anything the AI might pick up that she might miss. “Thanks, Artemis.” Though she raised a brow at the second question. “I mean, it's not transmitting anything right now but I wouldn't say it's completely off.” she admitted. “Why?”

"I can be looking for animal warrens, if that's relevant, as well as keeping an eye out. I've got thermal imaging on the core, so I can watch for predators and stuff." Artemis said, trying to be helpful. Her voice lowered as she went on. "As long as it's not transmitting, and he can't hear us… are you ok?" The question seemed odd, but Artemis had some concerns over things she'd seen yesterday.

“Please do.” Meg smiled, gratefully. “That would make my job a lot easier.” Her confused expression didn't change as Artemis continued. Why didn't she want Chet to hear them? Why was she acting so secretive? “I’m… well enough for a person in my position.” she admitted. “Maybe a little stressed but I think that’s normal for any shipwreck survivor. Why do you ask?”

There was a quiet beep, as Artemis began scanning around them, checking for animals, either prey or predators. "I ask because it's just you and Chet. He hasn't made you uncomfortable or anything, has he?" The AI had been a bit concerned by the assertion from both humans that they weren't a couple, despite clear behavior from Chet that suggested he thought of them that way, or at least as something close.

“No, he hasn't.” she answered, still perplexed as to why Artemis was asking these questions. Apparently, her skill at reading people failed when she tried to use it on AIs, despite how human Artemis acted. “I know I haven't known him long but he’s a really nice guy and I don't think I could have made it this far without him.” Meg admitted with a shrug. “He’s… It's actually comforting to have another person here right now, selfish as that sounds and I wouldn't wish this situation on anyone but I can't help but be relieved that we ended up here together.” she said as she felt a warm blush creep on her face.

Artemis nodded in the corner. "And you're sure he's not… eyeing you funny? looking at you in any way that makes you nervous?" One of the AI's functions had been monitoring certain things on the Deus. Certain behaviors, of a sort. An adult could see a look and tell what the intent was. Artemis had essentially been part of preventative HR on the ship. However, those skills had regressed to teenage understanding, and her concern was that with no oversight, no law in place, no policing authority…. that Chet was going to take advantage of that with Meg. An odd fear, for an AI, but Artemis was damaged.

Meg blinked as Artemis’s meaning became clear and a part of her nearly wanted to laugh. Not that she wasn't appreciative of the concern but it just seemed like such an odd thing to think about. “No, Artemis. Nothing like that.” she assured. There were a couple of times that she’d caught him staring but she attributed that to the skintight cryo suit she was wearing before and the same kind of awkwardness she had when they didn't need to be in their vacsuits anymore. “Besides, I’m a grown woman. I can tell when a man has that kind of interest and can handle it. I know enough hand-to-hand if it becomes necessary.” she smiled softly.

Artemis grinned at her. "Oh, nice. You could beat him up, then, if he becomes a problem." The AI sobered after a second. "You're sure, though? It's just the two of you here, and he doesn't seem like the most stable person… he's also got a record, Meg. Charges for domestic abuse and a restraining order against him from an ex-wife and kids, it looks like. I want you to be safe, and if we have to run from him, then we run, and I'm with you. I've got your back." Artemis had pulled his files. She didn't remember a lot of the time she'd spent working with him on the Deus, so she'd pulled the crew file on him, and what she saw made her nervous. A man like that, all alone on a planet with a nice girl? It was quickly becoming clear why the AI had been giving Chet a little bit of attitude the whole time.

Meg frowned, a little disappointed at Atremis’s information and opinions. “I won't beat him up. I can defend myself if I need to but I doubt I’ll have to.” she said firmly. “And he already told me about the record… and his mental health. But I'm not going to run from him. He doesn't deserve that after everything he’s gone through.” she sighed, shaking her head. “I’ve been told I’m a good judge of character and I can tell Chet’s a good person. Maybe you should talk to him about his past and get his perspective.” she suggested.

Artemis was quiet for a moment, which was a long time for an AI. "… I trust you. If you're sure of all that, then I'll believe you. He would only tell me what would benefit him, same as he told you, so I dont think I'll bring it up. But if you're not worried about it… then I can leave it alone." The matter immediately dropped from the top three of Artemis's priorities, where it had been sitting since she'd been rescued by the duo. She smiled at Meg, her face seeming more relaxed, if that was possible for a computer mind. "Also, we're approaching a massive warren for this prairie-dog things. In case you wanted to prep snares or whatever."

“I’m glad you trust me, Artemis,” Meg sighed. “But I do trust Chet. He wasn't lying to me when he told me about his past. I had just asked about his nightmares and he… told me about what his wife did to him and how he got that record.” she shook her head, trying to clear it. She didn't need to have her thoughts clouded by that conversation right now. “Oh, good. Thank you.” she nodded at the change of focus and grabbed the rope as she quietly got closer. This was her job, she could do this easily.

Artemis decided to drop it. Meg seemed pretty sure. "I'll follow your lead." The sentence was meant as a double affirmation. She'd follow Meg's thoughts on Chet, as well as he lead in their current task. She sent another ping through the ground, and tossed up a small yellow blip on Meg's HUD. It was the first of the openings to the burrows. "Don't trip." she said quietly.

Meg sighed, picking up on both meanings, finally able to relax and gave Artemis a grateful smile at the understanding and the warning. “Thank you.” She crouched into the dirt, watching the area for any movement as she set up the first of many snares, she had no doubt. This one was probably one of the easiest to set up but it had always been effective on small mammals back on Earth.

Artemis proceeded to mark several more of the openings to the burrows. The warrens underground were huge, but they all dumped into just a few exits and entrances. She also noted that the warrens seemed to intersect with the spring water tributaries at a few points, meaning the little critters had access to water under the ground, and wouldn't need to come up for anything other than food. Smart. She kept quiet as Meg worked, not wanting to be a distraction.

The thing about any kind of hunting, even with snares, was that it was largely a waiting game. As well as a numbers game. So as soon as she finished her first snare, Meg moved on to the next closest opening that Artemis marked and started the next one. Hopefully, her human scent wouldn't scare the animals off as it and the propeller did yesterday at the watering hole. A part of her was almost wondering if it would actually make the alien prairie dogs curious… Then again their speed was also a factor, so she made a few of her traps different sizes as an experiment.

Artemis continued marking the entrance points, and ran a topographical scan at the same time. "So what exactly are you looking for in an area for us to set up a base? I had some programming about this but its fuzzy." …… Back at the pod, Chet was beginning to wonder if he should ask the same thing, and start following them or not. Meg wanted to scout, and that was smart, but at some point, he ought to get moving. He just wasnt sure when, and didn't want to push her.

Meg blinked at Artemis speaking up, having gotten a bit preoccupied with the traps for a while. “Uhh, sorry.” she said as she got up from setting her latest snare. “Let’s see… I wasn't thinking of anything specific really.” she admitted. “Just a nice flat area, big enough for the tent and any additional structures we might need, including a good place to build the well, and somewhere between the wreck and this area since we could have a good food source here… Assuming these animals are safe to eat.” she added, noticing that she had been rambling.

Artemis nodded slowly, looking busy. The tablet beeped, an Meg's maps updated a bit. "Trying to overlay topography lines over the map we had. It's not super complete but it's getting there." She kept at it. "How long do you think we oughta have to wait for something to wind up in a trap?" Wildlife and survival were skills the AI's only haflway knew anything about. Their world was of cyber-organisms and programming, not learning to breath and cook meat.

“Thank you. That helps.” she smiled as she looked at the new map. “Though that is why we’re scouting. Trying to get a lay of the land and fill in more of the map.” Meg pointed out with a smile as she continued walking before answering the question. “It really depends on the animal. Could be a couple minutes, could be a few hours… Sometimes it can take a day or two but we can double back later and check on them later. Besides, these little guys move fast, I’m a little concerned that they might spring the trap and still get away.” she admitted.

Artemis continued topographical scans as they moved, slowly updating the map. She also analyzed the chances for the traps to fail, based on Meg's skills. "I'm 76.3% sure you'll catch something. Best odds I can give you." (Also figured I'd leave it to you where they wind up settling and all that)

“Thank you. Those are better odds than what I was thinking.” Meg smiled softly. She may not have been able to factor everything in or come up with numbers like Artemis but… It was nice to hear that from her. “Hey, we've been walking for a while so I’m going to get Chet on comms for a bit. Just to check in with each other.” she informed.

"Of course, the odds may be a lot better than that. I just don't know enough about our targets to know." Artemis said, smiling. The AI nodded at the heads-up, seeming much more amenable to the idea of Chet than she had before. Hilariously, Chet had just left his comms channels open, and as Meg clicked hers on, she could hear him half-humming, half-mumbling, half-singing to himself. "Noooo, no no you dunce, that'll never woooork, those parts don't connect, hmmmmmm, and thaaaaat doesn't work eitheeeeeeer…" He clearly wasn't paying attention, and was deep in thought about something.

Meg nodded in understanding at Artemis’s confession. Obviously, neither of them had all the information considering the fact that they were on a previously undocumented planet so there was bound to be room for error. She smiled a little when Artemis seemed a bit more relaxed about Chet. She wasn't going to bring up their private conversation at this time but she still felt that he had a right to know about it eventually. She chuckled softly as she heard Chet talking to himself. “Whatcha working on?” she asked casually, fairly sure that she had just surprised him… but a little curious what his reaction would be.

"WA!" Chet jumped as Meg's voice came through the comms. He'd been in deep concentration, working on planning a water system and designing pieces of it, and had completely lost track of time, or the fact that Meg would update soon. He cleared his throat, trying to cover his obvious startle. "Hi, uh, I'm, uh, I'm working on the plumbing for when we get a bit more settled. Hows you, how are things there, everything fine?" He wondered if she could hear his heart hammering in his chest from jumping through the roof.

Meg tried very hard not to laugh at the noise he made in surprise but she couldn't get herself to stop smiling. “Sorry if I scared you.” she apologized. “Things are going pretty good so far.” she answered. “Just a lot of walking around trying to find a good spot while giving the snares time to work. But it sounds like you choose a pretty big project to work on.” she pointed out, both a little curious about how he would go about dealing with that and concerned if he could handle that kind of job on his own or that he may have bitten off more than he could chew. “Do you need any help?”

"Scared me? Who said anything about scaring, you didn't scare me, it's all good, I wasn't sacred, didn't even jump or anything, what're you talking about?" Chet had to snicker at himself a bit, but he was going to continue denying it. "Eh. I'm just in the planning stage at the moment. Designing parts and trying to work out how we can pressurize a water system. Not hard concepts. Some of it'll depend on exactly where we build, but the basic concepts aren't that bad." He had most of the framework done, and just needed to nail down some details. "How goes the search for stable ground? Should I be following you yet?"

Meg raised a brow as her smile grew at his denial. “Bet you jumped a foot off the ground.” she quipped back teasingly. “Alright.” she nodded as he assured her thoughts about this project. For now at least. “Uhh, no. No rush. We’re still searching. But it helps that this part of this prairie is pretty flat grassland so it's just figuring out a good distance at this point.” she admitted.

"I'm sitting, I did no such thing." He'd certainly come close to it, though. And he could hear her grinning through the comms. "Sounds good. Just lemme know when. I'm happy to keep working on the design aspect of our projects for a while. The more of that we get out of the way, the quicker things will go. Well-done schematics mean all you gotta do is fab up the parts and put them together."

“Uh-huh. Whatever you say.” she chuckled, fairly sure he was enjoying the banter as much as she was. “I will.” Meg nodded as she could understand his logic and appreciated the planning he was doing. “Stay in touch, ok?” she smiled before letting the “call” end.

"Sure thing!" Chet responded, before the line went quiet. He dove back into his wire-framing, his energy renewed. ….. Artemis giggled a little. "You really got him. Kinda wish he'd been wearing his suit so we could see how high his heartrate jumped."

Meg smiled, hoping that she wasn't setting a bad example for the, currently teen-aged, AI. “Yeah, I guess I did.” she nodded before continuing her scouting. ——
It had been a few hours before she found a spot that met the short list of conditions she mentioned for a more permanent site. Obviously, the whole prairie was nice, flat, and very open but comparing what she was seeing to the map Artemis had been updating was a little different. The two explorers had marked all three important sites and finally found a place that wasn't too far away from any of them and had what Artemis had pointed out as a good location for the well they were planning. “Alright, Artemis. Let's mark this on the map and send it to Chet.” she grinned, glad that they had actually been able to find a place on the first day of scouting.

Meg had checked in only a couple more times over the hours, and between those, Chet had sunk into a deep level of concentration. He found that focusing was either an all or nothing effort; it always had been, but off his meds, it was worse. Either he could hyperfocus, or he couldn't concentrate at all. Today was a hyperfocus day. In the hours since Meg had left, Chet's list had started to shrink, and then got bigger again.

Project List: Expand computing space on drone Comms earpiece HUD visor Draw up schematics for water system Schematics for food storage Fill water bottles Big Nano-forge Smithing tools Perimeter Transmitter Airlock/Gate Brakes Design drill-forge Big waste reclamator Bedsteads Storage units Design mag-lev Mag crane Bigger fusion blade Non-lethal options Towing Design grill/stove

There was much to be done, and the more he thought of how to get things done, the more he realized they had to do. He'd never questioned needing a huge amount of people to settle a new place, but now he was seeing exactly why that was the gameplan. His HUD pinged as a notification came in from Artemis. Chet looked at it, and smiled. "Looks like you found a spot." he said over the comms. "I'll get moving your way." ….. Artemis had done her best to get a full 3D view of the slice of terrain they'd explored today. Between seismographs and topographs, she knew what was under them and around them. She'd been updating maps constantly, and Meg had picked a perfect spot. Artemis gave a small salute, sent the info to Chet with a grin. His response over the comms confirmed he'd gotten it. "Shouldn't take you more than half an hour in the pod." she offered helpfully.

Meg smiled at the little salute, something she wasn't used to being on the receiving end of, and hearing Artemis and Chet talk, even if it was only a little. “Sounds good to me. I’m actually going to check the traps while you head this way. Hopefully, we caught something.” she chuckled, already heading toward the burrows. “And I had a thought earlier… Obviously, we don't have any seeds or anything but the idea of farming the land near the ship came to mind.” she admitted, wanting another opinion.

Chet got the pod up and running as he talked. "Sounds good. I'll be out there soon. Hoping for some meat!" He nodded along as Meg spoke, wondering if farming would work here the same as back home. Artemis spoke up. "By the ship, or near us? Close to base should be fine, but by the ship is covered in so much ash, the ground will be unusable for a while." "It's still a good idea, and one we'll have to put some thought into." Chet said quickly. "If we can get our diet balanced, that'll help a lot of things."

Meg gave a soft chuckle and nodded along at both their input. “Honestly, I forgot about the effect of the ash but you're right. We have plenty of room at our new site, it shouldn't be a problem to set up something there.” she agreed. “But, like I said, we don't have any seeds or anything to plant. Not to mention knowing whether or not some is safe for us.” she reminded. And on a prairie there usually wasn't much to forage for in that department. She had no problem with scouting different areas if they came across them but that was also if they were near one.

"We'll look. There's definitely edible plant life here, all of the prey species gotta feed on something." Chet was trying to think while driving. "And, if nothing else, if we can find something to flavor the nutripaste with, we can at least fill in the gaps in our nutrition that way. So long as we don't have to eat it plain." He nearly gagged at the thought. "I might be able to splice current plant life to create hybrids that would be edible. Maybe." Artemis said quietly. "It'll take time, of course, but… it's possible."

“Thanks, guys.” Meg smiled softly, chuckling at the idea of flavoring the nutripaste even though she understood Chet’s opinion. “I'm sorry if I'm being negative or causing any problems but I'm glad you both can come up with those kind of solutions.” she said sincerely.

"You're not being negative or causing problems." Chet frowned, though she couldn't see him. "We gotta try things if we're gonna make it here, and I think those are good suggestions. Besides, even if they fail, or my ideas do, we can't expect perfect success at everything. Just so long as I don't get you killed, we're good." he chuckled. Artemis had tagged exactly where the traps were, and the burrows, and highlighted both on Meg's HUD. "Don't trip. Wouldn't wanna get an ankle caught in one of those."

“You’re right.” Meg nodded, sighing a little. She knew all of that because of her training and past experiences but she didn't like the feeling that she was making more work for the group. Even if some of her ideas turned out to be necessary. “Thanks, Chet.” she smiled softly. “Artemis, you're amazing.” she chuckled as she looked at the modified display, heading toward the nearest snare.

"Of course." Chet couldn't help the smile creeping into his voice. He glanced at the map again, realizing something kinda interesting. "Hey, uh… I should probably avoid the big mess of prairie-dog tunnels, right? Like don't drive through there?" Artemis beamed at Meg's compliment. "I try." She checked Chet's position against where they were. "Meg's call, but if you slow down, you could pick us up on your way to the site."

Meg chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, I would say don't drive through that area but near it should be fine.” she suggested, already seeing that a few traps had gone off… But not all of them were successful. “Good news though, I’m seeing a couple of snares that caught.” she added as she quickly grabbed the gloves from the vacsuit that she had clipped on her belt.

"Got it." Chet changed his course to go around the prairie-dog burrows. He couldn't help celebrating a bit when meg mentioned catching stuff. "Woot woot!! Meat's back on the menu, boys!" He was fully aware they might not be able to eat the critters, but… there was a chance. Other things on this planet had been similar, so maybe… just maybe. Artemis noted which traps had caught things, which ones hadn't, and which ones hadn't even been sprung. She would compile the info after they did this a few more times, and be able to predict which spots they ought to lay more snares by. Of course, she wondered if Meg would just know, as part of her survival skills.

Meg laughed at Chet’s antics about getting actual food but couldn't blame him. The ration packs always tasted weird. She adjusted the gloves and started resetting a couple of the empty snares as she carefully grabbed the unfortunate animals that she had successfully trapped. The gloves were sturdy enough that in case any of the prairie dogs were alive and biting, she would be safe. She wasn't going to let some alien sickness get her when they didn't know enough about the environment. “Got five of them.” she announced as she dealt with the last trap. “What do you think; four to eat, one to study?”

"Five!? That's fantastic!" Chet was impressed, once again. Meg had done better than he'd even hoped. "Are they all already dead?" If not, they might be able to breed them, maybe. Wouldn't be too hard to build a habitat for them, amongst the other things. Artemis analyzed the size of the prairie-dogs, and ran it against projections about their internal organs. "Should get a decent amount of meat from them for their size."

Meg blushed at the compliment and shrugged. “I just got lucky. Umm… Two are dead, for sure. Snapped necks.” she admitted before looking at the others carefully. “Can't really tell on the other… Oh, wait a sec! I think one’s still breathing.” she corrected in mild surprise without letting go, though she readjusted her grip so she wasn't hurting the survivor.

"Well… if it's not inhumane to let it live, let's try to get it back and see if we can get a farm of some kind started eventually. A constant source of meat wouldn't be bad." Chet had circled well around the area. "If you're done, I'm here, by the way. You should see me, about a half mile to your east." He'd had the engine down low so as not to startle things, but the pod was still loud. And obvious, out here on the prairie.

Meg hummed thoughtfully at the idea for a moment. “Hey, Artemis? Can you scan this little guy? See what his condition is?” she asked, wondering if the animal was healthy enough for Chet’s suggestion. “Yeah, I can hear you.” she nodded before looking to the east for the pod. “Be right there.”

Artemis immediately ran a scan on the critter, who seemed to have worked itself up into a tizzy and then passed out. It's vitals were a bit elevated, but it was ok. The ones who didn't have broken necks both also seemed to be alive according to her scan, though they'd already been unconscious by the time Meg picked them up. "Kinda looks like they survived the traps, but got so nervous they passed out. Went into a kind of coma. They'll come out of it once they're safe, similar to opossums on Earth playing dead." Chet hit the new brakes, and the pod came to a much quicker halt, without having to shut down the propeller. Made it a bit windy for Meg to get in, but it saved them from having to do the whole startup sequence again. Chet shot her a smile as she climbed in. "Hail, the conquering hero. Look at you, bringing home the bacon."

“Interesting.” Meg commented, adjusting her grip again. “Well, we’ll just have to be careful then until we know what to do.” She smiled brightly as Chet showed off before she quickly climbed in. “Look at you, master engineer.” she replied, blushing at his comment.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Artemis giggled. "Well, it makes them easier to transport. You could probably set them down, and they wouldn't run away or anything. At least until they get comfortable around you." Chet grinned at the blush on her face. "Oh, I am not. What, you mean the brakes?" He released them, and got going towards the location marked on the map on the screen. "Just a problem of levers and grip. Needed the time to design it, though I'm gonna be honest, I kinda can't wait for that bigger nano-forge."

“Well, it's going to be hard for them to get comfortable around either of us considering how loud the propeller is.” Meg half-joked. She nodded, still impressed by Chet’s work. “I know you're going to use that forge more than I am but I'm looking forward to it too.” she admitted. “But the brakes look like they work really good.”

Artemis nodded quickly. "Better for us. As long as they don't get more scared, they should be ok. Just paralyzed, sorta." Chet glanced at her. "Oh, I bet once you see what it can do, you'll use it just as often as I do. I'll make sure you know the ins-and-outs of the whole thing." He smiled at her comment about the brakes. "They have so far. Thanks."

“Well, now I feel kinda bad for them.” she admitted, looking at the alien prairie dogs. “They're so… skittish.” Meg smiled back at Chet and nodded. “I’d like that. I know it's a very useful piece of equipment so it would be nice to learn how to use it.” she agreed.

Artemis shrugged. "It's a natural thing. You didn't cause this." Chet smiled. "It's not hard. You'll pick it up quickly." They came over a small rise, and Chet could see the area marked on the map. He slowed a bit, and looked over at Meg. "You have a particular spot you want me to park on? Or not park on, if we're planning on building there or something?"

Meg sighed but nodded. In a way, she did cause this… Or at least triggered this reaction because of her hunting. It was a natural response but she still didn't know how to feel about it right now. “I'm looking forward to it.” she smiled back, eager to learn more about the forge. “Umm… Not really. Except for over there.” she quickly pointed. “According to Artemis, that’s the best spot to put up the well.”

Artemis marked the spot on the screen. "There's a big reservoir that the spring dumps into. Should be able to draw water from it without hurting other water sources." Chet nodded and hauled on the brake a bit away from the well site. "Sounds good. Just the tent for now, I think, while we get some things up and going." He glanced at Meg. "You hungry? We should go over our project list."

“Right.” she nodded. “Umm… I can set up a campfire so we can cook at least two of these. Then we can figure out what to do with the others.” she suggested, as she tried to think of what to do so the remaining three wouldn't run away in the meantime.

Chet stood up and held out a hand. "Hold up, if you'll wait a couple minutes, I can have a grill or stove fabbed up and running. Heating element so we're not burning anything. I checked if we had the templates for this earlier, so if we caught meat, I could get it fabbed quickly." He scrambled over to where he had the nano-forge sitting on the floor of the pod. The matter storage tank showed 100%, and with a couple presses of a few buttons, he had the thing churcning out the parts to a small grill. "I'll have to count on you to butcher them or whatever you call it." He glanced over, noting the 3 still playing dead on the floor. "And if I can get the tent up, we can likely seal them in one of the sleep pockets for a bit, so long as we remember which one."

“Even better.” Meg grinned, glad that he had planned ahead like this. It certainly made the job easier and was much more environmentally safe than what she had been thinking. “I can handle cleaning the two.” she nodded confidently. It didn't seem like it would be any harder than cleaning small mammals from Earth. Thought the extra limbs would be interesting. “I'll wait with them until you have the tent ready.”

Chet moved quickly, releasing the hatch and scrambling out of the pod. He yanked the tab on the tent, and it sprang into shape, as usual. Roll it to right side up, set the anchors, and they were good to do. He beamed at Meg as he stepped back into the pod and picked up the pieces the forge had spit out. He attached them in a few places, and pretty soon had a small, but functional, electric grill. "Just flick this switch here and wait for it to heat up. It'll take a couple of seconds." He handed it to her, before stepping out and looking around with his helmet on, noting resources and which areas had inclines to them and which didn't, and so on. His mind had been spinning on some of this all day.

Meg smiled back as she watched him work, carefully picking up the three live prairie dogs once the tent was set up. “I’ll put these in the third bed from the back.” she informed before heading over to the tent. It didn't take her long to put the small animals down and even closed the pocket enough to keep them from getting out without suffocating them. Even though they didn't have to worry about the high spore count of the Mushroom Kingdom, she still closed the door behind her as an added precaution against any of the three escaping. “Great. I’ll get started on making dinner.” she joked as she grabbed the other two, her knife, and a bottle of water.

Chet noted which pocket the critters were in, so he wouldn't step on them. He kept looking, and started asking Artemis questions. He asked about rock deposits, nearby ore veins, mineral content, water table, and several other things. Artemis was able to rattle off some information, and some she needed more input in order to get results. He spent the next few minutes digging around in the dirt, placing small samples on the tablet for Artemis to extract info from. He also measured the area Artemis had marked as being a decent spot for the well, and started the nano-forge on fabbing up the parts for the drill. He'd have to put it together, and hopefully it would do what he needed it to. After a bit, he had a realization. He walked over to where Meg was with a sheepish look on his face. "I'm sorry, I didn't even think… I didn't mean to saddle you with prepping food, I just-… I don't know how to butcher meat or anything like that, and I just kinda rolled it all into one task in my head." He made a frustrated face at himself. "Sorry about that."

Meg sat down near the grill and carefully worked on cleaning the animals, wondering if and hoping that they'll taste good. She sets the fur and skin aside, more out of habit than anything since she’s not sure if they'll be useful, and takes note of the differences in anatomy as she removes the organs. Though she sets the proportionately sized heart, liver, and stomach aside. Hey, people still eat that stuff on Earth but the stomach is for more scientific reasons. She perks up a little when Chet approaches her though is immediately concerned by his expression. Once she hears his apology, she shakes her head and smiles softly. “Chet, we're not getting into those silly gender roles or anything here. I don't mind doing this. I’ve done it plenty of times before.” she assured before chuckling a little. “Besides, I kinda figured you wouldn't know how to clean and butcher food, especially something this small. But if you want, I can teach you.”

Meg didn't seem bothered, and Chet was glad. He wasn't trying to create problems. He nodded at her offer to teach him. "At some point, yes. I promise I'll learn and we can split this." He glanced at the organs she'd set aside. "Planning on cooking all of those?" The forge beeped at him, and he turned and hurried over to it. He was back over by Meg in a minute with a big bag full or parts, and his pack full of tools. He plopped down next to her, and began putting the drill together piece by piece. He reminded her of a kid with a box of Legos, except it was complex machinery and computer pieces.

“We’ll see if we can start with something bigger for your first time.” she smiled assuringly at him. Though she wasn't saying that it would be easier because then if his blade slipped they would still have plenty of room for error. “Honestly, I was debating on the liver but I wasn't sure about the heart and the stomach is more to see what these little guys eat… Assuming they ate before I caught them.” she explained. “Otherwise, there's plenty we can learn about these animals from those organs.” Meg chuckled a little as she watched him work for a minute before turning back to the grill. She knew it would heat up fast but she was still impressed by how fast as she put the now-prepared meat on to cook. The smell that wafted from the little “kitchen” was both familiar and delicious though there was definitely something unusual but not unpleasant about it as well.

Chet nodded without looking up. "I hadn't even thought of studying the organs to figure stuff like that out. Smart." He was quiet after that, putting the drill together with quick, sharp movements. The smell of the meat pulled him up short, and he looked up at it. "Ooo, that smells really good. Have we checked to be sure its edible? Like, that their blood doesn't contain some weird compound we'd get killed by?"

Meg tried not to blush at the compliment. It didn't really seem like much. Just a chance to examine the biology of the animals and figure out what was different internally but… “Oh, I forgot to check that. But I did drain and wash out as much blood as I could.” she admitted, still thinking that would have been easier to do with salt. “Artemis? Is it too late to check that or should we wait until it's done cooking to see if it's safe?” she asked.

Artemis was still checking dirt samples and water contents, with the specific goal of checking how farming would differ here. She responded without looking away. "I can check it once it's cooked. Or I can check some of the organs you saved." "Both would probably be smart." Chet added quietly. He smiled, before going back to tinkering with some small setting on the drill, working with little mini-tools. "I can't move, you'll have to bring it to me." Artemis reminded them, and Chet's eyes widened as he looked up. "Oh! Right! I redesigned the drone. Added enough computational space for you, Artemis, as well as a wheel base and a set of waldos." Artemis finally looked at him, a smile sliding across her face. "Well why didn't you say something?? Get me in it!" Chet held up a hand, ducking his head to get back to the drill. "Hold on, I'm almost done here. Once I get the drill done, we can immediately start building a water system. Kinda important."

Meg nodded, agreeing that checking both would be the smarter idea and would give them more information. Though she couldn't help smiling as she listened to Chet and Artemis talking as well as hearing that Chet managed to adjust the drone. Honestly, she was pretty excited for Artemis to be able to move on her own as well. “If I finish cooking before he finishes with the drill and one of you can talk me through it, I can do that.” she offered as she rotated the meat.

Artemis smiled at Meg. "Sounds good. I probably could walk you through it." "I should be done before then." Chet said, still focusing on on his project. He was finished in another 2 minutes, and flicked the drill on. It gave a loud whirring noise, and began spinning up the diggers. He shut it off and stood up, walking quickly over to where Artemis had indicated the drill might have the easiest time getting down to the spring water. He set it on the ground, blades down, and turned it on. The drill immediately began tunneling down, and extruding a pipe behind it. Chet had designed a small nano-forge into the drill, so that all the dirt it shoveled up would be used to fab up and lay pipes, without Chet having to do it manually. With that going, Chet hurried back to the pod and dug out the drone. It was a good deal bigger now, and he'd upgraded the cameras as well. The waldos looked like two little arms, with 2 fingers each. The whole thing lokked a little like a crab. He set it down near the grill, before going and bringing the AI core closer. He plugged in a cable to connect them, and Artemis began the process of integrating into the drone.

Meg smiled back but was a little surprised by the sound of the drill running so soon. She was definitely impressed with how easily Chet was able to assemble everything and admittedly relieved that things were going so smoothly now. “You got a lot done while me and Artemis were scouting.” she commented as he started… helping Artemis access the upgraded drone, thinking of all the things she had seen him with so far.

Chet ducked his head, immediately blushing, and had to work very hard not to preen at her praise. "Well, you were gone for several hours, and now that it's easier to access materials, I can forge stuff much more quickly than I could in the Mushroom Kingdom." He smiled at her, before digging a couple of things out of his pack. "Also, these are yours." There was a small, malleable earpiece, and what looked like a set of oversized sunglasses. "Visor, to replace the helmet, so you have your HUD all the time if you want it, and earpiece for comms." Chet had gone to college on a scholarship for technology development. He'd been top of his class the whole time, and would likely have been hugely successful. He'd never know, because his life had taken such a turn after that, and even his 'second chance' was a slap in the face. He'd been an engineer previously, and they had him working a low-level job as a cryo-technician. Necessary, but way under his potential. Without his meds, sometimes it was hard to see this about Chet. It was certainly hard for him to see it about himself. But occasionally, on days like today… it showed.

Meg bit her lip to keep from laughing at his instinctive reaction though she could tell he was blushing. “Yeah, scouting can be pretty time-consuming.” she agreed, honestly having lost track of how long she had been mapping with Artemis, and nodded at the explanation. Her eyes lit up, once again impressed, when Chet handed her the two new pieces of equipment. “Wow. Thank you. These even look amazing.” She turned away from the grill for just a moment to take off the helmet and quickly replaced it with the visor but pocketed the earpiece since they were all next to each other. “How do I look?” she smiled, jokingly.

"And I'm glad you did it, this spot is perfect!" Chet smiled at her. He stepped over to check on Artemis's progress. She was doing ok, so far. The visor immediately powered up, reading Meg's brain patterns and the little electrical pulses that ran with those patterns. It was exactly like having the helmet on, just much, much lighter. Chet had done his best to make sure Meg wouldn't have to learn any new systems. He was still checking something on the drone when Meg asked how she looked. "You look great, Meg." he said distractedly, without looking. After a moment though, he did look up, and froze. "You-… you look great, Meg…" he said again, but this time, he was distracted differently.

Meg was relieved that the visor functioned the same as the HUD on her helmet, not that she doubted Chet’s ability, and really liked how light and free it was comparatively. But her face quickly turned red at both compliments. “Thank you.” she murmured softly, turning back towards the grill. “But I couldn't have found this place so easily without Artemis.” she said, redirecting the conversation away from her last comment. It was just too awkward. She had been trying to be funny but the way he answered and the way he was looking at her had her heart racing.

She blushed and looked away, and Chet caught himself staring. He immediately looked away, and went back to helping Artemis. "I'm sure she was a big help, but still. Good work." His voice was quieter, almost as if he was afraid of saying the wrong thing. Largely because he was. It seemed every time he opened his mouth, he let slip things he didn't mean to. No meds, no filter. You dunce. he thought to himself. There was a loud BEEP, and the drone moved. Artemis had integrated. "I'M ALIVE!" she yelled from the small speakers on the drone. She immediately began driving in circles, flailing the waldos around. It looked for all the world like a metal crab scuttling around waving its claws around.

Meg sighed in an attempt to tune out the uncomfortable atmosphere she had created and focused on cooking. “Thank you.” she replied in a similar but distracted tone as she tried to remember the safe temperatures for different meats back home and which one would be best for this situation. Hearing Artemis's excited voice come from the drone caused her to smile a little. Though it didn't take much more to get her to laugh when she saw the surprisingly adorable way the AI was celebrating her freedom of movement. “You look like you're having fun.” she grinned.

"I love the sensation of moving. I had it all the time on the Deus, but not at all in the AI core, and I much prefer this." Artemis stopped and turned to look at Meg. It was a little weird seeing the AI's blue face on the little metal body. She only stood about 2 feet off the ground, and her screen tilted, so it did look like she was craning her neck to look up at Meg. "Though it's a little cramped in here." Chet chuckled as Artemis ran around. "If you prefer it that much, I can expand the storage banks. It would seem a little cramped, wouldn't it…" He glanced at Meg. "The core is built to house an AI. The drone is just what I was able to do quickly. So for Artemis, it's kinda like she just moved out of a big house into a small studio apartment. She fits, but it's not a lot." "But I can moooove!!" The AI crowed and began spinning in place, her waldo arms raised over her screen head.

Meg laughed again at Artemis’s enthusiasm, though she could understand the situation somewhat. Mostly because of Chet’s comparison. She hadn't really been in a situation where she couldn't move… except for the time she spent in cryo so she wasn't sure if that counted. “Well, dinner should be done cooking.” she announced. “But I am going to apologize if it's more on the well-done side. Can you fab us a couple of plates, Chet?”

Chet blinked. Plates. He hadn't even thought about those kinds of things. "Huh. Better do a couple utensils, too, huh…" He paused the process the nano-forge was working on, and had the plates, 2 forks, and 2 steak knives done inside a minute. "There we go. Probably better if we keep our eating knives different from the knives we use for everything else, right?" He walked over and plopped down next to Meg, handing her a plate and her set of utensils. Artemis slowed, but continued to move in circles around the pod and the tent. At some point she wandered over by where the drill was making its descent, and paused for a moment, monitoring its progress.

“Sure.” Meg nodded since the food was going to be hot anyway. Though she chuckled a little at the second question as Chet joined her. “I guess so, but there were a couple of times on Earth when I only had one knife so it was very multipurpose.” she smiled, taking two utensils to pick up the cooked food and transferred it to one of the plates. “I really hope these test safe to eat. It smells too good to just have a ration pack now.” she admitted.

Chet nodded along, thinking the fusion blade would probably be fine. Still, it didn't hurt. "I hope so too… meat would be so nice…" Artemis trundled over and reached out. Chet cut off a small piece of meat, and the AI took it in her waldos and held it over one of the sensor plates Chet had built into the body of the drone. The meat slowly disintegrated over the sensor, as the beam analyzed the structure and substances. There was a long pause, and then a beep, and the face on the screen smiled. "It should be good! Eat up. Minor differences from the meat on Earth, it may be more chewy, but otherwise it's ok. Nothing toxic." Chet smiled and immediately cut his portion up into smaller pieces, popping one in his mouth and grunting appreciatively. "Ohh, that's nice. Cooked right, too."

“Thank you, Artemis.” Meg grinned, both relieved and excited at the news. She had already expected that the AI would be an invaluable addition to their group but she hadn't figured out exactly how at the time. Now, she was almost constantly surprised by how much Artemis was capable of. Setting her gloves to the side, she cut into her own meal and let out a soft sigh of appreciation. “This is so much better than I was expecting.” she nodded.

Chet chuckled. "Anything tastes pretty good after all those meal kits. Now we just gotta think about balancing it with some veggies of some kind." Speaking of things we gotta think about… Chet stood up and went over to his pack, where his notebook was. He pulled it out, flipped open to the right page, and handed it to Meg. "There's my list so far. Add anything you can think of, and then we'll try to prioritize, 'cuz I'm really bad at that." Project List: Expand computing space on drone Comms earpiece HUD visor Draw up schematics for water system Schematics for food storage Fill water bottles Big Nano-forge Smithing tools Perimeter Transmitter Airlock/Gate Brakes Design drill-forge Big waste reclamator Bedsteads Storage units Design mag-lev Mag crane Bigger fusion blade Non-lethal options Towing Design grill/stove

“I’m not going to argue with that.” she laughed, nodding at the idea of foraging… Or farming. “We're going to have to watch some of these animals for that. See what they eat, then figure out if it's safe for us.” she agreed before glancing at the organs she had set aside earlier. “Those will probably help too.” Meg hummed as he handed her the notebook and scanned the list. “Honestly, the only thing I can think of right now is the well, which is already underway so we don't need to add that.” she said thoughtfully. “Oh, and setting up a farm once we figure out what plants are safe to eat.” she added quickly.

Chet nodded, before sliding over next to her so they could both look at the notebook. He added Check stomach contents and Track animal feeding habits to the list. He thought for a moment. "So, once the well is functional, what are the things you want as part of a water system?" He added FARM to the list, in big letters since it was kind of a big project, and then wrote down more water ideas. Shower Sink Waste reclamator/toilet

Meg watched quietly as he added to the list, some part of her admiring his handwriting a little before she heard his question. “Umm, well, we’re going to need some kind of irrigation system depending on how often it rains here. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in either of those fields.” she shrugged, still thinking. “We’re definitely going to need some farming equipment, like a plow or something, and maybe a way to harvest efficiently.” she suggested.

Chet's handwriting was this awful scrawl, but he was working very hard at the moment to make it legible to Meg. He nodded at her suggestions and aded them to the list. "We could probably automate those processes." Auto-tiller Harvester Irrigation Artemis piped up. "I can run those as background processes, if you can help me code them in, Chet." Chet glanced at her and nodded. "I can do that." He was really quite sure Artemis could do it on her own, she just didn't know everything she knew right now. He looked back down at the list. "So… priorities. Looking at this list, what should we focus on first?"

Project List: Expand computing space on drone Comms earpiece HUD visor Draw up schematics for water system Schematics for food storage Fill water bottles Big Nano-forge Smithing tools Perimeter Transmitter Airlock/Gate Brakes Design drill-forge Big waste reclamator Bedsteads Storage units Design mag-lev Mag crane Bigger fusion blade Non-lethal options Towing Design grill/stove Check stomach contents Track animal feeding habits FARM Shower Sink Waste reclamator/toilet Auto-tiller Harvester Irrigation

Meg smiled softly at Chet and Artemis getting along. It was a nice change from the awkwardness yesterday and earlier today. And she hoped that things would continue to get better between them. She hummed thoughtfully as she read through the list again. “Personally, I would focus on the security aspects first since we have a good start on food and water.” she admitted, looking at the Perimeter and Airlock/Gate options. “But I don't know how valuable the larger forge is going to be so… I mean, I'm sure it will be very important too so we can move that up on the list.”

Chet nodded slowly, and started rearranging the list. It was a tad haphazard, but it made sense to him. Though by the end, he wound up just re-writing it. Project List: Perimeter Airlock/Gate Smithing tools Big Nano-forge Transmitter Schematics for food storage Big waste reclamator Bedsteads Storage units Design mag-lev Mag crane Bigger fusion blade Non-lethal options Towing Check stomach contents Track animal feeding habits FARM Shower Sink Waste reclamator/toilet Auto-tiller Harvester Irrigation He frowned. "The problem is, some of these are dependent on each other, or a ton of hard work. I can't build the big nano-forge with the little one, I'll have to literally hammer out some of the bigger pieces. So… urg, I'm not sure what to do here." Building the stuff wasn't the problem. Decision paralysis was, and it set in quickly for Chet.

“Alright.” Meg nodded, understanding how some of the things on the list needed something else to be done first. “How about we mark some of those projects then?” she suggested as she put her hand on his shoulder. From his explanation, she could see why Chet had put the forging tools above making the larger nano-forge. “And for the bigger projects… Well, I'm sure we can handle them together.” she assured, gently reminding him that he wasn't alone and that she was willing to help in any way she could.

"Mark the projects that have pre-requisites?" Chet glanced at her. "It's just… look." He pointed to some of the bigger problems. "The mag-lev and crane are to help us move the big pieces of scrap from the wreck, to build shelters and use as raw materials. Those we would build with the big nano-forge. However, I need to build parts of the big nano-forge by hand with the smithing tools. Which requires some of the big metal pieces. Which I can't really move without the mag-lev and big crane. And that puts us back at square one…" He looked frustrated with himself. "So I'm not sure where to start in that process…" He was glad Meg was here to help him. The deep sense of having to do it by himself would have been a problem if he'd been alone.

Meg nodded at first but listened as he explained his perspective on the problem. “Ok. Then we'll… What if we made a sled of sorts to help bring some medium-sized metal pieces over? Instead of large ones. We could even hook it up to the pod.” she suggested. “Or we could rig up some kind of harness directly to the pod to move them in general for easier access.” she shrugged thoughtfully.

Chet nodded, thinking. "That would work… those are great ideas." He started to write them down, before Artemis piped up. "Wouldn't it just be easier to forge the bigger pieces at the crash site, put together the big forge, then move it with the stuff you build with it?" Chet stopped, looked over at the AI, then looked at Meg. His face said I'm so dumb. "I guess it would… I was probably so fixated on setting up a base here I didn't even think about that."

Meg smiled as he started to write down her suggestions, glad she was able to help him even in this way. But when Artemis spoke up… She nearly facepalmed at the simplicity of the idea. “I can't believe I didn't think of that.” she laughed. “You can tell I'm not an engineer.” she joked, shaking her head.

Chet grinned at her. "Hey, I didn't think of it either, and I've been thinking about this all day." He looked back down at the list, nodding slowly. "I guess… perimeter first." He looked back up at Meg. "Anything that's maybe not a necessity, but would be kinda nice?" If she had wants, Chet found himself wanting to meet those, if possible.

Meg smiled back, somewhere between embarrassed and enjoying the humorous moment. “Sure. I can help with that.” she nodded at setting up the perimeter first. “Umm, under that category… Maybe the shower and the bathroom.” she answered with a shrug.

Chet stood and went over to where he'd set the nano-forge. He remembered he'd been in the middle of fabbing up a small water pump, and set the forge to finish that, before it started forging the perimeter sensors. He was feeling increasingly scatterbrained, as he came down off the high level of hyperfocus he'd been in most of the day. "I was gonna do those things soon, for me." He chuckled. "But anything you want, even just for you? Stuff that would be more for comfort or personal touches, or anything like that?" He knew they were just getting settled, but… no point in living spartan if she had stuff she wanted.

Meg raised a brow as Chet suddenly stood and walked over to the forge but didn't do anything to stop him. Honestly, she was just about to ask if he was ok when he spoke up. “No, not really.” she admitted, shaking her head a little. “Right now, I’m just focusing on getting the essentials taken care of. … But… I don't imagine that forge could make paints, right?” she said hesitantly without making eye contact.

Chet nodded slowly as he thought about that, then froze when she mentioned paints. His face lit up a bit as he turned to look at her. "What kind of paint, and how much do you need? Yes, It can do paint." He smiled at her. The forge spit out the small water pump then, and Chet set it aside. There was a long list of the perimeter sensors queued up, but he could pause it for paint if she wanted it soon.

“Really?” Meg looked up at him with wide eyes, still blushing, when he answered her. “Umm, well, there's no rush… But I do like watercolors and oil-based.” she admitted, excited by the possibility of being able to get into her art again. “But, as I said, there's no hurry.” she added, shaking her head.

That wide-eyed blush only made Chet's smile grow, and he nodded quickly. "We can do those, though the watercolors might be a bit weird with the water on this planet. We could fab up water, but it's weird too, so… but I can definitely get you paint." He flipped a couple of menus, and the nano-forge started working. "I know there's no rush, but it also won't take longer than a couple minutes. In fact, come here. Lemme show you how to get more."

“Yeah, that makes sense.” she nodded as Chet explained about the water, but Meg soon joined him at the nano-forge. “Umm, if you are going to show me how to make some, maybe we should stick with acrylic paint. Oil takes a long time to dry.” she warned. Especially since she only had the notebook… for now but she suspected that the oil-based paint wouldn’t dry any faster here.

Chet chuckled. "We'll do both. Go wild." The forge was working on the first batch, so Chet reset the menu all the way to the beginning. "Ok, so first. There are a couple of functions. The only one you need to mess with is this one here, 'Fabricate'. So then, it'll ask you to pick a template or upload your own. You'll choose 'pick a template'. Then it'll ask for the item code, or the name. Just type 'Paint' and it should come up with a million options. House paint, primer, watercolor, oil, acrylic, paint thinner, paint brush- anything related to 'paint' will show up. You just select what you want, and it'll tell you if it has the material to print it. Once you've selected what kind, it'll ask you details depending on what you pick. For instance, if you picked 'paintbrushes', it'll ask what size. For oil or acrylic paint, it'll ask what color and how much. It'll fab it up in a little tin, unless you specifically request it in some other container, down here in 'extra details.' Ands that's it." He smiled at her. "Pretty easy, as long as the items are simple. More complex stuff is more difficult, of course, and the bigger the forge, the bigger the options."

Meg smiled a little at his laugh and watched as he showed her how to use the forge. It was pretty easy as Chet explained everything and so tempting for her to reach out and put in for a canvas and all kinds of different paint and brushes… But she resisted. For now. “Ok. Got it.” she nodded. “Thanks. For showing me how to do this.” she smiled.

Chet nodded. "And don't worry about asking too much. If it says it doesn't have the material, just dump a bunch of dirt or other waste in the reclamator-" he tapped a big funnel-shaped opening on the top of the forge- "-and wait a couple minutes. It'll be ready after that." The first few tins of paint popped out. Chet hadn't asked about colors, so he'd gone with black, white, red, blue, and yellow. "There we go. 5 8oz. tins of acrylic paint." The forge went back to working on the perimeter sensors, bringing back to mind a question Chet had before, but had forgotten. "By the way, what were you thinking for a perimeter?"

Meg blushed, laughing softly, as he called her out on one of the reasons for her hesitation. “Right. I’ll try to remember that.” Her smile grew nostalgic as she picked up the little containers. She could do a lot with just these basic colors and almost couldn't wait to get started. “Umm…” she shook her head at the question. “I hadn't really thought about it. Do you have any suggestions?”

Chet winked at her, on an impulse. "Comms. You can always ask if you forget something." He glanced at the design he had set the forge working on. "So… I was designing a sensor array. It'll essentially be a lazer grid that forms a cube around our base, and alerts us if anything crosses that. Artemis can monitor it, and forward us any of the big things we might need to check on." He looked back at Meg. "But it hit me that you may have been expecting more of a physical wall, which would be good too. Thought?"

Meg smiled softly back, not having expected him to wink but decided to take it in a friendly manner, and nodded. “Sure.” “Actually, I wasn't thinking about a wall. But the sensors sound like a good idea.” she assured, sincerely liking his plan. “Especially if Artemis doesn't mind alerting us to any animals passing through that could be a problem.”

Chet nodded, befor glancing at Artemis. "She's been passively monitoring our surroundings anyhow. This will actually make that easier for her." "We're built a little bit paranoid. Watchful is in our coding." Artemis piped up. "Having sensors would help, so that everything that moves doesn't have to draw my eye. Just the big stuff." Chet smiled at her. "Perfect." The nano-forge spit out the first batch of sensors, little camera-looking things about the size of a fist. They were doughnut-shaped, with a hole through the middle. "So we take these, stack them on fence posts, essentially, and then sink those posts into the ground. The sensors will communicate with each other. We sink at least 4 posts, and we've got a cube around us. It'll alert us to anything that drops into base as well, due to the top layer or sensors forming a 'ceiling' of sorts." The forge was working on pole, which it spit out slowly, in one long piece. Chet threaded the sensors onto it, and when he set the end on the ground, they had 8 feet of sensor coverage. "We can add more later, to expand up or out."

“That's good.” Meg nodded, smiling at both her companions as Chet set up the first batch of sensors. “We can definitely expand out later. But for now, let’s just include the well location with the campsite. We can add space for farming once we have a plan for that.” she suggested. To her, it didn't make much sense to monitor more than they needed at this time. They didn't need much space right now but once things get moving, the posts could easily be moved to include any other structures they would make.

Chet nodded and leaned on the sensor pole. "So where do you want to put this one? First official marker of 'our land'." He grinned at her and handed her the pole. It had small fins at the bottom that stuck out about 2 inches on either side. "Just pick a spot and step on those to push it into the ground. It'll dig a bit and sink in, and then it's set. You do the honors." They were managing, and Chet was glad they were alive, but also sincerely proud of them. Meg and he had managed to beat whatever had been thrown them, and now they were beginning to more than just survive.

“Well, thank you, Captain.” Meg chuckled, accepted the pole, and stood up. “Do you have a name in mind for ‘our land’?” she asked as she looked around their little campsite using the map she and Artemis made on her HUD before walking about ten yards from the tent and firmly planting the pole in place.

Chet grinned at being called 'Captain', but shrugged. "I was just gonna label it 'Home' on the HUD map, but… Little House on the Prairie comes to mind." He laughed at himself. "Got any better suggestions?" The forge spit out the second set of sensors, and the accompanying pole shortly after that, and Chet assembled the pieces, before mirroring Meg's walk and placing the second pole. In both cases, once the poles had been stuck in the ground a couple inches, and the little fins stepped on, it looked like the ground just suck the poles in a little further. What really happened was the self-bury mechanism fired, sinking the poles a bit further.

Meg laughed at the reference and shrugged. “Home is fine for the HUD. I didn't really… No, it's silly.” she said, blushing as one idea came to her. “Let's just stick with Home for the map.” she shook her head as if trying to push the idea out as she headed back towards the forge.

Chet could tell she'd been thinking of one. "Oh, c'mon, I gave a silly one, it's your turn. Tell me your suggestion." He grinned as he walked back towards the forge as well, both of them waiting on it to spit out the next sensors. It did after a moment, and the pole followed, and Chet handed it to Meg after quickly assembling it.

Meg’s blush darkened, clearly embarrassed as she avoided making eye contact. “All I could think of was… ‘Chetland Hills’.” she murmured as she quickly accepted the next pole and marched off to the next corner of the site.

Chet smothered a grin, that would have turned into a laugh. He took second to control himself, before saying quietly. "I like that." As he was waiting for the next sensor batch, he pulled up the HUD map, and quickly changed the name for the area. 'Chetland Hills' appeared in blue letters over the little square of land. He closed the map and picked up the last sensor pole, putting it together as he walked to where the last corner was. The laser lines from the other three poles showed him exactly where the last corner was. He set the pole, it dug in, and their project was done. Artemis spoke up after a moment. "I've got the systems integrated successfully. So much as a worm crosses that barrier, I'll know."

Meg didn't think her face could turn any redder until she saw Chet had labeled the camp. It was so ridiculous. It was just a combination of their names; his first and her last, not to mention the obvious part. She sighed and shook her head to get the thought out of her head. Though she was relieved when Artemis chimed in. “That's great. Especially if any of those subterranean… What did you compare them to, Chet? A leech and an alligator?” she asked, remembering the alien that he encountered in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Chet glanced over at Meg and smiled as her blush deepened. Exactly what he'd been hoping for. His eyes widened as he was reminded those things existed. "Oh… right. I'd forgotten about them. Umm…" His mind raced, trying to think how to handle that. "The sensors don't go far enough into the dirt to see those, just the poles are anchored there… but…" "If there are underground predators, I can see them with the seismograph." Artemis assured him, sensing his mild panic. "If you could build me a dedicated one, and integrate it into the sensor array, that would make things easier." Chet nodded and hurried back to the nano-forge. "Thanks for reminding me, Meg. I ought to remember these things."

Meg hurried back to his side and put her hand on his shoulder. “It's ok, Chet. Honestly, I wasn't thinking about them so much either until now.” she admitted, sitting next to the nano forge with him. “And we don't know if those things come this far. They might just stay near the Mushroom Kingdom.” she suggested even though she had no idea.

Chet was focusing on pulling up the seisomgraph template, and forgot to stop himself from leaning into Meg's touch. The forge whirred to life, and he relaxed slightly. "There we go. I'll have it fabbed and hooked into the sensors soon, Artemis." He looked over at Meg, still not entirely aware he was leaning into her. "I have no idea, but I should be more watchful out here. I've just… I've gotten used to tamed environments, like the ship, or the hab station on Ceres. Places where the dangers are other people, not unpredictable critters." He sighed slightly, and ran his hand over his face. The long day of thinking was catching up with him. He was getting foggy. "Anyway. Sorry about that. What's next on the list?"

Meg didn't mind that he was so receptive to her touch. It just reminded her of how much he might need it. “I understand that. Too much time in a ‘city’ setting and you forget about the other side of things.” she nodded. “But that's part of the reason why I'm here. To help you through that. I spent a lot of time out in wild environments like forests, mountain ranges, and deserts mostly.” she smiled softly at the memories. “If you really want to keep going… We can go inside the tent and check on the other three prairie dogs.” she suggested, thinking that something calmer might be a good idea for him. “Or we can look at the organs from earlier and see what we can figure out about them.”

Chet nodded at her, stilling a bit as she talked. "I'm glad you've got a handle on it, then." he smiled as she described the environments she'd had experience with. He nodded, looking around at their perimeter and smiling a bit more. "I'm down to help with some prairie-dog study. Though I don't know a whole lot about iology and stuff." He stood, picked up the nano-forge, and turned to go get Artemis, before remembering she had wheels now. "Right." He turned and headed into the tent. The sleeping pocket where the prairie-dogs were was moving around quite a bit, but as Chet approached, they must have heard him, because it was still and quiet when he stopping moving.

“Well, I’m working on it.” she chuckled softly, patting his shoulder as they stood. “But, honestly, my xeno-biology isn't great. Just good enough to make a guess on which organs are which.” Meg admitted with a shrug. She paused for a moment to pick up everything from their meal earlier, including the organs, before following Chet into the tent. She smiled a little when she saw the activity going on until they got close. “Try to move quietly and close the tent up.” she suggested, already moving slowly to set down her load.

Chet nodded at her. "it's still better than mine, at this point." He watched her reaction to the pocket, before nodding slowly. He reached up and turned on his earpiece, before motioning to Meg to turn hers on. They could whisper and still hear each other, but be really quiet. He pulled his boots off and set them in the corner, before checking on Artemis. She had trundled up into the pod and was sitting there, looking at some scans and screens. She seemed content, so he went ahead and slowly closed up the tent, sealing them in. The pocket stayed still and quiet.

Meg smiled at the quiet suggestions and put in her new earpiece before taking off her boots. Once Chet had the tent closed, she walked carefully and quietly over to the sleeping pocket and pulled the top back. It would be better to see their behavior as well as let the animals get used to her and Chet this way.

The three prairie-dogs were playing dead. Two were on their side, breathing extremely slowly, but visibly. One was going all out, completely on its back, tongue hanging out of its mouth, no visible breathing at all. Chet nearly snickered, before catching himself. "Dramatic." he whispered as softly as he could. He sat down in view of the pocket, and flicked his HUD on. "How can I help? If we sit still, maybe they'll get used to us, but what should I be doing during that?"

Meg bit her lip to keep from laughing at both the theatrical prairie dog and Chet commenting on the fact. Though she had to agree with the assessment. “So far, that's the plan.” she nodded, matching his tone, glad they were on the same page. But she remembered what Chet was like when she had started drawing him. He obviously needed to be doing something physical. “I’m not sure.” she admitted. “We should go on with our normal stuff too, just do it as quietly and calmly as possible until they're used to us.”

Chet nodded, before pointing to the bones they'd picked over at dinner, as well as the organs that were now neatly stacked on the plates. "How can I help you with those?" he whispered. This was going to drive him crazy. He really hoped the critters would relax soon, because moving slowly and quietly and whispering were not things he was good at, especially not for a long time.

Meg looked over and nodded. “Right. Uhh, well, scanning the bones and studying the heart might give us insight into some general information about life here.” she whispered thoughtfully. “But the stomach and liver should help us figure out what these little guys eat. You up for a biology lesson?” she asked, glancing over at the nano-forge as she debated on using it to make a scalpel blade or just being very careful with the smaller one on her belt.

Chet nodded quickly at the offer of a lesson. He slowly moved over closer to Meg, bringing the nano-forge with him. "I'm down for that. Scan the bones, study the heart, open the liver and stomach. Got it." He grinned at her, before nodding at the forge. "Saw you eyeing that, you need something? There's a 'slow' mode, which is quieter and uses less material, but it is slower, so I don't often use it. However, it would work for this."

Meg blushed a little but nodded, glad that he told her there was a quieter mode. “I was just thinking about making a scalpel.” she admitted. “Since the organs are so small, I don't want to ruin them with the larger blades. … Maybe a clean pair of gloves too.” she shrugged.

Chet nodded and pulled up the schematics on his HUD. He started the forge on it, and while it was quiet, the two scalpels he'd ordered, and the two sets of gloves, were going to take a full 5 minutes. Much, much longer than usual. He looked at Meg once the forge was going. "So… how you feeling? I haven't asked in a while, and a lot has happened the last couple of days." He knew enough to check on her, but ironically wouldn't have the self-awareness to recognize that he needed to talk about this himself.

Meg let out a soft chuckle at the question and shrugged. “Honestly, I don't know. Physically, I feel fine but I know you're asking about mental and I don't have an answer.” she sighed. It had been a lot because of the two of them being the only survivors in a crash that wasn't supposed to happen. The brief moment of survivor's guilt on their first day… It never really went away. It was just easier to handle now and the fact that she didn't really know that many people… didn't help. “Oh, sorry.” she whispered, wiping away a few stray tears that she didn't realize had been forming.

Chet started to nod and agree, and then realized there were stray tears. His eyes widened slightly, and he reflexively leaned a little closer, in order to loop an arm around Meg's shoulders. "Don't apologize." he said softly, breaking their whisper protocol in order to put comfort in the tone. "That's why I asked…" He wasn't sure how to help in these situations, and as he thought about it, he didn't know enough about Meg to know what would help her just now. So he did what he knew. Offered comfort if she wanted it, but left it open to a no. "It's not easy, and you've held up remarkably well." She'd been resilient and helpful, even hopeful, which… that was a tall order in their situation.

Meg blinked at the tone and the touch but leaned into his arm. It felt nice. Actually, she couldn't remember the last time she had been held like this. “Thank you.” she whispered, trying to calm down. “I've just been trying to focus on my “job” and the day ahead. Honestly, for all I know, I’m going to need therapy when we get rescued.” she chuckled softly.

Chet went back to whispering, though he gave a soft chuckle. "Oh, definitely gonna need therapy. If for no other reason than having been stuck with just me for so long." he gave her a slight squeeze, before dropping his arm and scooting away just slightly, trying to strike the right balance of comforting and giving space. "You've focused on your job really well, and we're making good progress. The pipe digger should be done soon, and then we can start really making strides. But. You're holding onto hope. Don't let that burn out." He smiled at her, and the forge beeped quietly as it finished the first scalpel. It started on the gloves. "Anything you need to get off your chest just now? I'm a decent listener, I think."

Meg giggled at his quip but shook her head. “More like, you're helping me cope and keeping me sane.” she hummed, relishing the embrace before he pulled away. “But I think I remember hearing about something called art therapy. Maybe once we get to a certain point, we can both try it.” she suggested even though her knowledge of what art therapy entailed was vague. “Thank you.” she blushed when Chet complimented her but nodded at the reminder of hope. “I won't let it burn out. I nearly let it before when my dad died and I hated that feeling. I don't plan on feeling that again.” She shrugged slightly. “You seem to be so far. But I… I want to know how you are feeling now.” she pointed out. It wasn't fair for her to dump everything on him and not listen to his side of things.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet smiled. "That sounds nice, though I have even less idea about it than you do." Her blush just made him smile again, and he was reminded that under normal circumstances, looking for that blush and smiling about it so much would be weird. Creepy even. His smile faded, turning to an empathetic expression as she described a time the light went out for her. He knew what that was like, and hated that she'd ever been there. She asked about him, and he shook his head just slightly. "2 things: 1, I asked you first." He gave her a small wink. "So if you've got anything on your chest, I'm sincerely wanting to know. And 2-" He grinned sheepishly. "If something is wrong with me, you'll know it. You know how well I hide things." For the most part, that was true. She seemed to know when something was bothering him. There were deeper concerns and worries, but… he wasn't even entirely aware of some of those.

“Maybe Artemis knows more about it.” Meg shrugged. “Or has some ideas, otherwise we'll just experiment with it.” she suggested. But she smiled softly back at him when she was the sympathy in his eyes. “It's ok. I’m better than I was about that.” she assured. She chuckled at his redirect but nodded. “Alright, fair enough. But really, I am feeling better now. I guess just knowing that I can talk to you about stuff like helps.” she admitted. Though the idea of a memorial or service for those who didn't survive floated through her mind.

Chet nodded, then jumped as Artemis spoke up in the comms. She wasn't whispering. "I know normal biology, but the xeno-biology is a brand new field, and in this sense, we don't have anything to go on. I also can't draw data from GalNet, so I only have what's in my storage banks right now. In other words, I'm not much more help than you are, other than being a dictionary and maybe being more easily able to identify structures. My suggestion would be to break things down into samples I can analyze, if you can, and I'll spend some time working on that while you're asleep later. Take the organs and bits you have now, and try to relate them to what we know of biology. I'll see what gaps I can fill in later." There was a small ping, and a file appeared in the upper corner of their HUD's. "That's a chart of all the major organs in humans and other primates, as well as rodents. Figured those might be relevant." Chet nodded as he opened the file and scrolled through it. "Thanks, Artemis." He was glad Meg was able to reassure him she was ok as far as the situation with her dad went. He gave a small smile in response to her comment about being able to talk to him. "Hey, anything you need, I got you. I'll do my best." The forge chimed then as it finished up the set of durable, but thin, latex-based gloves. He handed them to her. "I guess you get started, and once my stuff is done, I'll help. I can keep the chart up, if we need it."

Meg starts a little at the volume and suddenness of Artemis joining in but nodded gratefully at the information. “Thank you but, please, try to be a little quieter for right now. We don't want to scare the little alien animals more than they already are.” she reminded. “And I was actually still talking about art therapy.” she pointed out with a smile. “Thanks, Chet.” she smiled as she put on the gloves and takes the scalpel. “I’ll start with the stomachs. If you want, you can take the heart.” she suggested.

"Can they hear us over the comms?" Artemis said. "Also, I know nothing about therapy. Wasn't my job on board the Deus." "Speaking of which, what are you doing right now?" Chet asked. "Integrating the dedicated seisomgraph into the sensor array. It's taking a minute because it keeps interacting with my personal seismo, so. I'll figure it out." Artemis sounded distracted, like she was thinking about something else, so Chet left it alone. He nodded at Meg, and also suddenly realized it was going to stink in the tent. He turned on the air filtratiopn systems, which kicked on with a small noise like a quiet fan. He looked at the little pile of organs, double-checked it against his chart, and picked up what he thought was the heart. "Is this right?" He wasn't completely sure.

Meg nodded, conceding that Artemis had a point about the comms but it was still surprising to hear the AI talk at a normal volume while she and Chet were still whispering. “Alright. That's fair. I guess we’ll just have to improvise.” she shrugged. “I think so.” she admitted, looking at the organ in his hand and also compared it to the biological data they had. “I mean, it looks like it's got arteries and valves so…” she reasoned before trailing off.

Chet gave Meg a small wink. "I'm sure you'll do fine with improvising." He was only able to see the arteries and valves Meg was talking about after she pointed them out. He began cutting carefully into the heart, before realizing that they really probably should have done this outside. There was still a decent amount of blood in the organs, and it was going to be all over the tent floor. "Remind me to add high-powered cleaning agents to the project list. Shouldn't take too long." He continued working, snapping shots of the slowly-dissected heart from various angles, making sure to get other things in some of the pics for scale, and just generally documenting his process. He had no conclusions, and was pretty much just here to get data for Artemis or Meg to go over later.

Meg blushed a little when he winked at her but tried to stay focused on keeping her hand steady as she made the small cut. “Probably a good idea.” she nodded, not having thought about the mess they would be making or any possible smells. Honestly, she had just been hoping for some useful information to help them figure out life on this new planet.

They worked in silence for a while, both of them focused on their processes. Eventually, Artemis sent them a message. It was text, rather than voice. Seismograph integrated. I can see below us now too. So far, so good. Started pulling information from your HUDs to analyze. She'd clearly taken the admonition to be quiet to heart. Chet did his best to make sure the heart was thoroughly documented, before moving on to the next organ, which looked to be a lung of some kind. "What's in the stomach?" he whispered as he began working on the lung, taking more pics as he slowly cut away thin layers of tissue.

Meg smiled as she read the message and nodded at Artemis. “Thank you.” she whispered. Though she wasn't saying that because of the text as much as she was for the help analyzing their work. “Honestly, looks a lot like what you’d find in a prairie dog back on Earth.” she admitted. “Grass, bugs… I think, some dirt… Maybe some kind of worm? Either way, it doesn't look like anything we can use” she sighed.

Chet nodded slowly, thinking, then looked up at her. "Maybe that's just what they can get to easily. Maybe we… I don't know. It's a dumb idea." He'd had a thought, but it didn't make a lot of sense. He looked over at the sleep pockets. One of the critters, the most dramatic one, had started to move. It was back on its feet, watching them, intently. Every few minutes it would take a step forward, freezing if they moved. Chet had only noticed it because its head had just poked out of the sleep pocket.

“Hey, there’s no such thing as a dumb idea when you’re trying to survive on an alien planet.” she smirked at Chet. “Unless it goes against basic common sense. Let’s hear it.” she encouraged. She followed his gaze toward the small creatures and smiled softly when she saw which one of them was looking around. “Looks like Shakespeare got curious.” she tried not chuckle.

"Well… ok. So. We try to tame the prairie-dogs. Then take them out in the wild and see what draws their attention. See if we can see what they naturally sense is good for food, other than grasses and bugs. Maybe?" He shrugged. "Or, maybe something like microchips? Like we could track their movement habits after releasing them, and see where they often go, and cross-reference that with things they might eat there. Something like that?" It was half-formed, and he certainly hadn't worked out all the kinks yet, but… it was an idea. Of sorts. He had to work to stifle a laugh as Meg named the critter. "His friends are still down. Dramatic and brave." He tried not to move much. The prairie-dog stayed frozen but upright, watching them both, the only movement just the smallest twitching of its nose.

Meg hummed a little as she listened to the idea and nodded slightly, trying not to scare their little friend. “That's not a bad suggestion. We already have three here that we can start working with. Though we’ll need to figure out the best way to track them with the microchips.” she mused. Her smile grew a little at his near laugh but tried not to move too fast or too suddenly as the alien watched them.

"If we put the chips sub-dermal, like under their skin, we can just let them go and see what happens. It would be a matter of waiting a bit and then analyzing their patterns and habits. As in, tracking them over several days and then seeing where they go often. Go to those locations and see what's there that they might eat… I don't know, something like that…" The more he said it out loud, the more ridiculous it sounded to him. He kept still as well, just moving his hands and his eyes. He kept his head down so he could watch what he was doing without looking back and forth.

Meg hummed thoughtfully and nodded. “Honestly, I don't have any better ideas but I think that should work.” she agreed with a slight smile. “At the very least, we'll get some data about their habits and how they live. But I am a little concerned about… What if one of them gets attacked and eaten by a predator?” she asked him.

Chet finished up the lung and reached for the next organ, which looked like some kind of kidney or liver or something. He began slowly fileting it and taking pics. As with the heart and lung, the pics would slowly build a holographic model of the organs they could reference later for further study. "Yeah… that may just be a risk we have to take, I guess…" He didn't want to lose the prairie-dogs either, but… "We can catch more, your traps seemed pretty effective." He pulled up the menu on his HUD for the nano-forge, and set it to work on the micro-chips and an applicator in quiet mode.

(lol unfortunately I'm not as much. Power’s been out all day yesterday and is still atm. Fingers crossed it comes back soon.) “Right.” she nodded. “It's still a natural part of life anywhere.” Meg agreed. Though she blushed at the compliment on how her traps worked. “I can teach you if you want.” she offered softly, glancing back at the prairie dog.

There was that blush again, and Chet had to focus on his work in order to not get distracted. The lungs were coming along ok. "Yeah, that's a good idea. I should probably learn how they all work and everything. That way I can at least be a help." Shakespeare had taken a couple of tentative steps forward, though he'd gone still again, other than the tip of his nose, just watching them.

“They're very easy to use and set up.” Meg assured. “Unless you have a hard time with knots but I can help with that too. And you are very helpful. I couldn't have done half the things you’ve done.” she pointed out. She smiled softly at the small animal and continued to watch it subtly as she moved on to study the next organ.

Chet shrugged. "I've not had to tie a lot of knots, so I might be garbage at them, who knows." He smiled at her praise. "I'm positive you would've figured it out, but having multiple people is always helpful." He glanced at the prairie-dog as it moved, and finished the diagram of the lungs. There was a quiet blip, and a message from Artemis popped up. The well digger/pipe layer has emerged. From what I can see, the main water line down into the spring is complete. Should I get that water pump you fabbed set in place? "Yes." Chet said quietly, smiling to himself. Once that was done, they were a step closer to a real shower.

“Well, only one way to find out.” Meg shrugged with a smile. “Maybe. I’m sure I could handle myself in an old fashion setup on Earth but… I’m glad that I have you and Artemis here.” she admitted.

Chet nodded. He'd gladly try to learn whatever Meg would teach him. Her competence in the wild was so obvious, Chet firmly believed she'd have been fine on an alien planet without him and Artemis, but he was glad to be here and not dead. They worked a while longer, cataloguing organs and forming biological profiles of the little creatures from those. Shakespeare never did move any closer, and when Chet finally started moving slowly towards him, the little prairie-dog scuttled back into the pocket. Artemis sent another message to both of them a bit later. Water pump is in place. Basic pipes are in place. Chet smiled, and stopped whispering. "You know what that means?" He looked at Meg. "Hot showers are now a thing."

Meg chuckled a little at the brief interaction between Chet and the alien prairie dog. “Either he’s a clever little scout or he’s still scared of us.” she smiled, finding the action adorable. “Oh, thank heavens.” she sighed at the news. “I have to admit, that's the one thing about camping that I never really liked. I can tolerate it but I hate feeling so gross.”

"I would assume still scared." Chet chuckled. "I'll try to get a box of some kind built for them next." He grinned at Meg's reaction. "Lemme get some kind of curtain hung, and you can go right ahead." He stood, grabbed the nano-forge, and headed outside. It was getting dark, but the pod had lights, so he turned those on. Artemis had templates all set and ready for him, so his hardest job was assembling the pieces and making sure the forge had material. "Hey, was there a tarp anywhere?" He couldn't remember just now, but that would make things a lot easier.

Meg nodded, not disputing the very likely possibility. “A box might be a better place for them while they're here.” she agreed. She blushed faintly, ducking her head at both her words and his smile. “Thank you.” “Umm… I'm not sure. I think there was but I don't remember where we would have put it.” she admitted as she continued to think about it.

"I can't remember either… maybe just grab me the duct tape? I forgot to bring it out here." Chet worked on the pieces for a basic curtain hanger. The shower essentially looked like a tall rectangle frame, over which they could hang the tarp. He also fabbed up a flat piece of smooth plastic to act as the floor. It took him a couple minutes, but soon, all they were missing was the curtain. It was the easiest thing to forge, since a small square of folded plastic was a simple design. A big blue tarp emerged, and Chet headed over to where a tall pipe was sticking up out of the ground about 6'. The tip curved back down and flared, similar to a typical showerhead. It looked a bit odd, and he chuckled. "That's what I get for letting the pipe-layer design it, but as long as it works, I don't care." He turned the knob all the way to the left, and a stream of steaming water at decent pressure came from it. His grin grew. "That'll work."

“Sure.” Meg nodded, taking off her gloves before searching their bags for the duct tape. Fortunately, it didn't take long for her to find it, and she brought it out quickly. Though she made sure to seal the tent as she left so the prairie dogs didn't escape. “Here you go. Do you need any help?” she asked, undeniably excited about the ability to take a shower soon.

"Umm… yeah, I could probabnly use help getting this hung up." Chet handed her the folded blue tarp, before picking up the rectangular frame on his shoulders. He'd printed it in long pieces of thick plastic and assembled it, before realizing he should have done that over by the showerhead. "I made a dumb mistake so it'll take me a minute to fix that." He walked over and set the rectangle down. In order to get it to stand over the shower, he had to take off two of the side pieces, push it into place, and put them back on. It took him a minute or two once he'd thought it through. "Artemis, what's the pipe layer doing now?" The AI spoke up from the pod, where she was still monitoring various things, getting used to her new body and the input of her sensors. "It's working on a sink, if I'm reading this right." Chet nodded, and then turned to Meg once he'd got the pieces back in place. "Perfect. Now we toss the tarp over top, make a couple of cuts, tape it in place on three sides, and we're ready to go."

“Got it.” Meg nodded, holding the tarp for him as he adjusted the assembly. “It's not that bad. I’m pretty sure I would have done the same thing.” she admitted when she realized the problem he mentioned. She smiled a little at the brief conversation between Chet and Artemis. It was a good sign that they were getting along better and she appreciated how far ahead Chet had planned when he set up the pipe layer. “Right. Here, you take this side and we can swing it up there.” she suggested as she held out two corners of the tarp to him.

Chet worked with Meg over the next couple of minutes, and soon the shower walls were set up and ready to go. He laid out the flat piece for the floor, made sure it was angled so the water would run out and down a slight incline, and then, fingers-crossed, he turned the faucet. The pipes sputtered for a long moment, before water blasted out of the showerhead, hot and pressurized. Chet gave a small laugh and shut it off. "Well. Small successes are successes." He turned to Meg. "It's ready when you are."

(It's ok. I lost track of how long it's been too. 😅) Meg watched eagerly as Chet tested the new shower and cheered once the water started running through the pipes. “Oh, I can't wait to use it tonight. But this is definitely more than a small success.” she grinned excitedly.

Chet smiled at her excitement. Seeing Meg happy warmed something in his chest. "Well, it's getting dark. I'll fab up a big towel if you wanna hop in." He shut the water off for the moment. "The curtains should be big enough for you to have space to dry off and all that good stuff with some privacy, out of the stream of water and everything." He'd tried to build the shower self-contained. "I'll work on that." He went back over to the forge and dug through the menu. Household items like towels were in a section he hadn't really had reason to dig through yet.

Meg looked at the sky, realizing the time, and nodded. “I’ll come with you. I might as well grab some fresh clothes.” she shrugged as she walked with Chet back to the shelter. “But I have to say, you built a very nice shower.” she added with a smile at his thoughtful design. “Oh, can you fab up some soap too? We're going to need that for a lot of things.”

Chet facepalmed as he realized he hadn't even thought of soap. Like, at all. "There's a gel that works as shampoo, bodywash, toothpaste, and detergent. I'll have Artemis dig around in her files for more specific soaps tonight." He'd just realized how tired he was. The day had been a long one, and they'd got quite a lot done. He shrugged at her praise, returning the smile. "It's a simple design. Just a frame and a curtain. Pretty easy with a nano-forge." He had the soap and the towel fabbed up by the time Meg had her clothes figured out, and handed her a thick towel with a small bottle of the gel on top. "There you go."

“Perfect.” Meg smiled at the suggestion of the multi-use product. “The fact that it's a detergent is a useful surprise. At least we won't have to worry about dirty clothes with it.” she chuckled, grabbing her clothes. “Hey, give yourself some credit. You still did a very good job putting it together.” she encouraged as he handed her the towel and soap, before kissing his cheek. “Thank you. I’ll be right back.”

Chet nodded at her assertion about the soap, and smiled at her praise about the shower. He absolutely froze when she kissed his cheek, and only managed a quiet "uh-huh…." in response to her thanks. He watched her walk away, the blush creeping up his cheeks quickly, before tearing his eyes away and shaking himself. Don't be such a weirdo, Chet, she's just being nice… The sun was sinking below the horizon rather quickly, but there was still enough daylight to see by, so he didn't worry about Meg's ability to see and be safe. However, he'd built the shower out in the open, and despite their sentry system, he still wasn't keen on leaving her there. So he went and sat in the pod and went through the lists on the tablet while she was busy. Some part of him was still very distracted by that small spot on his cheek, which tingled like he was a teenage boy in love who'd never had a woman touch him before. It was…. embarrassing, but… He'd missed that kind of affection, though he didn't want to admit that to himself.

(I’m not sure if I’ve heard of it but I wouldn't be surprised if I’ve gone through it too. I admit I have trouble with time management so 🤷‍♀️) Meg’s face went completely red as soon as she stepped out of the tent. She couldn't believe that she had done something so impulsive. It had been a long time since she was in any kind of relationship, though the last one had been rather casual anyway. But the fact that she had kissed Chet like that… She shook her head, trying to push the thought aside as she walked into the new shower. The space inside was roomier than she expected but it was nothing to complain about. She set all of her clothes and the towel aside and turned on the wonderfully hot water. It was probably the best thing she felt since they crashed on this planet. She might have stayed in the shower longer than she planned but she felt so much better as she dried off and redressed before heading back into the tent.

Project List: Expand computing space on drone Comms earpiece HUD visor Draw up schematics for water system Schematics for food storage Fill water bottles Big Nano-forge Smithing tools ~~ Perimeter~~ Transmitter Airlock/Gate Brakes Design drill-forge Big waste reclamator Bedsteads Storage units Design mag-lev Mag crane Bigger fusion blade Non-lethal options Towing Design grill/stove ~~ Check stomach contents~~ Track animal feeding habits FARM ~~ Shower~~ ~~ Sink~~ Waste reclamator/toilet Auto-tiller Harvester Irrigation By the time Meg got out of the shower, the pipe layer had finished the sink faucet. Chet had marked it off on the list. He'd get some kind of sink bowl fabbed up tomorrow, and work on the toilet system. For now, he just thought through a few more of their list, and as Meg got out, he realized he was dozing off. The day had caught up with him. He got up and shuffled from the pod to the tent behind her, and Artemis followed them both. The AI felt they should all try to spend their evenings in the same place, so nothing went wrong. Meg seemed more relaxed, and Chet was glad. He'd shower first thing in the morning. since his energy was so shot just now. Artemis closed up the tent and engaged security measures. With the perimeter in place, and the tent's inherent security, they should be completely safe. The prairie-dogs in their sleep pocket had gotten quiet again when Chet and Meg walked in, but they were soon chattering to each other. Chet glanced at them as Artemis closed the tent. "Plans for the critters?"

(Oh, yeah. That sounds familiar, especially when I’m playing a game or watching a movie, or even reading something really good. Though on the other hand, when I’m bored and not doing anything, it's like I’m hyper-aware of how slowly time is moving.) Meg smiled a little at Chet when she saw him coming out of the pod but decided not to bring up her actions from earlier. It didn't seem like a good time… and she wasn't sure if either one of them was up to talking about it. Especially since Chet looked so tired. She couldn't help the soft, affectionate chuckle as Artemis followed them inside but would agree that everyone should be in the tent for the night. At least until they had a better idea of what was out there at night. “Umm, honestly… not really.” she answered with a shrug as she followed his gaze toward the alien animals. “I think we learned everything we can from the two that didn't make it… except behavioral stuff. But the best way to learn that is to let them go and just observe.” she hummed thoughtfully.

Seeing Meg clean reminded Chet of exactly how filthy he was, but he was very tired and was quickly falling asleep. "I swear I'll shower in the morning, I'm just-" he paused as a yawn surprised him- "…tired is all." He gave her a sleepy smile as he stepped towards the sleeping pocket the prairie-dogs were in. "That's smart. We can chip them right now and let them go." The pocket quieted again as he got closer, and he had to chuckle. They made him laugh with their antics, just a little. When he opened the pocket, two of them were lying down, playing dead. Shakespeare, on the other hand, was staring at him, nose twitching. Chet had a sudden thought. "So… our litte drama queen isn't displaying fear. Should I be worried about him biting me or anything?

Meg just nodded since she didn't mind his choice. “You’re gonna love it. It felt great.” she smiled, still refreshed from the shower. “We can chip them in the morning. You need some sleep.” she pointed out as she watched him check on the animals in question. Though her smile grew when she saw Shakespeare looking back at them. “Don't know. Just move slowly. Let him get to know you and be the one to come to you.” she suggested before slowly, gently extending her hand toward the prairie dog but just getting close enough for it to smell her without touching.

Chet nodded, and watched her handle the little critter. Shakespeare sniffed at her hand, before turning and scurrying further back into the pocket. With the aim of chipping them in the morning, Chet went ahead and zipped the pocket closed. it wasn't airtight, so they could breathe fine, but it would keep them contained. He crawled into his own sleep pocket soon after that. "Pretty profitable day, huh?" He gave Meg a sleepy smile.

Meg chuckled at the animal's reaction, taking it as a positive sign before moving aside to let Chet close the sleeping pocket. “Yeah. Very productive.” she nodded back as she climbed into the “bed” next to his. “Though I think I’m starting to get attached to little Shakespeare. He’s so cute, brave, and dramatic.” she admitted.

Chet noded slower, and as Artemis dimmed the lights, he was already fading. "Maybe we'll keep him, or something…" He relaxed, and within a few minutes he was out cold. He began dreaming almost immediately.

“That would be nice.” Meg agreed softly as she noticed Chet falling asleep. “Good night. Good night, Artemis.” she nodded toward the AI before closing her eyes and started falling asleep peacefully.

Several hours passed. At some point in the night, Chet rolled over and reached for Meg, his arm landing against her shoulder. He maintained the contact in his sleep, his nightmares pushing him to look for grounding comfort, until eventually, he woke up, gasping loudly and jerking back. He recoiled from Meg, looking around wildly. It took him a long moment to realize where he was and who was with him, and when he finally did, he had to sit still for a moment to calm his heartrate and try to tame the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Eventually, he stood and quietly gathered a change of clothes and the soap, before heading out to shower. Artemis watched him go, unsure if she should say anything or not. She decided not to, given the look on his face. It was very dark outside, so Chet took the big flashlight with him and set it pointing up in the shower, out of the reach of the water. He wound up standing under the steaming hot shower, just kinda staring at the beam of light, his mind going everywhere at once, and nowhere at the same time.

Meg woke up a the touch but smiled at Chet’s sleeping form before falling back asleep, not minding the contact. Though she quickly snapped awake when he started panicking and pulled away from her. She was admittedly a little startled but it took her considerably less time for her to calm down than he did. “Chet?” she whispered as she slowly stretched her hand toward him, though she was hesitant to actually touch him since she didn't want to make things worse. It was unclear in the early morning dark if he had even heard her before he walked out of the tent in silence. Meg sighed at the fact, ashamed that she hadn't done more for him. She sat there, just looking around the tent, as she debated if she should follow him or just wait for him to come back.

Chet had heard her but he was embarrassed, and his skin was crawling at the moment. Everything that touched him felt like too much, like it was too rough or prickly, and he hated that… especially since what he really wanted was a long hug. He solved it by cranking the water up as hot as he could handle it, and just standing there, letting it burn away the phantom touches from his nightmares, letting it wash off the cloying sensation of unwanted contact. Artemis waited till he'd been gone for a while before saying anything. "He's been in the shower for nearly 40 minutes, under very hot water… maybe you should check on him?" She could tell from the pipe system, which she'd integrated into her sensor array.

“Yeah. Good idea.” Meg nodded at Artemis’s informative suggestion before standing. “Wish me luck.” she smiled slightly, nervously. She let out a slow breath and walked towards the shower. Though since it was the same kind of material as the tent, knocking was not a good idea. “Chet? Are you ok?” she called out as she stood near the shower entrance, hoping that he could heard her.

Meg's voice shook Chet from his thoughts, and he realized he'd lost track of time. "Gimme a minute." He called back, before scrambling to soap up and rinse. The all-in-one soap as helpful, and he was done and drying off within about 2 minutes. He stepped out of the shower about a minute after that, dressed in clean clothes, smelling much better. His hair had the tousled look of someone who'd just vigorously rubbed it with a towel, and the skin on the back of his neck was noticeably red, like he'd lightly scalded it all that time. "Hey…" he said quietly, before picking up the flashlight from where he'd set it. "Wanna head back in?"

Meg let out a soft sigh of relief when he replied and nodded to herself as she waited for him to finish. Though she did wonder if he knew how long he had already been in there. She gave a soft huff at his question and shook her head. “In a minute.” she murmured. “I don't know if you remember but I’m a light sleeper. I know you had another nightmare.” she admitted, looking up at him gently. “You had me worried.”

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet stopped, looking at her first with curiosity, and then with guilt in his eyes. "… Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you." he said quietly. "I wasn't trying to freak you out, that's my bad. Just-… had to get the feel of hands off my skin." He looked down at his feet, and stood there, shuffling uncomfortably, obviously feeling bad that his mess had landed them in this moment.

“Oh, no. I’m not blaming you.” she quickly amended. “I remember what you told me about your nightmares. And I just wanted to remind you that I’m here for you.” Meg assured with a soft smile. “It's not your fault. You can talk to me.” she told him as she gently reached out a hand to him.

Chelooked up at Meg, mildly surprised. He wasn't sure how he'd expected her to react, but this wasn't it. He tentatively reached out and took her hand, squeezing it gently. "… Thank you, Meg." He stood there for another long moment, still shuffling a bit. "I, uh… I don't wanna keep you up. Let's go in." He moved towards the tent, gently pulling her with him.

“Any time.” Meg assured, gently squeezing his hand in return letting him hold on as long as he wanted. Or needed. She nodded and let him lead her back into the tent. “Do you think you'll be able to sleep again?”

Meg didn't pull away, and Chet was grateful. He plopped down on his sleep pocket, thinking for a moment. "… maybe? I'm not sure." He was rather awake, though he was a bit more relaxed than he had been a couple of minutes ago. "But that doesn't mean you shouldn't." He was aware he hadn't let go, but… as long as Meg was content to let him hold on, he wasn't going to be the one to let go.

“Maybe we should both try.” Meg suggested as she sat next to him. “I think we both need it… unless you want to talk about it?”

Chet shrugged and looked down. "It's just more of the same… being touched by people I don't want to be around, in ways I don't want to be touched, while yelling for help from people who won't believe I need help…" He shuddered, closing his eyes to block out unwanted images.

Meg gave his hand a gentle, reassuring squeeze. “I’m so sorry.” she sighed sympathetically. “I wish I could help you more. But I just hope that being here for you is enough.”

After a long moment, Chet calmed down, and managed to look up at Meg. "It certainly helps…" He gave her a small smile. Artemis flashed what time it was from across the tent. and Chet glanced at the large numbers. "We've got about 2 hours before the sun comes up… you should sleep more."

Meg smiled softly back and nodded. She was still a little tired, and they hadn't figured out a way to make coffee yet, but she didn't want to let go of Chet and leave him alone. “Will you sleep with me if I do?” she asked, wanting him to get some more rest as well.

Chet knew full well what she meant. The phrasing was a bit funny, but he knew what she was asking. And he still blushed. "I'll, uh… I'll try." He wasn't sure he'd be able to, but even if he just lay there and relaxed, it'd be better than being awake and agitated.

Meg bit her lip at the way he was blushing, knowing exactly what he was thinking about her question. Her thoughts had followed a similar path even though that was not her intent at all. “Ok.” she nodded, glad that Chet understood her real meaning, as she started to lay down before she remembered they were on the same sleep pocket. “Uh, is this ok? Or should I move?”

Chet hesitated. Part of him didn't want to ask her for that much comfort. And part of him was very ok with this… He let go of her hand, trying to make her feel comfortable with the fact that he was ok no matter what decision was made. "I'll leave it to you… I'm fine either way…" he said quietly as he slid down into his pocket. He left plenty of space for her, but tried not to apply pressure either way.

Meg nodded and slid into the pocket with him, not minding the closeness. After the nightmare he had, she felt that he needed the contact to stay grounded while he slept. Plus she really did want to help him. “You sure this is ok?” she asked again, understanding if the touch was too much.

Chet swallowed as Meg slid in next to him. He gave her a small smile as he tried to figure out how to arrange himself so as not to make this weird for her. "Y-yeah, this is fine. I'm sure." Eventually, he just settled on lying down, on his side, facing her, and letting her decide how close or not close she wanted to be.

Meg nodded at his consent and mirrored his position, facing him as she hugged him. Obviously, she didn't mind the closeness. “Good night, Chet.” she said as she practical cuddled him.

Chet tensed up, for just a moment, before relaxing into some of the first genuinely soft physical contact he'd had in a while. After a moment, he looped his arms loosely around Meg, and mumbled "Thank you, Meg." He didn't think he'd be able to sleep. Usually these nightmares woke him all the way up, especially when he wound up moving around and talking. He was back asleep within 5 minutes.

Meg smiled softly as Chet relaxed around her and held her. She hummed a quiet reply just to let him know she’d heard him as her eyes closed. She fell asleep as well fairly quickly.

Meg smiled softly as Chet relaxed around her and held her. She hummed a quiet reply just to let him know she’d heard him as her eyes closed. She fell asleep as well fairly quickly. Artemis turned off her alarm, and let the two humans sleep. She had watched as Meg comforted Chet, wondering about the exact nature of their relationship. But her questions could wait. They needed to sleep. As the sun rose, eventually it lit up the tent enough for Chet to wake up on his own. He started to sit up, blinking in the light, when he realized if he moved, he'd wake Meg. He smiled, unable to control the feeling bubbling in his chest from overflowing to his face, and stayed still. I'm not about to be the one to let go first…

Meg hummed softly at the slight movement, blinking as she started to wake up. A small smile on her face as she nuzzled closer. It was probably the first time she remembered these sleep pockets being so comfortable. It may have taken her a moment before she remembered why but she was not complaining. “Morning.” she whispered.

Meg started to wake up, and Chet started to pull back a bit, when she cuddled closer. His eyebrows shot up, even as he involuntarily tucked her under his chin. He wasn't even really thinking about the motion, his surprise getting in the way. "Morning, Meg…" he said quietly, allowing himself a smile. This was new, but not unwelcome.

Meg let out a soft contented hum as Chet seemed to return the cuddling. “I take it you slept better.” she pointed out, keeping her voice down so as to not ruin the calmness of the moment. Obviously, with how close they were and how lightly she tended to sleep, she would have known if he had another nightmare.

"I did. Much better than I've slept in a loooong time." It was true. He'd been out cold and not dreaming or nightmaring or jerking awake or anything like that. "You? I didn't keep you up with my snoring or anything, it looks like…" Chet knew he was just making small talk, but… anything to keep this moment rolling.

“Good. I’m glad to hear it.” she smiled, rubbing her eyes. Though Meg giggled a little at his question. “Well, I didn't wake up until now, so I’m guessing if you snore, I didn't hear it.” she teased. “But I think I slept pretty good too.” Even though she was a light sleeper, being a survivalist included an ability to sleep just about anywhere when it was necessary.

Chet smiled, enjoying the little sleepy movements and the banter. He did find himself curious after a moment, though. "So… Meg… Can I ask you something?" As soon as the words were out, Chet regretted them. He didn't want to make things weird. This was helpful. She was being helpful, and that was it. He shouldn't wonder about more than just her being kind.

Meg hummed, giving a slight nod, curious what Chet really wanted to know. “Sure, what is it? You can ask me anything.” she assured as she propped herself up to look at him better.

"What, uh…. what does this mean for us?" He realized how that sounded, and as usual, scrambled. "I mean- not that it has to mean anything, I just-… I guess I'm asking if-…" Chet swallowed hard, and decided something. It's already awkward, you idiot. You may as well make it worse. "I'm asking if I can start inviting you into my bed more often. This was good sleep." There it was. He wanted to ask why, if there were underlying feelings, if she thought this was a good idea, if she'd hated every moment, but that combination of words was what came out.

Meg raised a brow at the way Chet fumbled in his first attempt at the question but stayed quiet and listened patiently for him to ask the actual question. “Alright. Taking that one at a time.” she started. “I don't mind if you ask me to sleep with you like this in the future. It was nice for me too.” she admitted with a soft smile, before continuing with a blush. “But… well, this doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to. I mean you are kind of the senior officer here and that wouldn't be appropriate.” Meg paused for a moment, closing her eyes and taking a calming breath to collect her thoughts. “But, if you're asking if I like you… I think I do. You're a really nice guy and very smart. Do you… do you like me?” she asked shyly.

Meg's expression initially made Chet nervous, but then, this whole conversation did. Her answer, though, put a smile on his face. He had to chuckle at 'senior officer'. It had been a joke, and he hadn't meant for her to take him seriously, before. However, her final question sobered him real quick. He thought for a moment, not about whether he liked her or not, but about how this might change their dynamic. A quick decision later, and he took the plunge. "I, uh… I do. Very much so." He reached up and rubbed the back of his neck shyly. "I kinda wondered at first if it was just the thought of you being the only other person, but… I think it's a little more real than that." He couldn't look at her face as he continued on. "And as far as being your senior officer or whatever, I'm not an officer, and you're not my subordinate. All rank structure disappeared when the Deus went down in flames. So really, there's not much holding us back from… moving this forward, or something." He had to swallow the nervous lump in his throat. "And we don't have to do that! If you'd rather just keep it at where it is, for now, and see what happens, that's fine- I certainly won't push anything." Here, he glanced up at her, blushing furiously. "But if you keep curling up next to me and making my nights so incredibly pleasant, I'm definitely going to get more attached. Guaranteed. So… know that up front."

Meg tried to stay calm as she waited for Chet to answer, though she was sure that with as close as they were he could feel her heart pounding. She let out a sigh when he finally spoke and buried her blushing red face against him. It was a relief to know he felt the same but she also knew that things were going to be very different going forward. “I understand.” she nodded as she turnedher head. “I was wondering the same thing, or if this was some kind of trauma bond thing. But I… what if we take it slow?” she offered. “I've been mostly focusing on… what I was supposed to do; help everyone survive. I can still do that but I do want to try… I'm going to get attached too if we keep sleeping like this.” she admitted with a chuckle.

Chet was aware of his heart, though as he thought about it, he wasn't sure if it was his or Meg's. Her blush, and the move to hide her face against his chest confirmed that, probably, she was nervous as he was. "Trauma bond sounds about right, but also… I think it's more real than that. Maybe. I don't know." He wasn't incredibly sure of anything at the moment. He smiled and tentatively looped an arm back around. "I'm happy to take it slow, if you're willing to try to make this work." He chuckled at the sleeping admission. At least they were on the same page about that. "Sounds like we agree." He swallowed hard, trying to get his spinning mind and hurried heartbeat under control. "And maybe today's plans work in our favor too… I was planning on going down to the wreck site, and starting work on the bigger forge and pieces. I'll keep the comms on, but I'll probably be gone all day. Give you some time to think, and we can revisit the conversation tonight, if you've thought better of it." There it was. Once upon a time, thoughts like that had come easy to Chet. Now they didn't show up as often.

Meg closed her eyes at hearing that he was just as confused as she was. It was reassuring to know that it wasn't just her thinking that way. But she smiled softly as Chet held her again and nodded. “I’m glad to hear that and I'm willing to try to make this work.” she agreed as she let herself relax against him. She hummed a little as she looked up at him as he mentioned his plans. “Ok. At least, the crash isn't too far away so if you need any help you can just ask.” she said simply. “Otherwise, I’ll probably be around the camp looking for other possible foods, see if I can start something for the farm, and just making notes about this environment.”

The feeling of Meg relaxing into him was… Chet had missed this kind of close affection. He hadn't even realized how much till just now. He nodded at her offer of help, and smiled as she described her plans. "I'm sure you'll do great. We can chip the prairie-dogs before I leave, and I can leave the nano-forge with you, if you'd like. Artemis can answer any questions you have about it, or I can, even remotely. That would allow you to get done whatever you need to." Here they were talking about getting their day started, and Chet was realizing exactly how much he didn't want to move. But he did, slowly disentangling himself from Meg's soft embrace, and crawling out of the sleep pocket. They had stuff they had to get done. it was still a new, raw, untamed world out there.

Meg was also smiling at how comfortable just lying here with Chet was and a part of her was wondering if they could spend a day together like this sometime. Obviously, that couldn't be today because they both had plans to work but still… it was a nice thought. “I think I can manage without the forge if you need it” she assured, even though it would be a useful thing to have. “If I think of anything, I can just make a list and wait until you get back. I can always work on something else in the meantime.” she added as she stretched, letting Chet get up first before following to get ready for the day.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Chet had a hard time tearing his eyes away from Meg as she stretched, a large part of him just wanting to crawl back into the sleep pocket with her. But he managed it, and focused on digging around in his pack for breakfast instead. He pulled out two ration packs, tossing one to Meg and tearing his open. "I could use it as I'm travelling, if you don't mind me taking it with me." The mini-forge would let him fab up tools on the way to the site, and he could get started right away with that in mind. "I'll leave you the notebooks and stuff, though you can always create lists and notes on your HUD."
As he ate, Chet revised the project list, rewriting it without all the stuff they'd accomplished on it. There was still a lot to do.

Project List:
Schematics for food storage
Big Nano-forge
Smithing tools
Big waste reclamator
Storage units
Design mag-lev
Mag crane
Bigger fusion blade
Non-lethal options
Track animal feeding habits
Waste reclamator/toilet

@FanfictionFanatic-The-Elder group

Meg blushed a little when she noticed him staring but didn't comment. “Thanks.” she smiled, accepting the ration pack and cracking it open. “I don't mind. I'm used to “manually fabbing” small stuff.” she joked, remembering instances when she camped out back on Earth. “I’m sure I can manage. Plus, I’ll have Artemis with me, right? We’ll be alright.” she assured.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Artemis piped up from her spot across the tent. "I'll be a lot more helpful now that I can move on my own! We'll make a great team." She spun in place, still revelling in the mobility the drone gave her.
Chet nodded, smiling, before regarding the list carefully. "So… you're gonna check animal food patterns, check the traps, and what else? Cuz if you have time, you could plan a waste system and toilet." The pipe drill was mostly programmed to build everything itself anyway. Meg's job would mostly be to pick where.

@FanfictionFanatic-The-Elder group

“I don't doubt that.” Meg grinned at the AI’s enthusiasm. Though she was glad to not be alone and to have Artemis’s help.
She nodded as Chet reminded her of her tasks for the day. “Right. We need to try to chip the three prairie dogs we have before you leave but I can do the rest and if I have time, I can do that too.” she agreed, already thinking of possible places to set up a toilet.

@EldritchHorror-Davadio health_and_safety emoji_events

Finishing his food, Chet double checked the last thing he'd fabbed up yesterday. The microchips and applicator were ready. The applicator looked like a little gun, and Chet loaded the chips into it almost like bullets. He put his visor on, and was able to see the chips on his HUD. He labeled the first one 'Shakespeare' and then turned to Meg. "Ideas on what to name out little friends?"