The Stork isn’t the biggest, or the fastest, but it does have a trig crew with their heads in the right places, even if their hands sometimes aren’t. Everyone sits at their stations, ready for the word, which comes from a squawking of the short-wave. The chum, Kensington, has a herd of Gallimimus headed to the designated hunting area. His voice is almost drowned out by the high whirring of his single-piston motorcycle engine, but the crew hears him.
Jaeger hits the thrusters on the lift rotors and up the Stork flies to the valley, to their payday.
Roxanne, at the gunner’s port, shouts a curse at Jaeger over ship-board comms as one of the pilot’s adjustment maneuvers causes a dart to sail over her intended target. She holds out a hand to the doc, Amarillo, awaiting another dose of tranq. The doc looks through a viewscreen at Roxanne’s next intended target, makes mental calculations of the beast’s weight, and quickly mixes a syringe, which he inserts into a dart. This time, the shot fires true, and a few steps later, the ‘Gal stumbles and crashes to the grass beneath it. That last one makes eight, while six others escaped, due to accuracy errors or Kensington’s inability to keep the rapidly panicking herd of dinos in a single grouping.
Still, eight is a good haul, if all that meat turns out to be clean.
Fresh meat out in the wild results in a few dangers to poachers. The first is infection. Every dino dropped has a chance to be infected. Occasionally the creature will be showing signs: foaming at the mouth, labored breathing, drastically-increased body heat. Others show no indication, and must be tested up close. This job falls to Amarillo, who must approach each tranq’ed dino, hope that the anesthetic holds, and draw a portion of their blood for field-testing, a process that requires a kit with a 83% accuracy variable. He tests all the ’Gals, all of them are clean. A windfall, truly. And so the butchery begins.
Animal carcasses must have their meat separated from the bone, placed in cooling racks dropped from the Stork. The second gunner, Grelda, emerges for this, both to lend a hand and to watch for the second type of trouble: scavengers. The smell of meat carries, and scavengers have evolved to detect a fresh corpse from miles away, sometimes tens of miles, if the wind is right. The scavengers today are Procompsognathus: small, calf-high dinos with poison in their mouths. A swarm of them approach over a hillock, and Grelda and Roxanne take up firing positions, calling in for assistance from the ship’s engineer, Mateo Bright. He descends on a ship’s rope, and helps Kensington load Gallimimus meat into the cooling racks.
Things get down to the wire, and the fighting gets close. Grelda, Chris, and Roxanne suffer cuts and bruises, and the doc is once again required to administer the field-test. Everyone’s test comes out green, and the doc clears everyone for leave once the Stork arrives back at Tetanus Falls. They also have another catch: a live Compy, worth quite a bit to the Underground.
The ship touches down on Dock 7 of the Hotplates, giant concrete landing platforms, seeing a few other hovers in port while descending. Captain Raz has the crew load up the encased cooling racks of meat on the four-wheeler for transport, and tells the crew to take their leave. Their shares will be waiting for them when he returns from the Market. Roxanne heads to Sweets to the Sweet for weapon maintenance, while Jaeger and Chris Kensington make their way to the Watering Hole. Amarillo Down visits Dic Doc’s, a short distance from Dock 7, to resupply the ship’s chems and meds. Unnoticed by the crew, and even by himself, Kensington wipes his forehead and shivers as a sudden flop-sweat soaks his skin.
Dulce, gunrunner and proprietor of Sweets, is all smiles when Roxanne comes to visit, her favorite SMG cradled in her arms, awaiting service. He welcomes her amicably and informs her he has a new item in stock. A drop cloth covers the main counter in his shop, Dulce sweeps it aside, revealing a flamethrower, which he refers to as a ‘Burner.’ As for the price, he states the astronomical sum of ₢3000: the equivalent of ten months of ship-work. Roxanne doesn’t have that kind of scratch on her, so Dulce invites her back later to talk about a favor she could provide to lower the cost a bit. Dulce also mentions he is looking for the Stork’s Captain, for an undisclosed reason. Roxanne leaves her SMG in his care and heads out to get a drink.
The Doc, finished with his business, makes his own way to the Watering Hole, and sees Roxanne at a table with Chris, who he thinks is looking decidedly unwell. Jaeger is at the bar, ordering a drink. Also in attendance are a few other hover crews, as well as a table of Nicks: CDC agents. The Doc tries to extract Kensington quietly but Roxanne, not eager to lose her drinking-buddy, makes a scene. Jaeger, immediately recognizing why the Doc would be so nervous about Chris, manages to defuse the situation and return everyone to the ship, where another field test reveals that Kensington is indeed infected with Dino Flu.
Amarillo calls the captain immediately, informing him of the situation, and Raz returns immediately, still trailing the cooling racks of meat. He insists the doc retest everyone, and every piece of cargo they have. He also orders the crew to wipe down the decks until they are spotless, to ensure that there is no trace of the virus anywhere on his ship.
The crew, already exhausted from the day’s hunt, comply, and the Doc resolves to find a more effective test for infection.