Chapter 15: Battle of Volturnus 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 15.11 15.12 15.13 15.14 15.15 15.16 (Mission Date: 62.394Pf - 62.383Pf, Mission Time: 106 days - 117 days) X Points
Con awakes from his doze grenade induced slumber happy to have escaped the Reaper once again. Once awake and able to function, Con seeks out some medical assistance. Once this is done, Con finds Gloo to request a new skein suit from the quartermaster since his albedo suit is in tatters.
Nursing his wounds xZot sits back and reflects on recent events as they have unfolded and, in particular, the gang's sudden rise in status as a 'giant-killer' against the Sathar. The Sathar are a race that xZot had previously identified a 'untouchable' and the gang's sudden rise in stature makes him feel a little uncomfortable. xZot pushes these thoughts out of his mind as he tries to focus on more pressing issues. As he prepares for the impending battle xZot pours over recent documents and reports studying what little there is available to learn about Sathar; any little piece of information may prove critical in the final battle. After studying the reports until his head hurts, xZot turns to more practical measures as he seeks out Gloo to obtain an inventory of the gang's equipment.
"We want to make sure we are fully decked out before we go into battle. Everyone's clips and packs must be fully charged and everyone should have access to all the equipment that they may want that is available." xZot impresses his concerns on his quartermaster. "If we are short on some things, use your influences to lean on someone in the main corp." Recognizing that the team's equipment isn't only weapons xZot adds "You may need to assist Sni'ktl in replenishing his med-kit; we can never have too many supplies in this department."
Gloo walks over to where Con has been resting "I hear you want another suit? Sorry, I wish I could help but we only have vrusk, yaz and dral suits left."
"Gloo, do you have an albedo screen by any chance?" Asks Con
"Sorry Con no available screens, and I don't know if the screens from outpost security system weapons could be rigged to be used or not. If somebody was willing to give it a look see?" The dral enquires. Gloo wanders around and gets all packs and batteries recharged.
"I need a list of your needs, please keep it reasonable." Gloo tells the group and puts a list of the inventory up where the group can see. He then wanders off and looks for material to make an assault sling for his weapons to keep his weapon at a ready stance when slung.
"I would like a fresh skeinsuit. I think that I will be able to get by with a recharged backpack for my laser rifle with my belt pack as a backup." GleepGlooup asks Gloo while he checks the 4 clips for his gyrojet pistol to make sure the springs are good. Satisfied that his ammunition won't fall apart in his next contact Gleep turns his attention to his machete, sharpening the blade in preparation.
"I also plan to bring my grenades with me, I have 2 frag, 2 stun and 2 tanglers," he thinks aloud "I will leave my tech kit in a cleft near me when we set up our attack formations, since I never know if I will need it." Then turning to the others he calls out to his fellow adventurers.
"Anyone wanna spar? I also spend some time working on my skills with beam and melee weapons?"
Con also searches out xZot.
"Commander, I was thinking maybe I can make some more of those blinds. We might be able to ambush some Sathar. This could be too our advantage. Is there a pattern as too how you would like them laid out?"
"I think we have 2 choices here, stay as a group reinforcing weak portions, which means a lot of moving around fast, or splitting up and sending a few to each group. If we split up, I would like to support the Mechanon's and spend some time prior learning their language if possible. We also would need constant communications in this case." Gleep tells xZot. xZot nods, taking the suggestion on board then Mr Sp'ock adds his own assessment
"Sir I think it would be prudent to concentrate our firepower as the mobile tactical reserve. Perhaps we should leave the vehicles in reserve until we've ascertained the Sathar anti-aircraft capability?"
As Sni'ktl approaches the sick bay he sees Con leaving, looking much improved. Looking in the door he sees McKilin and an Eorna medic tidying up for the end of their shift. All seems to be running well. He checks the medical inventory, especially the biocort and praises the ever industrious Eorna. 200 doses of which 20 are tagged for use by frontier races, not as much as he had hoped but under the circumstances it would have to do.
"Excellent. You guys mind if I take a top up?" remarks Sni'ktl as he refills his med-kit and takes an extra 10 dose biocort refill for good measure. On his way out, he stows the needle rifle and dose clips in his locker, squeezing them in with the Vrusk military skein suit.
Raid wanders off looking for Jameson. Upon finding him, he gives the senior officer a sharp salute.
"Could I have a word with you privately sir? Being on the original team, you might know more about the politics involved in the exploration of Volturnus. What plans does the government of Truane's Star, or the UPF, have for the future of this planet? I was also wondering if you knew anything more about the pirates. Do you suppose they were self sufficient, or had a secret backer? I'm worried they still have a ship out there somewhere."
Lieutenant Commander Jameson let's Raid finish his request under a cold, hard eye. When Raid finishes talking the silence continues for some time as the explorer fights the urge to fidget in front of the imposing military figure. Finally Jameson squints hard then coughs before deigning to answer the first part of Raid's question.
"What does the Truane's Star government plan for Volturnus? I have no idea soldier, nor do I care to speculate. I'm a soldier and I follow orders. Until your contract runs out, you're a soldier too." He grins broadly at that last statement before turning serious again. "My orders for the moment are to hold this planet with whatever forces I can muster until help arrives. Beyond that, well beyond that you needn't concern yourself for now." Before dismissing the curious pilot Jameson asks Raid to find Commander xZot and Mr Sp'ock and have them report to Lieutenant Commander Jameson.
After leaving Jameson's office Raid sets to work on the team's robots. He opens the access panels and carefully examines each unit to determine how it may be used in the coming battle. Raid adjusts his headband to keep his hair out of his eyes, then pulls an adjustable tool from a robcomkit. He finds some rags as well and gives each robot a thorough cleaning. Rummaging through the pirates equipment, he tries to find something like a fire extinguisher or pressurized gas canister to blow dust and sand from electrical components. It isn't long before he's thoroughly engrossed in his work and loses track of time.
After some medical treatment Con begins some construction on a few concealed positions behind the ridge from which Jameson and the Eorna leaders will command the coming battle.
"In case the team need to make a stand here." Con mutters to himself as he tries to keep his own mind off the coming violence. Returning to the digging he finds OMAC, Jag, McKilin and others helping him dig trenches and fox holes to make three of these positions set up in a way that will catch the Sathar in an ambush or a cross fire if retreat turns to rout for the defenders. "Hopefully this will give us an advantage if we need it." OMAC nods silently as he digs but Con is disappointed he was unable to convince some of the natives to help. Their experience of warfare is too alien from that of the members of the Black Hand Gang. The primitive tribes of Volturnus might have bravery and spirit but will it be enough against the technological might of a Sathar invasion force?
Sni'ktl returns to his quarters and meditates to clear his mind.
"You only get to be on the receiving end of a major planetary invasion once in most lifetimes and I want a clear head when it kicks off."
Frontier Date 62.384Pf +116
All that can be done has been done to prepare the planet for defence against the hideous worms. The initial reports arriving at the Eorna complex beneath the ruins of Volkos are good; the Eorna planetary defence batteries have kept the Sathar fleet at bay, and many of the Sathar shuttles have been destroyed attempting to land ground troops on the planet.
The successful landing of a large Sathar army has been detected. After scanning the planet, the Sathar advanced in the direction of Volkos. They should arrive in full battle array sometime tomorrow morning. They number at least 30,000 plus robots and other weapons!
Knowing the terrain better than anyone else, the Eorna determined that the best place to stop the Sathar drive is along the ancient abandoned road which runs along the east side of the dry canal toward Volkos. It is clear that if the Sathar penetrate the Eorna complex below Volkos, Volturnus is doomed. The following are the Volturnus forces. They are brave but poorly armed.
Yourselves, with such weapons as you have gathered on Volturnus. 150 Eorna, armed with laser rifles, to be used as an elite skirmishing force. They also have some cybernetically controlled megasauruses. 4,000 Ul-Mor cavalry mounted on lopers and eager for battle. 12,000 Edestekai armed with pikes and spears. 6,000 Kurabanda armed with hang gliders. They are hidden in the ruins overlooking the battlefield. They are armed with bows and arrows and also with four fragmentation grenades each. The grenades were discovered by the Eorna in an old, long abandoned armoury. 1,000 Mechanon combat robots.
You have no choice except to fight, as the Sathar are totally merciless and do not negotiate. You are outnumbered by an enemy better armed than yourselves. The morning will decide the fate of a world, and probably your own destinies as well.
Frontier Date 62.383Pf +117
As morning dawns, your forces are drawn up for the grand battle. Your left flank, anchored by a tiny oasis, is held by the Mechanon forces. The center is defended by the masses of Edestekai pike. On the right, strung out over a long front, is the all-too-thin skirmish line of the Eorna. Supporting the Eorna are a small group of Megasaurus; the Eorna have captured some of these beasts during your absence and implanted control devices in their brains, turning them into at least partially controllable fighting cybots.
The Ul-Mor cavalry, evenly distributed along the line of battle, are in reserve. The hidden Kurabanda are ready to leap from the ruins above to soar over the enemy forces, dropping hand grenades on them. The Kurabanda will then land and pour archery fire into the rear of enemy units.
You, also, have been requested to stand by in reserve, ready to provide crucial help as the battle develops. You can sense the tension rising in your allies as they wait for the attack. In the distance to your far left and over a small ridge, a brilliant flash of sunlight reveals the gleaming body of a Sathar warbot! The Battle of Volturnus has started. Your first request for help comes in from the Mechanons on the left flank. There is just enough time to get to the Mechanons before the warbots hit them.
THE ATTACK ON THE MECHANON FORCES
As you arrive at the left flank, the Mechanon forces are about to be heavily attacked all along the line. A strange new Sathar automatic cannon is wreaking horrible damage among the Mechanons. This gun must be destroyed, or the Kurabanda air troops will never be able to join the battle; the cannon would massacre them in the air!
Before the battle Gloo hands out spare power backpacks to everyone except OMAC and himself. He waves down objections from anyone complaining about carrying the extra load.
"Today is NOT the day to run out of ammo." The stocky Quartermaster announces. "I don't care if you lug it or dump it, but no-one will say they didn't have enough ammo today!" he finishes grimly. Gloo straps a pair of power backpacks to each of the combat robots and fits them out with Laser Rifles before thrusting more rifles into the hands of the medics Sn'iktl, Jag and McKilin.
"What's this for? I'm a medic!" McKilin objects loudly then suddenly goes quiet at the cold, hard stare from OMAC towering behind the Quartermaster as he hands out the weaponry. SEU Clips are doled out to Siu-Ling (4), Sp'ock (5), Jag (4), Gleep (2) and OMAC (20). The Quartermaster has no impact on the Security Chief when it comes to retrieving the auto rifle ammo however. Met with the same cold, hard stare dealt out to McKilin, Gloo elects not to press the issue for the moment. Gleep and Jag are also handed brand new Civilian Skien Suits and Gleep gets another 8 clips of gyrojet ammunition.
Gloo posts a copy of the remaining inventory for the rest of the gang to see. After looking over the list X'anthe approaches Gloo and requests she be issued with the Shock Gloves. As no-one else has shown any interest, Gloo hands over the electric based weaponry which the ebony hued human female plugs into her powerpack.
"And so it begins." Announces Lieutenant Commander Louis V. Jameson as he points to the distance skyline after returning from the Eorna communications post near Volkos.
When the eorna announce that the sathar are dropping from orbit, Raid looks up at the sky to witness the spectacle. Long vapour trails begin to appear at random intervals. Many of these trails begin to break up into smaller trails that eventually spiral from the main trajectory and plummet to the ground. Somehow, the ancient eorna defence system was methodically knocking out invasion shuttles.
"The Ul-Mor will be picking up bits of those shuttles in the desert for years. I'd hate to be the sathar right now." A silence follows as the Black Hand Gang gather around their leader for a final briefing.
xZot prepares his equipment for the coming battle. Electing to use his laser rifle connected to the power backpack he quickly swaps the power belt pack and back pack over. Conscious of his encumbrance xZot also removes and stores in his jetcopter all unnecessary items of a general nature, as well as his laser pistol, to reduce his overall burden.
Gleep leaves his non combat extra equipment with his tech kit near the rear. Sni'ktl leaves his needler rifle and clips in the explorer parked in the rear of the team's position.
Quickly checking his equipment xZot connects his albedo screen and laser rifle to the backpack. Activating his screen and cranking the default setting on the rifle up to 10 xZot strides over to the others to discuss their options. Not wanting to put himself or his jetcopter at risk xZot rules out any airborne tactics
"The Kurabanda aren't silly. If their not going up I'm certainly not!"
Sn'iktl scritches a suggestion of his own.
"I suggest we park a Jetcopter at B8. If it becomes a target there, we've lost anyway. It may be useful once the gun is captured or destroyed."
"Close support from the vehicles would make it easier to re-arm" Mr Sp'ock agrees "and the vehicles are largely concealed from the enemy line of fire in some locations." The X-O indicates positions behind the rocky outcrops.
"Should I lend the holoscreen to someone else for the battle?" Raid asks xZot before the shooting starts. "Where do you want me? I'm no good at shooting."
Raid, if you want to loan your screen out to someone, by all means go ahead. Don't forget though, it might be useful to you get across the field to up to the enemy cannon or to help get you up close enough to a robot to deactivate it." Reflecting briefly he quips "You were always pretty dangerous 'up close and personal' using that knife or stunstick."
"Alright, xZot." Raid flicks on the holoscreen and fades away. He continues to speak on his chronocom. "I'll be sneaking up on the flank of that big laser, keeping my head down. I'll try to avoid everyone's shooting." Keeping a low profile, Raid moves out. He takes advantage of the few shrubs between him and the sathar to increase his stealthiness.
Sni'ktl moves to take up a position behind a low dune in the centre of the mechanon line, just south of the oasis. He peers over a crest with the laser rifle pointing vaguely towards the enemy. The laser rifle is connected to the beltpack on the sand beside Sni'ktl. Sni'ktl cranks the setting up to maximum(20), scritches and waits anticipating and loathing the familiar chronocom crackle of "Me-eh-eh-dic".
As the Black Hand Gang deploy to reinforce the thinning mechanon line the sathar onslaught continues. xZot's force arrive at the weakest point of the line, opposite the autocanon just as the sathar assault intensifies.
X'anthe is the first to fire from her grid position of D15. With the mechanized forces of the sathar army closing on the thin mechanon line, the inexperienced warrior begins blazing away with her laser rifle at almost 100 meters range.
"Check that fire!" Orders OMAC from his position with the Recoilless Rifle to Siu-Ling's right.
Con takes up position at grid reference G7 and asks Gleep for a couple of fragmentation grenades. Con realizes that the cannon must be eliminated. He plugs his laser rifle into a powerpack figuring that he will have no time to reload when he sets out towards the really big gun.
"I'm going for the big gun! Anyone with me?" Con makes his way towards the location of the vile weapon oblivious as to whether anyone is with him or not, unless ordered to do so by the Boss.
Raid moves south from A1 with his camo holoscreen on and plugged into his beltpack. Using the stealth skills acquired as an environmentalist he hefts his machete in his right hand.
"Up the right wing, good idea." Con says "Sounds like Raid wants this thing intact. Let's try for that, we could use some artillery if we get the chance. If we can't take the gun we shove those frags down the barrel and run like hell!
As Con and Raid move forward the Mechanons fire a volley of covering fire supported by OMAC on the Recoilless on the left and Sp'ock and Crisbel from their position in the centre.
The mechanons cause minor damage to a pair of the sathar combat robots and the warbot on the eastern side. OMAC pumps a shell from his recoilless rifle into the warbot as well (62 points) while Sp'ock and Crisbel target the other warbot with their laser rifles. Sp'ock has no luck at this range but Crisbel manages to score two hits (55 and 66 points)
Gleep enters the battle next to Con and travelling on four pseudolegs for better speed and stability. With his 2 upper limbs and trying to keep as low as possible he hands his grenades to Con before the human outdistances him.
"I have a couple Frags here. Lets take it down the right side and let everyone else get them bad guys looking left." His laser rifle is Gleep's weapon of choice at the moment, set at 4 SEU per shot.
When all is ready xZot moves out into the field and take up a position at D7 on the map grid in order to survey the effectiveness of the first round of combat. When Con and the others make their break for the cannon xZot follows, providing whatever support he can. He quickly catches up with Gleep but makes no ground on Con as the trooper surges toward the enemy line.
Gloo positions himself at grid reference C3 and digs in with the heavy laser and 5 power packs for it. Activating his chronocom he helps position the combat robots re-tasked by the team to map points C9 and E13 where the team will be able to call on them for co-ordinated fire support. Gloo moves over to the heavy laser emplacement places its setting on 10 and aims for the cannon on the far elevation, hoping for a shot at it's crew. He squeezes the trigger and swears when the heavy laser beam tears up a chunk of rock instead of his target.
"OMAC we need that recoilless rifle up and firing fast or those guys out front are going to get cut down pretty quick, Siu you're a better sniper than I, we should try to get the cannon in a crossfire."
Mounted on Nounouche in her partially concealed position at D11, Siu-Ling takes aim with her laser rifle at the Automatic Canon. One of the sathar crew carelessly shows himself and the sharpshooter puts a laser beam right through his skull. The sathar artilleryman is dead before he even knows he's been hit. Both Black Hand Gang combat robots open up with laser rifles at the Autocanon but the beams strike non-critical parts of the vehicle mounted weapon.
"Crikey those Sathar are even uglier than I imagined" remarks Sni'ktl. He scritches continuously as his insectoid legs instinctively try to burrow down into the sandy earth of Volturnus. "Of course I could just be projecting my own slightly negative body image in a moment of nervous tension."
On Gloo's right, McKilin, now serving as second man in the Heavy Laser position opens fire with his rifle. Jag, serving in a similar capacity for OMAC fires simultaneously but both medics serve only to put more deadly beams of light into the air or the sand, not into the enemy.
Slightly behind and to the left of Gloo's position with the Heavy Laser, Borovski takes a bead on the cybot nearest the enemy autocanon. He fires twice but serves only to pour energy into the Volturnus atmosphere. Sn'iktl keeps virtually out of sight until an enemy is within medium range then fires an aimed shot with similar results to Borovski.
In the face of the reinforcement of the mechanon line the Sathar force quickly goes on the attack. Using standard fire and movement tactics, half the sathar ground force advance at standard speed toward the Volturnus lines while the other half of the sathar robots put in supporting fire.
A mechanon on the left flank suffers minor damage whilst concentrated fire on another mechanon between Siu-Ling and Crisbel almost destroys it in the first volley. Gleep comes under severe gyrojet and laser fire, grunting with pain from two laser burns (20 and 24 points) and a gyrojet shell (8 points + 9 to suit) as he and Con are confronted by a pair of assaulting robots, one combot and one cybot. Con manages to avoid the robot's swinging arm as he tries to around his attacker and close on the autocanon position. Then the warbot to xZot's front opens up with laser and machine gun fire. xZot shrugs off the laser blast that is soaked up by his albedo screen (22 charges) but the machine gun bullets cause a certain amount of pain as they penetrate his skiensuit (25 points to xZot, 26 to suit) almost killing the commander there and then.
The sathar's automatic cannon continues to wreak it's havoc, this time the Black Hand Gang seeing it's devastating power up close, and for some, a little too personal. The canon's target, a mechanon at grid reference E8, explodes in a ball of fire and smoke, along with a sizeable chunk of earth only meters away from several team members. The sheer force of the explosion is amazing as Sp'ock and Crisbel are knocked to ground, stunned by the blast (4 and 3 turns respectively).
Now X'anthe fires again, this time at the sathar combat robot on the left flank. The first beam misses completely, the second strikes the target squarely in the torso (58 points) and results in the second kill for the Black Hand Gang. Raid continues his advance down the right flank apparently unnoticed at this point, drawing very close to the autocanon position.
Unable to avoid his opponent, Con levels his laser rifle at the robot in front of him and fires a pair of laser blasts into the metal body. The first tears off an upper limb and a substantial chunk of torso (50 points) and the second (63 points) leaves the bot in a smoking ruin.
"Chalk one up for the good guys!" Con mutters as he quickly glances around the battlefield. OMAC reloads his weapon as he surveys the advancing sathar robots then flicks on his chronocom to speak with Gloo.
"The autocanon is all yours buddy! We've got problems of our own over here." Eyeing the warbot below, OMAC prays he can get off a second shot before the Volturnus battle line is breached. Just then the mechanon soldiers fire their second volley and although more effective than their first volley, they do not manage to reduce the attackers numbers any further. The mechanon lack of combat experience is beginning to show.
Unable to get a clear shot at the other autocanon crewman, Siu-Ling sees a target of opportunity closing on the hole in the centre of her team's line. She squeezes the trigger and sends the sathar robot straight to the scrap heap (128 points), assuming any of the parts can actually be found to scrap after the robots parabattery power source explodes spectacularly.
At point blank range, Gleep swings his rifle up to meet the attacking cybot, firing twice at the metal monster wielding a gyrojet rifle he says,
"I'll take that thank you" referring to the robots rifle and his own preferred weapon. His first shot glances off the cybots side (23 points) and the second beam hits just below the first on the damaged bot (22 points). Expecting the cybot to deal out a gruesome end, Gleep is surprised when a laser beam strikes the cybot in the head (66 points). It's head explodes and the metal body falls to the sand beside him. Looking back over his shoulder Gleep sees his commander, badly wounded, aiming his laser rifle at the now terminated cybot. xZot smiles weakly as he tries to get back on his feet.
Up at the Heavy Laser emplacement, Gloo pulls the trigger again and watches with some satisfaction as the beam strikes home this time. Hoping to see the weapon explode in a ball of flame, he is disappointed when he sees the barrel of the heavy weapon traverse to it's next target. Gloo swears to himself thinking his shot was ineffective when his chronocom crackles to life.
"Nice shooting!" Raid's voice hisses out of the speaker "I think you've just disabled it!" The autocanon had just begun to move forward when Raid saw the blast from Gloo's weapon strike what must have been a critical drive component. Instead of being able to advance on the mechanon position, the vehicle stopped and began searching for new targets. Both of the teams combat robots continue putting laser fire into the autocanon but with no further effect.
Sn'iktl and Jag both fire at the warbot in front of OMAC's position and while Jag misses, the Chief Medical Officer manages to strike home (22 points) surprising even himself. On the right flank Borovski and McKilin add their own fire to the confusion, aiming for the remaining cybot near the autocanon both frontiersmen miss with both shots at almost 90 meters range.
The sathar autocanon traverses a short distance to the right then stops and fires. Another mechanon soldier explodes in a ball of fire and smoke, this one directly in front of Jag's position. The force of the explosion hurls the yazirian to the ground and knocking him unconscious (stunned for 6 turns).
The remaining advancing sathar bots halt and open fire as the second wave move forward to join the attack. On the team's left flank a combat robot fires into the mechanon in front of OMAC, the mechanon survives the laser blast only to be torn apart by the a burst from the machine gun mounted on the warbot. Simultaneously the warbot swings it's Heavy Laser around to fire on the mechanon between Siu-Ling and the unconscious form of Crisbel. The mechanon is cut in half by the laser blast and although the blast does not affect Siu-Ling, Nounouche is panicked by the fire and noise. The horse rears up wildly throwing Siu-Ling to the ground, then bolts away from the battlefield at the gallop.
On the other wing, xZot looks up in horror as he sees the second warbot with it's supporting robot brain, combot and cybot closing fast on his position.
"Oh shit!" The commander says as he, Con and Gleep turn to face their destiny. Closer to the sathar autocanon, Raid makes a similar comment as he spies the sathar reinforcements about to deploy.
X'anthe continues to lay down suppressing fire on the left flank from her position up on the rocks to OMAC's left. The gunnery sergeant fires his recoilless at the warbot closing on his position and smiles as the shell strikes home, tearing chunks of metal from the forward armour (62 points). Despite the damage the warbot continues relentlessly forward. The remaining mechanon soldiers put out another sporadic volley as several mechanon reinforcements arrive to bolster the crumbling line. Again they fail to drop any sathar robots but they are beginning to concentrate their fire on select targets, causing severe damage to the cybot threatening Gleep.
Con gives a devilish grin and and sets his rifle to half power as he spies the Sathar reinforcements. Ready to send them to whatever afterlife they believe in, Con fires on the nearest enemy robots. His first beam misses, the second scores a serious burn through the combot's armour (60 points) and penetrating to critical systems.
Raid closes the distance and sneaks up on the remaining sathar crew member from around the side of the weapon's control panel. He keeps his own head safely behind the machinery as he attacks with his machete. His first swing strikes the worm across the back (17 points) and serves only to warn the creature of Raid's presence as it hisses and slithers away from him.
After deciding that trying to stand wasn't such a great idea, xZot slumps back weakly to the ground. Grimly he looks around at Gleep and Con assessing their next moves.
"There is no going back now." he mutters as he cranks his rifle up to a 20 setting. Realizing that his wounds will affect his aim xZot elects for single, aimed shots at the warbot. "I've heard about a warbot before but I think this is the first time I've seen one up close." he calls out. "Maybe a little too close" he thinks to himself as he looks at all the holes in his skein suit. "These things are heavily armoured and aren't easy to stop." he adds, as if it wasn't obvious enough. The plucky young yazirian commander pulls the trigger and his world explodes in a blaze of light. At point blank blank range it was almost impossible for him to miss the towering bulk of the warbot and xZot burns a huge hole in the forward armour of the warbot (93 points), still it rolls forward.
Gleep changes his weapons setting to 10 and fire two shots at the nearest enemy, the cybot. Both blasts miss but Gleep continues to move forward towards the cannon regardless. He splits the gap between the damaged cybot and combot attacking Con, closing on the autocanon.
Gloo hears Raids attack on the cannon,
"You're in the way now and to hell with prisoners, just grenade the damn thing will ya!" The new Quartermaster swivels his weapon and sees xZot get raked with machine gun fire and go down, "Ahh shit, can't that flying monkey stay out of trouble just once?" Switching power to full he fires at the warbot, while contacting the combat bots "Redirect fire at K 7 full power then switch to target at H-12." Gloo swears most foully when he misses and doesn't fully appreciate the result of his radio work fully. Both of the teams combat robots fire twin beams at maximum power at the advancing warbot. Three of the supercharged beams of light strike the target and the warbot explodes in a ball of fiery smoke, throwing shrapnel in all directions.
Having seen the left flank in jeopardy Gloo yells over to James. "Mac, tell the mechanons we need reinforcements at E-11 NOW! And hook my laser rifle to a power pack and on max for me. God this sucks not having a screen." He sights in for another shot while trying to formulate a plan to get help down to the ones in front.
Demolitionist sharpshooter Siu-Ling d'Avignon, having gotten herself somehow mixed up with a pack of Frontiersmen calling themselves the Black Hand Gang, sits with a freshly sore bum on the Volturnian soil.
"Well, how do you like that?" her lips pronounce as she exhales and pulls herself to her feet, surveying the landscape for Nounouche.
"Nounouche!" she calls with a stern voice, then whistles, not immediately bothering to see whether he is coming or not. Setting her SEU dial to 10, she scrambles up onto the nearest rocks planning to zap the nearest opponent in plain sight but far enough away from xZot so she won't cut him and Raid and Gloo. Seeing the plume of oily smoke pouring from the warbot, Siu-Ling scans about for an alternate target when a combot enters her line of sight at H10. She pulls the trigger scours a deep groove across it's metal body (45 points).
Seeing the Black Hand Gang's command structure collapse before his eyes, Sni'ktl is relieved to hear Gloo giving tactical orders over the chronocom. He decides to discharge his command responsibilities along with his rifle.
"OMAC take charge left. Gloo keep them orders comin for the mech's. Con, Raid you are commando. Mac get your butt front and centre now and see to xZot. Siu-Ling you're with me." With that Sni'ktl leaves his laser and power pack, grabs his med kit and launches himself at full speed down the slope." Sni'ktl tries to duck the lancing laser beams and grabbing arms of approaching cyber death machines. He loads his hypo with stimdose prepared to inject the prone forms of Crisbel and Sp'ock. When Sni'ktl arrives at Crisbel's side he smiles to himself when he sees Crisbel's own first aid sprayhypo strapped to his tunic 'combat style', ready for quick use over his breast pocket. "This is no time for a nap fella's, up an at em." He says as he jabs Crisbel and moves over to Mr Sp'ock.
From behind Gloo's position more laser beams shoot out toward the cybot near Gleep. Another beam strikes the robot and Borovski whoops for joy when his second beam (45 points) rips it's head off.
Raid's scientific curiosity had got the better of him, and ignorant of sathar motives and behaviour he thought that the sathar may be able to call off the robots if it surrenders. Instead the sathar radios for assistance and one of the reinforcement bots turns and heads toward Raid. Despite the camouflage of his holoscreen, the robot isolates Raid's position and begins stitching his body with laser fire. Raid screams in pain as twin laser beams burn through his flimsy, ragged jump suit (27 points and 28 points)
The sathar artillery man turns back to his lethal handiwork as the rest of the sathar battle droids blaze away at the forces of Volturnus. The autocanon spews death once more, this time the prime target is the team's combat robot employed near OMAC's right. The robot literally bursts apart at it's seams, hurling fire and molten metal in all directions. The force of the explosion throws OMAC to the ground, knocking him senseless.
The remaining sathar warbot fires it's heavy laser at the nearest mechanon, one of the reinforcements, and also rakes Siu-Ling's position with it's machine gun. The mechanon is torn apart by a blast taking it full in the chest and Siu-Ling howls in pain as lead slugs rip up the rocks and scream through the air all around her. Female sharpshooter is shattered by the ferocity of the attack, the final vestiges of her skiensuit fall away as her body takes much of the brunt of the attack (46 points). All along the left flank, Volturnians are suffering. More mechanons are taking hits from laser fire, X'anthe shrieks with pain and anger when two beams find her behind the rocks (44 points).
In the confusion near the centre of the battlefield Con comes under fire from the assaulting combat robot. Taking two beams in the chest Con feels what's left of his albedo suit fall away quickly following by the searing burns of military grade laser ware (40 points). It's only now that the sathar robot brains become obvious amongst the carnage of the battlefield, most notably due to their apparent lack of weaponry. The unarmed brain near Con traverses the battlefield and positions itself among three of the reserve combat robots taking up position opposite the growing hole in the Volturnus defensive position.
Wounded and scared, X'anthe crawls toward the unconscious form of OMAC and his recoilless rifle where she starts reloading the weapon behind the rocky outcrop. Crisbel shakes his head and tries to gather his wits amidst the confusion of the battle. He sees the enemy robot only meters to his front and grabs for his rifle, quickly firing off a pair of ill aimed shots. Beside him, Sni'ktl is reviving Mr Sp'ock who also reaches for his rifle.
Hearing the com banter between Raid and the others xZot adds
"Just destroy that cannon if you are close enough Raid! We'll try to capture another one later if we need to. And, don't forget, you could try your grenades to subdue the gunners." Poor Raid is starting to panic, badly wounded by the robot but desperately wanting to take out the autocanon he lashes out again.
"Where do come from?" Raid yells at the mysterious worm after scoring his first hit. "Surrender and your life will be spared."
He strikes again with his machete and this time opens up a more serious wound in the sathar' side (23 points), hissing in pain and surprise, the sathar slips back away from the gun controls and then slides to the ground.
Con roars and fires his rifle again at the attacking robot, blowing away it's left arm and shoulder with his next shot, destroying it before moving forward to help Raid at the autocanon. Gleep is also rushing to help Raid and has almost reached the low rocky outcrop behind which the autocanon is positioned.
With the warbot at K7 taken out Gloo redirects fire on the warbot at H 12. He fires again and this time enjoys seeing the beam strike it's intended target (106 points), blasting off large pieces of armour and causing serious damage. The surviving robot from the BHG also fires at the warbot and hits with it's second shot (69 points) further increasing the team's odds.
Ecstatic about her first sathar kill, Siu-Ling braces for impact as bullets fly by a stone's throw away.
"This is how we do it back on New Pale, slitherines!" the normally quiet combatant curses at the oncoming aggressors. "Chakata, chakata, chakata!" she enjoys the feel of the long nosed zapper releasing so much wanton and unmerciful like energy at her targets. She puts a beam into the turret of the warbot spraying her with machine gun fire (62 points).
"Nounouche!" she calls out again, firmly, thinking she just heard his hooves nearby. Her head and eyes quickly scan the area as she crouches, hoping to remount the animal, should he be in condition to obey her.
Reeling from his wounds, xZot drags himself around the wreckage of the warbot, putting the smoking ruin between himself and the robots forming up near the battle field centre. From his new flanking position xZot fires at the nearest robot but the extent of his wounds is having a severe influence on his fighting capability and 20 SEUs disappear into the atmosphere.
Now the mechanon fire is beginning to show some real effectiveness. Two of the front line sathar robots are destroyed and one of the reserve robots is badly damaged by disciplined fire.
Snik revives Mr Sp'ock with a shot of stimdose then throwing caution to the wind, rushes towards xZot's position since that seems to be where the biocort is most needed. Sensing the tide of the battle turning Borovski begins moving forward as fast as his pseudo legs will carry him. McKilin also abandons his position, moving toward the opposite flank to lend his services as a medic.
Flush with the victory of having taken out the autocanon crew member Raid manages to avoid another blast from the sathar robot but a second beam hits him, grazing his side (16 points) and almost ends his career. Near the front line Siu-Ling has a similar near death experience as the warbot continues to fill the air above her head with lead. None of the projectile ammunition finds it's mark but another mechanon warrior learns how well made the warbot's weapons systems are as it is cut in half by a blast from the heavy laser. Further over on the left another mechanon is killed by laser fire from the remaining enemy robots and in the centre of the line Crisbel and Sp'ock both take incoming fire (Crisbel 22 points, Sp'ock 21 points) along with another mechanon warrior.
The mechanon forces now appear to be holding their own. With the autocanon out of the picture the forces of Volturnus look set to regain control of this section of the battlefield but every team member knows this is a far cry from victory today. If nothing else, Volturnus has taught then all to expect the unexpected.IC)
X'anthe finishes reloading OMAC's recoilless and swings the barrelaround to fire at the nearest sathar robot, a damaged combat model. She pulls the trigger and the shell slams into the sand behind the target sending a shower of debris skyward. Then the mechanon forces fire another volley of laser fire at the depleted ranks of their enemy. All along their line, sathar mechanical soldiers take fire and another explodes in a flash of light followed by a cloud of smoke.
Sp'ock and Crisbel concentrate their fire on the robots nearest their injured commander. Crisbel fires twice for one hit (60 points) and Sp'ock eliminates the target with his second shot (47 points) sending another sathar war machine to the scrap heap.
Heavily wounded, and with death staring him in the face, Raid makes a desperate move to survive. He jumps, prone, to the floor of the vehicle where the dead sathar gun crew had just been standing and attempts to operate the machinery gears into reverse. Under normal circumstances the mercenary scientist would have no trouble backing the entire machine straight over the nearby combot and crushing it into scrap metal but today is different. The alien technology and the stress of the combat environment addle Raid's thought process and he is unable to get the vehicle underway.
As the enforcer makes his way across the field of battle, Con identifies the enemy troopers who have his team mates pinned down as priority targets. Cresting the low, rocky ridge in front of the disabled autocanon he sees the predicament Raid is in and fires his laser rifle twice from the hip. The combat robot cornering Raid takes a laser blast in the side (49 points) and turns toward this new threat.
Gleep continues towards the cannon and fires at the sathar robot near the cannon. The first blast tears a hole right through the machine (63 points) and his second beam disappears through the hole created by the first superheated beam. As Gleep nears the cannon, he says,
"Raid, we can't move this thing, especially considering the other battles we must fight today give us no time to move it, or learn its' operation. Let's blow it and get some treatment."
Gloo felt relief hearing xZot's voice,
"How many lives does he have?" He sights in on the warbot and fires, also directing the last combat bot against the same target. Gloo's heavy laser beam misses but the combat robot aim is true and the second warbot grinds to a halt.
Hoping to get a few more shots at the closest enemies before she takes a lethal hit, Siu-Ling squeezes the trigger once more. The carefully aimed blast rips the top off another damaged bot (100 points) to her front. Staying prone, the sharpshooter wonders how long it will be before she receives any kind of medical assistance.
The fall of the canon brings some relief as xZot surveys the battlefield around him,
"Just bring 'em down as you see 'em Con." xZot calls out "Some of the others are still under enemy fire so concentrate your efforts over there." From his prone position xZot motions at the remaining combat 'bots. Moving slightly to get a better position for another shot at the remaining enemy resistance xZot hopes for a better outcome this time, he steadies himself as best he can and waits for the opportunity to add to the light show. xZot fires twice at the unusual looking, unarmed robot toward the rear of the centre pack and gets lucky with his second shot (53 points), the effect is immediate as the robot reverses direction straight away.
Sni'ktl arrives at his commanders side a immediately orders him to remain still as he begins treating the young yazirians wounds (Minor Surgery). Borovski advances to cover Sni'ktl and his boss, laying down covering fire as Jimmy McKilin reaches Siu-Ling's side.
"You'll be OK until Snik gets here, best he does all the body work" James smiles at the, for once, vulnerable amazon. The 20 something lad applies a local anaesthetic before moving on to attend to Jag and OMAC. The sathar attack turns quickly to retreat when both the autocanon and
warbots are eliminated. The remaining half dozen sathar robots turn back toward their lines without firing a shot.
Following completion of the conflict xZot moves back toward the main group and seeks out medical attention.
"We must collect what weapons and ammo we can from the fallen enemy." xZot instructs the others "At this rate we're going to need all our resources and more!" he curses, wincing as his injuries remind him of their presence.
Gloo has the remaining Mechanons move forward and set up a perimeter while the medics work on the injured. He is surprised at the fact that there were no KIA's after seeing many of the team fall during the battle, though many are seriously injured. Gloo has the maintenance bot put the recoilless ammo in the explorer and makes sure heavy laser and power packs are placed in helo #1. Then the robot joins him on his policing up what weapons and ammo they can find while looking for surviving mechanon and sathar bots.
The carnage is complete, none of the wrecks left on the battlefield are functional and much of the weaponry rendered useless. He does manage to salvage a gyrojet rifle and two partially used clips (7 shells each). There are several laser rifles which the surviving mechanons recover to distribute amongst their unarmed reserve units.
Con looks with satisfaction at the job that his team-mates did immobilizing the autocanon.
"One headache out of the way." He says, making his way to a medics for treatment. James revives Jag and OMAC then they all join Sni'ktl in a makeshift triage station by the teams explorer. Siu-Ling is already being examined by the medical team when Raid flicks off his holoscreen while waiting for his own medical assistance. Crisbel, X'anthe and Sp'ock all arrive and report for sick call. After the skirmish, Gleep also seeks treatment,
"I really would prefer to live through the war." Gleep says before trading his backpack for the one left near the copter before the skirmish. Moving back to his jetcopter xZot swaps his power backpack of the fully charged one.
"Gloo, did I read that we had a spare suit in here somewhere?" he calls out as he rummages around in the 'copters hold looking for other another skein suit in better condition than his current one.
"Yessir boss, we do have one good one left, the rest are slightly better than yours is now. Looks like we got a long battle ahead..." The quartermaster replies.
After checking all his equipment xZot changes the default setting on his rifle back down to 10 SEU and stores his equipment for the journey to their next assignment while OMAC and Borovski secure the immediate area.
The autocanon has been immobilized so Gloo proposes that if the explorer cannot tow the weapon then it must be destroyed.
"We don't have the time nor the parts to fix it but, as sure as Quickdeaths shit in the desert the sathar do.." easiest way to do it: Use one of the thermal grenades Boro has and put it in the ammo bin.
"It would be great if we could salvage that cannon and use it." Siu-Ling speculates. "Are any of us, or the eorna able to operate that type of technology? Can we move it easily?"
"I couldn't work it out" says Raid "But even if I could, like Gloo and Gleep say, it's not going anywhere." Gloo nods again and adds "We don't have parts to replace any of the broken ones, nor enough drivers to take 4 vehicles anywhere even if we could. It's a tracked vehicle so towing it in this desert would be a bitch."
The third dralasite agrees and pulls the incendiary grenade from his belt. As the others draw back, he sets the timer to maximum, pulls the pin and drops the primed explosive into the ammunition bin. Boro escapes the scene as fast as his short pseudo legs can carry him before the grenade explodes, followed by more explosions as the ammunition cooks off, effectively rendering the weapon useless.
After treatment his is done, Con seeks out xZot.
"The Boys took care of that gun, Boss. Any trouble spots you would like taken care of?"
At that moment an Ul-Mor rider arrives bearing a message from Jameson. The centre lines, defended by the Edestekai pike are the next Sathar target. Armed only with pikes, the Edestekai need all the help and firepower you can give them.
"Mount up!" xZot hollers, wincing again from the pain of his recent injuries. "You'll have to treat the rest in transit." xZot says to Sni'ktl who objects to moving his patients. "We don't have time. You've a few minutes finish up the serious cases while we get the birds in the air, just patch up the others with First Aid or something."
The Frontiersmen bundle aboard their respective vehicles and race across the back of the ridge line to add their support to the next threatened sector of the Volturnus defensive position. Both jetcopters settle down behind the Edestekai pikemen as the explorer pulls up nearby and the team disembarks.
After opening the battle by an attack on the left flank, the Sathar are now advancing against the Edestekai. The Black Hand Gang must prevent the Edestekai from running away and inflict as much damage as possible on the Sathar. In order to convince the Edestekai that these Sathar are not gods, the team will have to kill at least one of the Sathar.
"Thanks for the patch-up work, McKilin," says the otherwise quiet Siu-Ling, taking any assistance she can get given that her flesh is torn and lacerated in several places. "That biocort's good stuff. Remind me to buy you a human ale at some point." Trying to keep a stiff upper lip in the heat of the battle, it isn't until the adrenaline rush subsides that she comes to the realization that this immediate conflict is over. McKilin nods at his work on the markswoman before turning to Con, the minor surgical procedure was a success on the woman but on Con he was less effective. Jag steps in to assist the human medic and complete the work on Con while Sni'ktl works his way through the medical roster. Gleep hopes to get some relief from the heavy damage taken before getting back into battle.
"Yes, yes yes, you're next." Sni'ktl says to the agitated dralasite. "Yes I know I said you were but now it's him OK. What moving out? Look xZot I know I patched you up first but these others. OK, OK just let me finish up on Raid, he's the difficult one. Yes I know he wasn't complaining at all, but he's now ninety percent biocort."
Sni'ktl completes minor surgical procedures on both X'anthe and GleepGlooup, who have also benefited from the first aid treatments. Crisbel and Sp'ock also receive first aid from the Chief Medical Officer in transit. After treatment Con grabs his gear and jumps into one of the copters ready for the next battle. The enforcer knows the job has just begun. No telling how long the invasion will last or how large the invasion force is. Sni'ktl finishes up the surgery on Raid hoping the biocort to plastiflesh bonds take properly, the surgery hadn't been a complete success but at least he was on his feet. He then gets into the explorer that looks more like a meat wagon.
"Sorry for the bumpy ride folks but this was the only vehicle big enough."
All Con knows for sure is that the team is this planet's last best chance to stay out of Sathar hands. Con takes a look around at his cohorts, he knows that there is not a braver group alive than the BHG. Lifting her head, Siu-Ling sees a faint, fuzzy, familiar figure and smiles,
"Sni'ktl... did we... defeat them?"
"Defeat would be a very absolute concept to apply in the current circumstances. I am advised though by Mr Sp'ock, who's tactical abilities I greatly admire, that our egg of success may yet become the hatchling of limited achievement." The doctor replies.
"Correct" Mr Sp'ock replies in his usual succinct manner as he casts his eye stalks around assessing the combat effectiveness of his small force.
Raid thanks the vrusk medical expert for the quick patch up job, before stumbling over to his jetcopter, it's engine still running.
"At least I get to keep off my feet while flying this thing. It's the next best thing to bed rest at the moment I suppose." Raid rubs his scars again and settles in behind the controls, his seat belt securely fastened. "Who wants to do some bombing and strafing?" He chronocoms the others, holding his wrist close to his mouth to be heard over the whirr of the blades. "I have seats for three."
"OK guys lets do it..." Sni'ktl finishes his address to the medical team. He also evens out the biocort by taking 3 doses from Jag while OMAC takes four doses from McKilin. "Anyone know where that spare medkit is... never mind, no time now, we'll find it later.
Gleep glories in his half life, but longs for the time, 20 hours from now, when more healing can be effected.
"The full glow of health awaits those who survive the battle. Let's try to avoid robots for the moment." After seeing Snik, Gleep gets his fresh power pack and joins the others for battle.
In the jetcopter, Siu-Ling sits up and checks herself.
"Nounouche?" she asks Sni'ktl, assuming that he was stabled with the lopers. "Poor baby," she struggles to say as her rib still hurts. "So how'm I doing? Fit for duty?" she volunteers her trigger finger despite the discomfort. "How long 'til the swelling goes down?" she asks the vrusk medic. "Hey," she then pulls herself up to her feet, holding on tightly as the jetcopter bucks against a gust of oncoming desert wind.
"You think maybe I could snag one of those skeinsuits?" She holds most of her old one in her hands, decimates as it was left by the first sathar offensive. "If I can peg any of these chunk-chewers with 15 or more SEU, that ought'a make a believer out of any edestekai," she then taunts the yazirian commander into throwing her back into the front line.
The team arrive with their vehicles just behind the edestekai line and all but Raid dismount and head toward their edestekai allies.
"I'll take our last combat robot up if no one else wants those seats. That leaves two more seat available." Raid comms the others and signals the robot to get in. Sni'ktl volunteers for air combat duty but the rest of the team plainly prefer to remain on the ground. The Black Hand Gang race to reinforce the edestekai pikemen awaiting the sathar assault. Raid pulls back on the stick, lifting the chopper twenty meters upwards and forward toward the centre of the battlefield at a low speed searching for targets. He keeps his grenades in reach and ready to drop.
Gleep deploys on the right flank in a prone position, hoping for both cover and a better shot given the steady surface. He takes careful aim at the sathar opposite him, to cut off the flank, but holds fire until the order is given, his rifle set at 10.
Con heads for the middle of their allies intending to fight from this position just to support the line. Not knowing if the local troops can understand him,
"Steady boys. Hold your fire until they are closer and then we'll strike a mighty blow." He says, keeping an eye out for any other trouble spots that he can quickly respond to from the centre of the firing line.
xZot positions himself to Con's right with a pair of edestekai between them. From here he has a good view of the events as they unfold. After checking his Albedo screen to ensure it is activated, xZot grabs his tangler grenades to lob as a first attack and then follow up with his laser rifle on the default setting 10 SEU. Gritting his teeth in an unfriendly smile xZot glares down at his foe; still feeling some after effects from his wounds, he will not aggressively advance from his position, down the slope, unless it is to assist another BHG member.
After loading the combat robot and Sni'ktl, Raid takes his jetcopter out to hover above the right flank of the Sathar line. He tells the bot to start shooting sathar with the rifle at ten SEU, offering his own power backpack if the robot runs low on power.
Gloo drops his non weapon equipment except for the first aid pack and replenishes his load. The plucky dral trooper grabs a couple of frag grenades, a sonic disruptor and about a dozen e-clips and sets up on the north side of the Edestekai. Gloo watches as Raids' jetcopter flies overhead and slows to a hover,
"Ahh jeez what's he doing now? He's gonna get zapped for sure just sitting there". Gloo gets into a prone position and sets laser rifle on 5 and sights down towards the sathar line and starts firing as soon as has a clear target.
"I hear you Gloo." Raid decides to try some evasive manoeuvres to get the sathar to waste their ammo. He weaves the copter back and forth as he goes forward and increases altitude to 100 meters as he approaches the sathar battle line.
Sni'ktl notes that Raid seems a little sluggish at the controls.
"Hmm I worried that the biocort would go a bit lumpy and slow you down. I'm not supposed to do this, but as you insist on flying you could try some of this." Sni'ktl offers Raid a stimdose injection and the pilot nods, acknowledging his flagging performance due to the after effects of the surgery. The stimdose surges through his veins, restoring clarity and dulling the pain. Raid flicks on his holoscreen as he pilots the copter hoping to give the appearance of a robotic aircraft, and divert any pilot targeted ground fire.
And then the battle is joined once more. The teams open com frequency crackles to life as Mr Sp'ock begins issuing tactical commands,
"Take aim." Laser rifles along the line snap to shoulders. "Wait for it. Pick your targets." The X-O commands as the Black Hand Gang choose their marks. "Wait for it." The sathar advance at a steady pace, bunched up in several places and concealing other, larger creatures immediately behind their line. When the sathar line reach a rocky outcrop at 65 metres range Sp'ock snaps "Fire!" The first volley shoots out toward the sathar troops and four fall from lethal blasts fired by Borovski(51), Crisbel(54), Siu-Ling(70) and Con(56).
The sathar return fire as they continue their steady advance, an edestekai on xZot's right takes a blast to the side and another next to X'anthe is also injured. The ebony skinned woman is also the Black Hand Gangs first casualty of the engagement when she also is hit in the side by laser fire (22 points).
"Medic!" She hisses through the pain as she takes aim once more.
"Ready!" Mr Sp'ock calls out again over the chronocoms. "Aim!" OMAC reloads his recoilless as the riflemen and women take aim again, with Raid closing on the sathar line. "Fire!" Sp'ock orders and the second volley of laser fire drops more sathar, this time Sp'ock(53), Crisbel(62), Siu-Ling(52), Gleep(56), X'anthe(57) and Con(44) drop another half dozen sathar.
Spying the clusters of sathar along the advancing formation, Raid swings his jetcopter over their positions to identify the new targets. The sathar continue firing as they advance to inside 50 metres of the edestekai pikemen and their allies from the Frontier. An edestekai on the other side of X'anthe takes a blast from a laser rifle but soldiers on. xZot's albedo screen flares as beam tries to penetrate it's field (5 SEUs) but then there is a gasp of horror all along the like. At the same time the chronocoms crackle as Raid reports from the jetcopter
"Quickdeaths!" he exclaims, as a pair of the dangerous creatures flash across the sand and slam into the volturnus forces. "And something else?" Raid continues when he sees two other large masses, of what look like vegetation, advancing amongst the sathar troops.
Sni'ktl lobs a frag grenade out of the jetcopter and the combat robot opens fire as a group of sathar reinforcements begin firing on the chopper. The robot misses but amazingly, Snik's grenade lands true, right beside the heaving mass of vegetation. The beast takes the full brunt of the explosion (37 points) and the three sathar surrounding the creature are also wounded (18 points each). The robot in the passenger seat takes incoming ground fire during the exchange (22 points).
As the pair of quickdeaths hurtle toward their targets, they each fire their poison tail darts. One dart misses completely but the second dart strikes OMAC (10 points) a nanosecond before the very same quickdeath grapples Gleep (19 points and 20 to skien suit) and begins stuffing the startled dralasite into it's maw. The second quickdeath attacks the previously uninjured edestekai between Sp'ock and X'anthe.
The edestekai are visibly shaken by the appearance of their gods among the sathar ranks and their line is already beginning to waver. Waiting in the centre of the line, grenades in hand, xZot re-evaluates the situation with the appearance of the quickdeaths and these new slithering masses of vegetation.
X'anthe's lightning reflexes hold her in good stead as she takes a carefully aimed shot at the nearby quickdeath but the phenomenal speed of the creature defeats her aim even at such short range. Mr Sp'ock also fires at the quickdeath, unfortunately with the same poor result.
"Fire at will!" the vrusk X-O instructs as the Black Hand Gang deal with this newest turn of events.
OMAC quickly injects himself with antitox to neutralize the poison coursing through his veins before helping Siu-Ling finish off the quickdeath. While Gleep would benefit from immediate attention at this stage, prevention, in the form of the quick demise of the quickdeath, is looking a whole lot more practical than cure.
Seeing the quickdeaths, Con realizes how important it is to make sure the line holds now, more than ever.
"Easy laddies. Hold on." Con changes targets from the Sathar troopers to the quickdeaths, and fires. Con's laser blast strikes the beast near X'anthe and Sp'ock while he tries to rally the troops with his exhortations. Once again the quickdeath's naturally reflective skin helps reduce the potential damage (21 points) from the blast.
Crisbel swings his rifle about and takes a shot at the other quickdeath but he also misses the speedy creature. Overhead Raid levels his jetcopter at a mere 40 meters from the desert sand and begins moving evasively in a figure eight over the sathar, giving Sni'ktl and the combot plenty of chances to shoot at anything they want.
xZot quickly looks around at the quickdeaths as they reach the line and attack. Realizing that, with his accuracy, those closest to the beasts were the only ones that could effectively assist, he swears under his breath and looks back at the advancing Sathar. With his backpack draining quickly xZot calls out to Jag,
"I'm gonna need a couple of those spare clips you've carrying. Chuck over what you can spare." Adjusting his rifle to a 5 setting to conserve power he takes aim at the approaching enemy once again. Unable to get a clear shot at the slithering monsters, xZot fires at a sathar soldier, narrowly missing him. Jag fires and hits, (26 points) dropping a wounded sathar soldier standing in between the slithers before calling back to xZot.
"That's a fully charged pack you've got there boss, how long do you expect us to be here?" The yazirian replies to his younger commander.
Turning her SEU dial to the maximum setting, Siu-Ling d'Avignon releases shot after shot into the chest of the quickdeath whose mouth now feeds on dralasite meat. A zap here (57 points), a zap there (62 points), and all the while keeping her aim low so as to avoid the mangled dral in the monster's maw,
"Gleep! I'm comin' for yaaaa!" she assures him, taking a step forward with each shot, despite the imminent danger of the edestekai god ripping her to shreds after it is done with her elastic associate.
Gleep attempts to put his second last doze grenade into that ugly maw. He misses the creatures mouth and the grenade pops it's load of sleep gas underneath him, knocking the hapless dralasite unconscious and having no effect on the quickdeath. Gloo sees the quickdeaths rush forward.
"AAAH jeez this is NOT good" then goes back to firing at the sathar. He curses to himself as he misses again then adds, "Boro we got to finish these guys quickly, Mac you better go help Gleep" Borovski nods back to Gloo,
"Leave this lot to me," he points toward the advancing sathar "You concentrate on the walking pot plants." With that, Borovski pulls a pair of frag grenades from his bandolier and advances toward the sathar soldiers, his albedo screen shimmering under the volturnus sun.
Acknowledging the tactically astute dralasite, McKilin begins moving along the back of the allied lines towards X'anthe. He remains alert for other medical priorities, knowing that after her recent treatment, the best he can offer the warrioress is a dose of stim to pep her up and to keep the pain out of her aim.
Sni'ktl cringes as he sees the quickdeaths slam into the Volturnian lines but is pleased to see the line still holding. He can only hope that the ground based medics are doing their jobs.
"Whatever this crawling compost is, we don't want to see it reach our lines undamaged." Sni'ktl remarks to Raid as he ponders these vegetative enemies and exchanges theories with Raid. "If only we had some incendiaries, that could help." As Raid brings the bird over the bio mass, Sni'ktl lobs his frag grenade. His missile lands wide of the mark and bounces away from anything remotely resembling a target as Raid brings his ride around for another pass.
"Mind if I use some of these on them?" Sni'ktl indicates the frag grenades in Raid's bag.
"Take as many as you need." Raid yells back to Sni'ktl. He decides to level off at an altitude of 45 meters and continue weaving around above the sathar. "Let's make them mad enough to shoot, but not give them an easy target. Keep your belts on tight!" Raid works the stick and pedals of the jetcopter with some fairly rapid manoeuvring. He puts the machine and his own skills to the test, but warns his passengers before each turn so as not to interfere with their aim.
"I don't like the looks of those vegetative masses. As we all know, on this planet everything is dangerous. Any of you with incendiary grenades, this would be a good place to use them." xZot barks into his 'com. "Crisbel you should try your sonic blaster on the mass in front of us, we cannot afford to have it get too close. If that fails, those frag grenades may slow it up."
The sathar formation continues it's advance, firing as they go, their laser rifles now closing to short range. Borovski's ploy works as the nearest sathar troops all concentrate their fire on him and his albedo screen flashes once with a hit (6 SEU). A couple of edestekai are wounded, one critically and several sathar troopers fire on the jetcopter but none of the Black Hand Gang take fire from the third sathar volley. The quickdeaths are another story altogether. For Gleep, being stunned by his own dose grenade is a blessing in disguise. As soon as his body went limp and seemingly lifeless, the quickdeath simply tossed him aside (5 points + 5 to skiensuit) and leapt at the nearest moving thing, this time an edestekai pikeman.
It's now that the full impact of the appearance of the quickdeaths is realized. Although they haven't yet fled the battlefield, the edestekai will not raise their weapons to attack the quickdeaths. The poor creature tries to avoid the quickdeaths' tentacles in vain, as it is slashed with razor sharp claws before being grabbed by the tentacles and stuffed into the jaws of the 'God of Justice'. The other quickdeath continues to chew on the peanut shaped, and to the quickdeath, flavoured pikeman whilst she uses her claws to eviscerate the wounded pikemen standing nearby.
From the vantage point of the jetcopter Sni'ktl can better evaluate the new creatures. The pair of slithering vegetable masses are 20 meters long and 2 meters wide and closing with the sathar infantry. They resembles a giant sized cross between a worm and a centipede and appear to be part plant and part animal. The jetcopter also brings Raid and company closer to the sathar reinforcements that are still arriving and beginning to fire on the Volturnus airforce. Raid ducks involuntarily in his seat at another particularly close laser blast from below.
X'anthe and Sp'ock fire again at the quickdeath as it mauls the edestekai, both again taking careful aim to try and compensate for the innate speed of the genetically enhanced house cats. X'anthe's wounds are taking their toll, spoiling her aim but Sp'ock manages to burn a scar through the creatures hide (28 points).
OMAC merely shakes his head when he sees Gleep knock himself out, then get thrown clear of immediate danger. He glares in Gleep's direction with a one word retort.
"Inbred!" Then pulls the trigger on his recoilless and blasts the quickdeath into a million pieces. He smirks to himself, looks back at Gleep and mutters. "Oh that's gotta hurt."
In the centre of the defensive line, Con takes another shot at the remaining quickdeath but misses his mark while Crisbel nails another sathar (61 points) dropping him in his tracks and uncovering the front of a slither.
Above the action Raid swings the jetcopter through the bottom of a figure eight pattern and sweeps back over the slithers. The combat robot takes another shot with it's rifle and Sni'ktl lobs a pair of Raid's frag grenades out the doorway as they pass over the creatures. Miraculously both grenades land squarely on the creatures flank (41 & 49 points) but the monstrosity continues forward unchecked.
xZot sprays another shot into the air over the exposed slither as he waits for the sathar forces to reach grenade range. With the quickdeath in pieces all around her, Siu-Ling shifts targets and pumps a full charge into the side of the same slither (100 points) barely slowing it as it continues forward.
On the opposite flank Gloo empties the last 5 SEUs from his clip into the sathar flanker (25 points) wounding the infantryman while Borovski's gambit pays off in the most unlikely fashion. The foolhardy dralasite rushes forward now, hurling both grenades as he runs. Neither grenade hits it's target, but rather bounce wide of their intended targets and catch their respective right side companions. Both sathar are caught flat footed by the sudden assault and are killed (43 points) and severely wounded (30 points) respectively.
Arriving at X'anthe's position, Jimmy McKilin administers a stimdose shot to the striking environmentalist.
"I guess neither of us signed up for this." He quips ironically
"You can bet your ass on that!" She grins back after the stim kicks in "But it's not like they don't deserve it." She finishes grimly smiling at the advancing sathar battle line.
Seeing Gleep go down, Jag races across the back of the allied position, pulling a hypospray loaded with stimdose to revive his companion and free up OMAC to unshoulder and reload his recoilless.
Both wounded sathar around Borovski close on his position firing wildly as they advance. Further back the reserve sathar advance firing more methodically and lighting up his albedo screen once more (4 SEUs). Another of the reserves puts a shot through the side of the jetcopter damaging the combot (17 points) then all hell breaks loose when Raid takes another hit, this time from ground fire (25 points). The jetcopter jerks in the air as the pilot flinches involuntarily from the pain before regaining control of his bird. The rest of the sathar fire does little more than keep heads low and wound another edestekai pikeman.
The death of the quickdeath seems to have finally galvanized the edestekai into action. The nearest edestekai swarm around the remaining quickdeath trying to free their trapped comrade and the rest surge forward toward the sathar line chanting as they run, pikes levelled to skewer the worms.
X'anthe fires twice at the quickdeath at point blank, the second blast searing it's side (24 points) and Mr Sp'ock repeats the tactic with maximum effectiveness, hitting the creature twice more (22 & 27 points).
In the centre of the defensive line Con targets both Slither and Sathar. He continues to shout encouragement to his allies, making sure the line does not break then fires striking the slither (48 points) and emptying his power backpack in the process. To Con's right, Crisbel fires twice, killing the sathar soldier in front of him (46 points) and another sathar in the second rank (54 points).
Raid crouches down in his seat behind the instrument panel, trying to lower his profile and keep the combot between himself and any sathar laser fire. He shifts to the right over the battlefield to close on the second wave of sathar reinforcements and resumes the figure eight pattern above them.
"Make any sathar wearing goggles a priority target." Raid instructs the combot. "I think that last shot came from one that saw through my holoscreen."
"Make this the last pass." Sni'ktl replies "We need to set down near X'anthe. Medical emergency." Sni'ktl picks up his laser rifle, checks the setting and takes a departing errant shot at the enemy.
"Got that!" Raid replies over the comm. "Just show me where you want to set down."
Bringing the SEU setting of her rifle down to 10, Siu-Ling resolves to pick off a sathar shooter before it gets the best of her or an edestekai pikeman. A clean head shot (59 points) drops the first target as Siu-Ling shifts aim to another sathar.
While OMAC reloads on the right flank, over on the left Gloo watches Boro rush the sathar line as he too reloads, slamming another clip into his rifle
"Now what's he up to?" Gloo mutters before turning back to firing at the sathar around Boro. "Wonder if xZot and Boro are having a contest to see who can killed first?" While Gloo watches, Borovski draws his machete and cuts down a wounded sathar (21 points).
Jag takes a shot of stimdose from his medkit and revives the stunned form of Gleep as McKilin moves to reinforce xZot and Con in the centre. The edestekai surrounding the quickdeath manage to land several blows while the genetically enhanced creature spits out the edestekai corpse it was chewing on and lashes out again, tearing apart another edestekai victim. The rest of the edestekai warriors engage the sathar line, tying up the advance but having little initial impact on the disciplined enemy.
The sathar trooper near Borovski fires again, missing the half crazed dralasite as two more sathar close on his position. The sathar ranks draw together, firing as they advance. Both slithers engage the edestekai as well and three of them die in the ensuing chaos as the defenders of volturnus struggle to survive.
Despairing at the carnage wrought by the quickdeath, X'anthe blazes away again, this time the tears of rage and pain ruining her aim. Mr Sp'ock fires in support and his second shot (29 points) finally stills the raging beast before it can kill again.
With Siu-Ling intent on picking off sathar on the right flank, OMAC and Crisbel begin firing on the exposed slither closest to the BHG position. Taking care not to hit any of their allies, they both err on the side of caution and miss altogether.
Con rips out his empty clip and slaps another in it's place as the sathar centre closes on his position.
As he is awakened, Gleep counts his blessings,
"1.2.3..." Then he proceeds to lie down to make himself a smaller target and tries to help eliminate the slithers. His first shot goes high and wide and nearby, Siu-Ling surprisingly does the same.
Gloo fires again and wounds (19 points) another sathar attacking Borovski who lashes out again with his machete. The sathar ducks clear of Boro's blow as the team's jetcopter roars overhead toward the rear of the BHG position. The combat robot in the seat next to Raid fires again, this time hitting and killing another wounded sathar fighting with Boro.
With Gleep back in the action, Jag lends his fire support to the effort against the slither (24 points) but McKilin, who has now also levelled his rarely used rifle, fires with little more success than kicking up some sand well beyond the fighting.
The poorly armed edestekai continue to hold up the sathar advance in places but are still causing negligible casualties, even in their berserk religious rage.
Without their quickdeath shock troops, the sathar assault is now beginning to wane. Then two of the sathar press forward, almost reaching xZot's position when the young yazirian commander lobs a tangler grenade at the feet of the leading sathar. As soon as the enemy soldier is enmeshed by the sticky fibres of the grenade, his companion turns his laser rifle on the trapped sathar and pulls the trigger, killing the trapped sathar.
Now the edestekai frontal assault seems to be paying off. At close range the sathar are having trouble bringing their rifles to bear and the slithers have stopped to deal with the edestekai instead of forcing a breach in the volturnus defences.
As Raid tries to keep his head below the dashboard and out of the line of fire, he manages to bring the jetcopter in to land near Sp'ock and X'anthe, xZot contemplates his next move. Inside the chopper Sni'ktl is busy explaining to Raid that he is the 'medical emergency'
"Sorry Raid the RNA in Biocort won't take another graft for twenty hours and you're stimmed up to the eyeballs. The proverbial bag of tricks is empty. It's a shame I was unable to master those Eorna metaphysio techniques, they don't gunk up the 'cort. You could try their medics. If you're taking the copter, X'anthe and Gleep could benefit too."
With the nearby quickdeath threat eliminated, X'anthe turns her attention to the sathar trying to reach xZot's command post. She squeezes the trigger and the head of her target vaporizes (56 points) in the superheated light beam. Con continues to fire his rifle, waiting til he hears the click click of an empty weapon. Another sathar soldier drops to the sand dead (54 points).
As Raid brings his chopper to a stop Mr Sp'ock and Crisbel blaze away at sathar and OMAC reloads his recoilles yet again. Gleep aims for the nearest target of opportunity and tries to remove the slithering threats. His blast hits the creatures side (50 points) as it continues toward the Black Hand Gang.
As soon as the enemy soldier is enmeshed by the sticky fibres of the grenade his companion turns his laser rifle on the trapped sathar and pulls the trigger, killing the trapped sathar.
"Nasty!" Siu-Ling reacts with disgust at the fanatical sathar shooting the willing and entangled captive. Siu-Ling decides to finish off the remaining sathar with the rest of her clips. Trying to save the energy in her pack, she slaps a fresh clip into her rifle.
Gloo fires at the next sathar in his area and drops the wounded soldier then the dralasite trooper attaches a power pack from the heavy laser to his rifle and ups the power setting to 20.
Checking quickly for his other tangler grenade, ensuring that it is close to hand, xZot focuses his attention back down on the battlefield in front of him. Looking down on the remaining Sathar xZot smiles as he mumbles under this breath
"No prisoners allowed eh? Ah well, better your ammo than ours." Once the advancing sathar are stopped, xZot turns his attention back to the slithers. Commander xZot takes a shot with his rifle but manages to comletely miss the advancing behemoth.
Sni'ktl clambers to the front with his laser rifle and is pleased to note the lack of an enemy to fire at from here.
"What's that, coming at us from the flank. OK lets do it."
Borovski draws his machete and strikes the sathar soldier in front of him a mighty blow, severing the creatures flimsy right arm (33 points) as the edestekai pikemen wreak their own bloody vengeance along the battlefront. Another sathar is dispatched and several others are wounded while Jag and McKilin spray more laser beams into the sky.
The sathar return fire is ineffectual, however the two slithers slaughter the three remaining edestekai in the centre of the field creating an unexpected breach in the battle line.
Seeing the developing situation, X'anthe fires at the nearest slither and smiles when the beam strikes home (47 points) but the smile quickly fades when she realizes her powerpack just ran dry.
"Uh oh" she mutters as she reaches for a fresh clip.
"Damn it!" curses the enforcer as he brings his weapon to bear on the slithers. Con to, empties his his powerpack, as he pours more fire into the alien beast (58 points) but the creature continues toward the BHG command position. Mr Sp'ock continues the tradition of emptying powerpacks into slithers as he burns another hole in the monster (45 points) and Crisbel follows suit (66 points) finally dropping the creature in it's tracks.
OMAC targets the second slither with the recoilles, scorching a hole in it's massive side (67 points) and to his right, Siu-Ling squeezes the trigger and (56 points) picks off another sathar soldier. The right flank of the sathar attack disintigrates when Borovski crowns his opponent with his machete (17 points) and the edestekai slay the rest of the sathar troops. Gleep tries to help out the edestekai on the opposite flank but can't get a clear shot in the melee and misses. Gloo turns to the maintenance bot and issues his commands,
"Grab the remaining power packs and follow me." Then he moves towards the large creatures, planning to target the last remaining moving mass of vegetation. Jag and McKilin continue to lay down little more than covering fire as Raid thanks Sni'tkl for his concern but keeps the jetcopter ready for the next fight. The combat robot take a last shots from its seat while Raid keeps a low profile behind it, going over some diagnostics on the copter's panel. The robot inflicts a minor burn across the slithers 'back' (53 points).
With the last slither bearing down on him, xZot pulls the trigger and hits the veggiesnake monstrisity square in the middle of it's forward section (58 points) but it keeps right on coming like a hovertrain, albiet slower.
The sathar laser fire has dwindled almost to nothing as their attack peters out. As many of xZot's warriors reload, Gloo opens up with his laser rifle. His first ranging shot falls short but from the opposite side of the field, Siu-Ling puts in effective fire (61 points) and Gleep adds to the carnage (53 points). The slither staggers, making xZot's beam miss high and once again both Jag and McKilin also miss. It falls to the Chief Medico to end the chaos with a double tap to the centre mass of the slither with his laser rifle.
Suddenly all goes relatively quiet as the defenders of Volturnus take stock of the battlefield. The edestekai have slain the few remaining sathar soldiers, leaving the field in possesion of the Black Hand Gang and their allies.
"OK people!" Mr Sp'ock's harsh voice penetrates across the ridgeline "Show's not over yet! Saddle up!" The X-O commands as he begins ushering his charges toward the vehicles.
As soon as the Black Hand Gang return from the centre lines you receive word via an Ul-Mor rider, that the Eorna skirmish line on your right flank is in serious trouble. Some new monsters have been unleashed by the Sathar, and the Eorna are totally unable to stand against them. Already they are dying and retreating. Soon these monsters will turn the flank of the Edestekai, unhinging the entire line of your army! The Eorna desperately need your help.
As you approach the scene of the crisis, you are able to see several of the huge monsters. They are enormous cybots, apparently part reptilian, part robot. They are rampaging through the Eorna front. This hideous creation of the Sathar has a huge metallic head with eyes that blaze forth laser beams. Flames shoot from its "mouth" which is full of horrid metallic teeth. The creature's appearance suggests the name: cybodragon!
While you are dispatching a desperate call for reinforcements, you see a Sathar ground vehicle roar up behind one of the cybodragons. Two Sathar technicians emerge from the vehicle and the cybodragon comes to a halt. The technicians slither up the sides of the now stilled beast and remove a plate from the back of its head. An object is removed from inside, and another inserted in its place. The technicians get back into their vehicle and the monster continues its attack. The technicians head for the next cybodragon.
It is obvious that the power required by such a creation is enormous. That Sathar vehicle holds the supply of extra power packs! The only way to halt the cybodragon attack is to destroy or capture that truck immediately.
"Siu-Ling and OMAC need to take that vehicle out. The rest of us need to concentrate on those cyberdragons because they are going to be dangerous even without powerpacks. Those teeth look as sharp as Siu's aim."
"Gadzooks!" exclaims the New Palean sharpshooter, seeing the beasts in the distance. "OK, gimme some clips and I'm on it," she offers. "You really ought to consider letting me snipe from one of the choppers," insists the trigger-happy trekker. "Better yet, Commander," Siu-Ling urgest xZot. "If Raid can fly us steadily over that worm truck, I can try to blast it."
"My word they are rather prodigous" remarks Sni'ktl. "No wonder they use so much power. Those Sathar technicians clearly have some device that deactivates these monstrosities and allows them access to their control panel. If we could capture the technicians I could try and hypnotise them to deactivate their charges?"
xZot strains to watch what the Sathar technicians are doing to recharge the cybodragon in case he has the need, or opportunity, to disable one of the creatures later. Recognizing the significance of controlling the recharging vehicle xZot's mind starts working as he listens to the suggestions being offered around him.
"I can still fly this thing." Raid insists "Dropping off three passengers by that truck should be simple." Raid is hoping that the task will be simple anyway.
"You? Hypnotize a worm? I'll believe it when I see it," retorts the female human at Sni'ktl's side. "I heard they'll zap your brain with their stare, and then you're later days!" Siu-Ling finishes
"Oh my oh my oh my." Sni'ktl mutters as he surveys the terrain. "I would send a medic, Jag, with the team that raids the truck. He's best equipped to exit the 'copter in flight if required."
Raid reactivates his holoscreen to give the appearance of a pilotless copter again, and waits for passengers. He just hopes that the sathar haven't had the time to spread the word along their lines about the team's previous actions.
"If they're smart, they will radio their friends and adapt to our tactics. Let's not get too predictable."
"Don't you dare shoot that truck!" Gloo howls over to the sniper. "We need those power packs, our supply is dwindling rapidly and they don't grow on trees ya know!"
Listening to Gloo, xZot glances back to the truck as it moves across the enemy line, turning back he adds.
"I can't see how useful Sathar power cells are going to be. It is unlikely that their technology and ours would be compatible enough for us to use their packs out here in the field any time soon." A wry grin crosses the young Yazirian's face. "I would imagine it would be a pretty spectacular fire and light show if we plugged one of those straight into one of our systems raw! I'd like to see it from somewhere over there," xZot motions to the outermost ridge line "but I don't think I want to be too close." He chuckles to himself
"Boss we need that truck," Gloo insists "I'll go after it myself if I have too, but it would be nice to have a driver, we can always blast it later if need to." Gloo looks over awaiting the answer from his commander who carefully considers his reply.
"I do however think that there may be a tactical advantage to controlling the vehicle," xZot says "Or more particularly its cargo, and not to mention the research value it would have, but it remains to be seen if the prize is worth the potential losses in our ranks to get and hold it. At the very least I think we should soften them up a little before we think about dropping anyone in the middle of things behind the line." xZot looks around at the gang as he listens to the discussion on their deployment.
"Good idea." Con retorts. "Giving the Sathar an extra poundin' couldn't hurt the cause any."
"We can use their weapons on their packs, we already have some sathar disruptors. Just looking at the big picture here, cause I don't know when the next time we'll be able to get our packs charged, and we may end up on the short end of the stick here if this continues to go on much longer."
"I had forgotten about those weapons that we collected. I am not ruling out taking the truck but there are a lot of Sathar around it. I still think we need to cull their ranks a little before we can get a team close enough to get in there an hold it. Our power levels being low is a real concern. Is there any spare clips left to be distributed? Also, can we use those Sathar disrupters? And if so, can you tell how much charge they have left?"
Gloo nods, confident he will be able to determine if the weapons are charged, one way or another.
"Raid, if your going up in your 'copter again maybe we should call on our Kurabanda allies to provide their Air Strike? It would definitely draw some of the enemy fire away from you, not to mention that their bombing capability will assist. What does everyone think?"
"I say let the Ul-Mor do their thing as well." Con adds "It just might be good for the morale of our local friends."
"Hmm, you may be right Con but I think we'll keep the Ul-Mor up our sleeves for the moment. Lets see what the Kurabanda can do first." The commander decides as Con walks away reloading his laser rifle.
Gloo looks over at Raid,
"I'll join ya on your excursion". Gloo grabs the remaining grenades and 4 extra power packs his rifle and pack and clambers on Raids' helicopter "Oh, what I wouldn't give for a machine-gun right now".
Sni'ktl makes sure that all medics have some biocort, stimdose and staydose and requisitions two doses of plastiflesh from Jag. Sensing that his skills will be most useful after this battle, Sni'ktl deploys himself at the rear with the command team.
xZot motions to the Eorna to take up positions at D4, F6, H5, N9, M11 and M15 while he himself takes up position at G5 or thereabouts. Using the high rocks for cover, xZot checks that his screen is activated and his rifle plugged into the fuller of his two powerpacks. He positions himself so as to get a good view of the road and waits for the Sathar to come into range.
Hoping to stay away from the initial contact at least, Gleep joins Sni'ktl with xZot at his command post. When the Dralasite joins him Sni'ktl offers Gleep a shot of stimdose to help him through the coming battle.
"It's your choice, it'll give you three hours before you crash."
"I am a comm guy, not a target dummy!" The dralasite objects but prudence wins out in the end and he accepts the physicians advice and drugs. Sni'ktl also offers hypnotism to anyone looking for denial enhancement.
"I could hypnotize you so the sathar all look like that maths teacher you hated so much to improve aim by maybe 10%." The death stare reply from OMAC is enough to scotch the suggestion faster than it left Sni'ktl's mandibles.
The team begins to deploy in support of the thin Eorna line, Crisbel and McKilin take the peak on xZot's left flank while OMAC moves to the peak on xZot's right with the maintenance bot still lugging the ammunition for OMAC's trusty recoilless rifle. Once reloaded Con finds himself on the Eorna line bolstering the right flank with Borovski digging into a position in the centre overlooking the roadway. Mr Sp'ock and X'anthe move off to cover the extreme right flank of the entire line while Raid begins the pre flight check list for take off behind the the main battle line.
Waves of sathar infantry are advancing in support of these newest sathar horrors of war, fire breathing megasaurus with laser beam eyes! As Raid lifts off with Gloo, Siu-Ling and Jag aboard, the Black Hand Gang members on the ground arrive at their designated positions. When the jetcopter clears the ridge line, Gloo gets his first glimpse of the sathar armoured supply vehicle, stopping to refuel a stalled cybodragon on the road.
Having reached their positions first, X'anthe and Sp'ock begin laying down covering fire as the rest of the defensive elements come on line. The primitive communications systems will mean a short delay before the Kurabanda gliders arrive on the scene to relieve the thin line of eorna. xZot requests the Kurabanda gliders never the less and trusts in Raid to time his run to with them. In her weakened state, at medium range, X'anthe does little more than release high powered photons into the air, but Mr Sp'ock drops a sathar warrior in his tracks on their left flank (40 points) with his very first shot.
On the opposite flank, Crisbel and McKilin also begin put in covering fire on the sathar advance. McKilin manages wound one sathar in the side (22 points) while Crisbel, uncharacteristically, misses his intended target. Up on the rocky peak near the centre of the line, OMAC aims the recoilless rifle at the supply truck. He fires the weapon, using a boulder as a makeshift bipod, and the shell appears to penetrate the armour plating (10 structural points) but there is no explosion, smoke, or any other immediate effect.
"I've got a very bad feeling about this..." Gloo mutters as he sees the approaching sathar from the hovering jetcopter, "Raid, what do you think about going low and I mean low, following the road with a heading for the stopped beast and truck. It might keep us out of sight from that operational monster for a moment longer 'cause you can guarantee it will be firing at us the second it sees us. Just be careful of getting too close. We don't want to get cooked now."
"You've got it Gloo. I'm just waiting for the Kurabanda gliders. We'll follow them in to give the sathar more targets to worry about. It will be better for all of us." Gloo views the supply truck near the stopped war beast and calls out to Siu-Ling over the sound of the jetcopter.
"Siu, can you take out those techs before they can place that power pack in? That should keep it from having its long range weapons."
Unusually quiet, the female sniper merely nods as she contemplates the immediate future.
Down on the ground and behind xZot's left shoulder, GleepGlooup edges a little northward to get a clear shot at the stationary cybodragon over the top of an eorna skirmisher. Gleep sets his laser rifle to max and tracks the nearest cybodragon and with the creature already at just 50 metres range, Gleep fires an aimed blast. The creature swivels it's deadly gaze in his direction as Gleep registers a hit on the monster (105 points). Suddenly Gleep is very glad he took the time to pick up his other power backpack and set it near his prone position, ready to reload.
Con opens up on the same cybodragon from the opposite flank with his laser rifle, searing another wound in the cyber enhanced lizard (56 points). xZot observes his charges make contact then quickly commands the combat robot to move into the gully opposite Borovski and target the cybodragon. The robot fires a laser beam into the beast (55 points) and xZot follows suit (38 points) but the effect seems less than a pinprick to the reptilian machine.
Beside Commander xZot, as Sni'ktl sees wave after relentless wave of Sathar infantry he resists the instinct to flee. He can't help contemplating his personal utility in this situation.
"I'm no Zit'Zit-KaKaKaa" he clacks beneath his mandibles, referring to the holo-hero that all young Vrusk admire as a paragon of Vrusk warrior skill and precision. "That gives me an idea though." Sni'ktl uses a Vrusk meditation technique hardened on the anvil of Mechanon more than Vrusk logic, juxtaposed with the blind faith of the Edestekai, focused through the sense of unity found in mind link with the Ul-Mor, mastered with techniques newly gleaned from the Eorna and simplistically translated into the playful Kurabanda acting technique for getting 'in character'. As his id circumnavigates a rubberized ego, the Vrusk on the hill takes aim muttering a well known (to Vrusk) heroic line. "Come Sathar, come vermicular ones, come scritch the jig of combat with Zit'Zit-KaKaKaa".
Bolstered with a rediscovered persona from his childhood, or perhaps just the placebo effect of believing his own propaganda, Sni'ktl sets his laser rifle to 10 and takes careful aim at the Sathar directly ahead. The vrusk fires his rifle and misses the Sathar soldier, who brings his own weapon to bear. Borovski, seeing Sni'ktl's distress, cuts down the sathar with his own laser fire (41 points) before the enemy can cause the vrusk any harm. A ragged volley from the half dozen eorna manages to wound a couple of the sathar soldier as they in turn, return a savage volley at the defenders of Volturnus.
Much of the laser rifle fire from the sathar soldier is ineffectual, although the eorna on Con's right takes several hits, seriously wounding him. The second cybodragon however is a different story, moving off the road and around the armoured supply truck, it's fires a pair of laser beams from it's eyes. Both beams strike and the brave eorna as he dies horribly in a flash of light. Even as the eorna's smoking corpse collapses the cybodragon swivels it's head, spitting fire at the next eorna in the skirmish line, narrowly missing him with a jet of flame 30 metres long.
xZot flinches away from the heat of the dragons breath up on the command post, praying that the kurabanda and the airborne detachment of the Black Hand Gang, aren't too far away.
X'anthe and Mr Sp'ock continue to snipe at the sathar on the right flank, this time Sp'ock misses and X'anthe takes out a sathar with a head shot (57 points). Con fires again at the cybodragon, missing the smoke shrouded target as he eyes the steadily advancing sathar infantry.
Over on the left flank, Crisbel and McKilin pick away at the sathar soldiers. Crisbel shoots a sathar through the chest (47 points) while McKilins blast goes wild. Behind his boulder, OMAC takes another shell from the maintenance robot and reloads his recoilless rifle. On the other peak, xZot, Gleep and the combat robot concentrate their fire on the injured cybodragon. Gleep curses when he discharges 20 SEUs into the volturnus sky but xZot hisses with delight when he and the robot strike the cybodragon (54 & 64 points) with twin laser beams.
Above the creek line Borovski fires at another sathar soldier, drilling him through the chest with a laser blast (45 points) and Sni'ktl misses with his attempt to nail another. The eorna fire a second volley only managing to wound one of the advancing sathar infantrymen.
Gloo flashes back to the past when he was in an air assault unit during the colony conflicts, looks at each of ids companions on board and then shakes the past from ids mind and concentrates on the present and says to ids self,
"I hate bringing this up but," he looks over at the two in back with him. "Jag if we get hit and Raid looses it you jump. Don't think, jump, you can glide an we're going to need you after we land. Siu, if the worst does happen, lean forward in your seat on your knees, you folks with bones never could take hard landings very well, especially your backs. Raid, as wounded as you are and we go down, it is just going to suck being you."
Raid nods grimly at the dralasites shouted advice and Jag's eyes go wide at the thought of crash landing on a battle field covered with laser wielding sathar and fire breathing lizard machines. Perched behind Raid, Siu-Ling looks around anxiously for the expected kurabanda, glancing in the direction of the front line at the sound of the opening engagement.
"Better keep buckled up in any case folks this looks like its going to be a bumpy ride no matter how you look at it." Gloo thinks to self while getting ready. "There said it!" as though expecting it to ward off a spectre of the past.
The sathar soldiers lay down a disciplined fire as they advance toward the allied positions. Crisbel and McKilin take considerable incoming fire on the left flank and Crisbel gasps in shock and pain when a laser beam slices through his left shoulder (27 points). Moving to help his badly injured comrade, McKilin also takes a hit from laser fire (19 points) but the pain does not deter him from his duty to help his friend. The opposite flank suffers just a wounded eorna in front of OMAC from the sathar infantry laser fire when the fearsome cybodragon makes it's presence felt again.
For a creature of such bulk, the fully operational cybodragon moves surprisingly quickly. The sathar controlled war machine manoeuvres out in front of the re-arming cybodragon interposing itself between the second cybodragon and the incoming fire. As the cybodragon redeploys it sweeps the opposing battle line with deadly laser fire from it's eyes and another burst of flame from it's mouth. The eorna to xZot's right screams and collapses as a laser beam skewers it through the chest. A split second later the combat robot is struck by a second laser beam (64 points) that carves away a sizeable section of it's torso but the worst part is the smell of Borovski's singed skin when the tongues of flame lick around his amorphous shape (15 points).
As the sathar continue to advance, their forward elements reach concealed ground from X'anthe and Sp'ock, although the vrusk Security Chief still manages to pick off another sathar on their left flank (47 points), neatly lining up three sathar corpses. With his rifle clip empty and sathar soldiers directly in front of him, Con plucks a frag grenade from his bandolier and hurls it at the leading attacker. His throw is poorly aimed but quite hard and although it bounces past his intended target, another sathar in the second rank takes the full brunt of the blast (38 points) severely injuring the worm warrior.
Hoping to relieve some pressure on his team mates, OMAC switches targets for his second shot, this time pumping a shell into the attacking cybodragon (55 points). On the left, Crisbel, although shaken by his latest wound, returns fire at the nearest sathar. His last 10 SEUs from the backpack stop another sathar cold (57 points) as he unplugs the power pack and reaches for a fresh clip. McKilin merely shakes his head and begins triage for field surgery on Crisbel. He sets aside the stimdose, knowing that Crisbel has already been juiced up once today and reaches for the biocort.
Raid glances over his shoulder, hovering the copter at ten meters. After what seems forever the gliders with their attendant kurabanda and a bomb load of four frag grenades arrive on the scene. Raid hooks up with the glider formation as it passes overhead enroute to the battle ensuing below.
"Here we go!" Raid cries. Beside him in the front passenger seat, Gloo gets his laser rifle ready and set on 10. He places the grenades in a handy spot, buckles idself in and sets up for a shot at the rapidly approaching sathar.
"After we pass these worms try to stay behind them that way they have to turn around to fire at us, thus putting them in a crossfire with the others."
The kurabanda gliders rapidly loose altitude as they pass over the sathar lines. Although not as accurate as they could have been, the rain of fragmentation grenades does manage to check the advance on Crisbel's flank. Three of the sathar leading elements are killed by the aerial bombardment before the kurabanda come to rest on the desert floor.
As Raid brings the jetcopter through the gap between the peaks along the gully, Gloo and Siu-Ling open fire on the sathar technicians re-arming the second cybodragon, Siu-Ling virtually lying across poor Jag in her effort to get off a decent shot at the worms below. Gloo's aim is spoiled by Raid's manouvering to fly nap-of-the-earth but despite her awkward position, Siu-Ling manages to take out one of the techs (62 points) almost severing his head with a well aimed laser blast.
On the ground below, Borovski ignores the flames around him and continues firing, this time at his lizard like attacker. He fires and misses but xZot and the combat robot add their fire to the equation and the yazirian commander scores another bulls eye (70 points), barely scratching the hulking monster.
A sathar survivor of the kurabanda bombardment tries to finish off the last eorna near the command post but Gleep manages to put paid to that plan, emptying the last 10 SEUs from his pack into the assaulting sathar (62 points), blasting the lifeless worm's body back down the ridge.
Hoping the tide of the battle was about to turn, Sni'ktl tries to shoot down another sathar but suddenly all his hopes are dashed. Instead of the sathar dying, Sni'ktl misses but even more distressing for the vrusk is the sight of the operational cybodragon turning it's twin laser beams on Raid's jetcopter.
Both beams lance out toward the chopper, followed by a pair of flashes and explosions of noise and flame and smoke. After the battle, none of the survivors of the crash could describe what happened next. The chopper lost forward momentum and altitude immediately and Raid lost all control of the bird. The force of the crash landing, whilst not as severe as it might have been, was enough to seriously batter Raid's damaged body (22 points). If not for Sni'ktl's drugs, Raid would be out cold, as it is, he is barely lucid now. Gloo's skien suit was able to absorb a fair portion of his possible injuries (12 points each) and the same held true for Jag (10 points each). Siu-Ling managed to get away with just some minor cuts and scrapes (11 points) before they all detect the smell of leaking jet fuel.
Fortunately the cybodragon did not follow up the twin laser attack with it's fiery breath, instead turning the inferno on some nearby kurabanda, struggling to free themselves from their gliders and ready their bows. One of the kurabanda receives a nasty burn but the remainder manage to get clear of the first blast of fire. Now the second cybodragon joins in with it's flaming breath, wounding another kurabanda before the sathar infantry add their own supporting fire. Several more kurabanda are injured and a wounded eorna near Con is also killed before anyone else can react.
From their elevated position on the right flank X'anthe and Sp'ock fire at rear elements of the sathar advance. Both shooters empty their power backpacks without hitting any sathar. Con hits the eject button on his rifle and watches the empty clip hit the ground and puts a new clip in as the sathar soldier in front of him continues to climb. Above Con, on the peak, OMAC reloads his weapon as he surveys the battle unfolding below. The loss of the chopper so early in the action was bad enough but it could have been disastrous, fortunately the casualties have been limited.
Raid's holoscreened body emits a low moan. His will to survive was about the only thing keeping him alive at this point, along with the stimdose and biocort from Sni'ktl's medkit. Gloo quickly recovers from the crash and yells out to Jag in a slightly pissed off voice,
"Get Raid the hell out of here!" Then Gloo sees the yazirian medic is already struggling with Raid's limp form, trying to drag him clear of the wreckage. "Siu, don't go empty handed, take these clips." He calls as he throws the pack of clips at her. Gloo grabs the power packs by the straps with one hand and his bag of grenades by the third hand and drags them out. "DAMMIT! I knew this was going to happen I just knew it!"
Looking over the carnage before her, Siu-Ling shudders at the sight of quivering flesh and charred metal about the battlefield. Her scrapes have been meek during this skirmish, and she now wonders what will become of this planet once this conflict is resolved. Will she be forced to leave, or can she and Nounouche rejoin Athru's tribe someday soon? At Gloo's urging she scrambles free of the wreck.
On the left flank, Crisbel slaps a fresh clip into his weapon as McKilin attempts a field diagnosis of his patient. Defensive fire from the left flank peters out altogether while Gleep changes backpacks as quickly as possible, eager to get back into the fray.
Cursing under his breath xZot watches as the Jetcopter goes down. He breaths a sigh of relief at the sight of Gloo and the others bailing out of the smouldering mass of metal.
"At least everyone is accounted for." he mutters as he watches Gloo drops his extra gear after a distance and race back to help Jag carry the unconscious form Raid has become. As they drag Raid away from the soon to be engulfed jetcopter Gloo dispatches a call to Sni'ktl
"Snik, get down here, we need your help getting him out of here!" then one to xZot "Boss, all accounted for, the only injured is Raid and he's a crit." After acknowledging Gloo's status update, xZot flashes a glance back toward Sni'ktl and calls out,
"Looks like they're going to need assistance, you up for it Snik?". xZot flicks his 'com on again. "Gloo, I'll give you covering fire but where you're located, it's going to get pretty hairy as more Sathar advance down the road. Siu-Ling, do you think you can rig that 'copter to blow? Maybe if we can draw the Sathar in, we could take a couple of them out; but even if we don't, it'll make a nasty obstacle for the rest of them as they try to advance. What do you think?" xZot commands the combat robot to provide covering fire to assist Gloo and the others then, pivoting slightly, he fires another volley at the cybodragon as it comes back into his range.
At the sound of xZot's command, Siu-Ling springs to action, hoping to get at least a check-up before being ushered back into the Volturnian war. She checks her clips, and asks Gleep if he has any extras.
"I go through these like sucries in second spring back on New Pale." To prove her point, Siu-Ling sends a blast of covering fire into the nearest cybodragon, emptying her back pack but causing little effect (50 points) on the creature.
"Boss I don't know know if we could draw them any closer to the wreck, until after it blows," Gloo says, "that's why I'm going to head back after getting Raid situated." The battle hardened dralasite observes "I'd be more worried about them charging you guys with those cyberthings as spearheads to break through the lines, they know they have to secure the high ground in order to move forward."
"You are right of course Gloo, it was just a thought. Watch yourselves down there, it looks like things are getting nasty. These cybodragons will be almost impossible to defeat unless we can stop that supply truck." xZot responds as he tracks the cybodragon in his sights as it crosses the field in front of him. The commander and his badly mauled robot sidekick both miss the cybodragon.
"C'mon Zit Kit Snik Tic Ka Kaa," mutters the Vrusk on the hill "time to nail one of these suckers." Dissatisfied with his luck in targeting Sathar, Sni'ktl switches his aimed to the larger Cybodragons but with no better luck this time. Seeing his friends in dire straights, Borovski concentrates his firing on the cybodragon but to no avail.
Then the cybodragon launches itself at the nearest kurabanda with teeth and claws and metal tentacles. In between inflicting terrible, lethal wounds on the kurabanda victims to each side with it's teeth and claws, the cybodragon spews fire over the eorna on xZot's left and wreaks havoc with it's laser beam eyes. The beam from it's right eye destroys the teams last combat robot on a flash of light and molten metal, the second eye beam cuts down Jag as he attempts to drag Crisbel free (54 points).
The sathar attack on the left flank has been successfully disrupted by the kurabanda arrival, the confusion aids the kurabanda as they disentangle themselves from their gliders. Only one of their number sustaining an injury from sathar fire. The other flank is a different story. One of the sathar has managed to climb up to Con's position and shoots the human soldier while he is reloading. Con gasps (17 points), startled by the attack he hadn't seen coming and the resulting laser burn. Behind the sathar skirmisher, two more of his comrades fire at the wounded eorna near OMAC. The eorna is hit by both beams and keels over, his lifeless body rolling down the ridge toward the sathar. The second cybodragon, still being re-armed by the supply vehicle, fires another jet of flame into the kurabanda, badly burning another warrior.
As his eyes follow the eorna corpse rolling down the ridge, OMAC's gaze is drawn to the roadway and the snake like figures coming towards them along that road. Sathar reinforcements! OMAC swings his reloaded recoilless around to bear on the cybodragon near the supply truck as he flicks his chronocom on.
"We got company coming down the road people" the gunny reports as the battle continues to rage, not just around him but across the plains in front of Volkos.
When Mr Sp'ock spies the sathar soldiers on the road he orders X'anthe to stay on the right flank as a sniper while he moves to help shore up the front line. The vrusk security office quickly scampers down the ridge to assist Con. X'anthe nods as she reloads her rifle and searches out her next target.
Con levels his weapon at the sathar directly in front of him and pulls the trigger, the worm warrior is hurled back down to the desert sand by the beam of destruction (52 points) Con unleashes.
On the left, Crisbel takes a gamble as he makes McKilin wait before beginning emergency treatment on his wounds. Crisbel flicks his power setting to maximum and aims at the last sathar between himself and the kurabanda glider pilots. He squeezes the trigger and empties the clip into the worms torso (66 points) removing any immediate threat to himself or McKilin as the worm tumbles dead to the ground.
Hoping to turn the tide of the battle back in their favour, OMAC fires the recoilless at the cybodragon and swears almightily when his round misses it's mark. Gleep moves up to xZot's right shoulder and aims for the cybodragon causing the carnage but his aim is high.
With sathar almost on top of their position around the downed chopper, Gloo unshoulders his rifle, puts the weapon in rapid aim fire position and turns back into battle to make the worms pay dearly. His first steadying shot misses but the second blast takes a sathar soldier in the chest (37 points) and kills him, giving Gloo time enough to turn and see Jag and Raid lying, bleeding and unconscious, side by side only meters away. On the other side of the chopper wreckage, Siu-Ling slaps a fresh SEU clip into her laser rifle as she tries to get clear of the chopper before it bursts into flames or explodes.
xZot fires at the cybodragon again, this time striking it's flank (43 points) and annoying it a little. Both surviving eorna also fire at the cybodragon and one of them also hits but Borovski misses despite his careful aim. When Sni'ktl realizes the drama unfolding below him with Jag and Raid, the medic rushes down the ridge to their aid, heedless of the risk as the sathar forces return fire.
The cybodragon displays it's entire arsenal once more, the first eye beam, kills the eorna next to xZot and the second strikes the commander. xZot's albedo screen flares brightly (12 points) and undoubtedly saves his life as the cybodragon continues it's assault, breathing fire across Raid (11 points) and Jag's (15 points) bodies and darkening Sni'ktl's (11 points) carapace in the process as well. The most dangerous attacks however, are aimed at the brave dralasite defending his companions defenceless bodies. The cybodragons claws rake Gloo, tearing great chunks from his skien suit and flesh (26 points to suit, 25 to Gloo). The dralasite reels from the pain and shock of the blow as the tentacles lash out toward him. Gloo manages to avoid the mechanical attachments but the cybodragon's attack is relentless and he grunts again in pain as he flings his wounded body away from the creatures gnashing teeth.
The second cybodragon hurls a cone of fire toward the kurabanda warrior near the road, burning the poor warrior and finally setting the jet fuel from the jetcopter alight. The resulting fire and blast, sending people diving for cover although not producing any serious wounds. Survivors of the first sathar wave close with Con and Sp'ock and also trade fire with the kurabanda flyers who are now free of their gliders and taking aim with their bows. A wounded kurabanda is killed by sathar laser fire and Sp'ock also sustains a laser burn (13 points) before the Black Hand Gang can retaliate.
From her elevated position, X'anthe fires off another blast of laser fire at the sathar surrounding the supply vehicle but serves only to remind the enemy of her presence. Mr Sp'ock arrives at Con's shoulder and hurls his last frag grenade at the sathar. The missile misses his intended target but lands next to another hapless sathar trooper, blowing the worm apart (53 points).
"Oh shit! Supply truck." Con levels his laser rifle at the advancing supply truck trying to either put an end to its advance or take out the driver. His beam strikes the vehicle, which had already come to a stop and seems to have no significant effect. While OMAC reloads his weapon and decides on his next target, Crisbel allows McKilin finally a chance to tend his wounds.
"Wreeeeet! Wooooheeeet! Woooot!" The kurabanda warrior yells over the sound and chaos of battle, working himself into a frenzy and encouraging his companions. These demons from the sky had apparently conjured up monsters from the deepest, darkest legends of the past. Too many brave warriors had fallen already before the dragons and their evil fire magic. Even the strange "glider" used by their allies from beyond the sky was not immune. This could well be the end of the world, he thought. Lomonada sends an arrow speeding toward the closest worm demon. The war leader's example inspires his followers when his arrow strikes true, wounding one of the sathar. Lomonada begins yelling the names of his kinsmen and ancestors, to invoke their strength before the end.
xZot takes careful aim and lets off another blast at the cybodragon as it moves away from Gloo. Still a little shaken from the blast that his screen absorbed xZot checks the meter on this power beltpack.
"Not good, another blast like the last one and this screen will stop working." he notes and smiles thinly as he shoots the beast in the side (40 points). Gleep continues to target the nearest cybodragon pumping more laser fire into xZot's attacker (53 points).
Gloo stumbles back from the vicious assault from the cybodragon,
"OOOOOOW! Sumbitch, how I hate this planet!" Gloo painfully utters then switches the laser rifle to 20 SEU. Gloo continually fires at the retreating cybodragon, blasting a sizeable hole through it's side (107 points). The continual pounding from BHG fire is starting to wear down the prehistoric monster.
With little hesitation, Siu-Ling cracks a new clip into her rifle and sends several beams in the direction of the cybodragon rearming at the supply truck and the sathar infantry around it. Even if she misses, she's bound to hit one of the worms nearby.
"Keep the clips comin'," she yells over at Gleep, though she doubts he can hear her over the chaos around them. Her first shot misses but the second hits (53 points) and now the second cybodragon is also beginning to falter.
Finding himself in the path of an advancing cybodragon, Sni'ktl momentarily reflects on the wisdom of self hypnotizing as a holo-hero. Not wanting to draw the attention of the mechanical monstrosity, Sni'ktl drops his weapons and puts on Raid's holoscreen and powerpack. Across the gully, Borovski lines up the cybodragon and fires twin beams into it's flank. The double laser blast (49 & 45 points) is the final straw and the beast wavers, then crashes heavily to the ground.
The resulting ragged volley from the remaining sathar, wounds one of the kurabanda, as does another blast of fire from the last cybodragon. The back of the sathar attack on the eorna skirmish line has been broken. With the kurabanda already among the sathar troops and the lethal cybodragons neutralized it is no only a matter of time before the Black Hand Gang sweep the opposition from the field.
Sensing victory, X'anthe comes down from the right flank to join the rest of the team. With his laser rifle empty and a sathar soldier still remaining in front of him, Mr Sp'ock drops his rifle and draws his pistols, blazing away at point blank range with both weapons. One of Sp'ock's shots wounds the sathar (26 points) while Con reloads beside him. Then OMAC delivers a telling blow, his recoilless rifle shell strikes the last cybodragon square in the head (77 points), blowing the monsters head apart as the body is slammed against the sathar vehicle.
With her target eliminated and her rifle empty, Siu-Ling draws her pistol, swivels and fires at the wounded sathar in front of Con and Sp'ock. A 5 SEU blast drills the creature through the brain (28 points) removing this last threat to the right flank.
On the left flank, a volley of arrows from Lomonada and his friends wounds more sathar rear guard before the dralasites around xZot begin picking off the now retreating forms of the sathar soldiery. Gloo flicks his power setting back to 10 when the last cybodragon drops. He pumps a pair of laser blasts into the sathar, killing another worm. Gleep repeats the procedure, also killing a sathar and Borovski goes one better, hitting and killing two more.
"First rule of first aid - keep the medic alive." Noting that Jag seems to have forgotten about the rule book, Sni'ktl quickly administers staydose to the medic and to Raid.
Suddenly the assault is over. The last few sathar troops disappearing in a sudden rout.
The tactic of knocking out supply trucks has turned the Sathar attack into little more than a holding action. A glance down the battle line shows that the Volturnus forces are now holding their own quite well against sporadic fire and attacks by the main body of the Sathar army. The Sathar appear to be surprised and disoriented by this turn in the battle; or they are cunningly awaiting resupply from their shuttles.
It is quite possible that an offensive move by the Volturnus forces now might just turn the entire battle around and put the worms on the run. The Ul-Mor loper-mounted cavalry is the only option for such an offence. If the Ul-Mor could survive the laser fire they would endure while closing on the Sathar, their heavy lopers charging through the Sathar masses would surely cause heavy damage, probably enough to force the Sathar to retreat. The grim Ul-Mor leadership agrees that this is the last chance to save the day.
As they prepare to attack, the advance troops of the Sathar are observed setting up strange new devices in front of them. They appear to be generating some kind of force field or shield. As the devices are put into place, the Ul-Mor leaders press for permission to charge. However, everyone realizes that the Sathar devices will have to be investigated and knocked out before the attack can begin.
As xZot readies his bruised and battered force for one more cast of the dice he notes that a pair of eorna medics have been able to temporarily lend some aid to Sni'ktl's ministrations. Raid and Crisbel are both treated by the alien medics, Crisbel feeling well enough to continue the fight and surprising Raid is even conscious, although he is still obviously very weak and in great pain. Sadly, Jag was beyond even eorna medicine, his soul having already passed onto another existence, another form of the One.
It is now that the Black Hand Gang recieve the cruelest news. Several eorna report that they found the dead body of Lieutenant Colonel Louis V. Jameson on the battlefield. He volunteered to fight alongside the Eorna and was killed while fighting at the opposite end of the Eorna skirmish line.
Commander xZot nods grimly at the news as he realizes he is now the senior ranking official from Truane's Star, indeed the Frountier, now on Volturnus. Mr Sp'ock scritches and scratches as he shuffles his feet and assembles the troops. OMAC groans as he shoulders his recoilless rifle once more and climbs to his feet, reaching out a hand to pull Siu-Ling to her feet. The three dralasites share a last exchange of pheromones before the members of the Black Hand Gang move once more to take up positions in the defense of Volturnus, only this time, for the first time, they are moving on the attack.
Sni'ktl supervises McKilin and OMAC as they deliver first aid to each other and then OMAC also treats his medical superior. With the assistance of both junior medics, Sni'ktl then performs successful minor surgery on both Mr Sp'ock and Borovski.
"Well that is just about everyone dosed up to the max!" The Chief Medical Officer reports when he has completed his field medicine. After this the biocort is distributed evenly between the medics.
"Thanks doc, you do good work. It's the only reason I'm still here". Raid croaks.
While the others gather themselves up and the medics work on the other wounded, Gloo combs the battlefield and gathers up a few sathar laser rifles and collects some power packs from the explorer.
"Sorry about losing the copter, xZot." Raid says, "I can keep the engine warm on the other one if you want, but I don't think I can take another hit." Raid limps around, helping to distribute gear and any other tasks that need to be done.
Gloo retrieves his dropped gear and heads across the battlefield to Jag's corpse. Gloo collects Jags weapons and equipment and carefully wraps Jags body in an allweather blanket and secures it.
"I'm sorry I'm not all that familiar with your peoples religion but I know where ever you are, you made it a better place and may the eternal light shine upon thee. I promise your family will know of your heroic sacrifice. I will see you again in the next life buddy, but not yet, still have some things to do in this one."
Gloo thought about climbing into the last of the dral skien suits, only to realize that the skien suits were in the chopper when it went up.
"Damn!" He'd managed to save the ammo and grenades but the rest of the cargo was toast. "I wonder what beast they'll throw at us next?" The quartermaster gathers his gear and goes off to find Sni'ktl.
"Hey Snik could you spare some local anaesthesia to kill the pain? I'm sure 'ol Raid could really use some as well."
Sni'ktl gladly performs first aid and then minor surgery on Gloo.
"That should see you to the field. Oh and thanks for these. Although I'd rather they hadn't come to me so." Sni'ktl indicates the contents of Jag's medkit that he has used to refill his own diminishing supplies. I wish I could do more for Raid. He's all plastiflesh and biocort as it is. It's only the Eorna's mind over matter tricks that's keeping him together at all. I'm thinking of listing him as a new life form."
Gloo gathers the last of the power clips and a couple power packs and heads over to Con and Siu-Ling.
"You two need any clips, here's a spare power pack as well. It may help while charging, so your not fumbling for clips while in full gallop. And lets be careful out there huh? We do have some sonic disruptors, not great at a distance but nice up close?" Noticing neither have a protective suit and Siu-Ling only has that gauss screen, Gloo goes through the inventory in his mind, cursing again at the loss of the skien suits in the crash.
Borovski and Mr Sp'ock also acquire fresh back packs and a pair of fresh clips each from Gloo's stores. Gleep waits for the rest to have a chance at the power backpacks. When the others have stocked up on ammunition, he will quickly trades his empty backpack for a full one and makes sure his beltpack is still on full charge. When every one is kitted out, Gloo commandeers labour at will to remove the rest of the cargo from both vehicles and caches it nearby. When the job is complete the QM heads over and places the rest of the power packs and clips next to Gleep before looking over at xZot.
"Boss I put the power packs by Gleeps position, I have some grenades here as well. There's 5 Frag Grenades, 8 Doze Grenades and 3 Tangler Grenades. Here is the TD-19 that Jag had as well (50 gram charge). I figure they would be best used by who ever is going out there to look over whatever it is that they set up out there. I'll hunker my ever sore, bleeding and slightly underdone, bloated form over to that hill top (points to B16) and try to cover as best as able. The heavy laser may be useful but the way I see it you'll need the faster shooting of the laser rifle more, but I'll leave that up to you."
Looking over the other battle weary companions Gloo thinking to idself
"God what a mess." before adding louder, in an effort to lighten the spirits only a Dral knows how. "Do you think that they will give us added hazard pay for all this?" With a glum smile, seeing the reactions of the others, Gloo lowers his eyespots and stares at the ground quietly awaiting xZot's latest plan to save them the planet and maybe the frontier.
The mantle of leadership has never sat well with xZot, today proves no different. Struggling with the command void created with Jameson gone, xZot's mind boggles. As the group gathers around, xZot silences his inner demons and focuses on the battle at hand
"Well gang, this is it. It's all down to the big finale. We need to rout 'em to guarantee victory." Pausing briefly he continues "It looks like the worms have set up some sort of barrier defence. We need to breach their perimeter before the Ul-Mor charge can be effective."
Mr Sp'ock adds further detail,
"These three devices," the X-O points to the alien contraptions (Q-1, Q-9, Q17) look like they might be field generators of some kind. If we can destroy one of then, we may be able to force a gap wide enough for the Ul-Mor to charge through."
"The way I see it we only have a couple of options." xZot resumes "One would be a full-on assault of the screen to bring it down. I am not sure we have to resources and stamina to carry this off. Another way could be to get someone up close to the defences using the holoscreen and with the assistance of diversionary fire; maybe disable the defence or at least plant an explosive to bring it down." xZot pauses and looks around the gang for any input "Maybe Borovski or Sp'ock, either of you want to step up for a solo attempt? Both of you have albedo screens that could be swapped for the holoscreen, and of course Sp'ock you have demolition experience. Both of you can take care of yourselves in a scrap. Borovski, haven't you got a sonic disruptor? They are particularly nasty at close range? What are your thoughts?"
"I concur with your assessment Commander." The ever logical Mr Sp'ock answers. "If I may borrow your screen Raid?" Raid nods as he hands over the holoscreen to the X-O and accepts the albedo screen in return.
"I would like to have the honour of leading the Ul-Mor charge on Nounouche." Siu-Ling declares. "I knows the risks are high, and I could die, but I will go down in the spirit of the One." None of her companions are surprised by this outburst. Siu-Ling had always been a little bit more "Native" than the rest of the Gang, having spent so much more time in their company than the others. Indeed the Ul-Mor warriors cheer her arrival as she position herself, mounted on Nounouche at the centre of the Ul-Mor force (A-9)
Con follows Siu-Ling over to the Ul-Mor who still have the Gang's loper amongst their herd of spare mounts,
"I would also like to join the charge!" The enforcer checks to make sure his laser rifle is loaded, then slings it over his shoulder. The large human trooper mounts the loper and makes sure the clip in his laser pistol is fresh, then rests it on his shoulder.
"How soon can you take down the Sathar defences?"
"Just for the holoflare, then come at top speed." Mr Sp'ock replies as he hefts one of the flares taken from the belongings of the previous X-O, Mr Mawson.
Having given xZot an ominous glance before parting, Siu-Ling feels butterflies in her stomach as she replenishes her ammunition supply for what is said to be the final conflict of the day. She sighs, hoping for the best and bracing for the worst. With a faint smile upon her crescent lips, she inhales deeply and contemplates the ecstasy of life amidst the carnage around her. Nounouche is here as well, the brave steed having stood the test of time and patience with the human.
"This one's for the tribe, Nounouche," she pats his mane and comforts him. "Let's get rid of these wicked worms once and for all!"
A general discussion ensues as several possibilities are fielded for distracting the sathar and neutralizing the force field.
"We need to punch a hole through the defence to gain any benefit from the Ul-Mor charge and make any headway. I am open to any suggestions." xZot opens the discussion up for his crew. "If someone wants to sneak up and sabotage the enemy defences I suggest that they use the outcrop on the left as the last cover before venturing forward." Mr Sp'ock nods in agreement as do the rest as they study the lay of the land. "Provided we are aware of the point at which the breach is going to be attempted we should be able to co-ordinate diversionary actions without risk of friendly fire. I think someone who isn't critically injured should pilot the jetcopter or explorer to drop a relatively healthy demolition team to take out the barrier. Or one demolitionist using a holoscreen. The demolition team should have their pick of armour, screens, weapons etc so they can get the job done as safely as possible. Maybe we could set the empty explorer to run straight at their lines as a distraction?" xZot postulates to his men. "I like the idea of using the explorer as cover to get someone up close to defences or using it as a distraction." The Commander continues "Maybe we could rig the explorer up with explosives and detonate it when it reaches the defences? I am not so sure about the use of the other jetcopter. After being shot down last time I think we were lucky not to sustain greater injuries in the crash. By all means, I don't disagree with Raid keeping it running but, short of an emergency, I don't think we should use it as part of our primary attack."
"I agree about the explorer." Gleep puts in, "We can do it the simple way, a shirt tied around the steering wheel. Worked for years. We can set it on the most level path, estimate timing and put some explosives or frags in it. At the very least, it will get some attention.
"I'm not so sure on that explorer idea," Gloo worries aloud "Yes it'll make a good distraction, until they start shooting at it. It's no armoured vehicle and with all those worms out there it wont last long at all. If we had been thinking sooner we could have used some of that pirate base to add armour to it."
"It's easy to be wise in hindsight." Mr Sp'ock quotes the old human adage and continues with another. "Desperate times call for desperate measure comrades. Whatever distraction you can devise, I shall approach the sathar battle line along the line suggested by the Commander. When I reach the limit of the cover I shall trust in the holoscreen and rush the central device and attempt to destroy it with Jag's kaboomite."
"We really don't have much in the way of explosive that will pack a punch, we have a very small amount of TD-19 a few frags and some RR shells, BUT however we do have the gas for the jets on the jetcopter," Gloo looks over at xZot "The primary rotor system runs off the parabattery right?" xZot nods "And the gas is just for the jet engines?" xZot nods again, "If we siphon the gas out of that, the copter could still fly but much slower right? The gas would add a bit of punch to the blast not to mention possibly add some smoke to help cover the onrushing horde of Ghengis Siu-ling over there. But the steering thing will still be a problem, even if we do tie down the wheel it doesn't guarantee the explorer hitting those things over there."
"Think the maintenance bot could hold the wheel and make sure its pointed at the things? Or if that wont work somebody wearing the holo screen could do it and at last moment jump out of the rear hatch."
"Sp'ock will need the holoscreen," xZot decides "we'll use the robot to steer the explorer. We don't have time to syphon the fuel, we need to put this attack in ASAP."
"Sir!" Borovski steps forward. "I volunteer to advance behind the explorer and put in diversionary fire under cover of my albedo screen, Sir!" The eager dralasite warrior announces.
"With the loan of Sp'ock's albedo screen, I will assist Borovski." Crisbel adds as he too steps forward.
The youthful yazirian Commander looks long and hard at both his friends.
"You both know what you're asking me gentlemen?"
The dralasite and yazirian volunteers both nod determinedly.
"If I'm going down, it's in a blaze of glory sir!" Borovski brags
"Good man!" OMAC applauds his companions "Me and my baby," he pats his recoilless rifle "have got the right flank covered. I'll be up there." He points to the rocky out crop on the teams right. "X'anthe, you're with me, I need a new loader."
"Good call." xZot agrees "James, you stick close to Raid and keep on eye on him."
"The main problem would be the sathar shooting at it once it comes into view, the best bet is to take it down that way behind those hills, but how would we know it brings down what ever field those things are generating? The area between the other two may still be operational? I'd hate to see any Ul-Mor charge into it?"
"Wouldn't we all." xZot answers "But we don't have too many more options. OK everyone take you positions and good luck!"
After hearing the plan Gloo saunters off to the hill top and observes the sathar in the distance.
"What I wouldn't give for a scope right now." Gloo takes up position behind the rocks on the extreme left flank, with the heavy laser, 3 power packs and his laser rifle with another pack.
Armed with his laser rifle, set to 10 and attached to his belt pack, Gleep checks off the rest of his armament. With two extra clips, a gyrojet pistol with a dozen clips and his machete, Gleep finds a position near the water hole (B-11).
"What I wouldn't do now for a nice Albedo screen."
xZot dumps the two near empty power backpacks he's carrying and replaces them with fresh ones from Gloo. xZot also grabs two full clips and stuffs them in a pouch on this suit
"Just in case." he mutters to himself. Making his way to the battlefield xZot sends word to the Ul-Mor advising them to prepare for their charge and await the signal. xZot enters the field at co-ordinates B7 and intends making his way around the rock outcrop until he has a clear view of the field.
As the explorer, with the maintenance bot behind the wheel, is manoeuvred into position for it's dummy run, OMAC and X'anthe reach their positions and open the engagement, laying down covering fire. Leaving his laser rifle at 10, Gleep follows suit and fires one aimed shot at the sathar soldiers. Raid's theory about him not being able to hit the side of a a barn are reinforced with his wild fire.
As the explorer rolls forward and into sight of the sathar troops they begin to return fire at both the vehicle and defenders of Volturnus who have revealed their positions with their defensive fire. The majority of the sathar fire is directed at the explorer and at more than 150 meters most of the fire is ineffectual. Several shots hit the vehicle with no apparent effect and then, the first law of battle is once again proven. The plan is the first casualty of contact with the enemy. A lucky shot penetrates the wind screen and hits the maintenance bot in the head (28 points) but fortunately the machine is still functioning.
Using the rocky outcrops and the holoscreen, Mr Sp'ock moves forward as quickly as he can, hoping the camouflage screen works to it's optimum level. The worms have been distracted immediately by the explorer but it's only a matter of time before they guess it's a ploy.
Waiting for the worms, Sni'ktl scritches and ponders that one battlefield seems much the same as another on this planet. Snik races to take position on the ridge and dig in for maximum cover. He has a laser rifle and power backpack charged up, ready to take aimed shots as ordered or until medical aid is needed by someone who can use it.
Struggling to keep up with the explorer and Crisbel, Borovski opens fire as he advances behind the vehicle but it's not until Crisbel fires that the Black Hand Gang draw first blood as one of the front line sathar is hit (58 points) and crumples. xZot arrives at Sni'ktl's right to observe the sathar reaction while Con and Siu-Ling fidget and wait with the Ul-Mor cavalry.
Gloo and Gleep manage to get off a second shot each before the second sathar volley. Gloo misses again but Gleep drops another sathar (46 points) near the central field generator. Much of the the sathar fire is directed at the vehicle and Crisbel is also beginning to draw fire. The explorer takes two more hits from laser fire and Crisbel's albedo screen flares briefly (6 SEUs) as he approaches the sathar line. Despite having to run to keep up with the explorer, Crisbel manages to kill (59 points) another sathar soldier, this time to the right side of the explorer.
Both X'anthe and McKilin continue to fire and miss while OMAC reloads. xZot and Sni'ktl also add to the laser display as the Black Hand Gang hopes to lay down enough fire to keep the heads of the worms down while Mr Sp'ock continues probing forward. The vrusk X-O skitters in behind the southernmost rock outcrop and steels himself to race across the final stretch.
The stoic form of Borovski continues to waddle forward in the dusty wake of the explorer, blazing away at the sathar with his blaster rifle and filling the air with colourful expletives between blasts. From his perch on the rock peak, Raid adds what little he can to the effort of the defenders.
Back among the Ul-Mor riders Con plugs his laser rifle into his newly acquired power pack prior to galloping of to battle. Beside him, Siu-Ling is obviously champing at the bit to lead the greatest charge in Ul-Mor history. The milling Ul-Mor warriors are just as excited at the prospect of battle against the evil worms and it may soon be difficult to keep them further restrained.
At long range, X'anthe squeezes off another shot at the distant sathar, only missing her target by the barest of margins. Gleep doesn't gloat over actually hitting something, as he has missed more than his share of targets. He continues firing carefully aimed shots hoping to hit something worthwhile.
"I will be glad when this battle is over and I can get back to the life of comm equipment." he says as he fires to high again.
Borovski continues his stolid advance in the face of enemy fire. The gap between the dralasite and the explorer widens as the vehicle draws away from Borovski giving him a clear shot at the sathar nearest the centre artifact, Sp'ock's target. Boro nails the sathar (53 points), thinning their line closest to where Sp'ock is heading. The X-O sprints to the last rocky out crop, where he props to change direction hoping he doesn't get caught in his own team's cross fire.
OMAC lobs another shell amongst the sathar on the right flank, no injuries are sustained but they are all keeping their heads down. Gloo aims at the worms in front of him and fires, hoping to get them before they fire on the members of the group moving behind the explorer. From his prone position beside a rock, Raid aims carefully, lining up on the closest sathar with the unfamiliar weapon in his hands. He keeps listening for any orders from xZot over the chronocom. Already, he is wondering what the future of Volturnus will hold if anyone manages to survive this battle.
Cursing his wild shot, xZot takes more care as he lines up his next target. At this range xZot isn't surprised at his failure but, hoping he is providing a valuable distraction for Sp'ock and Borovski, he adds to the light show.
As the explorer is driven forward by the maintenance robot, Crisbel waits until he reaches medium range before putting in more covering fire at the sathar on his right.
"Hssssss. Hss hiss." One of the sathar on the left flank warns his neighbour, pointing in the direction of the holoscreened Sp'ock. Both sathar soldiers fire at the camouflaged vrusk, the first one hitting him (23 points) and scorching a hole in his carapace.
Across their front the rest of the sathar return fire. Like the Black Hand Gang, the sathar are equally disadvantaged by the range and much of their fire on their right flank is ineffectual. On the opposite flank Borovski takes a hit to his albedo screen (5 SEU) but most of the fire is concentrated on the advancing explorer and the robot behind the wheel. The vehicle takes another hit square on and the maintenance bot is hit twice (20 & 31 points) but the mangled remains are still able to steer the vehicle forward.
Sni'ktl continues taking careful aim despite his lack of success at hitting things recently. He notes the waddling form of Borovski and the flickering form of Crisbel and notes how fragile they look advancing like worker drones in a game of clixlix. He just hopes that Sp'ock can deactivate the field in time to keep the casualty figure void.
"Dammit" Sp'ock curses as he ducks back behind the rocky outcrop. The X-O flicks on his chronocom and reports to xZot, "Chief, it looks like a couple of them have spotted me." Before xZot can answer Sp'ock has already made up his mind and started running again, directly toward the centre artifact. "Cover me, I'm going in!" He says and flicks off the comm link, praying that not too many more sathar home in on him when he reaches his destination. His first two antagonists don't see him this time but another Sathar near the centre sprays off a wild shot in his general direction.
Crisbel and Boro keep laying down suppressing fire as they move up under cover of the all terrain vehicle. The sathar fire intensifies as the worms advance at a walk toward their defensive screen. McKilin and Gloo both sustain minor laser burns (16 & 14 points respectively) from accurate sathar fire and the explorer also takes several more hits including a final destructive blast to the robot driver.
McKilin, Sni'ktl, X'anthe, Raid, Gloo, xZot and Gleep continue the light show while OMAC reloads his recoilless. Again, much of their fire is ineffective, serving only to remind the sathar of their presence and little more.
The sathar defensive screen reveals it's deadly secret seconds later when the runaway explorer crashes headlong into it. Huge arcs of electricity leap out from the sathar field generators, much like the theorized Tesla Coil weapons of early human history. The electrical systems of the explorer overload and burn out as the vehicle grinds to a halt.
Behind the wrecked ATV Crisbel swaps sides to put fire into the sathar centre. Another sathar dies (49 points) with a hole in it's torso as Crisbel does all he can to clear a path for the X-O. Mr Sp'ock reaches the sathar field generator and pulls out his primed charge of kaboomite, looking to place the explosive where he thinks it will do the most damage.
"Bravo!" Cries Sni'ktl as he pops off another 5 SEUs into the Volturnus atmosphere.
"Don't get too excited Snik," xZot replies as he too sprays off a wild shot "We just wrote off a perfectly good explorer and a robot and I can't see any sign of Sp'ock yet!"
Waddling his fastest to catch up with Crisbel, Borovski adds his fire to the confusion in the sathar centre. McKilin, Raid and X'anthe continue their suppressing fire while OMAC takes aim once more. This time his aim is true and the sathar nearest the ruined explorer is skewered and scrambled by the recoilless shell (56 points). Gleep just misses the other sathar near the explorer and then Gloo drops a sathar soldier on the left flank (45 points).
The main body of sathar draw up at their defensive screen and return fire as a group of sathar reinforcements arrive in the centre of their position, plugging the gap. Only one of the sathar, the one next to the explorer, spies Sp'ock, or rather effects of his screen. His laser fire misses but encourages Sp'ock to hurry and complete his mission, not that he needed any real reminder.
Some of the sathar return fire at the defenders among the rocks while others concentrate on Borovski and Crisbel. Miraculously no-one takes any fire from the fourth sathar volley.
"Can't really rush this kind of thing." Sp'ock mutters to himself as he secures the explosives to the field generator and tries to stay out of the line of fire.
Flushed with his recent success, Gloo fires again and kills another sathar (42 points). He smiles grimly and dares to hope that just maybe, fortunes could be on the rise for the Black Hand Gang. Borovski closes the distance between himself and Crisbel, still firing at the sathar as he comes and Gleep also fires into the gap between the wreckage of the explorer and the central field generator.
X'anthe, xZot, Sni'ktl and McKilin try to keep the sathar to their front pinned down then the sathar unleash their next volley. Sp'ock remains unseen this time and Borovski bears the brunt of the sathar attack. His albedo screen flares 3 times (12 SEUs) and Borovski lights up like a holo tree.
Up on his rocky perch, OMAC reloads his weapon and reassesses his targets while on the opposite flank, Raid takes another pot shot in the general direction of the sathar. Crisbel steps out from behind the explorer and blazes away at the sathar in the centre and unusually, he misses everything in sight.
Meanwhile, in reserve, Con and Siu-Ling are beginning to have problems keeping the eager Ul-Mor in check. Already they have begun to edge their loper mounts forward and Siu-Ling can sense the dam is about to burst.
X'anthe and OMAC are next to react and whilst X'anthe misses again, OMAC takes down another sathar on his flank (57 points) spraying pieces of worm all over the battlefield. Gloo tries for the threepeat but this time his luck doesn't hold and his target survives.
As Sp'ock sets the detonator for the explosives he casts his trained eye over the sathar front line.
"As I suspected, all their troops appear to be using the same doctrine." Sp'ock observes as he notices the front line troops removing their clips and reloading their laser rifles. "I wonder if we can use this to our advantage?" he muses aloud as he returns to his work with the delicate and volatile Tornadium charge.
McKilin, Raid and Sni'ktl continue their supporting fire and all three note that their own ammunition supplies are beginning to run down. Crisbel decides to save his remaining juice for the albedo screen and throws down his laser rifle. The courageous yazirian steps out from behind the explorer and hurls a frag grenade at the nearest sathar. His throw is poor but the bounce is favourable and the surprised sathar fails to avoid the brunt of the explosion (38 points). Already wounded, the sathar trooper dies instantly and when Borovski stumbles up behind Crisbel and takes a shot he puts the beam through the space where the sathar was. With Crisbel moving into Gleep's' line of sight, the dralasite decides to move forward to the rocks and seek out new targets. xZot also switches his fire to the left flank but with no better result.
As predicted by Sp'ock, the sathar volley is almost non-existent as the front line troops reload. The new arrivals begin advancing to join their fellow worms but their supporting fire is directed towards the defenders among the rocks and has no effect at all. Up on their elevated positions, OMAC and Raid can observe more sathar troops arriving to shore up their rearguard.
"We've got more bogeys on the horizon Boss!" OMAC warns over the chronocom.
If a vrusk could sweat, Sp'ock would be standing in a pool of it. Despite the amount of laser fire being sent in his direction the X-O had managed to reach the field generator relatively unscathed but his lack of experience at laying charges was costing too much precious time.
Back at the head of the Ul-Mor cavalry Athru approaches Siu-Ling with his ninth tentacle raised aloft. Siu-Ling nods at the gesture and pulls her pony tail aside to allow Athru easy access to insert his mind linking limb painlessly into the top of her spine.
"My comrades in arms, the Struggle requires that we hold ground a moment longer!" Siu-Ling urges the brave Ul-Mor cavalry. "Our strike will be that much effective."
Con watches on, hoping the woman can convince Athru and his followers to hold off on the charge until Sp'ock sets off the explosives.
"And she thinks the Ul Mor are eager!" Con thinks to himself.
On Con's right, up on the rock outcrop OMAC reloads his recoilless and seeks out his next target. Up at the sharp end, covering their X-O, Crisbel and Borovski hurl frag grenades at the front line of sathar troops, blowing apart another two worms. X'anthe squeezes off another shot while Gleep keeps firing aimed shots, trying to keep himself low to the ground.
"Dralasite, the other white meat," he exclaims. Hoping to pick off targets near Sp'ock, Gleep fires then frowns when nothing happens. His olfactory organ picks up a strangely familiar scent as Gleep realizes his powerpack has just burnt out. Not a common fault with this particular model but under the conditions, not totally surprising. Shaking his pseudo head, Gleep reaches for a spare clip as he dumps the ruined powerpack.
Raid looks for any sathar that seems to turn its head toward where he guesses the vrusk demolitionist is working. He rewards the unwanted curiosity with a quick laser pulse.
"All I need to do is distract them." Raid thinks.
Sni'ktl tries to reassure the nervous young leader.
"Don't fear Commander xZot. There's a Vrusk on the job. That shield's coming down." Sni'ktl takes aim at the sathar near Sp'ock and hopes that his kinsman lives up to his expectations.
Scanning across the battlefield for his next mark, xZot peers into the distance briefly as he hears OMAC's call. The sight of Sathar reinforcements arriving this early in the battle drives home the importance that this battle has, and only strengthens his resolve to crush the invading hoard quickly. Continuing to focus his distractionary fire on the left flank xZot blazes away as he tries to buy more time for Sp'ock. Seeing the new Sathar reinforcements Gloo comments,
"Why is it every time we start to get ahead we fall further behind." Gloo quickly surveys the field "Boss I'm moving forward, our return fire isn't doing much more than letting them know where we are." With that Gloo grabs an extra power pack and races over to the small hill to his front as fast as his pseudopods can take him while keeping low.
As the sathar reinforcements move to plug the gaps in their line they begin putting in return fire while the troops already in position continue to fire at the defenders among the rocks. McKilin suddenly slumps forward when a well aimed beam strikes him in the head (33 points). Borovski and Crisbel also take fire from the sathar troops deploying in front of them with Crisbel's screen flaring twice (10 SEUs) and Boro's once (4 SEUs).
"Oh please One whom ever you are we could use a little help here." Gloo mutters as makes his way forward. On the opposite flank OMAC fires again and another sathar on the right flank explodes when the shell from the recoilless hits him in the head (59 points). Above Gloo, Raid continues his covering fire.
Con desperately tries to wait for the right time to charge while Siu-Ling temporarily holds up the Ul-Mor in conversation.
"Hurry up and set that damn charge!" Over all of the battlefield noise Con can hear his heart beat a mile a minute. Silently he waits for the command to charge.
xZot manages to get off another shot before the sathar reply once more. The barrage of fire keeps heads down but only one laser beam hit's it's target. Crisbel's albedo screen protects him from further injury (5 SEUs) but his power supply is now below 30%. While Sp'ock finishes setting the explosives, unseen under the holoscreen, Crisbel and Borovski hurl more grenades. Crisbel kills another sathar with a frag grenade but Boro's dose grenade drops short and to the right, missing everything but the shattered sathar corpses.
With a fresh clip in his rifle, Gleep takes aim at the last sathar on their left flank opposite OMAC's position. Musky pheromones of delight flow from Gleep's pores when he is rewarded with the sight of the sathar soldier sliding to the ground (49 points). X'anthe and Sni'ktl fire to no effect, Sni'ktl emptying his pack in the process. X'anthe manages to get off a second shot, emptying her powerpack before the sathar fire again. The first group of reinforcements pause to reload but another section of troops arrive in the centre, swelling their ranks.
Finally some of the sathar spot Sp'ock again. A pair of laser beams lance out toward him and one strikes home (31 points), badly injuring the X-O. Much of the remaining fire is directed at Crisbel and Borovski, Crisbel's screen absorbing two more blasts (12 SEUs). The remaining fire is used to keep heads down, although xZot is a little slow this time and his albedo screen lights up briefly (6 SEUs).
Raid empties his pack with a final blast and OMAC decides to take advantage of the hole on the sathar flank and advance. The human warrior abandons his recoilless rifle and scrambles down the rock face toward the sathar line. With no clear target, Gleep pushes forward to the low rock formation and fires another shot at the sathar lines, emptying his clip.
"Time to, as you humans say, bug out!" chitters Mr Sp'ock as he limps away from the centre field generator.
"Roger that." Answers Crisbel as he too backs away, throwing another frag grenade to cover his withdrawal. Borovski also backs away, throwing a dose grenade but missing everything.
In the centre of the volturnus defensive position, xZot nods when he sees Crisbel and then Borovski, falling back and again when he sees Gloo taking up his new forward prone position. The commander continues to lay down covering fire, almost draining his powerpack. With his own laser rifle empty, Sni'ktl opts to take on his role as a medic and dashes across the desert to aid the fallen McKilin.
Seeing OMAC start forward and with her own weapon empty, X'anthe joins assault, drawing her pistol and heading toward the enemy. xZot shakes his head in amazement as he watches his troops advancing into the enemy fire then fires off another shot, emptying his pack. From his new position, Gloo opens fire again. The move forward immediately paying off when he drops another enemy trooper (69 points) with a blast through the eye.
Crisbel lobs another frag grenade but this was is far to long, bouncing behind the attackers and exploding out of harms way. On the right, OMAC continues his advance unopposed and on the opposite flank Sni'ktl stabilizes McKilin with a shot of staydose. The Black Hand Gang's fire rate drops right off as Raid and Gleep slap fresh clips into their rifles. Borovski continues to stumble backwards, throwing another dose grenade at the enemy.
Judging he is far enough away from the field generator, Mr Sp'ock press the fire button on the remote control for detonator.
Sp'ock presses the button again.
"Shit!" The X-O exclaims, then flicks on his chronocom. "We've got a problem boss!"
Fortunately the next volley from the sathar is mostly ineffective, Borovski's screen flashes once more (6 SEUs) and the dralasite realizes his powerpack is almost empty.
Still waiting for the explosive charge to blow, Con becomes more and and more intense. Now finding it increasingly difficult to control himself, he has become as impatient as the Ul-Mor.
"Siu-Ling, we can't just sit here like this. We have to go soon!" The enforcer tells his sister in arms as his own mount rears up on its hind legs and comes back down on all four.
"Someone blast that damn thing!" xZot screams as he grabs his things and moves forward. Cursing the Gods for their bad luck with the detonator, xZot can see that the battle is at a critical point. "If we don't make a break soon, the day will be surely lost." He thinks as he dodges the incoming fire around him.
Pleased with his work on McKilin, Sni'ktl returns his attention to the battlefield. Noting that things are progressing badly, Sni'ktl picks up McKilin's laser rifle and sets it to drain the backpack (15 SEU). He takes an aimed shot at the charge laid by Sp'ock hoping that if he misses he may still do some damage to the force field generator.
Raid lowers his power setting to 2 and increases his rate of fire (2 shots per round). At this point all he can hope to do is scare the sathar with a few more laser beams zipping around their heads.
X'anthe and OMAC sprint towards the sathar's unprotected left flank as Sp'ock reaches for his pistol to take a shot at the explosive charge. Before his pistol can clear the holster, Sp'ock is cut down by a sathar defender. Finally the vrusk X-O's luck ran out as one of the sathar soldiers tracked his movements in the sand and managed to pin point the vrusk with a laser beam (16 points), dropping him in the centre of the battlefield.
The remaining sathar soldiers, now formed up in a double battle line, fire a fierce volley at Crisbel and Borovski. Borovski's albedo screen flares and dies with the first beam burning up his remaining power and penetrating the screen (9 points). Two more blasts send the dralasite trooper reeling back (35 points) while beside him, Crisbel's screen absorbs four more laser beams before it too runs out of power.
Crisbel replies with a grenade among the sathar ranks, blowing apart another worm.
"What I wouldn't give for that auto cannon right now." Says a frustrated Gleep. He is wearied of battle and ready to get back to the sedate life of, well he never really had a sedate life after leaving home. Time to take more rapid shots. "Maybe I can get doubly lucky with two since I was getting lucky to even hit one." Instead Gleep manages to empty his clip twice as fast with no further additions to his personal body count.
"More bogeys!" Siu-Ling hears someone say as she looks in the horizon and sees the vermin reinforcements headed their way. She then nods, and yells, "Hiiiiyaaa!" as she and Con spur their mounts towards the remaining sathar offensive. The sound of loper strides behind her urges her to spur the eager Tomar's horse to a full gallop, though a few of the reptilian runners pass her anyway.
Shocked into action by the sathar onslaught, Borovski swings his sonic disruptor up to face the sathar but in his haste, pulls the trigger too early, disrupting nothing more than volturnus sand.
Gloo listens to the commanders of the group and cuts in,
"Could one of the closer team members fire a laser weapon at the charge? I would but, I can't see the charge from here, and if we get Captain Blitzkrieg and her Ul-Mor buddies moving now they could be close enough to support Sp'ock's teams from getting overrun from the Sathar." Gloo goes back to firing at the sathar, killing another worm on the left flank.
Gleep reloads his weapon as he watches the climax of the battle unfold around him. OMAC has almost reached the sathar defence screen on his flank with X'anthe only seconds behind him. Gloo continues firing at the other flank, this time just keeping heads down.
Pointing at the explosive charge, Siu-Ling instructs the cavalry to avoid its blast radius before galloping southward. She sees OMAC at her right, advancing without his recoilless rifle against little opposition. Readying her own laser rifle, she sets the charge output to 3 SEUs and slows Nounouche to a halt, letting the lopers take the lead. She squeezes off a shot but the range and movement of her mount ruin the sharp shooters aim as the UlMor charge surges forward.
Borovski gets off a final blast with his disruptor, seriously wounding a worm before the sathar return fire. This volley from the enemy is not as effective as the previous one, Borovski and Crisbel managing to survive one more searing beam each (26 & 23 points respectively).
xZot watches as the Ul-Mor race across the battlefield, then shrieking a Yazirian battle cry as he try's to invoke a battle rage, he grabs his power pack and advances toward the Sathar line.
"Lets crush these worms for good this time!" he screams as he pushes forward seeking a better position to make his attacks more effective.
Con couldn't wait for the trick shot to set off the charge, instead joining the Ul-Mor and hoping Siu-Ling's aim is true when he sees her in his peripheral vision, pull up to shoot.
Raid continues firing from his position, marvelling at the scene below him and cheering when he sees Crisbel's last, errant frag grenade finish off the sathar wounded by Borovski.
Sni'ktl takes the remaining two doses of biocort from McKilin's medkit and makes his way towards the fungus patch in front of him. He toggles his chronocom,
"Sp'ock, if you are still moving, rendezvous behind the fungus for medical aid."
The situation is now desperate. The Ul-Mor cavalry are rapidly approaching the defence screen and the generator still hasn't been neutralized. If the Black Hand Gang can't take out the field generator the Ul-Mor attack will be destroyed and the initiative lost.
"Noooooo!" X'anthe screams as she watches the brave Ul-Mor rushing past her and headlong to either victory or death!
Operating on training and reflexes, Borovski pulls the trigger again but his injuries have taken their toll and Crisbel is equally ineffective with his laser pistol.
"DIE YOU SATHAR SCUM," Gleep whispers loudly. He pulls the trigger twice, the first shot misses everything but the second drills another sathar through the head, killing him instantly.
Then Siu-Ling pulls off the miracle just in the nick of time. Taking careful aim with Nounouche stationary below her, Siu-Ling makes the shot of her life. The field generator explodes with appropriate spectacle and the defence shield ceases to be. OMAC dashes unharmed across the line defended by the electrical field and heads for the outcrop on the sathar flank.
In the centre, as the Ul-Mor surge past him, Borovski misses again with his disruptor but smiles anyway as the Ul-Mor make contact with the sathar ranks. When the Sathar are reeling from the shock of the explosion Con rides at full gallop firing his laser pistol, saving his rifle for any combat after dismounting. The Ul-Mor crash into the sathar infantry, spears stabbing at the worms. Most of the sathar in the front rank are injured and one is killed. Even Con's pistol, now empty, has an impact (29 points).
With the Ul-Mor now in the thick of it, xZot, Gloo, Gleep and Sni'ktl move forward to help their comrades.
The sathar attempt to return fire, and and point blank range several Ul-Mor are injured but the battle now takes a dramatic turn as the Ul-Mor prove more than a match for the sathar infantry in hand to hand combat.
Having set off the Tornadium charge, Siu-Ling hustles her horse southward, sharpshooter Siu-Ling d'Avignon zaps the nearest sathar. With the full force of the Ul-Mor charge, she and the Volturnian militia proceed to make short work of the annelid threat.
Witnessing the charge of the proud Ul-Mor brigade, Siu-Ling recites an old poem from her school days back on New Pale.
"Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them, Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well, Came thro' the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Of the six Ul-Mor.
The Ul-Mor charge surged through, over and around the worms rearguard position. Raid holds his fire and limps back toward the rear after watching the sathar get overwhelmed by the Ul-mor charge. With his bad aim, any shooting at this point was just as likely to hit friendlies as it was enemies.
"For those you've slain!" Siu-Ling's anger is aroused by a relentless Sathar target that just won't die. She drives her spear forth again and again, each time missing the wily worm. Switching to a swing attack, the novice martial artist finally manages to get the unarmed enemy to the ground and points a spear at his neck, threatening to kill him. The Sathar, to her dismay, instantly begins foaming at the mouth and appears either dead or unconscious.
"Damn you!" she curses, and stabs his throat to remove any ambiguity in his condition.
A keening wail catches the attention of all within earshot and eyes are drawn to the wild melee amoungst the routed worms. Commander xZot is the source of the raging war cry. Months of pent up frustration and outrage have finally boiled to the surface as the young, level headed yazirian finally succumbs to his most basic instinct.
"The battle rage has finally caught up with our Commander" Crisbel observes as xZot hacks down another worm with his machete. Covered in yellow, green and brown body fluids from the mangled sathar bodies, xZot stumbles, exhausted about the battle field searching for for more worms when his friends finally manage to calm the livid yazirian down.
Con, fresh from helping in finishing the battle with the Sathar drops in near exhaustion beside his distraught commander. Finally, the great battle is over.
Gloo couldn't tell just when the battle ended with all the dust swirling around, but it wasn't a long battle in any event the defenders of Volturnous made very fast work of the invading worms.
With the wounded dealt with and loaded on the chopper for evac back to the Eorna stronghold, Gloo police's up the battle field. Gloo gives the fallen sathar weapons to the Eorna, as he isn't keen on the idea of the other races having them, and knowing full well the Truane's Star military would confiscate them anyway if he tried to keep one.
Sni'ktl thanks the tech's for their aid in finding the fallen form of Spo'ck and deactivating the holoscreen. With another shot of staydose he adds another name to the health status indeterminate list. He organises the medics to tend to the walking wounded and evacuates himself with the more serious cases to the command centre sick bay.
The dralasite quarter master goes around and collects extra weapons from the group leaving them with their sidearms. When OMAC resists, Gloo explains that he is going to clean and maintain all the weaponry. OMAC relents and ends up assisting the dralasite with the task.
"Not to mention I want to ensure that a sneaky little Kurabanda or Ul-Mor dont run off with any of the weapons." OMAC nods in agreement, "And the fact that having a bunch of visitors from another planet running around heavily armed is just plain bad manners. The group are ambassadors from Truane's Star afterall."
Gloo keeps himself busy with repowering batteries and powerpacks and leaves the partialy powered clips behind. Finished with the inventory Gloo sets to work on his report of events and the planet for the Truane's Star government.
As the dust settles on the final battle for Volturnus, xZot surveys the carnage around him before collecting his things and returning to the jetcopter. Assisting with the wounded where he can xZot is looking forward to a break in the conflict.
"We definitely need some time to recuperate " he acknowledges to his Chief Medical Officer as he checks on the status of the wounded.
Later, in the sick bay, Sni'ktl finishes surgery on Spo'ck and McKilin and thanks the Eorna medics for their aid. He then helps out with the Eorna, Kurabanda, Ul-Mor, Edestekai and even the Mechanon wounded.
"Who would have thought that a med-kit hyperdermic would work as coolant valve?" he muses. As Sp'ock recovers Sni'ktl notes that the X-O is suffering a mild depression from missing the culimination to the battle. To cheer him up Sni'ktl goes to his locker and has a coupkle of medics help him retrieve a present for the X-O. A fully functional set of Vrusk combat armour.
"You turned your nose up at this once before. After your recent brush with mortality perhaps you would reconsider."
Sp'ock and McKilin spend the next week in the care of the medics who nurse the pair back from the jaws of death. Borovski and Raid also spend a considerable amount of time with the medical staff before being released fit for duty.
After his recuperation Raid tries to radio the mechanons and thank them for their part in the battle. He has no idea when he will see them again, and they had suffered as badly as everyone else in the defense of their planet. He was sure that he placed the call correctly but there was no reply from the mechanons.
After a lot of hours sleeping, trying to start the healing process on his body, Gleep takes account of his equipment status.
"Where did I put that tech kit?"
Afterwards, while waiting in triage on a stretcher, Raid tries to make sense out of the senslessness of the battlefield and his second close brush with death on Volturnus. He also wondered what motivated the sathar and where they came from. The answer to his questions proved as elusive as the last rays of Zebulon fading over the horizon.
Once he has composed himself Con seeks some first aid from the Truane's Star people. When treatment is over Con visits with his wounded team mates where he discusses the joy of partying in a "civilized" city.
Frontier Date 63.116Pf +117
The day after the battle the Mechanon monitoring system reports that scattered Sathar troops are regrouping and reporting to shuttles for transport back to the orbiting battle fleet. Additional shuttles are being destroyed by the still functioning Eorna planetary defence system.
After the epic battle, the victorious allies retire to the Eorna stronghold to celebrate the victory, tend the wounded, and wait for the Sathar's next move. Everyone expected them to send more troops and attack again, and worried that, this time, there wouldn't be enough left to stop them.
But that next Sathar move never came. The Eorna equipment showed the Sathar shuttles taking their wounded and stragglers back to the fleet, and after three days that fleet headed for deep space and the stars beyond. For now, at least, Volturnus is safe from the Sathar menace. Through your actions, you have saved an entire world!
In another week, the alliance is breaking up. The Edestekai are eager to return to their religious rituals. The Kurabanda are longing for their forest home, (which is perhaps just as well, for their antics are trying everyone's patience), and the Ul-Mor state simply that it is time for them to return to the desert. As they are bidding you farewell, a long awaited welcome sight appears in the distance above the desert: a shuttle from a Truane's Star warship!
The Eorna confirm your happy news. The friendly battle fleet has finally arrived with orders to transport your party back to Truane's Star!
There is however, one more piece of news; the battle fleet found an ancient orbiter still revolving in a very wide orbit around Volturnus, which, upon investigation, appeared to be some type of alien craft. A boarding party found no crew, but rather some 50,000 eggs of some type, still fully preserved in cryogenic storage!
The Eorna are ecstatic! They deduce that these eggs, which are indeed fertile Eorna eggs, were launched in desperation during that black day long ago, the day of the first Sathar devastation of their world. All records of the orbiter were lost in the destruction that followed. But now, there will be thousands of Eorna to repopulate their world, oversee the development of the more primitive races, and carry on the Eorna devotion to Beauty and Life!
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