Chapter 11: The Sathar Artifact 11.0 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 11.13 Finale (Mission Date: 63.010 - 63.006Pf, Mission Time: 90 Days - 94 days) X Points awarded
News of possible Sathar attack, while potentially devastating, has fallen on ears keen for rest and recuperation. Sni'ktl assists the team in any way he can to access what they need from the Eorna. Borovski muses to himself
"This is wasting my time. You guys poke, prod, question and collect all the useless bits of crap information you want." before pronouncing "You can call me if your thinking interrogation though!"
On his spare time, Raid asks xZot to teach him robotics skill.
"It may prove useful if the Sathar have defended the artefact with robot guards," he explains.
"I have some of my own training to complete first Raid but I should be able to assist you with your Robotics training during my quieter periods. We should see is Sp'ock is interested in assisting, he is a bit if a dab hand at this stuff. You should also see if any of the Eorna can lend assistance as their insights could be invaluable."
"I'm off to do some training! Beam weapons and weapons repair! Something of use to pass the time till your ready boss." Boro wanders off to an appropriate area to undertake his training muttering away to himself,
"Bloody weekend warriors. I need some serious R&R"
Raid absorbs all the knowledge he is able on Eorna history, culture, and technology. He asks the Eorna for a small sample of their crystalline technology that he could take home with him.
"I would be forever grateful," he says. "The intricacy of their design is both beautiful and fascinating." However after a less than enthusiastic response from their mysterious guests, Raid decides not to press the issue.
After allowing himself to relax, albeit briefly, xZot engrosses himself is his training. Realizing that his Tech skills may be needed soon more than they ever had been in the past, xZot seeks out Eorna technical specialists and spends time under their tutelage. Whenever possible xZot makes time available for Raid's tuition. The opportunity to practice his Robotics skills is welcomed and a possibility of picking a few things up from the Eorna is too good an opportunity to pass up.
Watching others taking time to hone their skills Sni'ktl wonders how he will find time for his interests. It's not as if a dying culture facing immediate oblivion is likely to run drama classes. Then he notices the equipment occasionally used by the Eorna during recreation. A few inquiries determine that the facilities are akin to Frontier Hypno Training Suites. Following some routine calibrations by the Eorna technician Sni'ktl soon finds himself on the stage of his minds eye performing the classic Vrusk sagas he studied as a hatchling.
Commander xZot, Raid and Siu-Ling continue their search for information from the Eorna.
"Do your archives have any records of contact with races besides the Sathar? Where did your people originate? My own people are ignorant of much of their own history."
The Eorna merely return with the inquisitive duo to their impressive museum and show the pair several recordings which show that the Eorna definitely appear to have evolved on Volturnus and that their contact with the Sathar was the first extraterrestrial encounter for Volturnus. Eager to grasp whatever bits of information that he can, xZot persistently questions his hosts on their knowledge of the Artefact and of Sathar technology generally.
Raid, like Siu-Ling, is also curious about the Sathar artefact, what kind of defences it has, as well as wanting to hear the accounts of past Eorna encounters with it but he is disappointed to learn that the few Eorna still alive have had no contact with the device and are acting on information gathered by previous generations.
"How do your people transit from one location to another on this planet? Do you have vehicles or transport devices of any kind?" This line of questioning provides more positive results as Raid and Siu-Ling learn that in many ways Eorna technology is at least equal to that of the Frontier. They have their own equivalent of Frontier vehicles including a Jetcopter and a pilot who the Eorna are willing to put at the teams disposal to help transport the Black Hand Gang to the artefact's location.
A chance to practice and share his culinary hobby also drives xZot to seek out Eorna chefs.
"Defining beauty when talking about preparation and presentation of food will be an interesting topic to debate." ponders xZot as he goes in search of the kitchens.
The Eorna are also pleasantly surprised to find the team leader so passionate about the art of food preparation, a trait they clearly did not expect in the leader of fighting men and women. They delight in showing xZot several of their own dishes including an extremely spicy version of what could only be described as Sandshark curry.
During the teams first night in the Eorna complex Mr Sp'ock calls a briefing session to outline the details of the coming operation. After a short exchange with Commander xZot, Mr Sp'ock asks for volunteers for the recon mission on the artefact before he hands out the duty roster.
"I'd be glad to come along," responds the fanatical Ul-Morite steady finger. "This has all been... well... emotional to say the least... but I'll be glad to get back to the surface."
"I've got all my strength and stamina, encumbrance is ok! Ready for some point and shoot, you point 'em out and I'll shoot 'em!" announces an invigorated Borovski after completing his workout. Siu-Ling leans over to Borovski.
"Hey, 'shroom-brother, what say we exchange a little training time. I'm itchin' to learn a thing or two about the art of grenade throwing. Maybe I can instruct you in the way of climbing."
"I didn't come this far just for the pay check. I'm in." Raid pauses before continuing. "But...where is Jameson?"
As if they had been reading his mind, several Eorna arrive with Lt. Col. Louis V. Jameson in tow. Jameson is in fair medical condition but is suffering from exhaustion, and is unable to resume active duty. After an extended debriefing Jameson confirms the Eorna story, and fills in details about the hijacking of his expedition's ship by the Star Devil and his men. Jameson also urges xZot and his command to explore the Sathar artefact in order to prevent the feared Sathar attack.
"I realize that technically your contracts have expired" Jameson continues "but this entire world's fate could now be in your hands." The brain storming session runs long into the night as various plans are reviewed and a time table arrived at.
Frontier Date 63.007Pf +93
Three more days of rest and training at the Eorna complex should see the recon team fit and ready for duty. In the mean time Sp'ock recommends that GleepGlooup and X'anthe take the explorer to rejoin Gloo at the Outpost and pass on the latest news to the crew remaining in Brucebane.
Boro although lacking sufficient experience to improve his skill level with his preferred Beam weapons, still spends the time honing his talent never the less. He responds to Siu-Ling,
"Sure thing 'shroom sister, lets toss a few around! It would be good to have another comrade who I can work in tandem with when the need arises. Put a little pepper on it and get amongst them, that's my theory!" Boro is happy to assist in Siu-Ling's training, however he is hesitant towards climbing, mostly due to his current dexterity. After contacting the Pirate Outpost for a report of Nounouche's condition, Siu-Ling joins Boro for a little training.
"Let's start with the grenades, I much rather be able to negate the enemy and walk over or around them then worry about climbing to get away or establish an elevated position."
"Very good," responds the Human, holding a few rocks in her hands. "Pretend grenades," she admits. "Cheaper than the real thing."
Raid picks up introductory robotics skills from his fellow techs whenever they can spare the time. He prepares himself mentally for the coming journey to the artifact by recalling old history lessons on the Sathar and their technology from his school days.
"That artifact must have been constructed ages ago, and the Sathar probably haven't been back to update machinery in quite awhile," Raid guesses. Unfortunately, Raid was daydreaming during most of his history lessons.
No one knows where the Sathar came from or why. They attacked and destroyed lonely systems on the edges of explored space, moving slowly inward. Survivors described Sathar as worm like creatures 3 to 4 meters long. That was all that was known about them, because they would rather kill themselves than be captured. Secretly, Raid admires the dedication and perseverance of the Eorna to their great mission.
"They see in the Sathar a threat to life and beauty and all that they hold dear. They have a vision that goes beyond the survival of their own race, and they work to see that other life forms do not meet their own certain fate. That fate, the extinction of the Eorna race, seems certain. It's only a matter of time. Noble, but a sad story. Can any race escape that fate in the long run? Is death the rule in this universe?"
Raid ponders the seemingly cruel nature of the cosmos that the Sathar have come to personify and his thoughts wander to the deaths of his mother and fiancé. The monorail accident seems so long ago. "NO! I MUST...I WILL SURVIVE!" These last words scream almost unconsciously from somewhere deep within Raid's psyche.
"Contracts expired..." Sni'ktl ponders Commander Jameson's words of the previous day.
"I guess that means that we own all actual and intellectual rights to scientific discoveries, salvage and alien artefacts." Sni'ktl immediately backs up all his scientific data to his personal log and deletes all files from DNR logs pertaining to the time since his contract expired.
He suggests to xZot and Jameson that both teams pool resources at least to pay for the uplift charges when evac arrives, and maybe some profit too. The personnel at Brucebane and the Outpost could begin filing patents and registering some kind of co-operative which we would all have shares in while the Black Hand Gang (TM) saves everyone's butt again.
Lieutenant Commander Jameson laughs heartily when he learns of the Vrusk's reaction to his comments about the end of their contracts.
"You can tell your people not to worry about paying for evac or retaining their copyrights on new technologies. When the DNR get your message they will activate the emergency clauses in your contracts to extend the terms and conditions until you have been extracted." He chuckles again "And there will definitely be waiver's in those contracts preventing you from claiming research data or technology patents while you are under contract. The co-operative idea is a good one though, maybe a salvage company?"
After the completion of the training exercises with Siu-Ling, Boro returns to consult with xZot and the others regarding our movements.
"Maneuvres, did I overhear someone mention some maneuvres? Let's get it happening! I'm as keen as anyone to get off this festering boil on the arse of the universe planet as anyone, but I do want to be able to get off it quickly and without any more encounters of the enemy kind." Boro packs up his gear and assembles himself ready, primed for what he speculates to be one of the final battles on this mission.
Sni'ktl sullenly packs his bag ready to depart on the Not-So-Great-Mission. In his dreams the night before it was a toss up between the wine and the Biocort synthesized by the Eorna. Their physiology is so different and the bit he tried on his uninjured carapace had left an unsightly and hopefully temporary, pink residue. He couldn't imagine the lads enjoying pink skin even if it does work.
"They will have to settle for the wine." he grumbled to himself after discovering the truth. The Eorna healing technologies were based on mental disciplines and stimulation of the bodies own healing powers rather than the drug induced results devised by the races of the Frontier. Try as he might, Sni'ktl could barely understand their techniques let alone master them. The alienness of Volturnus had thrown down yet another intellectual challenge and his inability to immediately comprehend the puzzle irked the Chief Science Officer.
"The Sathar are long gone... war fleets... guardian monsters... nah." In a sign of faith he leaves his stun stick behind.
"You sure about that?" Siu-Ling confirms, packing her usual twin pistols at either side of her waist and her laser rifle slung over her shoulder. "So far there hasn't been a patch of land without a hint of peril lurking behind a rock or bush. If I were you, I'd bring at least a pistol... or stick close to me; I'll keep you in one piece if OMAC doesn't come."
"I'll be there, girl," the imposing figure of a fully rearmed OMAC announces. "You just watch your own ass." He grins evilly.
"Damn, dog!" she announces with a working class New Palean expression. "You got more metal on you than a hundred man army corps!" Hoping to scavenge some grenades before the teams get into the jetcopters, she asks OMAC for any extras. "Come on, big guy! A few 'nades to help me watch my own ass then."
Grunting, the human warrior merely points at Borovski. The Dralasite trooper almost looks like one giant grenade, with various types of hand grenades adorning his belt, bandoliers and almost certainly he has more secreted in his pack.
As the others finish readying their gear, Siu-Ling d'Avignon whispers a silent prayer to Athru's deity and ponders on these Eorna folks, wondering to what fate this ill gone mission will lead them.
xZot listens to the discussions about the Gang's next move. At least the sudden turn of events has given everyone something to talk about, but like so many things that have happened since departing Truanes' Star, the recent revelations only continue to demonstrate that we continue to be affected by the whims of fate.
"Nothing is ever easy." he reminds himself.
As xZot's training comes to an end he takes the opportunity to check his equipment and make any necessary repairs. Noting that he no longer had his Techkit with him he approached Gleep before he departs to see if he would leave his kit behind and store it in the Jetcopter.
"I won't be much use when we look at the Artefact otherwise" he reminds the Dral.
Seeing his Commander struggling with the size of his kit Raid offers to help
"xZot, I could carry the techkit and leave the envirokit in the jetcopter instead," Raid volunteers as he double-checks his equipment. "We could share the tools and work together on any jobs. That way I could benefit from your experience."
"Thanks for the offer Raid but I think the Techkit will encumber you as well. I wouldn't want to compromise your ability to use the holoscreen effectively. I think that OMAC is the only one with the spare capacity so I am hoping that he can assist when the time comes. As for a bit of Tech training as we go, I have no problems bringing you up to speed and we can work on your skills as we go along. This Artefact may require us to combine our knowledge to make some headway. Two heads are better than one and all that."
Frontier Date 63.006Pf +94
The next morning the recon team departs with xZot at the controls of their own jetcopter with Sni'ktl, OMAC and Raid on board and an Eorna piloting a second 'copter carrying Borovski, Siu-Ling and Sp'ock. Siu-Ling thanks the dralasite next to her.
"Hey, thanks for that grenade session yesterday, Boro. I'm almost ready to doze, frag and tanglify some Sathar now!" Boro responds to Siu-Ling's gratitude,
"Sure, no problems for that! Just don't limit yourself to blasting the Sathar. There is a whole wide nasty ecosphere of assholes out there who deserve nothing less." He does however seem a tad militant and tends to lack refinement in his role of trainer, yet considers himself imaginative.
"Ecosphere full of assholes, bloody oath its full. Assholes of all shapes and sizes, not to mention a disgusting rainbow of colours. There's even some assholes that even look like assholes, god knows if they even have an asshole!" Boro rambles on to himself as the jet-copter hums toward the artefact.
"Oh, definitely! This clip has a native Volturnian's name on it; that's for sure," she responds. "The meaner, the nastier, the more vicious, voracious, fiendish and courageous, the more SEUs they're gonna get," she boasts, a little too sure of herself after a successful battle with stationary crystals. Some targets they were! "Come on, Siu-Ling," her superego warns her as she smiles with the guilt of self assessment. "No need to pull the xeishâ by his tail."
"I mean, let's hope I can knock a few nasties before they get close enough to harm us," she corrects herself, hoping to get in a few minutes of sniping practice before the next scuffle.
She ponders on the variety of Dralasites that Borovski could be describing, and even her imagination takes her understanding short of their actual, volitional shapes. Being a human, and a rectothermal one at that [she's got a hot ass] her self conception is not as variable as that of Borovski or his con specifics, though she can appreciate his colourful descriptions of anus bearing, anus shaped creatures. For that matter, is the plural of anus, ani? So these guys would be anus-ani? During an absentminded moment, she thinks out loud, asking,
"Do Dralasites go number 2?" Realizing that her voice acted upon her curiosity, she covers her mouth, but then goes with the flow of the question, and continues, "How 'bout number 3?"
Occasionally, Siu-Ling absentmindedly pets her rifle as she had become accustomed to doing with Nounouche. The view from the copter's cabin is magnificent. Below is a spectacle of vegetation and multicoloured soils. An occasional animal herd scrambles along the grassy plain at the sound of the jet engines and propellers.
"What splendour!" she comments to herself, her nose flattened by the window Plexiglas.
Several hours later the team's vehicles reach the vicinity of the Sathar artifact. As you approach the artifact by air, you see that it is a 20 meter tall metallic pyramid standing in the midst of a dry, grassy plain. At the top of the pyramid is a bowl shaped device rotating at high speed. There are various protrusions on the device. As you prepare to land the jetcopter, you can see some herd animals grazing in the plain.
As the team land safely at a distance 1,000 metres from the artifact, they spot about 200 meters away a herd of 30 animals that look something like horses. On closer inspection Siu-Ling's heart skips a beat at the sight of a herd of Tomar's Horses! Oh, how she misses Nounouche! Woe is she when the jackal horse sleeps in far off meridians!
As Siu-Ling reminisces OMAC spots trouble further off in the distance. Another 200 meters beyond the herd of horses, you spot a huge dinosaur like creature nearly 10 meters long, 5 meters tall at the shoulders. It looks like a giant reptilian cat with a thick tail.
"OK! Now what boss!"
"That thing looks aggressive," Siu-Ling comments when spotting the reptilian cat. Remembering the quickdeaths back in the desert, she thumbs through a safety checklist in her mind and reaches for her rifle, slung around her back. At this range, she could snipe it without great difficulties.
"Commander, shall I have at it?" she asks xZot, lowering her stance until she is on one knee, pointing the rifle at the obvious carnivore. Pulling no trigger until given the order, she keeps the barrel of her rifle fixed on its target as best as possible.
Upon arrival and setting down at the artefact, Boro is aware of the reptilian cat and is happy to set his sonic disruptor to maximum and wait to see if it intends to feed on the horses or on us. That of course, and xZot's response to Siu-Ling's request to take it out.
"If we wait until it has eaten, it might go away. Then again, it could start a stampede that would endanger us and the 'copters. Maybe we should just lift off again and herd these animals away for the safety of all concerned." Raid offers his recommendation. The previous encounter with a quickdeath that nearly ended his life is still fresh in Raid's mind. "That beast could be larger than it appears." Raid adds. "Flat open ground without any scale references can play tricks on your mind."
"Leave the beastie be" suggests Sni'ktl. "The Tomar's Horse are a smart enough breed. If they're happy grazing while that thing ambles around, I'm happy to start checking over the pyramid. Just stay ready to scramble the 'copters if it takes an interest."
"I agree with Sni'ktl, the horses will react quickly if this dino-puss gets aggressive. We'll keep our distance and just leave it to its own devices." adds xZot. "Anyway, I'm sure the Eorna pilot will remain here with his 'copter and can let us know if anything changes that might require attention. Maybe, as Raid suggests, the Eorna pilot could herd the creature away with his 'copter, if needs be."
Sni'ktl consults with Raid and helps him analyse environmental conditions around the pyramid. He suggests that Raid look out for force fields or other concealed defences that would keep the pyramid safe from animals and intruders. He follows the scout treading the careful ways that Raid taught him, avoiding any wind streams that would carry Vrusk scent to the noses of the Tomar's horse or the Chillasaur. Sni'ktl hopes this name will not need expanding as other, less chilled, attributes of the beast are discovered. xZot turns his mind to the strange pyramid off in the distance
"I think we better get moving to have a look at this artefact, I didn't like the fact this it is obviously quite active." he refers to the spinning bowl at the apex of the pyramid. "I want everyone to get their scanners out and as we move in, look for anything out of the ordinary. Who knows what defences were left behind?" barks xZot as he motions the group toward the pyramid. xZot un-shoulders his rifle and checks its setting, then after activating his Albedo screen he adjusts his goggles and moves forward, tuning his keen sight on the ground ahead.
Raid glances at his chronocom to see if it is picking up any strong radio sources or static of any kind (possibly from the spinning dish on the pyramid). Then, still wary of the nearby wildlife, Raid readies a tangler grenade in his right hand.
"If they do stampede, we can take cover behind a tangler thread cluster. I don't see much else to hide behind out here."
"Heads up!" OMAC's voice booms out as he spots the Chillasaur on the move. Attracted by the movement of the team disembarking from the jetcopters, the beast begins to approach the Black Hand Gang. Skittish after the arrival of the Jetcopters, the herd of Tomar's Horse are easily panicked and then stampeded by the encroaching Chillasaur. OMAC reaches back into the Jetcopter for his Recoilless Rifle as Raid lobs his tangler grenade into the path of the panicked herd charging toward the team.
"Wait for it." Mr Sp'ock orders quietly as he draws his weapon and Siu-Ling takes aim at the nearest horse, praying that Raid's grenade gambit works. Borovski waddles into position in front of Sni'ktl and between Siu-Ling and OMAC as Raid's grenade explodes, not exactly where he had hoped but the result is his desired effect. Tangles explode several metres in all directions startling the lead horses and diverting their stampede away from the team. Behind the herd the catlike dinosaur continues charging toward the thin row of Frontiersmen, it's growl growing into a roar. For such a large creature it moves quite fast, closing the distance in seconds.
"Wait for it." Mr Sp'ock clicks again, then when the creature is at 200 meters range he commands "Recoilless Rifle! Fire!"
OMAC fires his last round of Recoilless ammunition and smiles smugly to himself as once again he scores a hit for his team. The shell explodes in the creatures tough hide (61 points) and it staggers then continues forward
"Laser Rifles, ready!" Mr Sp'ock's clicks carry clearly in the desert air "Aim," and when the creature reaches 100 metres "Fire!"
xZot, Siu-Ling, Borovski and Sp'ock fire a volley of carefully aimed laser beams at the Chillasaur. Borovski and Siu-Ling both strike home (62 and 29 points) and the oncoming monster staggers again as Sp'ock calls again "Fire at will!"
OMAC, having dumped his empty Recoilless in the Jetcopter, draws a laser pistol and fires two blasts at 20 meters, cursing profanely when he misses. Then the four riflemen blaze away as the Chillasaur closes with them. xZot, taken somewhat by surprise with the speed of such a large lizard, starts with a rush of blood and fires of two quick shots, missing both times. Sp'ock and Borovski take their time knowing they are almost out of ammunition, Sp'ock wounds the creature on the flank (54 points) but Borovski also misses. Realizing too late that she had left her rifle on it's default setting, Siu-Ling fires off two quick shots at her attacker, striking it square in the chest once (40 points) before her world explodes in a haze of pain. The Chillasaur bounds in close to Siu-Ling and lashes out with both claws, raking the markswoman across the side and abdomen. Her skiensuit absorbs part of the blow but still she yelps in pain as the beasts claws tear across her skin (17 points after the suit)
Unsure about the effectiveness of his laser weapons, Mr Sp'ock drops his rifle, drawing his machete as he steps to the flank of the Chillasaur he strikes at the creatures tough hide penetrating thick natural armour and drawing blood (18 points). Following the vrusk's example, Raid unsheathes his machete and leaps forward with a yell to slash at the beast's head and face, hoping to draw its attention away from Siu-Ling before it gets a good grip on the woman and drags her away.
"So much for harmony with nature," he thinks. Raid leaves his holoscreen off to minimize the danger of being hit by other team members. Raid's machete also cuts deep and penetrates the creatures skin (17 points).
Before she can put any distance between herself and the Chillasaur, Siu-Ling is targeted again by the claws still dripping with her blood but this time the attacker is distracted and weakened by it's injuries. Siu-Ling tumble rolls backward and comes to her feet firing her rifle, the first shot goes wide but the second strikes home (22 points) as Boro, swift in exchanging his laser weapon in favour for a dual psuedopod attack of machete and stunstick closes with the Chillasaur.
"I just spent valuable time training her you oversized fur ball, and I'd forgo my left testipod before I let anyone take out one of my protégé's. Step back Siu-Ling and before you know it they'll be serving up this sliced and diced feline on planet Aerok as a main course" Boro exclaims as his machete bites into the Chillasaurs' shoulder then his stunstick comes down on the monsters head. Suddenly there are several tonnes of unconscious beast lying on the ground before the recon team.
Taken by surprise with the speed at which the Chillasaur moves xZot stumbles back after his first volley fails to hit the target. Swearing profusely under his breath, xZot takes a more careful aim before realising the job was done. OMAC quickly slaughters the animal suggesting that the herd of Tomars Horse at least, may appreciate their efforts in removing one of their predators.
As the team takes stock of their situation the Eorna pilot of the second Jetcopter approaches with a message from "Brucebane". The extra supplies and personnel from the ex-pirate base are on their way. Replying to xZot's quizzical expression, Mr Sp'ock explains that he had communicated with the team members at "Brucebane" and after expressions of interest from several of the Frontiersmen still quartered there had acquiesced to allow Con, Crisbel and one of the liberated prisoners BudReepboopboopboop to join the recon team.
No sooner had Mr Sp'ock finished bringing xZot and the rest of the team up to date than the sound of a jetcopter engine could be heard in the distance. Minutes later a second Eorna jetcopter arrived at the team's temporary landing zone and the three passengers disembark. Sp'ock, Siu-Ling, Borovski and Raid all take the opportunity to swap their used Power Back packs for the fully charged replacements in the cargo hold of the second Jetcopter. OMAC reloads his Recoilless Rifle and then consults with Mr Sp'ock about security arrangements, the two security officers agree that OMAC and Crisbel should remain at the landing zone to protect the Eorna pilots and the jetcopters while the rest of the team press on.
Sni'ktl examines Siu-Lings' scratches and whilst they are serious he concludes that she is still fit for active service when OMAC strolls over to the pair.
"Bend over babe" the tall human smirks as he slaps the female sharpshooter on the butt, his biocort loaded hypospray in hand. Before she can object, OMAC finishes the slapstick display of first aid with a flourish of his plastiflesh can and a quick local anaesthetic. "Best if our sharp shooter is in tip top health, wouldn't you agree sir?" OMAC quips at the slightly startled Sni'ktl before he spins around on his heel and heads back to the jetcopters.
After a quick reorganization of the patrol's deployment, Raid flips on his Holoscreen and vanishes into thin air then heads off toward the alien artifact. As you near the artifact, you see that it is quite large; a 20 meter tall tapering pyramid with four sides, each 40 meters long. It is constructed from an unknown metal. There are no entrances or openings to be seen.
Commander xZot quickly orders a search of the surrounding area for anything out of the ordinary and minutes later Sni'ktl identifies a patch ten meters north of the artifact where the ground is soft and sinking. Some digging with machetes and other improvised entrenching tools causes the ground cover to collapse into a tunnel which goes straight down about 20 meters and then leads horizontally toward the artifact. The tunnel is circular, made of the same metal that covers the outside of the pyramid. The tunnel is 4 meters in diameter. The metal is covered with a harmless substance that is cold, slick, and slimy to the touch.
As the jetcopter touches ground, Con Anderson steps out. Sun goggles on and laser rifle in hand he makes his way to xZot. Once he is clear of the jetcopter, Con removes the sun goggles.
"Commander" the imposing trooper says as he nods his head in greeting. "Sorry to come all the way out here, but I wasn't going to let you guys have all the fun. Anyways, you know how much I hate garrison duty. Not the best time to party there these days." As this conversation goes on Con loads clips into each laser pistol and his laser rifle. "I have Crisbel and some civilian called Budree something or other with me. He insisted on coming with us. What's the current situation?" Crisbel smiles when introduced but says nothing. When Con finishes up his thing the Yazirian speaks up.
"No offence here sir but if you think I'm waiting on the 'copter while you guys have all the fun you are grossly wrong. Sir." Crisbel shoots a sideways glance to the doctor and grins. He didn't get the bedside humour the doc had used earlier and would make damn sure he didn't have to experience the doctor's 'care' in the future.
"All I have is ten meters of rope in my pack and that shaft looks twenty meters deep." Raid speaks as he ties his flashlight onto the side of his headband. "Can anyone help me get down there without breaking any bones in the process? We need a way to get back up again as well, and something to anchor our ropes to."
OMAC comes to Raid's assistance, joining his length of rope to Raid's and serving as an anchor whiles Mr Sp'ock helps to lower the team scout into the tunnel entrance. When Raid has safely reached the bottom OMAC turns back to his Security Chief
"If Crisbel is goin' to be joining the team in the tunnels then I must insist on securing the jetcopters as our only source of evac!"
"I'm inclined to agree with you" answers the vrusk officer "Commander xZot, I'm leaving OMAC here with the choppers. We still don't know these Eorna that well and I think we all agree that we've been left without a reliable escape plan at least once too often." Mr Sp'ock's attempt at a human like grin goes unnoticed by all but Sni'ktl. Reluctantly xZot agrees
"OK, Raid, you've got point, Borovski, you and Siu-Ling up front, Con and Crisbel cover the rear."
As the rest of the team is climbing down to join him, Raid does some quick geoscans and bioscans on the metal and slime, then a vaporscan on the air in the shaft. He also notes the direction and force of any apparent airflow in the tunnel.
"This tunnel looks slippery. If we still have a length of rope, I'd like to tie one end to my belt and the other end to the belt of the man behind me. That way I can scout ahead about ten meters as we advance. It probably wouldn't hurt if a few of us were tied together. There could be hidden shafts leading straight down for all we know. One slip could be disastrous."
"You will need to analyse the tunnel before we go too far. Any sign of water to cause the 'slimy walls' for instance?" xZot answers via his chronocom. Sp'ock and Siu-Ling comfortably descend the rope behind Raid showing off their climbing prowess and establishing a bridgehead at the beginning of the tunnel as the rest of the team members join them in the darkness. The yazirians remove their goggles and wait several minutes for their hyper sensitive eyes to adjust to the low light. Upon activating his holoscreen Raid turns off his flashlight so as not to reveal his position. He relies on the flashlights carried by those behind him as he scouts ahead.
"Does this unknown metal block chronocom signals?" xZot wonders out loud, then flicks his on to report to OMAC
"You are five by five Commander" the trooper responds immediately to xZot's inquiry
"It looks like this substance may be a lubricant or perhaps an anti decay agent." Raid reports after examining the results of his scans on the tunnel walls
"Alright, let's move out people" xZot orders calmly as the Black Hand Gang head once more into the dark unknown. Carefully advancing in the darkness, occasionally stumbling on an unseen rivet, Raid presses forward. The tunnel does a complete loop around the base of the artifact, gradually closing in until it completes a circuit of the artifact and ends in a door. Exercising caution once again, xZot orders a thorough search around the doorway for any sign of security devices.
"Well, well, well" Raid mutters to himself, then "Hey boss, look at this!" he says to xZot, showing the young yazirian the hidden door in the right side of the tunnel just before the doorway. "Doesn't look like any alarms either?" he continues.
"OK, you know the drill" xZot answers. Raid just smiles and disappears from view as he activates his Holoscreen yet again. The rest of the gang enjoy a light moment at the sight of Raid's rope seeming to fade into thin air at about waist height. Raid heads down a short corridor for about ten meters and reaches another door similar to the one at the end of the main corridor. After another search for security devices he decides to try the door handle. Peering through the thin crack he spies another series of tunnels beyond, deciding not to push his luck, the human scout returns to the rest of the patrol and reports his findings.
"Alright, it looks like we haven't set of any alarms yet, let's crack this other door and see what our options are." Raid returns to the front of the team and again cracks the door open a short way to steal a glimpse of the tunnels beyond then closes the door and sketches a quick map of all the tunnels so far on Sp'ock's datapad.
Raid flicks off the holoscreen when he is not scouting and checks the SEU reading on his power beltpack. Satisfied that he still has plenty of power he asks
"Which way now xZot?" While the team decides its next move, Raid comes up with a simple system of silent signals based on tugs of the rope that is tied to his belt.
"Yes is a dot. No is a dash. Danger is the classic SOS. Wait is three dots. All clear is three dashes. Got it?" Raid smiles and hefts his machete in his right hand. "Give me a series of rapid tugs if you want me to come back or two quick tugs to ask if I'm OK. Oh, and if the rope goes either completely taught or slack, that means I'm in trouble!"
Borovski nods quizzically as he suddenly realises that Raid is talking to him then takes the offered rope.
"Well, let's see what happens when we give him plenty of rope!" The dralasite chuckles to himself. xZot casts his eyes over the rough sketches that Raid had made from his reconnaissance as he ponders the groups next moves.
"I have a better idea," Crisbel interjects with a grin on his face. "If you get in trouble just scream, it works well for me."
"I think we should use the hidden doorway." he motions to the hidden passageway in the western wall "No reason to use the front door if we don't need to. Once we get inside we'll move in a westerly and southerly direction searching the complex room by room."
Mr Sp'ock merely imitates a humanoid nod, then Siu-Ling immediately volunteers to go in front, checking the area for movement. As everyone is forming up to move through the passage xZot turns to Siu-Ling
"I think you are right," he refers to her offer "Maybe you should move up a bit. Raid could use some support, and your keen eyesight and marksman skills could be better utilized in a more active position." xZot wonders privately if Siu-Ling doesn't feel some need to prove to herself, and the rest of the gang, that her recent wounds have had no impact on her reliability to the group.
The boss is not far from wrong. As Siu-Ling makes her way to Raid, she struggles to ignore the itching sensation of her healing wounds, having only an idea of the potential dangers that could lurk herein. Nevertheless, fear is not a component of her personality, she repeatedly tells herself. Besides, it's a good day to join the One.
Con positions himself near the entrance of the tunnel, with his back to the entrance. Getting down to one knee, the soldier has his laser rifle at the ready as he makes sure his team mate's backs are covered as they make their descent in to the unknown.
"Keep a sharp eye out, I'm sure the Sathar would have left us a surprise or two." Siu-Ling sets both pistols to the 8-SEU mark and keeps them holstered, holding her rifle at the ready and keeping her back to the walls. Sni'ktl shares a wry grin with Crisbell as Con and the others, well mainly Con, clear the entryway.
"Later" he whispers, tapping the pouch where his mushroom "samples" are stored. Con seems to have used his R&R well and has clearly become much more of his own man now that he is over the loss of Mr Mawson. Con was closest to the ex 2 IC and Sni'ktl senses a new sense of determination about the big fella. Falling into line beside Crisbel, Sni'ktl is regrets the lack of environmentalist colleagues to share his discoveries with, especially one that is not hidden behind a veil of holo-light when it is needed.
"So what sub-genus would you place our Chillasaur under?" he asks himself "Horribillis, Dracis, Fangis. I'm afraid it didn't live up at all well to my original naming. Its a shame these DNR notepads don't let you re-register a new name, no doubt to stop arguments about who named what first eh?" He continues on to himself quietly clicking and clacking.
When the last member of the team makes it down, Con makes his way down to rejoin the Gang. Once down, Con makes an adjustment to his laser rifle and then holds it at the ready. Watching Con fumbling in the dark with his weapon, Mr Sp'ock produces a strip of Ion bonding tape from his Robcom Kit and hands it to the imposing warrior. Smiling his thanks Con quickly tapes his flashlight to the bottom of his blaster rifle barrel and when the team moves forward, Con stays toward the back. As the patrol presses forth, Con ensures nothing can come up on their backs, as well as make sure there are no bad guys above or to the sides of the party.
Raid makes his way back through the hidden tunnel in the west wall of the main entrance tunnel and passes once more through the door at the and of the passage way, the rest of the team following as quietly as possible. As per xZot's orders Raid follows the right wall around to the right a short way, groping in the dark he finds the tunnel turns to the south. Suddenly the tunnels aren't dark anymore as flames shoot from the floor directly in front of the scout. Raid screams in pain (19 points), throwing his hands up to shield his eyes as he is briefly blinded by the light from what appeared to be a flame thrower. Lunging to the side of the tunnel Raid strikes back with his machete at what appears to be a giant slug, sporting a flame-thrower! His machete finds it's mark (21 points) when a second spear of flame shoots out at him, this time from the roof and behind him. Unable to see the coming attack, let alone avoid it, Raid screams again with pain as the flames lick around his head (16 points).
Behind the door to the tunnel complex Boro and Siu-Ling are first alerted by the surge of light around the door frame quickly followed by Raid's first scream.
"Well that didn't take long!" mutters Borovski as he waddles through the doorway behind Siu-Ling who is already rushing to Raid's aid.
"See," Crisbel shouts out loud to nobody in particular. "I told you screaming worked!"
As Siu-Ling rounds the first corner she sees the second blast of fire from the roof. She also makes out the profile of Raid's second slug like attacker, clinging to the roof of the tunnel. Her rifle automatically comes up to her shoulder and almost without thinking she fires off two quick blasts but her eyesight, still blurred and hazy from looking directly at the flames, causes her to miss both times. Borovski arrives almost at Siu-Ling's feet and also fires a blast from his sonic disruptor with the same lack of success as his female partner. Mr Sp'ock pushes past both riflemen as Raid screams for the second time, xZot not far behind him joins Boro and Siu-Ling in the small central chamber.
Disoriented by the flames and the pain of his wounds, Raid flails away again with his machete, biting deep into the slug flesh (25 points). The ground level slug spits it's fiery attack at Raid but this time he is able to avoid both ground and aerial assaults as jets of fire shoot harmlessly down the passage in opposite directions. Mr Sp'ock comes to a stop directly beneath the slug on the roof and fires one blast into the creatures back and another into the roof beside it. Curiously, the blast that found it's mark seemed to have a noticeably reduced effect (24 points on 10 SEU's).
"Did you see that?" Borovski quips out of the side of his mouth as both he and Siu-Ling fire a second volley at the slug above Mr Sp'ock. Siu-Ling smiles when her first shot strikes the target but pouts when she also notices the reduced effect (13 points), the pout turns to a definite frown when her next shot misses. Borovski's disruptor seems to work OK however and he smiles when his beam strikes home (30 points) obviously agitating his opponent.
Nearby, xZot is trying to take in the rapidly unfolding events when another blast of fire shoots from another tunnel, this time behind Siu-Ling and Borovski. Amazingly the flame jet bisects the two, harming neither of them. xZot returns fire in the direction of the new attack as he waves forward the remainder of the patrol. Almost startling himself, xZot realises that both shots counted (11 and 9 points) although the result seemed negligible.
Sni'ktl stops inside the doorway at the sight of the crossfire ahead of him and abandons his efforts to stay alert for any environmental changes inside the Sathar complex. Instead he tries to make himself as flat as possible against the wall as Crisbel and Con surge forward to the front line. With Mr Sp'ock engaged to the right and xZot covering the left as Boro and Siu-Ling redeploy, Crisbel and Con make their way to the obvious gap to the south, in the centre of the patrol's front. A fourth slug makes it's presence known when it fires a blast at the newcomers both troopers avoid the flames and immediately lay down suppressing fire. Con hits once (15 points) and Crisbel misses as both warriors seek cover from the flames.
Mr Sp'ock appears to be reacting on instinct or maybe it's just his warrior training as he flicks his power setting on his rifle to maximum then takes a carefully aimed shot, blasting the slug on the roof (56 points). The slug almost explodes as the fluids in it's body are instantly boiled in the extreme heat of the laser beam. Writhing around in a cloud of foul smelling smoke the slug then drops dead to the floor.
Borovski reacts with uncharacteristically lightning fast reflexes, turning and firing in support of Commander xZot. His new target is equally vulnerable to the disruptor (37 points) and tries to avoid attacking in Boro's direction
xZot can't believe his luck, swearing profusely he shakes his head in disbelief. One of the few times his shot's hit their mark and the creatures appear to to be somewhat immune to the effects of laser weapons! Urging a Battle Rage within himself, xZot shoulders his rifle and grabs his stunstick as he runs toward the Cyboslug. Hoping that the creatures flame-thrower implant will be less effect at close quarters, xZot attempts to manoeuvre himself into a position where the implants movements are restricted by slugs own body. Striking out with his stunstick he assesses the damage. Despite his hormonal problems, that Battle Rage just isn't working for the young yazirian officer yet, the stunstick seems quite effective (19 points) and the slug now looks decidedly unhealthy.
Crisbel growls in anger as his shots miss wide. Checking his fire, he lines up on targets of opportunity and continues to lay down fire on the slugs.
"If only we had some salt!" Crisbel chides, his human parentage coming forward with his sense of humour. He squeezes the trigger and the fourth slug shudders from the sonic attack waves (27 points).
Hearing Crisbel's salt joke, Con chuckles out loud.
"Good one, Old Boy. In some systems they are quite a delicacy. Without salt they slide right down your throat." As Con converses he drops to one knee and lay down supressing fire, grazing the slug again (15 points) Con thinks to himself
"Hmm, salt. I wonder if I have any?"
"Damnation!" Siu-Ling curses to herself, having missed the slug like beast on the ceiling more often than she cares to admit to herself. With a steady finger, she continues firing on the aggressors, only able to maim the creatures with the same intensity that would shred a normal animal to pieces.
"These things are almost immune to lasers," she calls out to her mates. "Try ballistic damage, but keep your aim away from Raid!" Inspired by Mr Sp'ock's example Siu-Ling persists, waiting until xZot has cleared her line of sight, the markswoman squeezes off a shot dropping the second alien slug (12 points)
Raid fights back mentally and grits his teeth against the searing pain of the burns that he hopes are not severe.
"These things likely don't move very fast," he figures. Raid then attempts to outmanoeuvre the overgrown slug nearest to him by getting behind its field of fire. He continues to hack at the creature, landing his machete blow at the point where the flame unit connects with the slug's body (15 points). Unable to hack off the flame unit, he attempts to kill the creature outright.
The two surviving slugs spit fire again, Raid successfully avoids the flame tongues this time and Crisbel manages to dive clear of the second blast but Con is not so lucky, getting singed slightly (11 points) along one arm.
As the too familiar whiff of charred human drifts along the passageway past his aureoles, Sni'ktl ponders the exclamations and descriptions that have exploded from his chronocom. He ponders that cyber-snails should survive for so long. Did the Sathar find a way to extend the snails' life span? Did they find a way for cybernetic implants to be passed on by reproduction? Or did they leave behind a cybernetic maintenance team or machine? Sni'ktl awaits the end of the combat so that he can perform a moluscular autopsy and seek clues to this conundrum.
"Hey guys, try to stay off the grill. I'm no plastic surgeon." calls out Sni'ktl. While he has plenty of Plasti-flesh to make people look OK after the fight he is worried that his remaining three doses of biocort will not go far to healing any real damage.
Borovski and Siu-Ling dash past the neutralized slug and quickly flank Con and Crisbel's aggressor. The incongruous pair unleash a lethal volley at slug number three, Borovski this time missing.
Another shot wasted. 8 standard energy units' worth of laser shoot forth from the barrel of Siu-Ling's rifle, hitting the ceiling of the tunnel.
"How much more of this can these slimy things take?" she asks in rhetoric. The dralasite-like, flame throwing beasts begin to bleed as Siu-Ling makes a mental note of her energy expenditure. Her powerpack has enough SEUs for this battle, but if she wants to be energy efficient, she'll have to take better aim should more of these things be lurking about. But then Siu-Ling strikes home. Another shot takes the beast out of the action (28 points).
Raid lands another blow with his machete and the last slug drops lifeless to the floor, the smell of fuel still strong in the dank air.
xZot, Sp'ock, Crisbel and Con sweep their quarters confirming the elimination of all hostiles as Sni'ktl enters the small entrance chamber of the ambush site. xZot wishes out loud that he had a couple of grenades at his disposal
"I'm sure these creature wouldn't be immune to a grenade enema." Chuckling to himself at the thought of this he continues "I'm not even sure that I would know where to put the grenade even if I had one!" Slug anatomy is not one of xZot's strong points.
Sni'ktl takes xZot's cue and sets about a quick autopsy of a snail hoping to establish whether they are very old, if the implants are genetically grafted (passed on through reproduction) or whether the implants are relatively recent.
As the Science Officers set about their work, Chief Security Officer Man'Tiss Sp'ock orders a sweep of the other tunnels to the south and east.
Borovski and Siu-Ling quickly report that a tunnel heads west from the ambush point as Con and Crisbel move to investigate the southern approaches. Mr Sp'ock covers the central portal with xZot while poor Raid Array is left wondering if he should assist Sni'ktl with the autopsy, enquire as to some First Aid attention or return to scouting duties when the action starts all over again.
Almost immediately on moving through the south west opening there is a flash of light as yet another slug launches a fiery attack on Con and Crisbel from just around the corner. Both warriors avoid the attack and return fire but Crisbel misses and Con only inflicts a minor wound (18 points) however they give Sp'ock and xZot the time and opportunity to duck through their opening and fire on the beast from behind. With his rifle still set on maximum, Mr Sp'ock blazes away at point blank range. The first blast goes wild, tearing a chunk from the rock wall but the second beam almost burns the tail right off the slug like monster (43 points). Still flushed with his previous stun stick attack, Commander xZot closes with wriggling beast but this swings wide.
Just when it appears that the last slug is about to be eliminated the cyberslugs of Volturnus close their second ambush on the intrepid adventurers. One slug appears from the south east nook firing at Sp'ock, although to avail and from a cranny in the south west another blast of flame swirls around Con (14 points).
Grunting with pain the tall human, realising his rifle clip is empty, draws a pistol and fires two beams into the newest attacker (17 and 13 points) while Crisbel finishes off his first target with a well aimed sonic blast to the head (30 points). xZot and Sp'ock, both free to face the last attacker turn to finish it off. Sp'ock empties his power backpack with a blast that almost burns right through the slug (57 points) then xZot closes to strike with his stunstick (15 points).
Alerted by the action Borovski and Siu-Ling rush to Sp'ock and xZot's aid but the Black Hand Gang look to have adapted quite well to fighting the flame throwing cyberslugs as all the combatants manage to avoid the next wave of flaming attacks.
xZot swings again with his stunstick and is rewarded with the sharp crack of a slug skull splitting open (19 points) while Crisbel takes great pleasure in pumping another sonic blast into Con's attacker (37 points). Con fires the last shot of the battle (17 points) felling the last of the cyberslugs and everyone gasps for air as Sni'ktl, distracted from his autopsy by the resumed fighting, arrives to assess everyone's medical status.
Looking past the bodies of the slugs, Sp'ock makes out a corridor heading south. Turning back to his commander the vrusk Security Chief reports
"It would appear we have two options sir. This passage to the south or the other one to the east" he clicks, indicating the direction Boro and Siu-Ling had been scouting. "It also looks as though I'm running low on ammunition already" he continues after checking the power reading on his backpack "How are the rest of you for ammo?"
As Mr Sp'ock checks the teams firepower capability, xZot awaits Sni'ktl's medical report and mulls over his options.
"How absolutely groovy!" remarks Siu-Ling checking her ammo status and looking around for more cyberslugs. "They have skulls! A mollusk-like animal with an internal skeleton; betcha don't see one of those every day, eh, Sni'ktl?" she inquires of the environmentalist.
"That's right Siu-Ling, I would say that molluscs with skulls are almost as rare as slugs toting flame throwers. I'm just worried about where the maintenance crew for all this hardware are lurking"
"Damn. I'll never eat another slug again!" Says the warrior as he reloads his weapons. Con makes his way over to a medical officer to get checked out.
xZot glances around at the others as Sp'ock checks everyone's power levels.
"There are still a few power beltpacks and backpacks on the rest of us that could be used if anyone is very low. It doesn't look like power will be a problem just yet if we swap a few things around as needs be." he notes.
Raid walks over to Sni'ktl and seeks the vrusk's medical advice.
"Those flamers got me pretty good; although, luckily, my coveralls seem to have taken the worst of it. I've got multiple blisters on my arms, legs and back though."
Con waits to see if he needs treatment. Sni'ktl is aware of Con lingering and scratching his burns as Raid approaches for medical aid. A glance around the party confirms minor wounds to others while Con or Raid could easily soak the rest of the teams biocort supplies.
"OK you two this'll take the edge off those burns but I think you will still be in some discomfort until we find more medical supplies" says Sni'ktl as he administers first aid to Con and Raid (10 points back to each). Then he says louder to the whole group
"Right folks, I'm down to my last biocort, I can offer stimdose to anyone who needs perking up. I recommend you wear a gas mask if you have some 'cos I won't be able to revive you if you get dozed later. And for the last time, please lets avoid getting burnt, gassed, pummelled, shocked, eaten, slashed or otherwise damaged."
After getting medical attention, Raid opens up his envirokit and straps the bioscanner to a slug. He intends to cross-reference any data he finds with Sni'ktl to achieve a more complete physiological picture of the creatures. Once given the green light, Con makes his way to the others who plan on moving down the next passage.
Sni'ktl returns to dissecting a slug until he notices Con preparing to leave the recent battlefield. He scurries ahead of the big human along the passage catching up with the group and heading into the bowels of this pyramid of death.
After studying the rough map that Raid had drawn on the datapad xZot looks up and casts his eyes over the passage ways leading off to the east and south.
"I think we should continue in the same direction and move down the south passage." xZot motion in toward the long passageway in front of him "Once everyone is in position, lets get that door open. Raid, your taking a bit of a beating up the front, maybe you should try to stay out of any more trouble if you can." Giving him a quick wink "You know how difficult it can be finding you with that screen on if you are unconscious."
Raid ignores his commander's jibe, flicks on the holoscreen once again and fades from sight. Moving down the corridor the techno-burgler draws an electrodriver 'borrowed' from Mr Sp'ock's robcomkit and disables the low tech locking mechanism on the door.
As he looks into this chamber, Raid sees three horrid looking Eorna who gaze back towards him and the open doorway blankly for a moment. Raid immediately notices that there are strange assemblies of wires protruding from their heads, and that their flesh has a strange discoloured appearance. All three are armed with sonic disruptors and look ready to attack on sight. Thankful he doesn't yet appear to have been detected, Raid moves away from the doorway to give the next rank a clear field of fire or room to enter the chamber.
Con readies himself for action. His laser rifle not posed in a threatening position in the possibility of getting through the encounter without firing a round. The soldier makes eye contact with a quick glance, waiting for further instructions. Raid, on the other hand, doesn't see much hope in negotiating with these Eorna cyborgs.
"They are probably not even sentient after what the sathar must have done to them." Raid thinks to himself, "...a living death." He shudders at the thought and stealthily moves around the left flank to stay out of his team-mates field of fire.
xZot considers briefly the thought of finding Eorna in the room and then quickly dismisses any thought that they may be friendly. Motioning to the others to proceed, the young commander grabs his stunstick and prepares for the opportunity to charge into the room.
"We've broken into a secured sathar artefact, I don't expect to meet anything friendly here" xZot murmurs and almost as if they had been reading his mind, the zombie like eorna open fire. Two of the sonic pulses are poorly targeted however the third blast takes Borovski painfully in the upper body (29 points).
The dralasite trooper grunts in pain as he levels his own sonic disruptor squarely at his attacker but before he can pull the trigger Mr Sp'ock is already at his side and firing his laser pistol, albeit wildly inaccurately. Crisbel moves quickly, taking up position behind Siu-Ling. With stunner in his left hand he levels his laser pistol at the beasties with his right.
"I'm getting tired of these nasties," he growls with anger, shooting the nearest eorna guard twice (52 points).
Dropping down on one knee as she often does when shots are fired, Siu-Ling d'Avignon resolves to sever the bodies of the rabid Eorna who appear to have undergone the same treatment as the slugs behind them. Unleashing an impressive display of laser fire Siu-Ling strikes her target two beams out of three (42 points), emptying the clip from one of her pistols in the process. The very angry dralasite standing next to Siu-Ling blazes away at the eorna targeted by Crisbel and the invisible sonic beam almost cuts the creature in half (36 points) as it collapses to the floor.
As he scurries to catch up with his comrades, Sni'ktl is distracted by the implications of the moluscopsy. His mind tangled in neural nets Sni'ktl mentally works on the hooks that must link the slugs to a control system.
"That's it..." he exclaims as he ploughs into the back of xZot. He returns to reality with a bump as Con barges over the Vrusk's prone form. "Ah such eagerness to greet battle" he thinks, backing up the passageway and slinking into the shadows that recently concealed a sluggish ambush. "Guess I'd better watch our butts for unwelcome guests" mutters Sni'ktl. He suddenly misses GleepGlooup. The plucky Dralasite's humour would be just the tonic for the eerie strangeness of this place.
Raid then pulls out his stunstick, set on stun, and waits for the first shot to be fired before reaching out with the electrified tube and touching the closest cyborg. Cloaked with the holoscreen, Raid attacks silently to avoid drawing attention if he misses. His first blow hits but appears to have no effect on the beast.
Frustrated at being able to acquire a target from his position behind the firing rank, Con glances occasionally over his shoulder keeping an eye on Sni'ktl who is moving back north keeping a lookout, to the east in particular, for any activity in the as yet unexplored passageways.
A voice in the back of xZot's head says
"Aren't sonic disruptors a weapon with range based damage? Charging closer may not be a good tactic, especially after the beating the team took from the flaming escargot." As he reconsiders his charging idea Siu-Ling, Crisbel and now Con, who has shouldered his way into the firing line, unleash a second volley of fire at the remaining two eorna slavebots. Siu-Ling empties her second pistol (59 points) into the uninjured eorna, Crisbel empties his pistol without success and Con misses his rifle shots. Raid jabs again with his stunstick, still apparently unobserved, but he misses the mark this time.
The two slavebots fire and this time Mr Sp'ock takes a hit (37 points) before he also fires and misses, emptying his weapon. Borovski fires his disruptor again, this time at Siu-Ling's target, and once again drops a wounded slavebot (38 points). He too now realizes he has an empty weapon.
With only one attacker left and most of his shooters temporarily out of ammo, Commander xZot throws caution to the wind and charges, flailing unsuccessfully at the creature with his stunstick.
Before he even realizes what is happening, Crisbel finds himself at xZot's side, striking savagely with his stunstick (12 points). Borovski slams a new clip into his disruptor alerting the rest of the team to the door on the far side of the room he has just noticed. Coming through the door are more eorna slavebots. Sp'ock clicks his acknowledgement to Boro but before he can draw his second pistol, the wounded slavebot inside the room fires it's disruptor at xZot, but in the close quarters no-one is injured. Sp'ock returns fire and despite his serious wounds, manages to bisect his yazirian team mates and drills the slavebot twice (49 points). Raid lunges a third time with the stunstick and this time hits the wounded slavebot in the back, dropping it to the floor with a quick zap.
From his position, watching the rear of the team, Sni'ktl also spots more slavebots approaching. Staying out of their line of sight until they approach within four meters of the bend, Sni'ktl rolls a tangler grenade around the corner to block the passageway. The science officer's gambit pays off and two of the slavebots are enmeshed in the sticky web, the third trapped on the far side of the mess unable to close on the teams rear.
As all hell breaks loose Con settles into a firing position laying down covering fire on the three new arrivals (1 hit for 22 points) as Siu-Ling unslings her own rifle in favour of her empty pistols.
"Fall back!" xZot orders Crisbel when he spots the new threat. Flourishing his stunstick, Commander xZot turns for the protection of his fire team, when Crisbel is struck by a sonic blast (20 points) in a volley fired by the three extra slavebots. Crisbel staggers but still manages to unsling his own disruptor and join the Black Hand Gang firing squad when Mr Sp'ock scritches the command
"Fire!" And while Con is reloading his rifle, Siu-Ling drops one newcomer with two well aimed laser beams (100 points!), Crisbel blasts a second (25 points), Sp'ock hits the same one (36 points) and the xZot has the pleasure of dropping him with his laser pistol (28 points). Borovski blast the slavebot injured by Con (25 points) and a blow from Raid's stunstick shorts out the circuits in the last eorna zombie guard.
Seconds later Sni'ktl arrives back in the room chittering excitedly about the two entangled slavebots in the eastern passageway with another trapped behind.
"Are they secure?" Mr Sp'ock gasps with pain, "You better double check," the vrusk X-O orders Con "and you better go with him Boro." Sni'ktl waits for Mr Sp'ock to finish giving orders before removing his medkit from his pack and examining the extent of his fellow Vrusk's injuries.
Siu-Ling covers both doorways as the still holoscreened Raid picks his way through the bodies to check behind each of the doors. Following xZot's initial instinct to go south Raid opens the southern door first. As the door to this chamber opens, he is hit with a blast of cold air. Inside he can see piles of Eorna bodies and large stacks of frozen raw meat.
"Eeeew" Raid turns up his nose as he moves to the other door allowing the rest of the team to evaluate the freezer. Through the east door lies a very short passage and another door which the scout opens to find another oval shaped room with two more doors, one east and the other south. This room is also unoccupied and once again Raid decides to check the southern door first.
As he peers into this dimly lit chamber Raid can see a huge flask in the centre of the room. The flask is full of fluid, and has numerous tubes leading into it. These tubes connect to other flasks in various locations about the room. There are also wires leading into the large central flask. The wires connect to a complex looking device on a shelf at the back of the room. Floating in the centre of the large flask is the brain of some creature.
Raid exits the room and heads back to report to Commander xZot his findings. As soon as he completes his report, Raid pulls the spear that he has been lugging around for who knows how long, from the straps that secure it to his backpack. He finishes off the stunned eorna cyborgs with a few quick thrusts of the primitive implement. Uncertain if the eorna can still feel anything, Raid feels very uncomfortable as he performs this task.
After wandering into the freezer storage unit xZot quickly returns to see Raid dealing with the stunned and tangled slavebots. He feels almost no emotion as he watches. The sight of death, on or off a battlefield, is nothing new to the young Yazirian.
"These poor souls are already dead" he murmurs. "Oh yeah and stay out of the freezer people, the temperature is sub zero and I don't want anyone else subjected to unnecessary injury."
"Socked it to 'em!" the wide-eyed Siu-Ling assesses the Black Hand Gang's speedy and thorough sweeping of the post-eorna cyborgs as she pops the used clip from her pistol and begins looking for fresh clips. xZot glances over the cybernetic enhancements on the now dead Eorna with some interest
"I'd doubt that very much could be salvaged from this one, you really did a number on him Siu-Ling, there isn't much left."
"How're we doing on ammo?" Siu-Ling asks Raid, Con, and the others. "Wouldn't want to run out of juice before we see the Volturnian sky again."
"I doubt it kid, I have only 5 clips left. I'll probably be beatin' the Sathar upside their heads when we leave this pit. How 'bout you?"
"I've got a power beltpack," she responds, patting the beltpack. "It should get us through this skirmish, but if we don't find some well equipped Star Devil folks soon, we may be out of juice, and back to spears and knives."
"Are those sonic disruptors removable?" Raid wonders looking at the weapons on the fallen cyborgs. "There must be a powerclip or battery hidden somewhere as well. I'll check." Raid makes a small pile of weapons and power clips that he salvages, and informs the rest of the team.
"Well, we've got 6 Sonic Disruptors here and a dozen clips. Looks like half the clips are fresh and the rest have varying levels of charge left." Siu-Ling collects two and loads them into each of her pistols and double checks her beltpack's power reading, ensuring that the laser rifle attached to it is switched back to its 5 SEU setting. Con scoops up half of the used clips and Borovski takes the other three while Mr Sp'ock takes two full clips and hands the last to Crisbel. Crisbel palms the clip offered by Mr Sp'ock and growls in disapproval.
"I hate running out of ammo. If I have to beat someone silly with my powerless stunstick it will make me very unhappy!"
"Could we spare a 'ruptor for the kid here?" Siu-Ling refers to herself in the third person, requesting a disruptor for her own use. After checking the levels in his clips and power packs xZot passes on the option for more ammo. Looking over the equipment already plastered over his scrawny body xZot also decides against any further weapons at this stage.
"I wouldn't mind a disruptor but there is no way I could wield one of those things with everything else I'm carrying." he points out as Sni'ktl picks up the 4 remaining SEU clips. Crisbel considers adding another disruptor to his own kit but is struggling under the weight already.
Raid runs a bio scan on one of the dead eorna to determine time and cause of death. The scans confirm xZot's assessment, the eorna were indeed dead, being controlled somehow by the alien cybernetic implants. Curious, Siu-Ling peers over her commander's shoulder, intrigued by a technology still too alien for her understanding. Holding back an innate nausea at the sight of the long-dead organic donor kept freshly preserved by a multitude of wiry governors and rudimentary nanotechnology, the demolitionist suspects.
Con nods in acknowledgement of the order given by the X-O then slides another clip in his laser rifle and heads off with Boro to dispose of the entangled cyborgs with Raid in tow. Looking at the tangled mess of Eorna, cyborg implants and Raid's Spear Sni'ktl comments,
"It would be good if we can keep as many of them alive, well operational, as possible. Then again, you sometimes have to crack an egg to save the hive. Whichever, this could be more useful than the pointy stick." Sni'ktl hands a can of solvaway to Raid.
At that very moment, the last remaining eorna slavebot, having retraced it's path, now enters the chamber where Siu-Ling, Crisbel, xZot and Sp'ock are resting. All four are caught by surprise but the slavebot's rushed shot misses them all. Crisbel looks up casually, not even surprised to see yet another beasty shooting madly at him.
"That's it, your meat!"
xZot returns fire instinctively, draining his already used pistol clip but managing to wing the new attacker (12 points). Before Crisbel or Sp'ock's weapons clear their holsters Siu-Ling has both pistols up and firing, showing once again why the topped her class in firearms training. Three laser beams strike the slavebot (84 points) and the last cyborg guard drops lifeless to the ground.
Siu-Ling smiles briefly to herself then strides across the room to gather up the fallen ammunition and drops another Sonic Disruptor on the growing pile in the middle of the floor. Several minutes later, Con and the rest of the rear guard rejoin their companions having liberated another 4 SEU clips and 2 more sonic disruptors bringing the total to nine. Crisbel walks up next to Siu-Ling, who by now is all smiles.
"Don't you ever kill all the bad guys again. At least give me a chance to miss first."
"Never mind about that 'ruptor, guys," the human says. "I'm good to go now." As the group hangs around and divies up the booty, Con stows away the clips that have been alloted him.
"Nine sonic didruptors thingies, eh. I'll take one if nobody objects."
Sni'ktl rechecks Raids' scans of the eorna once more hoping to work out if the Eorna component of the Slavebots can be rescued but to no avail. A quick scan with his equipment also confirms xZot's suspicions about the freezer, the sub zero temperature is too dangerous to consider closer inspection for any length of time.
"All right, let's move out!" Commanders xZot orders and Raid leads the team back to the room containing the disembodied brain
"I have a bad feeling about this. Anything that the sathar would want to keep alive for this long can't be friendly." mutters Raid.
"You always say that Raid," Crisbel says flatly. "You always say, I got a bad feeling about this."
"So what do we have here, Boss?" Siu-Ling asks xZot, sighing a thankful ditty in the Ul-Mor language. "Maybe this brain belonged to one of the Eorna back there. Or better yet, one of those skulled slugs." She catches Sni'ktl's tilted head as he dismisses her wild guess, and smiles for a moment, smelling the scent of danger all around them. "Should we blow anything to bits then?"
"We need to pool our skills to crack this one" says Sni'ktl. "I'll bet a Dral back scratcher to twenty Vrusk shoe sets that the brain somehow controls the cyborgs. I've come someway on analysing the medical and neural components and Raid has some great ideas about the signals involved but we need you Robotech's to help us out with rest."
"I think I've seen this holo-vid." remarks xZot as the contents on the next room are relayed. "A brain in fluid?! I'd like to get a closer look for myself." The tech part of xZot's brain immediately sets to work on this concept. "I'd expect that something this vulnerable would be protected. The question is, were those cyber-modified Eorna the only defence or are there other protections in place?"
Indicating for everyone to get into position to enter the room, xZot motions to the other Tech's to be ready to undertake a quick assessment of the room and it's contents.
"Unless we need to, I don't think we will bust in and destroy the room, not straight away." with a wry grin he turns to Siu-Ling "Lets see what we can find out first, then we can blow it up!"
"OK but only as long as no-one gets hurt" replies Sni'ktl as the orders to carry on the exploration are issued.
Raid moves around the room cautiously, looking for security devices or computer interface consoles that could be used for communicating with the brain being careful to avoid stepping on the cables. He soon locates the connection between the brain flask and the device on the wall. As Raid stands scratching his head xZot peers over his shoulder
"Looks like some sort of radio." the young yazirian comments "Only short range though I think. That must be how it directed our friends outside. Alright get to work." He then directs the tech staff. Several minutes later no security devices are discovered and none of the team are able to find a way to operate the radio or communicate with the brain itself.
"OK Siu-Ling, it's all yours." xZot smiles at the demolitionist as he waves the rest of the team out of the room.
"10-4, comrades," she answers, readying the 50gm explosive charge of kaboomite, Siu-Ling delicately removes one of the kaboomite charges from her equipment pack and sets it at the base of the brain flask. Deciding to save her last timer, Siu-Ling slips one of the used clips into her pistol and moving to the door to the room, takes a carefully aimed shot at the explosives. She is rewarded with a loud blast that reverberates through the underground complex and destroys the brain and disables all the surrounding equipment.
Continuing the search to the east and south, Raid leads the team through what appears to be the third guard room and then south through more doors to another room. This chamber contains some bizarre machinery, shaped like huge bulbs. The machinery is activated and a horrid looking robot is working with it. As Raid enters the chamber, the robot grabs weapons and moves toward him.
"It has two grenades! Watch out!" Raid leaves his holoscreen on, hoping that it will provide him with soft cover at least. To further throw off the bot's aim, Raid evades using some running and dodging techniques. He moves to the left flank, as usual, to avoid being hit by his friends. Raid is more concerned with not being hit himself than attacking for now.
Spying the grenades held in the rear limbs of the snakelike robot, Mr Sp'ock reaches for his gas mask as he attempts to identify their new opponent.
"Well it's definitely not made in Prenglar" the X-O calls back to Commander xZot "But it's definitely a combat robot. Level 3 or 4 I'd guess by our standards"
"Damn right!" Raid mutters to himself, almost close enough to see the manufacturers name plate if the metal monstrosity had been made in the Frontier.
With her new found sonic disruptor, Siu-Ling activates her gauss screen and devotes much of her beltpack's SEU reservoir to the annihilation of the weapon weilding robot. What a savage poise it has, her target! She sees the coming war and responds to it with a deafening bolt. At relatively close range she has no trouble hitting the robot but the blast (25 points) barely registers any affect on it's target.
"Grenades eh! Best put gas masks on. Those as 'ave 'em" suggests Sni'ktl. The medical officer can't choose between Sp'ock's limping on five legs or Crisbel's single legged limp as the least good look for confronting a raving robot. In the end he gives both a shot of Stimdose (TM), first to Crisbel, then to the X-O and snickers encouragingly as they head towards the mechanaiacle melee.
Borovski curses as his sonic beam misses and the robot strikes back at the intruders. One robotic arm catapults a grenade into the group crammed in the doorway as the two laser pistols fire at the front rank. Siu-Ling dives under the laser beam and Borovski just grins as his Albedo screen flares briefly, sucking up the concentrated beam of light (5 charges). Boro's grin quickly turns to a frown when he sees the result of the grenade attack.
Hearing Raid's call xZot readies his rifle and gets into position with the others hoping the doorway will provide some cover for the group. Knowing that Raid will move out of the teams line of fire xZot motions to the others to take the robot down when it moves into sight. Then the grenade lands almost at xZot's feet and the telltale pop announces the release of dose gas. The young yazirian officer slumps unconscious to the floor, his medical officer, unable to get his gas mask on in time, wobbles on his feet before joining his commander in slumberland.
"My word that's an interesting fungus" he says to no in particular as he slides to the floor of the corridor, inspecting the growth on the walls. Surprisingly, the two most seriously injured personnel, Crisbel and Sp'ock do not succumb. The X-O continues donning his mask, signalling Con to step into the breach.
On 5 SEU setting Crisbel steps forward and takes cover in the door jam, now not needing to push a less skilled shooter out of the way, he merely steps across the snoring bodies of his officers.
"I don't know about you boys but clubs don't do much good against 'bots. Save ammo, only shoot if you know if you can hit." Taking careful aim, he begins chipping away at the robot (33 points) as Con rushes to the firing line and starts blazing away, his second shot tearing away some of the robots outer protection (23 points)
As the robot closes on their position, Crisbel fires again hitting the robot square in the chest plate (29 points) but still it comes on firing both blasters and throwing the second grenade. Borovski's albedo screen absorbs another hit (3 charges) and Siu-Ling's nimble form again avoids injury. The second dose grenade lands once again in the middle of the team members and this time Borovski and Crisbel succumb to it's effects, Siu-Ling having dived away from the blast radius and Sp'ock now protected by his rapidly fitted gas mask.
Operating almost completely on training and instinct the wounded vrusk X-O levels both blasters at the robot unleashing a deadly volley of laser fire (47 points) that sends fragments of molten metal spraying away from the sathar sentinel.
Having escaped notice from the robot Raid, seeing his opening, draws his pistol and lines up the target from a position now almost directly behind the robot. With the blaster at it's maximum setting Raid squeezes the trigger and blows a hole straight through the combot's head, bringing it to an instant dead stop.
The silence in the room is almost deafening as the team members left standing take stock of their situation. Raid scavenges weapons, ammo and equipment, for distribution to the team, from the robot after it has been disabled. After thrusting both laser pistols into his belt he also examines the robot to determine if it can be repaired and reprogrammed but his final shot most definitely ruled out any chance of repair.
With his Commander temporarily out of action and the Chief Medical Officer also stunned, Mr Sp'ock assumes command. First he orders Raid to begin assessing the equipment left in the room then turns his attention to the casualties.
"Good thing OMAC is a medic." he says to no one in particular. Sp'ock tries his chronocom but the distance underground is causing interference between the team and OMAC back at the landing site.
"OK Con, you and Siu-Ling take Borovski back to OMAC and the choppers. Get OMAC to revive him and then the four of you report back here ASAP to extract the others, he indicates the rest of the unconscious troopers "I'll stay here and cover them and Raid until you get back. Make it snappy, we don't know what else is crawling around down here!" he finishes.
Con and Siu-Ling nod and together lift Borovski's jelly like form between them and struggling under the heavy load, move back through the corridors toward the surface. Sp'ock turns back to Raid who is now examining the alien technology at the back of the room.
"The machinery is actually two separate devices, shaped like huge bulbs." Raid reports indicating toward where the two devices are connected by a glass-like tube filled with light. Buttons and lights cover the surface of the two devices. "That one," he points to the left "looks a subspace radio transmitter. And I'm pretty sure this is a Sathar computer!" he continues excitedly.
"Give me a few minutes I think I've accessed the operating system. Yeah I'm definitely in. Oh no!" Raid exclaims "They're purging all the data!" Frantically Raid begins tapping away at the access panel but he is only able to retrieve a small amount of data before the system completely shuts down. Sighing the technician turns back to his Executive Officer and says
"I'll need to run this through a polyvox to get a translation. I'm pretty sure it's the last transmission received by the subspace radio."
The sound of running feet in the corridor announces the arrival of OMAC with Siu-Ling, Con and the revived Borovski in tow. The gunnery sergeant, come medic quickly revives xZot and then Sni'ktl who tells him not to worry trying with Crisbel.
"We will have to wait for the dose gas to run it's course, I used stimdose on him only seconds before we were gassed" Sni'ktl explains not without a little irony.
"Sir, I have the translation of that message" Raid announces, then turns up the volume of his polyvox for everyone to hear the mechanical tones coming from the device.
"Transmission received. Attack fleet heading Volturnus at full operational readiness. Attack on planet will begin in two weeks standard time. Initiate standard procedures."
"Are you sure that translations right?" Sni'ktl asks. Lets send our own message. "Previous transmission error. Cancel Volturnus attack."
"Sure as I can be." Raid replies. "If we can use this sathar designed subspace radio, we also need to zap off a message to Truane's Star and inform them of the sathar attack fleet in such close proximity. The message should reach Truane's Star in five days. I'll get to work on it right now." Raid attempts to reconfigures the subspace radio but the alien technology and his own lack of experience with communications equipment soon becomes apparent. Unable to send off the warning message to Truane's Star, Raid points out to Sni'ktl his poor command of the sathar language made it unlikely to succeed in bluffing this newest foe. Raid does make a note of the co-ordinates in the sky that the sathar radio was aimed at.
"These co-ordinates may give us a clue as to where the sathar come from." Raid figures.
As Crisbel comes to he shakily reaches into his pouch and retrieves his gas mask, putting it on as quickly as he could. When he realizes that the fight is over and that he was merely carrying out the last few actions from the fight itself he snarled.
"I'm getting real tired of this!"
"Shall we continue exploring the complex sir?" Mr Sp'ock chirps. At mention of searching the complex
"Yeah, I'm in too." Crisbel chimes in "Let's just be careful k? I'm about spent!" Siu-Ling listens to everyone's comments, then speaks.
"I'm definitely up for a little scavenging, my brothers," she admits. "I've got enough juice for another one of those slugs, maybe two. I'll be glad to go in front," the Human volunteers, giving Raid a break from front-line action. "Hopefully those Eorna zombies have all been dealt with." Con, after the rest of the party speak their peace, puts in his two credits.
"If we are lucky we might find some good intelligence to use against these bastards. I suggest that we finish the search as quickly as possible. I also suggest that when we are done, we heal. We'll need every bit of energy we can muster because the Sathar won't go down without a fight."
"I say nay, lets blow the place." Sni'ktl offers, then quickly concedes in the face of such eagerness "If people are exploring though I will go along as medical backup." he sighs heartily through multiple abdominal apertures.
xZot acknowledges his Chief Medical Officers concerns but after receiving a generally positive response to completing a search of the remainder of the complex, he gives the orders for those who are not already occupied to continue the search of the structure.
"Hit your 'com link if you meet any resistance and the rest of us will help out.
"Comlink nothing, Crisbel mutters. "You'll hear me scream." Hoisting his rifle and checking the ammo supply, Crisbel sets out in search of booty, or death. Not acknowledging Crisbel's comment, xZot continues giving his instructions.
"I think I might spend some time with Raid here and look at the Sathar computer. If it is too late to stop the Sathar attack fleet I don't want to leave anything here to assist them. Siu-Ling, as you continue the search look for critical system that may still be operational. Once we have completed everything here I think a few more of your well laid charges could close this place down pretty quick. Once everything is tidied up at the Artefact we will head back."
A short distance to the north of the computer and radio room Crisbel locates what appears to be a sathar generator room. Siu-Ling takes note of the power source as the reduced squad of Siu-Ling, Con, Crisbel, Sp'ock, Boro and Sni'ktl conduct a quick sweep of the remaining passageways before converging on the last room in the centre of the complex.
After establishing that the room has three doors the troopers decide to enter through all three doors at once after checking them first for any security devices. Satisfied that the doors are safe, Mr Sp'ock gives the command over his chronocom and the six team members burst into the oval shaped room, two through each doorway. Inside the room is approximately 15 metres across at its widest point and apart from the team members, appears to be empty. Taken slightly aback at the anti-climax Mr Sp'ock and his charges quickly fan out and give the room a quick search for anything unusual. Suddenly all three doors hiss shut.
"I've got a bad feeling about this" Crisbel mutters as troopers move toward the closed doors. Then the floor begins to rumble and jolt and a hole appears in the centre of the floor. Almost transfixed on the sight of the hole enlarging, or rather the floor disappearing into the walls, Crisbel murmurs
"I've got a really bad feeling about this."
"What is that?" Commander xZot asks almost annoyed at the rumbling sound, then looking quickly around the room "Where are the others?" he asks Raid who is still bent over the sathar subspace radio.
Mr Sp'ock flicks on his chronocom and hails his CO.
"Commander, looks like we've got a spot of trouble" he reports understatedly then he spies lighting fast movement in the rapidly growing pit beneath the oval room. "Damn, only seen one creature move that fast on this planet! Or anywhere for that matter!" The X-O ducks when he sees the quickdeath flick it's tail and the lethal dart whistles by harmlessly. Borovski is less fortunate and yelps with surprise when a second dart pricks him through his skien suit (1 point) but more painful is the burning rash caused by the sticky tar on the dart (10 points). Another sharp crack confirms Sp'ock's worst fear when a third dart penetrates his skiensuit (2 points) and he too detects the burning sensation under his carapace (10 points). Wobbling visibly on all eight legs the vrusk soldier attempts to complete his report
"Three Quickdeath's sir!" he gasps into his chronocom
"Shall we go and rescue them? Again?" OMAC asks xZot and Raid from his post at the door to the computer room
Con, the natural born warrior that he is, immediately sizes up the situation, estimating the team has about 30 seconds before they loose their 'floor' entirely. A hole several meters in diameter has already opened in the centre of the floor as it quickly expands toward the walls. As if in slow motion the warrior studies his current predicament and curses to himself. Con carefully looks at the ceiling of the room, then for some safe floor space to the side of the door they entered, hoping to find an anchor for his whip that he might be able to swing to safety. Realizing there are no suitable belay points for his whip, Con swings his rifle to his shoulder and turns to face the enemy. Taking careful aim at the nearest beast he expends 5 SEU's of energy, smiling to himself when the creature races through his beam but the smile quickly turns to a frown when he is reminded of the Quickdeath's seeming innate resistance to laser beams due to it's highly reflective hide (14 points)
Outside the oval chamber, Commander xZot has reacted simultaneously with Con. Shaking his head as he listens to the report from his X-O, xZot turns to OMAC
"It sounds like they are going to need some help, we'd better go." Racing to the closest door to the chamber that is consuming his team, xZot searches for signs of a switch or catch to open the door or override the trap.
Wishing she were back at the Outpost with Nounouche, young Ms. d'Avignon reflexively draws her rifle and discharges 10 standard energy units in the form of a laser beam towards the most stationary target. Managing to repeat Con's success Siu-Ling also hits the mark achieving a similar result to her fellow combatant (16 points).
Crisbel casually reaches back into his pouch and retrieves one of each of the grenades.
"Gas masks on folks," he calls out, thinking to himself 'tangler into pit, then frag, then doze.'
"Hold em, frag em, doze em. Rinse and repeat as needed!" Crisbel cries out to his companions as the tangler grenade drop into the pit, spewing out it's load of sticky threads. The missile lands harmlessly near Crisbel's feet, then surprisingly, the nearest quickdeath actually launches a frenzied attack at the mass of webs, tearing through the tough fibre as though it were tissue paper.
Ignoring the discomfort of the quickdeath's poisoned dart, Borovski lobs a frag grenade into the pit at the quickdeath attacking the webs and almost jumps for when he puts the bomb directly under the target. In another amazing display if the creatures incredible speed however, the very same quickdeath is several meters away when the grenade actually goes off, avoiding the worst of the blast (24 points). Reeling from his wounds and the effects of the poisoned dart, Mr Sp'ock defiantly raises his blaster, firing wildly into the pit and missing everything but the floor. Overhearing the developing crisis via his chronocom, Raid suddenly gets a bright idea.
"Didn't Siu-Ling or someone mention finding a generator room a few minutes ago?" Raid radios the team. "Tell me where the generator room is and I'll attempt to cut the power. That should stop the moving floor."
Feeling like a fifth wheel, OMAC fidgets impatiently while his commander works on the door lock wishing he'd brought the recoilless rifle when he'd entered the underground complex.
"Probably cause more harm than good down here" he mutters to himself as he considers the probable effects of actually firing a recoilless round into the door in such a confined space. "I think it's this way" OMAC indicates northeast and leads Raid off in the direction of the generator room.
Quickly diagnosing both poison victims, Sni'ktl immediately treats Mr Sp'ock with sprayhypo of antitox, neutralizing the poison and preventing any further damage to his fellow vrusk. The X-O quickly regains his composure after the shot of antitox and pushing away from Sni'ktl, he unclips a frag grenade from is belt and hurls it into the pit. The explosion does little except add to the noise and smoke and confusion in the oval trap. Crisbel follows suit with a frag grenade and has similar results, while Con fails to repeat his success and empties the clip in his rifle with his second aimed shot.
Reaching the doorway to the generator room and realizing once again there's nothing he can do, OMAC leaves Raid to attempt shutting down the power and heads back to join xZot. Raid immediately sets to work on the sathar built device and uses all of his technical knowledge and instinct in an attempt to shut it down in record time.
When he finds the cleverly disguised external evidence of the locking mechanism xZot immediately sets to work attempting to disable the device. The Tech/Commander is on his knees and swearing to himself
"I can see the damn safety reset from here" he says, peering into the door crack with his torch "but I can't budge it. I think it's ceased up! Let's try another door." he declares as he climbs to his feet.
Inside the room Sni'ktl applies another dose of antitox, this time to Borovski who is also getting unsteady on his feet. Swaying Boro lobs another frag grenade into the hole, this one falling harmlessly near the wall of the pit and exploding out of range of the three protagonists. Hoping to avoid being attacked, Siu-Ling seeks cover in the darkness, kneels, and keeping the SEU setting at 10 fires at her lightning fast target but this time she's not quite quick enough, burning a hole in the side of the pit. Recalling her former scuffle with these beasts back in the Place of True Warriors, the sniper woman targets what she thinks may be their weak spots
"Hope no one dies!" she thinks to herself, surprisingly pessimistic.
Knowing their team members are depending on them, OMAC and xZot race to the next door xZot quickly examines the doorjamb trying to locate the safety reset. Frustrated at his feeling of helplessness, OMAC thumps the door with his fist.
"Stand down sergeant!" xZot orders from the floor "The last thing we need is you setting of some sort of counter measure."
Flashlight in hand, Raid is almost tearing his hair out trying to find the off switch of the alien generator
"Just because I think it's a generator doesn't mean i can shut the bloody thing down." he says to himself out loud as he tries to find a power conduit he can start cutting. After a quick but thorough search around the sathar device he decides the conduits must be underground or built into the walls and giving up in despair, heads back to lend a hand to xZot.
Meanwhile, trapped on the ever narrowing ledge along the inside, Borovski raises himself up to lob another grenade into the pit. He misses the particular quickdeath he was aiming for but does manage to injure another one of the beasts that strays into the blast radius of the grenade when it explodes (24 points).
Calmly Con reloads his rifle with a full clip while he surveys the room and weighs up his options. Suddenly remembering he is carrying xZot's techkit strapped to his own pack. Con rolls his eyes as he flicks on his chronocom
"Hey boss, are you missing something?" he asks, glad that at least Raid is on the other side of the door with his bag of tricks "We've got about 10 seconds before we drop into the pit!" he finishes quickly
Faced with the prospect of facing these whirlwind foes again Sni'ktl acts instantly to avert melee. He scatters two doze
grenades into the pit relying on luck rather than aim, in the hope that the grenades will have some effect before the quickdeaths make it out of the pit. He knows that time will not be an ally in this confrontation. Unfortunately the Chief Medical Officer is as proficient with grenades as he is with laser weapons and both grenades fail to even come close to the Volturnian creatures.
Siu-Ling squeezes off another carefully aimed shot, wounding her same target again (19 points). Crisbel opts to try another frag grenade before using a dose grenade and although he misses his intended target, shrapnel from the blast injures another quickdeath slightly (16 points). As Mr Sp'ock throws another of his pineapple shaped missiles into the pit he realizes that the quickdeaths have only fired one volley of darts.
"Good thing they only grow one dart at a time eh?" he comments to the Chief Medical Officer
With memories of the Ritual of the Quickdeath still fresh in his mind xZot hopes, for everyone's sake, that there will be no reason to go down into the pit.
"Drop as many grenades into the pit as you can, we need to Frag these beasties NOW!" xZot orders over the chronocom, hoping against hope that his troops are holding out. While xZot struggles to release the mechanism holding the door shut, OMAC seethes silently. Raid notices the soldiers' pent up rage as soon as he rejoins the pair outside the door but wisely says nothing to provoke the volatile human.
Above the frenzied clawing and ferocious roars of the ravenous quickdeaths, Con braces himself for the coming melee then takes an opportunity shot when one of the quickdeaths strays into his immediate field of fire. The monster roars as Con's well directed fire manages to penetrate the reflective armour (30 points). Mr Sp'ock decides to go for broke throwing yet another frag grenade and catching the creature with the slightest of wounds on the blast radius (27 points). Siu-Ling picks her mark and bores another hole in her target (27 points) but none of the pit dwellers are showing any real effects from the wounds inflicted so far.
With few other options Sni'ktl tosses his last stun grenade into the pit, missing two of the beasts and when the third creature races through the invisible cloud of gas it suffers no ill effects either. Crisbel decides to try his last tangler grenade but it is no more successful than his first attempt, the quickdeaths demolishing the minor inconvenience that the web of tangle threads temporarily creates.
Opting to save his incendiary grenade for the final act of defiance, Borovski switches weapons, bringing his trusty sonic disruptor to bear. Waiting for the circling predators to reach the point closest too him Borovski fires a wave subsonic sound and is immediately rewarded with howl of pain (23 points).
Then the floor disappears beneath their feet. All six occupants of the room slide, tumble, bounce, leap or swing to the floor amongst the three raging quickdeaths. Two seconds later xZot manages to disable the door locking system and tumbles through the doorway, almost falling into the pit to join his companions. OMAC grabs him by the collar hauling him back to safety as the battle takes on a new aspect several meters below.
The three quickdeaths strike out with their tentacles as fast as lightning. Con and Siu-Ling are both enmeshed by the vicious attack and savagely slashed and cut by the creature's flashing teeth. Con's albedo suit does little to protect him (35 points) although Siu-Ling's civilian skiensuit absorbs much of the effects of her attacker (15 points to Siu-lIng and skiensuit). It is Crisbel who suffers the most during the sudden, no matter how expected, assault. The quickdeath nearest to him lashes out with it's tentacles and rapidly pulls him into it's jaws where he is almost bitten in half, the creature taking him into it's jaws and biting down hard. It is only the amazing strength of the fibre in his skiensuit that prevents him from being killed (13 points to Crisbel and to skiensuit) outright.
Rattled by the speed of the attack and unsettled by the sight of so much of her own blood, Siu-Ling drops her rifle, useless at this close range and draws her blaster instead hoping for an opportunity shot.
"Oh Space...we're rooted now!" Unable to use his rifle whilst in the grip of the quickdeath tentacles, Con opts to draw his machete instead. Trapped in the maw of this terror he begins to wonder. Will we ever get off this rock? Will there be a day when the fighting will be over? Will there be a day when he can sit in his comfortable study with a nice fire raging. Hey, you know a Quick Death head would look really cool over the fire place. Before Con can finish his thought he is quickly brought back to reality by the small arms fire of the team.
Despite his own injuries Mr Sp'ock, who has also reverted to his machete, lunges out at the creature holding Crisbel, cutting it across it's flank with his blade (14 points). From his position above them, OMAC draws a bead on Crisbel's attacker with his blaster and fires a maximum setting blast into the creatures back from above and despite it's reflective armour, still manages to penetrate and cause some damage (25 points)
Raid drops his rope on the floor by xZot's finger like toes. He then pulls out his lucky sonic knife with his right hand and his stunstick still on it's shock setting, with his left hand.
"I can't just stand here and watch them die." Raid glances at xZot worriedly. Activating his holoscreen with a flick of the thumb, Raid vanishes from sight and leaps down to join the melee. Staying to the side of the pit and out of the line of fire as much as humanly possible, Raid attacks the hind legs of the quickdeath mauling Crisbel with sonic and electrical energy weapons but the creature is too fast for and neither weapon lands on target.
With his arms flailing around xZot struggles to regain his balance. Cursing profusely as he surveys the unfolding events below him, xZot grabs Raid's rope and lowers the end down to the bottom of the pit. Moving away from the doorway to give OMAC some room to engage the Quickdeaths, xZot looks for someway to tie the rope off. Seeing that the rope can't be tied off, xZot uses himself as the anchor. Calling out to those in the pit to make a break for the rope if they can
"Sni'ktl, can you climb up this rope? You are making me dizzy running around down there!"
"Didn't I say looting the pyramid was a bad idea" says Sni'ktl as he dodges around the combatants administering stimdose to himself and mentally listing everyone who hasn't had any yet. He hopes that his constant zigging and zagging will confuse the Quickdeaths, recalling their peculiar habit of going cross-eyed before striking. Borovski takes a shot at Con's attacker but his sonic beam misses, unlike Crisbel who thrusts his Sonic Disruptor into the jaws of the quickdeath chewing on his suit. Crisbel pulls the trigger and is rewarded with the gagged cry of pain that issues from the beast (30 points).
"Come meet your fate, Crisbel is waiting!!!" Before anyone else can react, Crisbel pulls the trigger again and the quickdeath shudders as the sonic waves from his disruptor play havoc with it's internal organs (34 points). Mr Sp'ock raises his his machete again but his injuries are seriously hampering his ability and strength, his weapon failing to make any impact on the creature.
Siu-Ling emulates Crisbel's tactic and shoves her blaster into her attackers jaws as well, searing it's mouth with another laser blast (27 points). Raid repositions himself and takes another swing, his sonic knife cuts deep into the wounded quickdeaths hindquarters (18 points) and suddenly the creature keels over stone death, then Raid realizes he probably severed the lower spinal chord with his slashing attack.
xZot smiles to himself when he sees the first quickdeath go down and Crisbel clawing his way out of it's embrace but quickly turns his attention to the other team members still in harm's way. Con and Siu-Ling both grimace in pain as the jaws tighten around them (10 points to Con and 5 points each to Siu-Ling and her suit).
Switching targets, OMAC turns to Siu-Ling's attacker and squeezes off another well aimed shot (30 points) as he drains another 10 charges from his beltpack. Torn between his duty as a doctor and the orders from xZot to quit the pit, Sni'ktl swivels his head back and forth before deciding to try to at least get a hyposhot of stimdose into Con first. Con picks himself up after the drug injection from the medic and levels his weapon at the vile creature that he and his team mates are now engaged in the deadly dance with. With a mighty swing of his machete, Con brings down a massive blow on the beasts head (29 points) and whilst not killing the creature, it now has an unbelievable headache. Borovski fires again at Con's opponent and misses but almost hits the invisible Raid in the process.
Cursing at his medic for going back into battle, xZot draws his blaster and attempts to lay down some covering fire until his troops begin obeying orders again. Amazingly both of xZot's shots strike home and the commander smiles at the results (35 points) when Siu-Ling's enemy squeals in pain.
With Sonic Devastator in both hands, Crisbel lets out a terrible battle cry, firing in support of Siu-Ling. Again a sonic weapon finds it's mark (32 points) and the second quickdeath topples over and none to soon as, in it's death throes the animal still causes Siu-Ling some grief (5 points to Siu-Ling and suit). Con too suffers further damage from the vice like grip of the jaws (10 points) and it is only Sni'ktl's timely injection that is keeping him conscious through the blur of pain.
Fighting to stay alive, Con lashes out again with his machete, scoring a desperate hit (25 points).
"Where's Raid?" Siu-Ling yells. "I can't see him under that damn screen!" Hoping to avoid hitting her con specific, she aims away from the spot where she last saw him. "Raid! Say something if you can, so I don't blast your spleen half-way to Mahg-Mar!"
A steady barrel, a steady finger, a wink, aim, and pull, and the last of the beasts takes a laser to its softer underside, slowly shifting the balance of power in the Gang's direction (24 points). OMAC winks back at Siu-Ling as he fires his laser pistol a third time and hit's a third time (31 points).
"Die dammit!" Borovski exclaims as he blasts the last quickdeath with his sonic disruptor and suddenly the room goes deathly quiet as the monster tumbles dead to the floor (37 points).
Commander xZot breathes a sigh of relief as Sni'ktl sets to work immediately on his new patients.
"Alright everyone, out of the pit." Mr Sp'ock orders as the team asses the damage and prepare to evacuate the complex. One by one, team members climb the rope out of the trap. Upon reaching the top of the pit Con turns to face xZot.
"Thanks Boss. Next round is on me" then the huge human promptly collapses into Sni'ktl claws.
Crawling out of the pit, hoping someone will help her up the rope, the weakened and lacerated woman exhales once she's out. Dropping her laser rifle, Siu-Ling puts a hand on the large, bloody semicircle under her skeinsuit that outlines the quickdeath's bite mark.
"How bad is it?" she manages to mumble seconds before blacking out. OMAC steps forward and catches her lithe figure before it hits the ground and deftly drapes her over his shoulder then turn to lead the team back to the surface.
Crisbel is exhausted. Covered in the ichor and blood of the battle only moments before, the Yazirian slumps against a nearby wall and slides down to a seated position. His vision is hazy, his body aches, and a fire burns in his chest that could only be broken ribs. But he is alive! And once again has fought well. Somehow he finds the energy to rise to his feet. Slinging his rifles on his back, Crisbel slowly climbs the rope upwards. At the half way point however he lets go, a move that may appear to others as if he has fallen. Using his skin wings, the yazirian falls backward and lands a resounding elbow drop on the nearest quickdeath. Patting the dead carcass on what remains of it's head, he smiles.
"I told you guys not to mess with me. Did ya listen? Noooooo!" Slowly the Yazirian collects himself and again climbs the rope, this time making the top, but only with help. Once up, he mutters to anyone listening. "To hell with treasure hunting. I'm going home!"
Surprised that no one was killed outright, Raid congratulates himself for another victorious encounter with the quickdeath species. He flicks off the holoscreen and helps his wounded friends. Raid knows all too well what they are going through, having experienced the bite of the quickdeath one too many times himself. He puts himself at xZot's disposal to carry the wounded or anything else up to the jetcopters.
As the team walk, hobble, crawl or are dragged into the ruddy Volturnus afternoon the more conscious members gag at the stench of decaying chillasaur. Seeing Con ignoring his own wounds and carrying SiuLing out of the pyramid Sni'ktl snaps too, his Vrusk mind already prioritizing his medical charges.
"OMAC, you look after the rest" he shouts as he marches the big man to the eorna 'Copter. "Medical emergency!" he announces, "We need medical help now." Interpreting the eorna's nod to mean "Hop in mate." Sni'ktl, Con and Siu-Ling are well on their way to the Eorna City by the time Raid and xZot have completed pre-flight checks. Enroute, Sni'ktl reassures the big trooper that Siu-Ling will be fine. It is not until an Eorna anaesthetist put the big fella out that he begins to suspect himself as the emergency.
Medical note: "Trooper Anderson shows excellent response and durability with Stimdose. Coupled with his determination to save a team mate I was able to deliver him to emergency care with minimal psychological trauma. Siu-Ling's injuries while sever, are non critical. Assessment of other wounded to follow."
After everyone has been hauled out of the pit and patched up as best as can be done with our limited medical supplies xZot gives the order to return to the jetcopters.
"This is not the triumphant return I had hoped for." Voices xZot as he assists the injured out of the artefact. Looking around at the team as he does a quick head count before starting the Jetcopter, xZot cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride as he realizes that toward the end of the encounter with the quickdeaths most of the group were surviving on adrenaline alone. The determination shown by the group in the face of death is evidence of the bonds that have formed over the last couple of months since arriving on this planet.
Turning his attention back to the jetcopter controls he gives Raid a quick lesson in the necessary pre-flight checks and then, wanting to waste no further time, he gives the signal and fires the 'copter up and heads back to the Outpost. The rest of the team follow in the third jetcopter also piloted by eorna. Once airborne xZot commences Raid's pilot training. Handing over the controls to Raid when he has run through the basics, xZot remains close should there be a need to take them back in the event of an encounter. When they reach radio range of the Outpost xZot indicates to his X-O to contact the base to alert them of our arrival and need for medical attention.
Mr Sp'ock immediately contacts Mawson's rest, informing Gloo, GleepGlooup and X'anthe of the teams status. The dralasites in turn inform Mr Sp'ock that a team of eorna medical personnel had arrived at Mawson's Rest in anticipation of possible casualties. The good news for Sni'ktl is that in addition to supplying their services today, the eorna should have a limited supply of biocort available within the next few days.
As airborne team approach the Outpost xZot retakes the controls as they circle the landing pad. During the flight back, Raid is glad his wounds aren't serious enough to prevent him from getting a little in-flight training and pointers from xZot at the controls of the jetcopter. The suffering of the wounded sobers his thinking and urges him on to the outpost as the barren wastes of Volturnus sweep by far below.
"So you just pull back like this? And compensate for wind drift. I've got it down pretty good now! Just a few take off's and landings and I'll be flying solo xZot. Hang in there guys. It looks like the Eorna have some good medicine for us. We sure need it." Raid sees two familiar dralasites near the landing pad. "It's Gleep and Gloo. That reminds me, I've been wanting to get some radio training from Gleep. Right after I get those jetcopter take-offs and landings in of course."
Gloo watches as the helos bearing the group from the artefact land, and helps carry in the wounded. Sni'ktl is astounded by the effectiveness of the eorna medical team. As blood runs in rivulets out of the operating suite he marvels at the concentration and dexterity of the indigenous Volturnans. Every suture and every bone setting a work of art. Sni'ktl helps with advice on frontier physiology when the eorna aesthetic drive threatens top outweigh practical biology. His diplomatic skills quickly resolve a situation where the eorna setting Crisbel's broken ribs opts for a cross-over arrangement that may have put an aesthetic ruffle in the yazirians wing flaps but would have undoubtedly reduced his cardiovascular efficiency. Crisbel and Con responded quite well to the eorna treatments, Sni'ktl estimates probably better results by eorna techniques than a Frontier style minor surgery and all the patients receive at least first aid level attention. The eorna aesthetic resulting in fluctuating results rather than the pre-determined sciences of the Frontier that the vrusk's mind associated with so well.
"Did... we... defeat them?" Siu-Ling asks no one in particular, a bit delirious as adrenaline and stimdose pass through her bloodstream. Waking, and still in an exhausted and traumatized state, the human's hands tremble as Sni'ktl hovers over her and checks her condition. "Thanks for the patch-up," she smiles at the vrusk, her dry lips badly in need of HydraBalm.
Noting the humans' attempts to transcend their physiology, Sni'ktl comments
"Of course if biped stability is the issue here there is a simple solution. Become a Vrusk."
Raid again puts himself at xZot's disposal upon arriving at the outpost to help with the seriously wounded team members. Once on the ground again and with everyone attended to, xZot makes his way to the kitchen to prepare a feast to celebrate the teams efforts. Stopping briefly to see Sni'ktl for some of his herbal R&R formula
"Do you want to partake in some 'shrooms with me Snik?". Continuing on with a wobble in his step he rummages through the stores grabbing the items he needs as he prepares to make a spicy Sandshark curry ala Eorna style.
"Now where were did I put those ingredients again..." mutters xZot, noticeably off in his own little world.
"Good thinking xZot," replies the medical officer "life's too short to keep all our goodies as scientific samples. The 'shrooms are on me." Sni'ktl hands around R & R aids to anyone who cares to try them. "Hey put me first on the list for the hypno-suite once these kick in."
Gloo approaches Xzot whiles he's cooking up his current masterpiece
"Geez I hope your gastrointestinal problem has cleared up, that looks like a lot of spices..." commander xZot barely acknowledges the dralasite, so engrossed he is in his culinary delights so Gloo continues
"Anyways, we should move over to Brucebane, it's larger with more room for the injured recover to in. This place is just too small for all of us to be here at one time, plus we need to resupply anyway and the others can benefit from our eorna friends as well. And speaking of them we should move over with the eorna into their hidey hole. If the sathar fleet does approach all they'll need to do is blast the two bases from orbit, besides there is no way for us to defend either of these two bases from a sathar invasion. We could strip them clean and maybe the sathar won't bother them." Gloo turns to walk away "Oh and another thing if Boro's still not up to quatermastering anymore I'll be happy to take it over from him. I'm on my way to ask him about that now." Gloo turns and heads to the garage were he last saw Boro.
After Gloo heads off in search of Borovski, Commander xZot turns to his X-O
"Well mister Sp'ock?" he asks, arching an eyebrow.
"I have delivered our briefing to the eorna and am awaiting their latest data, possibly tomorrow morning we will have a clearer picture." the vrusk Executive Officer replies "I would also recommend against relocating to Brucebane, it would move us too far away from the likely area of operations, that being the vicinity of the ruins of Volkos, the former capital. We can always send Raid on a resupply mission if we need more equipment."
"Agreed." the young yazirian officer states, then smiles gleefully at his X-O "What about the quartermaster job?"
"Agreed commander." the vrusk answers in a rare display of his own unique sense of humour "Let's see how he handles it." xZot nods and Sp'ock scuttles out the door to give the dralasites their new assignments. Over at the garage Gloo has tracked down Borovski.
"Hey Boro how ya feeling? You almost look strong enough to pull the ears off a Rastie. Aah and be warned our intrepid leader is cooking with lots o' spices gain. Anyways, I was wondering if you are still up to doing the quartermastering? If you would like I could take over for you. Heck I have to keep track of everyone's power anyway..."
Borovski returns a reasonably good facsimile of a human smile as he gladly absolves himself of as much responsibility as possible.
"You want the job? It's all yours!"
"And xZot just made it official Gloo, you are now the new company quartermaster. I expect a complete inventory of our current weapons and ammo on my desk first thing tomorrow morning, and a requisition for Raid's resupply mission tomorrow morning. Go give our brand new pilot the good news when you are done here.
When Raid finds GleepGlooup later that evening to discuss radio equipment Gleep says he would be happy to provide training in comm. equipment and suggests that maybe he can make some adjustments to Raid's screen to make it blend in that much more. Gleep hopes to attempt to create some holo projectors that would waste enemy ammo by putting their intended targets about 20 feet in front of where they actually are. Shortly after Gloo sees Gleep looking around for parts for his experiment and adds.
"If you want to add to the defences why not try to modify the albedo screens that were rigged to the cameras into personal defence screens or add one of those and one of the defence lasers to that combot, a holoprojector maybe cool but its doubtful all the parts for one are at this outpost anyway, maybe at Brucebane." After helping the group get settled in Gloo goes around collecting all the powerpacks for recharge. "How are we fixed for recharging packs and belts?"
"Good idea Gloo" Mr Sp'ock answers, seemingly over everybody's shoulder just when they are talking about him. "Then get the helo parabatteries charged, Raid will be needing them tomorrow"
Raid gives Gloo, the new quartermaster, the two extra laser pistols he is carrying around, keeping only a single laser pistol on his person. Siu-Ling also gives one of her extra pistols to Gloo.
"It's got a mean sizzler on it," Siu-Ling comments on the SEU-laser converter.
On his spare time and after borrowing a techkit from the garage, Raid scrounges up some electrical components and wiring from old equipment along with a few patches of tough fabric and thread from pirate clothes lockers. He carefully extracts a total of twenty gyrojet mini-rockets from his jetclips and removes the explosive tip from each. He performs this delicate operation with the aid of a makeshift face shield and the heaviest gloves he can find. Raid's trademark headband keeps his hair out of his eyes as well. Raid then proceeds to firmly sew ten mini-rockets around the ankles of each of his boots in a symmetrical pattern with weight distribution in mind. The thruster end of each mini-rocket is aimed directly downward at the ground, or whatever Raid happens to be standing on. Raid then wires the igniters of all the mini-rockets up his pant legs to a safety switch on his belt.
"I should be able to jump quite a ways with this in an emergency," Raid thinks, admiring his finished work. "Just straighten the legs, pull the safety pin, press the ignition switch...and accelerate."
Catching Raid's murmur as the human thinks aloud, Siu-Ling looks at the rockets and warns him as only a demolitionist would.
"Careful they don't blow your feet off, and make sure you keep your legs straight. If you bend them just a little, the rockets may send you spiralling around or worse yet, send your feet straight into the air, while the rest of you stays on the ground," she calculates, adding, "And that would suck, my brother."
Gloo looks in on his fellow dralasite and sees what Raid is doing.
"What in the hell? Looks like yet another episode of 'Mr Human and his Indestructible junk show'" he imitates a human shrug "but, If you are so bound and determined to kill yourself you might think of putting them on your boots instead of the pant legs. I for one don't see how those tiny rockets are going to move yer butt for any distance. What I do see is some fried feet, but that's just my opinion, do be careful." Then walks away muttering "By all that is holy, gyrojet rounds for jump jets!"
Gleep makes small appendage at head level and sticks it out towards Gloo.
"Why don't we send someone out to all of the races we have befriended and ask them if they want to help protect their homes from this scourge of the universe. There is no way our small band can protect the whole planet against an invasion, but we can sure direct defences." In the meantime, I will still see what I can do with electronic defences, both my idea and Gloo's.
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