The Nieznajlak barely crested the hill as they saw a pod of Skuttlekovy scuttling in a panicked circle. The steps of the landship must've disturbed them while they were burrowing into the sand. Captain Zhao had already honed in on two large specimens.
The Skuttlekovy were huge. Two large specimens around six feet long and over 10 feet in diameter. These were the type of Skuttlekovy that fetched large amount of ciams. Their shells would be thick and hardened with age. A few Skuttlekovy looked to be a little smaller, but still of a decent size, and even more still were small enough to look like a swarm of cockroaches next to the adults.
Despite Zhao slamming the accelerator, the pod had already begun to move southwest, down into a canyon and away from the hulking steps of the landship Nieznajlak.
Normally this would be perfect to funnel them so easily. However the sand was turning to dirt and rocks and it would be difficult to scoop them up much farther south. They had to act fast.
Zhao pulled the steam whistle in two short bursts. The Hunt was on.
The Landship surged ahead, its eight legs making short work of the incline down into the sand pit and after the fleeing pod of Skuttlekovy.
"Scoop is ready!" yelled the voice from earlier.
Haggard sat in the nose of the landship operating the scoop controls. He had a communication tube which lead up to Zhao through the floor.
On the top deck, two workers stood ready. Sashenka was garbed in a heavy leather apron that almost touched the floor if not for his height, and large leather gauntlets with old skuttlekovy shells sewn on like bucklers. He wore a heavy leather budenovka hat strapped under his chin. His long Vibranni tail was tucked into baggy pants to protect it from stray stings. Sashenka manned a large holding cage with the top opened. Inside, one other Skuttlekovy clicked and clacked noisily as it angrily attempted to get a grip on the metal bars and climb out, every so often swinging its barbed tail.
Spinner sat clad in a similar leather apron and gauntlets. However he wore an old, fraying Sailor hat and a pair of rusting goggles. Mr. Spinner was an old retired sailor, and he seemed right at home in the adrenaline of the moment. An old single barreled shotgun rested across his back, just in case they needed it.
Haggard shouted something that was lost in Captain Zhao's affirmative whistle blast that he had visual on the target. Spinner gestured to Sashenka, who shrugged. Sashenka ensure their large brooms were easily reachable.
The Landship went dark as it entered the shade of the canyon. Zhao's threatening cursing could barely be heard from inside the ship. The eight legs were creating a comforting drum as they pounded into the Istoki ground, chasing the fleeing pod.
The Skuttlekovy were not fast creatures compared to other prey in the desert, but they were very dangerous and they could keep their pace for a long time. Their eight crustacean legs went as fast as they could, but their weaving betrayed them as the Landship easily began to close the gap.
Haggard pushed a lever forward, which caused the steam scoop to jut out from the bottom of the landship. The scoop was a slotted shovel made out of scrap metal and it shuttered with each step of the landship. With a pull of a pin, Haggard locked the shovel in place.
Gently, he pulled another lever downward, and the boiler for the scoop began to hum. Haggard kept an eye on the pressure gauge as the Landship stomped down the canyon after the Skuttlekovy.
Captain Zhao kept an eye on the sides of the canyon. He should have plenty of room for the eight powerful legs to work with.
Haggard watched as a large Skuttlekovy came into the sights of the scoop. It scuttled along as quickly as its legs would take it. However, it was only a moment more when Haggard lined up the sights with the Skuttlekovy.
Haggard slammed his hand into the pin, pushing it back into place. The shovel launched forward with the build up pressure, and dug into the sand. Before the Skuttlekovy could wiggle way, it was lifted into the air by the shovel and the shovel rose up, over the ship. Haggard lost site of it in a torrent of loose sand and dirt and tiny Skuttlekovy as they fell through the slots in the shovel.
Sashenka and Spinner tensed as the scoop raised back into view, and tipped over the ship. A large Skuttlekovy tumbled out of the air, sand and dirt around it. A large amount of smaller Skuttlekovy also rained down. They clanged into the cage expertly. Dirt, sand and dust spread over the deck.
Sashenka battered aside a small skuttlekovy who missed the cage, sending him overboard. With a quick motion, Sashenka sent a flurry of baby Skuttlekovy, not even the size of a first, from the desk of the ship with a broom.
Spinner was already on the other side of the cage. He brushed two waves of smaller Skuttlekovy away before taking out a safety pin from a pipe. The resulting steam pressure filled the cage's lid and it flung out, sending a few larger Skuttlekovy on his side flying off the ship, and it raised. It slammed on the top of the cage, locking in their catch.
Inside, Captain Zhao was bringing the landship to a stop, and Haggard stood, waiting for the all clear signal. They knew Sashenka and Spinner would be clearing the deck of the smaller Skuttlekovy who were scooped up. If they were hurt, they would hear the dreaded three blast whistle blow or a frantic knock at the door.
After around an hour of relative silence, the all clear symbol: two, deliberate knocks on the bulkhead door.