[04:26] By the time the return tracks became unmistakable, tracing them lost its urgency to a different discovery – the landing site. Eerie, faint specks of light – nothing like the Kiveki lights that the Nayabaru dotted their settlements with – made its centrepiece apparent.
The last traces of pale sunlight was bleeding out of the firmament from its edge; if any Tarnish kavkema had come out to witness the landing and were hiding nearby, it was best not to linger around down and be caught out in the light. Out in this dusty stretch, it seemed unlikely anyone was watching that would judge them for it, but the vessel that was gradually painting itself with details as they approached adopted a secondary connotation regardless: Shelter.
They had to be cautious. If the Nayabaru had been here and taken the visitors with them, they would have left traps in their wake – recently, they were getting more creative with them, making tried and tested approaches to spotting them less reliable. On the other hand, central Asheenagiji lagged behind the coastal advances, so it was unlikely they had to watch out for the newest developments from back home.
The desert's scent was opaque to the Shyilun travellers – there was nothing suggesting kavkema or Nayabaru nearby.
[04:27] Evenatra leant to hide her profile against a rock, pressed close to it, staring out at the vessel and scrutinising the last stretch of distance toward it.
All seemed silent – muffled, muted, the strange landscape not one either of them had often grappled with before. The landscape seemed plain, straight-forward – there were few places to hide anything, let alone an elaborate trapping device. The ground was both stone and dry mud, not sand, meaning it could hardly be hiding a beartrap or anything of the sort.
Toxins, on the other hand – the Nayabaru preferred way of handling anything – didn't need much cover. A motion sensor on one of the rocks, a gentle breeze... a dangerous gas was unlikely to affect Evenatra, but here probability was far less kind to Asraaban.
Silently, she swerved her muzzle and swept one forepaw back, gesturing that she was going to head forward to inspect the vessel and for Asraaban to stay back until summoned.
[05:07] Relegated to the role of lookout, Asraaban was less certain what he was looking out for. Any reapproaching Nayabaru would be obvious, given there was nowhere for them to hide. They could be lying in ambush within the vessel itself. The very strange vessel, looking as it did like a giant herbivore had relations with the Karesejat and the resultant egg grew tired of hatching part way through, leaving spidery legs piercing through the otherwise intact white shell.
Except hadn't Tamachelu said these aliens were mammals? There was no reason for them to venerate eggs. Surely if one built a flying vessel, it should resemble wings.
He was getting distracted. If there were no traps outside, it was likely there were Nayabaru waiting within; they would not wish to risk themselves stumbling into their own devices. But that meant his leader could lure them out and then it would be his opening to strike.
...maybe finding some traps would be less nervewracking after all.
[05:19] Evenatra had crossed the space to the vessel fairly swiftly, now cautiously pressed with her upper body against the elevated surface of the thing, inching along it slowly to get a feel for it and the curvature, and to sense if it made any subtle motions too small to see but easy to feel, or if there were sounds within it.
[05:20] There were faintest outlines in the surface suggesting an entrance, and she sidled over to it, only to boldly prise her claws into the cracks and investigate the give. After a while of this silent exploration, her attention snaps across to Asraaban – a motion of her head forms an abstract beckon, in context simply a promise that the vessel is safe to approach.
She presses herself against the bottom of the subtle indentations, straining to 'hear', while pushing her perception outward, stubbornly attempting to look into the vessel despite the narrow angle. Whispered, barely audible: "I think I see movement." A pause, then, still subdued: "Probably not Nayabaru."
[13:15] Cautiously he picked his way closer, taking care to place his toes into the larger prints left by the Nayabaru. They did not trap where they stood. If Tamachelu said the way was clear it was unnecessary caution, but the habit was good to maintain.
If it made his own tracks harder to interprete, so much the better.
It was surprising to hear there may still be aliens. Why? Had they fought off the Nayabaru? Then they needed to soothe the aliens and flee at once, before they returned with numbers and better weaponry. (Or worse, Terenyira herself.) Had the aliens hid? If some had died in the crash the Nayabaru may have been satisified with retreiving the corpses and not searched deeply.
[15:27] The tracks didn't suggest any fight had happened, although not all of them in the area were strictly identifiable. Any close inspection suggests that whatever form the visitors had, they were strictly bipedal – smaller than the Nayabaru if size and depth of the prints in the faint dust were any indication, but perhaps of similar stature.
With Asraaban beside her, Evenatra stops her curious prying. As her muzzle opens to ask him whether they want to announce their presence, a curt, sharp hiss sounds and the cover of the opening displaces. Following an artificial instinct drilled into all Shyilun scouts, Evenatra rebounds into the same direction she came, avoiding any traps they may have failed to discover. Stopping at the minimum distance to please her borrowed instincts, Evenatra stares the opening, her feathers puffed out in agitation.
She must have missed some sensors. In itself, this didn't worry her – she had no reason to believe there were any Nayabaru in the vessel and no reason to believe that the alien visitors were something to fear. But if she had missed a few sensors, perhaps due to not correctly anticipating what she should be looking for, what else might she miss?
[15:28] As the maw of the vessel gradually opened further, revealing itself as a folded metal stairway, she briefly cast her attention to Asraaban. "Remember," she says, quickly. "If this encounter turns hostile, return to Damakei on your own, to warn them to stay away; don't wait for me."