Chapter 20:  R & R, SF style  20.01  20.02  20.03  20.04  20.05  20.06  20.07  20.08  20.09  20.10    (Time: 14.087 - 40.309)

20.01
Frontier Date 14.087
  When the VSS Last Legs arrives in the Araks system they are greeted by a shuttle craft from the surface carrying the local Volturnus Trading Company executives.  Mr Sp'ock and Siu-Ling are ecstatic to see their old friends once more and guide their comrades back to the offices they have rented on Araks as part of the VTC cover story for the Black Hand Gang.
  After some in depth negotiations with Captain Maximillian, xZot secures an assurance that the actions and names of his team members will be left out of all official reports and in exchange Max and his crew acquire all the rights to the new space route and associated system reports.  xZot also offers max the hovercar salvaged from the sathar base in exchange for transportation of the BHG vehicles back to the Zebulon system. Maximillian uses his contacts in the freight shipping industry to get the teams explorer, hovercycle and newly acquired jetcopter back to Zebulon then Max and his crew part company with xZot and the Black Hand Gang, the vrusk Captain hoping to make his fortune with his newly charted and tested star route and the system report of Starmist along with the initial environmental scans.
  Back at the teams VTC offices Raid mentions his desire to thoroughly analyze all the bio samples he has collected from Starmist.  Siu-Ling arranges for access to local laboratory facilities while the team await connecting flights back to Volturnus via their various branches across the Frontier.  Mr Sp'ock produces digest versions of local news publications to bring the team up to date with local happenings whilst they in turn are debriefed by Sp'ock and Su-Ling.  The group agrees to maintain their VTC operation on Araks for several more months to avoid drawing too much attention to their operation, with Mr Sp'ock volunteering to remain as the local point of contact while Siu-Ling rejoins xZot and his team.
Frontier Date 14.112
  After a three day layover on Araks and a four day stop at Athor plus 18 days of space travel, xZot and his team reach Prenglar and the second VTC office.  Here they are met by The Gunny and Borovski.  Although still recovering from the bender of the century, OMAC and Boro are able to provide xZot and the others with accommodation to suit everyone's needs.  After bringing the two drinking buddies up to speed with xZot and Co.'s mission the team prepares to move on to Truane's Star.  Already hungry for action once more, Boro and The Gunny beg xZot to take them back to Volturnus with him and after reviewing their activities in Prenglar over the last couple of months xZot agrees that these two warriors are not cut out for the world of high finance.
  "We'll organise for X'anthe and Jimmy to relocate to Prenglar and run this office while we work out the next move." xZot decides, before they depart once more for Volturnus, this time via Dixon's Star and Truane's Star. "We've got a six day layover at Dixon's Star and another stop of three days at Truane's Star before we get back to the Zebulon system in 24 days time. If anyone wants to do any shopping, try to get it done now or on our next couple of stops, you all know how difficult it can be to get the latest Holovids on Volturnus." xZot flashes a smile as he dismisses the team.
  Gleep walks into the joke shop, ostensibly to shop for grenades, but he was hoping for a couple good jokes too. It seems that the Vrusk shopkeeper doesn't have much of a sense of humour. After placing his order for some grenades, Gleep asks, "Why would you own a joke shop, seems more of a job for a Dralasite? Here's a good joke for you. What has 4 legs and an IQ of 50?" The stoney stare from the Vrusk is no surprise. Gleep says, "Give up? OK, it's two Yazirians." Gleep leaves chuckling and the Vrusk stands there with a dull look on it's face.
  "Like I've never heard that one before!" The Vrusk storekeeper mutters as he runs a security scan of Gleep's ID before processing the adventurer's munitions order.
  Early in the day at the City Computer, Con sits at the terminal. He logs into the system. And selects the option for vital records data base. He searches the name Adrianna Anderson...ACCESS DENIED. He tries her maiden name...ACCESS DENIED. He tries his name...ACCESS DENIED...Odd? Could his patrons have done this? He left her without saying goodbye. He never knew about the birth of their child. Why were they hiding this from him? He cursed them.
  Con is brought back to reality by a conversation nearby. "Roxella, stop! Leave it alone. We can't keep poking around. These people will kill us. They are evil." says an overweight, eye glass wearing fellow to an Auburn haired, green eyed woman. "I'm done Roxie. They threatened to kill us! I don't know about you., I would like to live." With that he picked up his back pack and left the room. Behind him she called
  "Duncan. Duncan come back here!" Duncan never looked back.
  A great many thoughts occupied Nathaniel's mind during the shuttle flight down to the Offworld Transport Complex. So many in fact, that it wasn't until he had already stepped through the shuttle's airlock and exited the debarkation bay, that he realized that he had finally arrived at Port Loren.
  Motioning to a nearby service robot, "Deliver these bags to the Stellar Towers" Nathaniel says to the robot as it approaches. "They are to be taken to the room that has been prepared for Nathaniel Kane." Sure of this fact as Nathaniel had already completed check-in via subspace radio prior to arrival.
  "Yes sir." It replies, accepting the credits Nathaniel tips before leaving to deliver the baggage to his room at the nearby hotel.
  Contemplating what his first move should be, he watches the hospitality robot depart. Nathaniel finds his concentration momentarily diverted by the sights and smells around him. His mouth waters at the different aromas of dozens of exotic, alien cuisines available in the food court. And his eyes are momentarily dazzled by the impressive showcasing of the goods and merchandise available at complex's various shops and mini-markets he passes. But these sensations are fleeting, and Nathaniel's thoughts soon return to his task at hand. Making his way towards the wall comms of the lounge area, he takes several minutes to scan the datanets.
  The frown on Nathaniel's face indicates that the datanets have not proven to be very helpful. But his frown is almost as quickly replaced by a smile, as his unspoken question of what to do next is verbally answered by the electronic voice of one of Port Loren's Travel and Tourism service robots. Turning to face the robotic speaker behind him, he notices that it is attempting to assist an unruly child and his vacationing family.
  "Port Loren's Public Library." The robot repeats, pointing to the large, floating holo-map of the city directly above. Shifting his gaze to the holo-map, Nathaniel examines the flashing site indicated and decides that this to, will be his next stop.
  Sni'ktl Scritches. His envirosuit has definitely seen better days. Asleep for seven years and yet Port Lauren never changes. The shop is still there on the corner of the second concentric. Sni'ktl's insectoid spatial aesthetic notes hiveness of the concentric design. The "corner" on the other hand is at once repulsive and enticingly exotic.
  Entering the store, Sni'ktl is impressed by the latest fashions in suits. Shield generators that look like slightly emphasised corporate logos line the racks on either side. Sni'ktl ignores these as he scuttles to the far end of the shop. Skin tight is clearly the fashion in suit design. This takes him back to his days as a stage hypnotist touring miners drug dens.
  His antennae oscillate as he observes the shimmering polymer sheen of the Vrusk slipsuit. He imagines sliding into the rubbery suit, his six legs as smooth as Volturnian silk. His thoughts are interrupted by the grunts of welcome from Mrak-A-Gee Go. "....truly had thought this went out decades ago" indicating the suit Sni'ktl bought second hand eight years ago. "Where have you been hibernating?" asks the (s)he-bear.
  Sni'ktl finds himself enjoying the chance to catch up the latest fads and fashions in shields and suits. He can imagine others in the gang being interested in the synthelope and the gridsuit for example. He wonders if xZot would be interested in any of the store's other delights.
  It seems an interminable long time taking measurements with Mrak-A-Gee's particular attention to upper leg dimensions. Sni'ktl envies the Dralasite ability to fit into off the shelf garments. He quickly pays his money and leaves looking for somewhere to pass a few hours while his suit is extruded to slither over his exoskeleton like a coat of varnish.
  Leaving the jokes behind for a moment, Gleep goes around the corner to the Dral Restaurant. There is a small group of locals in the corner booth, so Gleep grabs a table in the back. He is asked to put it back down. His waitress is a cutie and he chats her up a little, but a gruff look from the maitre' d gives him pause and he decides to just place his order. After a nice bowl of Panongila Seed soup, he follows up with a nice Panongila Seed pasta. After a nice belch, which he tries to hide, ineffectively, he finishes dinner off with a dessert of Ools. Leaving a nice tip for the waitress, and a local number in case she wants to leave the maitre' d for a while, he saunters out the door.
  Con Anderson is sits in an out of the way booth in Shanghai Kelly's. It is dark and empty. At the bar is a human female cleaning up glasses. Con has seen her before. Three men enter the bar. The first is a thin human male wearing an expensive suit. With him are two human thugs who look like they could be bouncers in this establishment. They walk up to the bar. "Well, Ms. Dare, we told you to back off. We told you what would happen if you kept poking your nose where it didn't belong."
  "Terrell! You son of a bitch!" I told you what would happen if you ever came after me." Dare reaches under the bar...before she can produce anything, the two thugs are over the bar and take hold of the woman, one on each arm. She tries to shake them off, but they are two strong. They throw her up on the bar. Terrell grabs her by her auburn hair, pulling her back until she is lying on the bar. Terrell pulls a knife from is suit jacket pocket an places the blade to her neck.
  Con quietly moves toward the bar. They don't see him. Con reaches for his sonic sword...He strikes! He comes down with his sonic sword on the wrist of Terrell. The wrist and knife fall to the floor. Dare raises her leg and lets lose with a kick to the mid section of one of her assailants...then follows up with a kick to his head as he doubles over in pain. The heel of her boot leaves a calling card that this thug will not forget as he drops hard to the floor. The remaining thug lets the girl go and draws his weapon and levels it at Con. Con spins his sword blade. When the motion is complete, the weapon is in an attack position. The two stare each other down. The thug levels his gun at Con. Before he can fire a shot, a shotgun blast sends the thug reeling to the floor dead. Con turns to see that Dare emptied both barrels into this miscreant.
  As a kid, Nathaniel always loved going to the library. He would spend countless hours just viewing the holo-vids and reading the plasti-books about monumental events like the Battle of Volturnus, and the First Sathar War. So many of his childhood fantasies drew their sustenance from the things he discovered in places like this. One could even venture to say that to some extent, libraries played a crucial role in shaping him into the man he would become today.
  Stepping through the immense, transparent metal doors of this impressive, multi-floored structure, Nathaniel was immediately awed at what he saw. Row upon decorative row of data storage banks, mixed in with metal shelving containing many bound, plasti-books, all of which was interspaced by a multitude of fine examples of Frontier art, apparently gathered from every major Federation world. All of this had been aesthetically arranged around scores of networked computer terminals. So much information, covering such a broad range of subjects, all conveniently located within one beautifully decorated building. And best of all, its free.
  Taking a quick look around, Nathaniel notices an unoccupied computer terminal, whose location not only offer a bit of privacy, but also allowing an unobstructed view of a very attractive woman whose name and access codes he has every intention of acquiring when done. After taking a moment to reach his seat at the terminal, and then a couple more to make eye contact and flash an inviting smile her way, Nathaniel accesses the library's main computer, and gets down to work.
  One thing Nathaniel learned during his days as a pirate captive, every Frontier world had a place where information can be bought and sold at a price. Usually it's a bar; sometimes it's surrounded by legitimate business establishments; but it's always operated by someone who skirts both sides of the Law. And it seems as luck would have it, Nathaniel had found Port Loren's. Gathering all the "information" he needed, Nathaniel hails a hover-taxi and heads off for his next destination, the Hole-In-The-Wall.
  Gleep thinks about going to the casino, but the nightclub next door has more humans at it, and let's face it, humans have more of a sense of humour than Yazirians. He walks in to Gromm's and notices that there are a few folks having a very animated conversation in the corner. So, naturally he takes a table within listening range of them. A 1.9 meter tall human with no neck, and no sense of humour, walks up and says. "That table is taken." Gleep says,
  "OK, by whom?" The gorilla puts on a steamed face, and Gleep decides that, being unarmed in a strange place, it might be best to move over to the bar. After a couple drinks, Gleep decides that this place really doesn't have a sense of humour, so he calls it a night and goes back to his apartment.
  "Are you all right?" Con asked. "Yeah...That was close. I am going to break this story. The galaxy is going to know about these guys, if it is the last thing I do." Con interrupts "We better be leaving. I have a place not to far away." Back in his room as he pours them a drink. "Who were those guys?"
  "You may not believe this but they belong to a group called the Investors. They influence everything that goes on in the galaxy not just in business...but politically as well..."
  "Your telling me that there is a secret group of people who are influencing galaxy events?"
  "Yes...that is what I am saying."
  "That's absurd" The enforcer smiles roguishly, knowing that he works for patrons who secretly influence galaxy events. "Enough...here finish your drink." Roxella looks at Con with her green eyes,
  "Thanks, I thought I was a goner there."
  "I know" Con runs his fingers through her hair. Kisses her as the two move towards his bed. The two kiss....The next morning Con finishes packing his bag. Roxella is still fast asleep. He leaves a note saying that his ship leaves this morning and thanks for the great night and Goodbye. Con leaves the room and checks out of the hotel and rejoins his ship and team mates.
  Nathaniel had heard it said many times that you will learn pretty quickly in the adventuring business how to read a room. You either do it, or you end up dead in a waste disposal unit somewhere. Since he could remember, he'd always seemed to have a knack for getting into more trouble on the ground than he ever did in space. Kane always wondered what it was that told him that a place was bad news. Not that he ever really listened when that warning klaxon in his head would tell him this mind you, but it's just something that he always wanted to know. Because the Hole-In-The-Wall was making it wail "GET OUT NOW!
  The Hole-In-The-Wall was just one out of thousands of cantinas operating across the Frontier. It was an inconspicuous little place, next door to Shang-Hai Kelly's and just across the from the city's Gaming Hall. It really wasn't all that bad a place, not as things on the Frontier usually tend to go, but its patronage is not exactly the type most people wanted hanging out in their residential areas. The only good thing that could be said about the place was that it was occasionally visited by some of the more colourful members of the Frontier's criminal element, which tended to keep the rest of the Port's street scum away out of shear fear. And the city's larger and more organized criminals usually kept those visiting the Hole-In-The-Wall from bringing a lot of unwanted attention. After all, every con would agree that it would be real bad for their "collective business interests" if Star Law or the Port police started raiding their primary deal brokering and muscle recruitment centre.
  One look into that dark smoky room was enough to tell Kane that this was just the kind of place one came to for one of two things: to get drunk or get killed. And that meant that it was just the type of place to find someone who would know what he was looking for. It was a long and narrow place, with a lot of shadows from which to watch the place, and a hidden back door for quick exits. He had checked out the place earlier, having learned the hard way that knowing the way out was probably more important that knowing how to get in. So Nathaniel had spotted the back door and the two thugs waiting in the shadows there, along with two or three others watching in the area, most likely keeping an eye out for who was coming in.
  A Yazirian, the largest he had ever seen, was covering the door. That should have been enough of a warning. I suppose that years of dealing with pirates and the like should have taught him a thing or two about listening to that loud, wailing, threat klaxon going off in the back of his head. But the fact of the matter was he didn't.
  "Who sent you?" the Yazirian demanded. Now don't get me wrong, no one ever accused Kane of being stupid. And things would have gone much smoother if he'd just kept it low key but after having travelled so many light-years, and generally not having had a very pleasant time of scraping together a decent living for himself for the last couple of years, Kane was a little on edge. So who could really blame him when he said, "Your mother Fuzzy. Her arms are tired from hanging from the holo-flare street lamp over the corner in the Port's red light district!"
  A general rule learned about fighting long ago is that the big guys tend to not be very fast. Real strong, sometimes real mean, often real dumb, but seldom real fast. Yazirians are the exception. His lanky, fur-covered arm had Kane by the neck and dangling in the air before he could even smile at his own wit. And that fact scared the frak out of him as he grabbed his arm with one hand to keep from choking to death and jerked a concealed combat knife out with the other, stabbing it into the arm as Kane's eyes nearly popped out of his head. As he yanked it out and stabbed a second time, Nathaniel noticed that Fuzzy's eyes didn't even flinch in pain. It's safe to say that if O'Malley hadn't laid a hand on the Yazirians arm, he would have snapped Kane's neck right there on the spot.
  "No more of that, Mr. Kane," O'Malley warned with a warm smile. "Continue to do that will only just make him really mad. Its OK, Jahl. You may release him." The Yazirian turned his head toward the smaller human for a second, and then back to Kane with only a grunt to indicate his displeasure at having being stopped by his employer. But listen, he did and dropped the newcomer like a spent credit stick onto the cantina's dirty floor. Nathaniel gasped for air, as O'Malley laughed and helped him to his feet, deftly relieving him of his blades as he led Nate to the bar.
  "Well, well. Nathaniel Kane!" O'Malley laughed as Kane collapsed against the plasti-wood bar, sucking in air that just could not come fast enough. "I'd imagined that you were living like a prince somewhere with all those credits you stole from old Red Eyes Ray."
  "You know me!" Kane gasped. "I get bored easily!"
  "Yeah." He says slightly bemused. "Seem to remember hearing that old Ray and what's left of his gang are still looking for you." he chuckled. "You know there used to be a big price on your head for what you did to him. But since his pirate band disbanded awhile back, and never mind the fact that you left him virtually penniless, I highly doubt there's anyone still around interested in finding you now."
  "Good." Kane choked as air started flowing normally again. "I have enough problems of my own right these days."
  "Oh?" he smiled, obliviously indicating that his interest had peaked. "And what can I do for you?"
  "Information," Kane said, sucking in one last big gulp of air to steady himself as he set a shot glass of Terran whiskey in front of himself. He knocked it back in one fluid motion and then grimaced at its poor quality evident by the taste. "I want to sign on with the Black Hand Gang." O'Malley broke into a deep and raucous laugh at that, before slipping his hand under the bar and removed a bottle of vintage Terran Liquor.
  Perhaps two hours later, Kane strolled through the doors of the establishment O'Malley said was known to be frequented by some members of the Volturnus Trading Company. Asking the barkeep for a Terran Beer, as well as info about the Volturnus Trading Company, he discretely points out a corner booth occupied by a rowdy Human and a Dral on a bender.
  "That's them." he says never taking his eyes off the credit chips I offered in exchange for the information. "Borovski and OMAC."
  Offering thanks for the information, as well as the drink, Nathaniel Kane sets course for the other side of the room already deciding on how to best make my introduction.
  Kane takes a long glance at his chronocom as he patiently awaits a response from Borovski and OMAC about his petition to join the BHG.
  "Oh Hell!" he groans aloud as he is suddenly struck across the back of the head by the battle scarred, fatigue clad human.
  "I think he just realized that, not only has he missed his opportunity to score with that "hottie" from the library, but his hotel room account at the Stellar Towers is linked to his public data access account!" The remarkably sober human continues. The equally sober Dralasite responds,
  "Young Mister Kane here left so many electronic footprints in his data search for the BHG and the VTC an Edestekai could have tracked him down!" OMAC raises an eyebrow in askance at Borovski's comment. "They don't make Edestekai interfaces yet Gunny." Boro explains. Before Nathaniel can ask any more questions, OMAC grabs him by the shoulders and propels him toward the bar.
  "I still think we should let the Eorna lobotomise him." OMAC growls.
  "I'm inclined to agree." Answers Borovski, "but the boss reckons we are gonna need more manpower for the Project and apparently this guy fits the profile, whatever the hell that is!"
  Borovski and OMAC spend the next hour spending Nathaniel's meagre account on cheap liquor before bustling him out the door and off to his new career as the newest member of the Black Hand Gang.
  Sni'ktl scritches as the HoloAd in the "Live Cinema" crackles into his meditative musings. "I have a major update coming for everyone within the next week. I hope my next message will explain much of our recent delays and start a whole new set of adventures."
  The man selling interactive HoloVentures morphs into a moebian tetrahedron as he is swallowed by a massively over exaggerated Quick Death. The CMO of the BHG toggles his VFU and settles down for some more intense R&R.
  The next act of the play features an exceedingly hammed up portrayal of Kurabandan freedom fighters being beaten back by UPF Star Law Rangers using wide area sonic cannon. While none of the Kurabanda die, the blood flowing from their ears becomes a symbol recurring throughout the drama. While Sni'ktl is pleased to see Volturnan images portrayed as good guys he is concerned at the lack of attention to detail. Since when did any self-respecting Kurabanda sport three tails? Sni'ktl finds himself sympathising with the show's sponsors (The Alliance for the Rights of the People) but cringes at the naivety of their view. That all are one goes without saying to one who has experienced an Ul-Mor mind link. Rim races don't need to be made citizens of the Frontier. They need to be recognised as valued allies. Still, there seems to be a cosmic storm brewing and things have a habit of settling to a new tune after a good storm.
  Kane awakens several hours later, crammed in the back of a large Hover transport with more than a dozen beings of all four Frontier races. Scanning the group of fellow passengers Kane quickly recognises OMAC and Borovski. Some of the other passengers seem familiar, probably from all his research on the Volturnus Trading Company and others he is certain he's never seen before.
  Kane pauses for a moment to replay the final part of the rather cryptic message he received on his chrono-com. "I have a major update coming for everyone within the next week. I hope my next message will explain much of our recent delays and start a whole new set of adventures."
  "Hmmm... Guess those two didn't hang me out to dry after all." he says to himself as he reflects back upon the encounter he had with OMAC and Borovki no more than two hours ago. While polite, the two were uncomfortably silent, leaving him with no clear indication of their thoughts on his petition to join the group. But this message had been sent on his private comm channel, the very same channel he had given the two during their previous meeting. And while Nathaniel didn't recognize the speaker's voice, he knew it had to be someone from the BHG. They were the only ones who knew it, of that he was certain.
  "Looks like my luck maybe starting to change." He says mostly to himself as he starts his trek from his quarters in the Stellar Towers to the Space Port.
  "Seven, seventy, seven hundred," Sni'ktl waits to see how many years this time. On the one pincer he can see the logic in stasis duration being   strictly determined by operational requirements. On the other he feels like a vac-surfer on the quantum event horizon of a wormhole wondering which universe he is in. He spends a moment in intense Vrit-kit-ki-k meditation to purge his mind of stasis ghosts and the mind jarring paradoxes that can lead to symptoms ranging from mild headaches to absolute mental oblivion. At least it seems like a moment. He is surprised when Jameson informs him that his latest "spad-out" as the human calls it has lasted for two hours. Sni'ktl makes a mental note to investigate the mental stresses of his exstasic colleagues as a priority and to discuss "stasis exegesis gnosis monitoring". He pauses. "No... on second thoughts 'spadding out' might be the better terminology."
  Stretching wide GleepGlooup thinks about taking care of some last minute shopping at Port Loren. "I need to get a shopping trip in, badly. Where can I get me some new grenades and a few bullets? Wherever we are going, I bet we need to go armed, and I don't mean the 3 I will grow!" Gleep also gets his training accredited for level 3 Technician. One of these days he hopes to realize his dream, to do stand up comedy.
  Raid is one of the last BHG team members to climb into the hover transport as it makes a circuit of the downtown shopping precinct of Port Loren. The human scientist cum explorer had spent several weeks of his leave touring in his old homeland to see where some of his ancestors came from. "I stopped by the "Bird and Baby" last week," he says to no-one in particular. "Where some of the most prominent authors on the planet met and discussed their works hundreds of years ago."
JamesonHM  Within the hour the Black Hand Gang are aboard a private charter back to Volturnus and the beginning of their next adventure.
20.02
Frontier Date 14.136
  The Black Hand Gang finally arrives back in the Zebulon system and is immediately welcomed back by Jameson, their project leader.  After the usual round of debriefings, physical and psychological evaluations and seemingly endless amounts of paperwork the Black Hand Gang gather for a final farewell before entering cryostasis once more.  When the Partners of the Volturnus Trading Company and their employees are gathered at their Head Quarters in Brucebane, X'anthe presents the balance sheets for the VTC with the results of the fire sales at the various temporary offices across the Frontier.  "This is the good news."  X'anthe begins the meeting by projecting the various reports onto the screen hanging at the end of the conference room.  "And this is the bad news..."  Another series of figures and charts replaces the sales receipts.  "As you can see the cost of refitting the salvaged wreck of the old Hepplewhite Inc ship exceeds the income generated by the sale of excess equipment which means that the major shareholders of the VTC will need to make a sizeable contribution to Company funds in order for us to meet all our financial obligations.  Considering the size of some of our various individual bank accounts that shouldn't really be a major obstacle but we should hammer out the details ASAP so we can settle the financial interests of the VTC."
  Most of the team groan at the mention of paperwork but Crisbel and Gleep both sit up and take notice when X'anthe floats the prospect of diverting up to 7 million credits from each of their accounts in order to fund the VTC's latest acquisition.
  Jameson quickly settles the issue when he authorises X'anthe's proposal to use the funds.  "None of you would be in the financial position you are in now if not for the use of Eorna technology.  These funds will be used to further the goals of the Great Mission."  Jameson stares at each member of the team assembled before him.  "Anyone who is not happy with this arrangement can terminate their involvement with the Project immediately."  Over the intervening nanosecond both Crisbel and Gleep nod their agreement toward X'anthe and Jameson smiles thinly.  "Thank you gentlemen, your sacrifice for the cause is duly noted."
  The meeting quickly wraps up and within 20 hours the entire team, old members and rookies alike, are all in deep cryogenic sleep.  The days slip by, becoming months and years before the Black Hand Gang is once again called upon to exercise their peculiar talents. 
Frontier Date 40.293
  Deep in the caverns of Volturnus underneath the crystal city of Volkos, Director Loius V Jameson studies the the most recent briefing data from his Eorna allies. Jameson sighs deeply as he absorbs the latest intel and considers his options.  After decades of leading the 'alien' contingent of the Eorna's Great Mission, Jameson is still daunted by the scale of the Eorna plans and has difficulty at times, dealing with the long term aspects of the mission. Cryogenic storage and the subsequent defrosting of sentient beings is something the races of the Frontier are still researching and developing but the Eorna have perfected their techniques centuries ago.  Whilst the Eorna have come to accept and deal with the disruption of 'normal' life cycles, to the natives of the Frontier, Jameson included, sometimes the psycological impact of outliving decendents and the loss of their old lives can weigh heavily on the conscience.
  "I guess I better talk with Sni'ktl, see if we can find ways to deal with those issues another time." Jameson focuses again on the latest reports from Eorna intelligence operatives in the Frontier.  He smiles to himself as he recalls a line from one of his favourite 'old' holovid comedies. "Well I guess it's time we put the band back together!"  Jameson turns to his computer terminal and begins issuing the orders that will reunite some old friends, stir up old emotions and almost certainly have an impact on the entire Frontier. His first command, directed to the Cryogenic Division, will revive original members of the Black Hand Gang who have had very little contact with the outside world for many years, decades even. The next set of orders recalls all current, active members of the Black Hand Gang to their main base of operations on Voltunus.  Finally Jameson contacts the Transport Division for a status report on the flag ship of the Votlurnus Trading Company.  With all the orders cut and issued, Jameson reclines in his underground office and lets his mind drift back across the years to a life and a love long gone.
  Upon revival it is quickly clear to all members of the BHG, new and old alike, that this is an unusual event.  Every member of the team has been revived at the same time, the first time in more than 100 years they have all been operationally active.
  "Well this must be something pretty big if the boss has called up everyone."  xZot muses to himself as he joins the rest of the crew in the briefing room, far below the crustal city of Volkos.
  Director Jameson puts their concerns to rest in the first few minutes of their briefing.  "As you more experienced members of the team will recall, we have run training exercises in the past to test our response capability.  This is one of those training exercises.  It has been 26 years since your were all last active."  Jameson hands out historical data briefs for each member of the BHG to study after the briefing.
  "The star ship Omicron, the pride of the Pan Galactic Corporation, disappeared 10 years ago on its first voyage.  Recently the ship was found drifting in space, the passengers and crew killed by a strange and virulent disease.  The ship has been decontaminated, refuelled, and made ready for operations.  The PGC need a team to "baby-sit" the Omicron on her voyage back to a Corporation star port.  The ship is being automatically navigated by her computers and robots and this promises to be an easy mission for the "babysitting" team."
  "The Volturnus Trading Company has successfully tendered for the escort duty contract and the Omicron is currently orbiting Volturnus awaiting your arrival."  Jameson rises from his seat at the head of the table indicating the briefing is over.  "Happy trails ladies and gentlemen."
20.03 
  An Eorna shuttle transports the Black Hand Gang from the surface of Volturnus to an orbiting space station and from there the team are quickly transferred to the docking bay for the Omicron. Jameson ensures the team have little opportunity for contact with other Frontier personnel, making the arrangements to embark his people at an hour when civilian traffic aboard the station is at a minimum.  Once aboard the vessel the team disperse quickly across the ship, investigating their environs for the next few days or reporting to their assigned posts.
Sni'ktl notes the convenient location of the med lab, next door to robot storage. While the lab seems well supplied, it will be handy being able to summon B1 or B2 with his more familiar gear. While Sni'ktl silently hopes that the lab will see little if no activity, he spends most of his mental energy planning logistics for various medical contingencies and drilling B1 and B2 to retrieve injured team members from around the ship.
  Gleep ensconces himself in the Auxiliary Control room maintaining cognisance of what is going on with computers and communications. The Dralasite technician immersing himself in his newly acquired computing skills and getting in as much time at the interface as possible.
  Con takes his post on the lower bridge and relieves OMAC who heads off to his private quarters at the rear of the vessel. Con takes a seat in what would normally be the Captain's chair. Though he has no intention of letting the power of the seat effect his ego like it has done for so many Academy graduates now plying their trade in The Fleet. For now he is alone, content to be lost in his thoughts. What could be easier thinks Con? The ship is on autopilot, no one is shooting at him and he is not engaged in any tribal game of football. His life is a bumpy road. How difficult it has been for him. Defrosted and re-frozen like some fishstick. When he is defrosted again the people he has met the last time are long dead like his wife and child. What about the last time? Did he finish the job in the bar that night? Did Roxella break her big story? Did they find her and Duncan in some refuse heap with bullets in their skulls. He would never find out. The only thing that remained the same was the team. He could count on them. For all that he has given up in his life, he was proud to serve alongside this lot.
  xZot looks around the control panel in front of him as he familiarises himself with the updated layout. "Well, despite the years, it appears not much has changed with the functions. They've just moved things around a bit." he grumbles "and all these new automations they've incorporated! I think I preferred it better the old way." he continues to himself as his hands quickly move over the panels. Once happy that he has a grasp of the communications systems he moves his attention to the life support systems, being careful not to accidentally change anything but still investigating the subtleties of these newer systems.
  Crisbel enters the ship and decides to take a quick tour. After getting familiar with where the important things were, such as dining, the main bridge and of course medical, he heads for his cabin. On his way there he picks up a copy of several manuals and information packets about the different parts of this ship. When he reaches his cabin he stows his gear, and gets to work memorizing the layout and built-in security protocols of the ship.
  In the Robot Storage compartment, Man'Tiss Sp'ock reviews his staffing roster and then flicks on his chronocom. "Raid, report to the Computer Room, that will be your duty station for this trip. Siu-Ling and Borovski will relieve Kane and Raid respectively. McKilin, you are Sn'iktl's relief. After finalising the crew assignments, Sp'ock assesses the robotic assistance stored in his compartment.
  Initial Psych testing indicates no ill effects among the BHG and good results for the team's newest member. Sni'ktl waits in med lab for B1 and B2 to return from the Computer Room with the latest mock victim for medical attention. He toggles the intercom by the door, "Priority medical request. Slug juice needed in med lab, that's a large slug juice." Realising that he will need an incentive to motivate team members who are no doubt busy exploring their own little worlds aboard ship Sni'ktl retoggles, "Did I mention I found the key to the drug cabinet."
Although generally pleased over the positive results of his latest Psych Evaluation, Kane's mood was still somewhat darkened by the continued discomfort he still felt from his throbbing headache. "There's no way my head can still be hurting like this from a cheap booze hangover," he thinks to himself. "But I don't remember getting into any brawls. But then I only remember bits and pieces from my big night out with OMAC and Borovoski." Upon hearing Sni'ktl's request for a large slug juice over the intercom, Nathaniel decides to again seek out the tender machinations of the team's resident medical expert for some much needed pain relief.
  "Room Service." He jokingly says to the Vrusk upon entrance to the Med Lab a short while later. "As requested: a large slug juice. I hope this will be adequate recompense for your continued service as a medic." Setting the beverage down on the desk at which the Vrusk was seated, Kane takes the adjacent chair offered to him, and begins telling Sni'ktl of his malady. Sni'ktl scritches and remarks that he probably had a "Barroom Special." Seeing the puzzled expression on Nathaniel's face, Sni'ktl then explains that the "Bar Room Special" is not so much a drink, but rather the empty container that once held the drink. That being smashed over the back of his skull was the probable cause of his current discomfort. A quick medscan of Kane's head confirms this. After administering a little concoction of meds to fix his minor head injury as well provide him with a little pain relief, Sni'ktl sends Kane on his way, but not without first advising him to check his ident-card and make sure that he still has a few credits left to his name. It often seems that victims of a "Bar Room Special" awaken to find an empty credit account to go along with that bad headache.
  Thanking the Vrusk for his help and the advice, Kane exits the med lab.  Muttering under his breath about the next time OMAC and Borovski feel the need to quench their thirst at his expense someone was going to lose and appendage... and in the case of a Dralasite he would make sure that it wasn't going to "grow" back, Kane makes his way to the ship's Auxiliary Control Centre.
  Almost always a key section aboard Frontier starships, Auxiliary Control acts as an supplemental control centre to the bridge and main engineering. If those main controls ever broke down, the auxiliary control centre would act as a backup. And if necessary, a starship could be controlled entirely from this room alone. Looking around the room as he enters, Kane is awed by the latest high-tech equipment he sees there and is momentarily reminded of his younger days when he dreamed of someday becoming a captain of his own ship in the Capellean Free Merchant fleet. Days long before his short lived career as a pirate. "I have command." he says quietly to himself as he takes a seat at a control station. However, it is not until he is seated that he notices that he is not alone.
  Gleep, who was standing in the corner monitoring the routine operation of several of the ship's computers, is highly amused by Kane's acceptance of command.  Despite his embarrassment, Kane uses the humour of the moment to build further camaraderie with his another member of the team.  Thus it was not until sometime later that Kane realizes that there isn't much to be gained from his continued presence in Auxiliary Control room.  Despite his enjoyment of Gleep's company, Kane eventually parts company with the Dralasite and makes his way to the ship's Engine Room.  After using the intercom to inform the team of his new whereabouts, Kane picks up the ship's engineering operations manual and begins to intently study it in order to familiarize himself with this aspect of shipboard control and operations.
  Up on the Bridge Con is siting in the captain's chair on the bridge thinking to himself. "Where did I leave that laser rifle? I hope I didn't leave it in that hotel, oh that's right, OMAC packed it with his heavy stuff in the Arms Locker."
  Having allayed his concerns about weaponry Con settles back in the authentic leather seat and begins fantasising about scantily clad pirate chicks, his imagination fired by the recent holovid, "Pirates of the Zebulon Cloud".
  Having satisfied himself that everything is ticking along nicely xZot pauses momentarily as he looks around the bridge, having spend a lot of time in starships he recognises that this is no ordinary ship. "This definitely lives up to Jamesons' "Pride of the fleet" tag. How could it have just disappeared all that time ago" he muses.
  The Black Hand Gang settle in to their various quarters around the starship Omicron, admiring the design and technology of this corporate vehicle. Everything about the ship reeks of money, from the streamlined design of the waste reclamation system to the authentic leather of the Captain's chair. Over the first 48 hours of their escort duty the team familiarise themselves with the ships' layout but it doesn't take long for this crew of adrenaline junkies to lose interest in the creature
comforts. In fact OMAC and some of the more hardcore members of the team begin to resent the over abundance of luxuries, longing for access to a gym or shooting range or even a decent combat simulator training program.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours
  Two days out from Zebulon, before even reaching their first port of call at Truane's Star everything is back to 'normal', at least what these intrepid adventurers call 'normal'.
  "WARNING, WARNING! UNAUTHORISED BREACH OF OUTER HULL HATCH!"
  The computerised alarm system blares throughout the entire ship, jolting BHG members across the ship awake or into instant action.
  "WARNING, WARNING! UNAUTHORISED BREACH OF OUTER HULL HATCH!"
  "Now what?"
  "You gotta be shittin' me!"
  "Unbelievable!"
  "Here we go again!"
  "Aaah, now that's more like it!"
  Commander xZot reaches for the intercom and flicks the comm line open. "Action stations everyone, prepare to repel boarders."
  Con was in paradise, beautiful space pirate chicks wearing nothing but the red pirate scarf. Con surrenders himself to his fantasy, wearing only a smoking jacket and a bottle of wine with a nice fire in the fire place.
  Con is shocked back to reality as the alert klaxon sounds. He reaches for his gun and realises his equipment is in his quarters. He checks for his knife in his boot, it's there. The enforcer moves with caution into the corridors careful to avoid any intruders, heading first to his quarters for his gun belt. Once he is suited up, Con will go and repel the boarders.
  X'anthe is startled by the sudden alarm from the Omicron's security system. After having spent so much of her operational duties attending to the VTC's financial matters, the dusky scientist was just starting to unwind in the ships' well appointed hydroponics lab. She immediately flicked her chronocom to the team's open frequency. "xZot, I'm in the hydroponics lab, not far from the outer hatch but I'm unarmed! You want me to sit tight? Or should I try to get to the med lab?" While X'anthe awaits a response from the operational leader of the BHG she begins to reconsider her decision to rejoin the more active services of the Volturnus Trading Company. "Why is it every time I get on a ship we get boarded?" She asks no-one in particular.
  Gleep thought to bring his gyrojet pistol with an extra clip with him, but now he thinks to himself, "What I wouldn't give for a couple grenades about now."  Setting the comm channel to the team's freq, he calls out, "xZot, I am in the comm center.  I will monitor team and ship's communications from here and if the door opens, I will shoot first and forget about questions, so call me before you come in. If you prefer that I change locations, I would rather you tell me now, since I don't want to be moving around the corridors for long."  Gleep locks the door for now, waiting for orders.
  Mr Sp'ock's voice suddenly clicks across the teams security channel. "All security personnel secure the nearest airlock and report to me when in position." The Security Chief turns to the 2 combat robots in the robot storage compartment and reaches for his Robcomkit, preparing to activate both robots. As Sp'ock begins activating the combat robots he flicks his chronocom to xZot's private channel. "Commander, I am activating the combat robots and will move to secure the Outer Hatch Airlock. I recommend we use the Security Robots to secure the Bridge and send all available personnel to the airlocks. Sp'ock out."
  Across the ship members of the Black Hand Gang begin reporting in or racing to their assigned posts.
Historical Note (Source: Zebulon University)
  The origin of both the Black Hand Gang and the Volturnus Trading Company and their suspected links, have been speculated upon by various individuals and organizations across the Frontier on many occasions throughout history. Most historians agree that the original Team/Unit symbol was the black BHG sign in green lettering. Anthropologists pieced this together from excerpts of the unit dairies that have recently come to light.
  The team logo however has been hotly debated: "Ne conjugare nobiscum" (Don't fuck with us) is widely accepted as the most well known slogan. The inspiration for this apparently came from the legendary Capt. H himself.... "I do believe I heard the sound of a gauntlet striking the ground?"
  Opponents of the authenticity of this slogan question the translations, saying just the opposite of what this means. Ne - a very loose don't, conjugare - join in friendship, nobiscum - with us. Instead they have proposed the alternate Ne Irritavi nobis or "Don't provoke us"
The official government response has always been "We're not sure a respectable, law abiding citizen of the Frontier should want to 'join in friendship' with the BHG. The only thing all the debate participants will agree on is that "Latin" is an old, pre space travel language of the Frontier.
20.04
  "WARNING, WARNING! UNAUTHORIZED BREACH OF OUTER HULL HATCH!"
 
Con races out the door of the bridge, past the security robot and heads toward his quarters via the southern most hatch, cursing himself for nor carrying his weapons at all times.  In the robot storage area, Sp'ock picks up his Robcomkit and begins activating the two combat robots to assist in the Black Hand Gangs defence of the Omicron.  Alerted by the ships alarm system, OMAC leaps out of his bunk, grabs his combat load, packed and ready at the foot of his bunk, and rushes out the door of his quarters heading up the corridor between crew and passenger quarters for the nearest airlock.  Across the hallway James McKilin rolls off his bunk, scrambles for his equipment and rushes out the door and up the corridor behind OMAC.
 
"Now what!"  McKilin mutters to his companion.  OMAC grins broadly over his shoulder at the medic.
  "It's clobberin' time."  He answers as he begins the sequence for opening the pressure door.
 
Crisbel is startled awake by the loud alarms
  "WARNING, WARNING! UNAUTHORISED BREACH OF OUTER HULL HATCH!" and moments later hears,
  "Action stations everyone, prepare to repel boarders."
  "That must be the commander," he thinks to himself.  He grabs for his communicator, laser pistol, stunstick, and grenade belt and heads for the door.  As he runs down the hall toward the hatch, he calls into the com, "I'll be down momentarily.   hope this isn't a drill." he mumbles.

 
Sni'ktl picks up the weapons assigned to him.  He finds that the slightly low ship's gravity still doesn't mean he can actually carry everything.  "This would show particularly astute management by xZot."  Muses the CMO as he drops the laser rifle again.  "A defensive drill just as everyone is bored and tired.  Astute... xZot..... correlate... probability of drill.... minimal", concludes Sni'ktl.  He stows his density scanner and all his weapons apart from stunstick, grenades, gyroget pistol and ammo.  He then glides gracefully out of medlab in his slipsuit ready to rendevous with Spo'ck at the nearest airlock.
 
In the hydroponics lab, X'anthe moves to the pressure door and listens for any sign of life and jumps atvthe sound of one of the doors being opened but calms herself when she realizes it's not the door she's listening at but one of the other doors into the hatch.  "I hope that's the cavalry." She whispers to herself as she looks around for somewhere too hide until help arrives.
 
Noise from behind the pressure door to the outer hatch draws Gleep over to listen for clues before he activates his chronocom again.  "Hey boss," he reports to xZot.  "I can hear movement in the outer hatch, it sounds like the pressure doors are being opened from inside the airlock."
 
Gloo is sitting in his quarters reading up on various common Demolition charges when the alarm begins blaring and xZot starts yelling something about action stations.
  "For the love of.  If this is just one of Monkeyboys drills I'm gonna kill 'em." Gloo growls out loud, gathering his combat loadout while listening to the chatter.  "X'anthe I'm on my way up and I'll give you a weapon, meet me at the rear upper airlock, Gleep I'll be there momentarily."

 
Gloo gathers up the rest of his combat gear, Gloo looks back at his new space suit as he trots out the door.  "I really hope I won't be needing that, but I'm overloaded as it is."  Gloo gets his shotgun in ready position huffs and puffs his way from the lower deck to the upper airlock.  "I should have had a damn robot carry most of this.  Note to self, purchase a bot for times like this."
 
Borovski oozes out of his bunk and into his webbing as he monitors the teams actions via his chronocom.  Gathering his equipment the dralasite warrior leaves his quarters and heads for the nearest airlock, reaching the pressure door behin OMAC and McKilin.
 
"Morning!" says the sleepy dralasite. "What's up now?"
 
"WARNING, WARNING! UNAUTHORIZED BREACH OF OUTER HULL HATCH!"
  "This has got to be a joke!" thinks Kane as he jolted into consciousness.  "Its probably more of the team's Lets-Have-Some-Fun-With-The-New-Guy antics."  However, it is not until he hears the voice of Commander xZot over the intercom that he takes the threat seriously.
  "Action stations everyone, prepare to repel boarders." Says the Commander.
  "Great. Just when I was starting to get all nostalgic about the monotony of my early life as a spacer, this happens." Says Kane to himself as he prepares himself for potential combat. "Oh well, at least I came prepared."
  Smiling, Kane opens his personal storage case, and quickly dons his its contents: a power pack, a grenade belt containing his entire grenade compliment, and a pair of combat knives with their sheaths.  Finally he removes his favorite blaster pistol from its case and then hostlers it, after first checking the weapon and attaching its power feed line.  Knowing that he is ready, and that his team is probably ready as well, Kane believes they are ready for anything.  However that belief is soon shattered when his chronocom suddenly flicks on with a unfamiliar female's voice on the other end.
  "xZot, I'm in the hydroponics lab, not far from the outer hatch but I'm unarmed!"  Hydroponics?  That's X'anthe, the team's senior science specialist!  Unarmed means that she could be in for some serious trouble!  "You want me to sit tight?  Or should I try to get to the med lab?" she continues after a brief pause.  Noting the near panic in her voice, Kane flicks on his own chronocom.  "Kane to xZot.  I am near an airlock and probably closest to her position.  There are others near me on the lower level that can defend mine.  Send someone over here and I will make my way to Hydroponics and secure X'anthe's.  Over?"

Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 6 seconds
  "Action stations everyone" xZot barks.  Flicking the com switch off he breaths a sign "So much of an easy trip."  he murmurs, "Nothing is ever easy".  xZot's hands flash across the pad as he runs various system checks to establish the nature of the intruder.  Opening a channel to Sp'ock he continues "Send the Security 'bots up. " agreeing with his security officer.  "We'll need to lock this place down."  Opening a channel to the whole crew he continues, "Combat team to the airlocks."  Checking his own weapons for readiness xZot awaits the first contact before engaging further.
 
The first thing Raid does after hearing the alarm is to check his laser pistol and sonic knife and make sure each has a fresh clip. Then he flicks on his holoscreen and turns back to the panel of the ship's computer in front of him. Raid brings up the Omicron's life support program and begins monitoring the entire ship for pressure changes, additional hatch openings, or anything out of the oridinary. "Ship's computer reporting in." Raid let's xZot know where he is via intercom.
 
In her quarters, Siu-Ling is awakened by the ship's alarm system. She quickly dons her weaponry and heads for the door. Hoping to avoid a crush of people at the nearest airlock, Siu-Ling opts to head north along the outer corridor and secure the northern airlock.
 
In the computer room, Raid curses as he realises the compartments and passages on the Omicron are not monitored with security cameras. "We need a better view of what is going on inside and outside the ship."  He says to himself. Raid begins looking for camera views of the outer hull when he notices the indicator lights for the outer hatch doors.  "Commander, it looks like all four doors are opening from the outer hatch. Heads up everyone."
 
Sni'ktl however doesn't need the warning, he sees the pressure door on the east side of the airlock beginning to open as he reaches the corridor intersection.  Alone and not particularly well armed, the CMO scurries on to find Mr Sp'ock in robot storage.
 
Slipping past the maintenance bot in the hallway, Siu-Ling races down the corridor to the northern airlock and begins the opening sequence as more information about the invaders filters over the BHG comm system.  Up on the bridge, xZot fidgets nervously as he awaits further contact reports, knowing he is best positioned where he is to co-ordinate his troops and serve as a last line of defence holding the bridge.
 
Standing in the hallway behind OMAC and McKilin, Borovski tries the suppress the surge of adrenaline and refrains from pushing past his companions to reach the coming action.  "Damn airlocks, they seem to take forever." he mutters to no-one in particular.  OMAC ignores the comment while McKilin glances over his shoulder at the frustrated dralasite.  Seeing the dralasite armed for bear, James steps to the side of the corridor and lets Boro move in front of the medic.  At the southern airlock, Con expresses the same frustration as Borovski but without the sounding board as he waits for the airlock to cycle open.
 
Over in the computer room, Raid flicks on the general comm channel to report that all four doors in the central airlock are now open.  "They're inside the ship boss and it looks like they're attempting to open the security doors into Auxilary Control and the Emergency Power Plant.  Who designs a ship with critical sytems so close to the access points?"
 
Upstairs both X'anthe and Gleep are becoming concerned at the proximity of their unseen enemy and the distinct lack of friendlies nearby.  Gleep backs up toward the opposite door of Auxilary Control, leveling his weapon at Security Door while in Hydroponics, X'anthe tries to become one with the plants she has been tending.
 
Outside the western airlock, Gloo and Crisbel wait for their respective doors to cycle open and give them access to the upper deck and their isolated friends.  Down in the engine room, Kane finishes arming himself and moves to the door of the northern airlock and begins the opening sequence so he too can join the coming fray.
 
Upstairs in robot storage, Sp'ock looks up as Sn'iktl bursts through the doorway,
 
"They're coming!"  The CMO clicks excitedly as Sp'ock finishes activating the first robot and turns to activate the second machine.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 12 seconds
  "OK, clam down Snik.  I'm almost done here."  Sp'ock wasn't sure if time had been speeding up or slowing down but over the next 6 seconds an awful lot seemed to happen.  More than he thought possible in such a brief interval of time.  As soon as the second combat robot was activated, Sp'ock ordered both machines to repel boarders and stepped back as the robots headed past Sn'iktl and through the doorway.  Laser fire ensued immediately the robots exited the storage room.
 
Downstairs Raid is startled by the sound of laser fire until he realises the sounds are coming through someone's open comm chanel on their chronocom.  "What the...? Commander, I've got the sound of laser fire coming through the comms now!"
 
At his airlock door, Kane's mind fires on all cylinders while he waits for the door to finish opening.  "How does another spaceship get close enough to board us and yet none of our ship's own detection systems can tell us that its even there?  If not our long range sensors, then surely our ship's proximity/collision sensors should have detected something that close?  Yet we only find out that were being boarded because the ship's computer tells us that someone is trying to open an airlock without the proper entry code.  Something is definitely up here!  Is there a serious computer glitch somewhere that caused this?  Or do we have a saboteur on board?"  For now Kane's speculations must go unanswered as he prepares to enter the airlock.
 
In the Auxilary Control room, Gleep levels his weapon at the opposite as he fingers his chronocom, "Boss, I think they'll be through the security door real soon.  I sure hope the cavalry are on their way!"
 
Standing near the doorway of the robot storage room, Sni'ktl cannot help but poke his head through the door into the corridor too see what the combat robots are firing at.  No sooner had he looked than the teams top medic wished he hadn't.  "Unbelievable!"  Stunned, Sni'ktl flicks o his chronocom and utters one word.
 
"Quickdeath!" Sn'iktl isn't the only one floored by the report.
 
"What was that?" Cries Siu-Ling as she stumbles through the opening airlock door and on to the upper level of the airlock.  Above Siu-Ling one of the upper doors is also going through an opening sequence along with Kane's door below her.  The martial artist takes position inside the airlock, leveling her weapon at the upper level door.
 
At the western airlock, OMAC pushes his way into the airlock before the door is even completely open, rushing to the upper door facing the centre of the ship.  As Borovski comes through behind him, OMAC signals for the warrior dral to take the southern doorway.  "McKilin, you hold here in the airlock until we know what we're up against."  James nods as he takes a position in the middle of the airlock, weapon drawn and ready.  Two more doors open into the airlock, Crisbel and Gloo crowd into the room behind OMAC and Co. ready to face the expected threat coming through the central doorway.  X'anthe smiles as she hears the nearby airlock doors finish cycling, knowing that help is now only seconds away and the enemy have not appeared in her lab.
 
To the south, Con almost trips through the airlock door when he hears Sn'iktl's report but quickly resumes his course through the airlock to the upper doorway, ready to head off the intruders.
 
Up on the bridge, xZot is as surprised as the rest of his crew at the mention of the Sathar attack beast.  Then the credit drops!
 
"A quickdeath can't open an airlock door.  There must be something else boarding the ship as well!"
20.05
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 18 seconds
  "Quickdeath?"  Kane wonders to himself, despite the collective gasps of shock over the team's chronocom frequency.  "I wonder what a quick death is?"  Attempting to recall the Gang's various mission reports concerning their past adventures on Volturnus, Kane is soon able to piece together a mental image of just what a quickdeath is.  OK, think a giant, armored, alley cat with tentacles, razor sharp claws, a ferocious appetite, and a poisoned needler gun for a tail.  "Damn, that thing's going to be trouble!" he deduces as he tries to formulate a plan of action.  "Good thing I took the time to read those mission diaries when I signed on with this lot."  It is then that Kane hears xZot's voice over the chronocom.  "A quickdeath can't open an airlock door.  There must be something else boarding the ship as well!"
  Much to Sni'ktl's amazement, the quickdeath assaulting the combat robots on his front, actually fails to land a hit as it engages the bots for the first time.  "Perhaps this beast is not well adapted to combat inside a space craft?"  The CMO ponders as the sounds of combat across the ship begin to filter through the comm systems.
  "I'm taking the obvious choice xZot and betting it's the Sathar." says Kane into the intercom as he awaits his airlock door to cycle open.  "I'm at the Northern airlock and will try to make my way over to help Gleep since Boro is heading to X'anthe.  So to any friendlies in the area try not to shoot me!" Drawing his blaster, Kane dials it up to level 5 and prepares to enter the airlock.
  "I don't want to run into a quickdeath alone."  Raid chronocoms xZot.  "Could you send me the second security robot from the right side of the bridge?  Or maybe I should go fetch it myself and come join you."
  OMAC, Gloo, Crisbel, Borovski and Jimmy McKilin wait impatiently in the western airlock for the upper eastern airlock door to complete it's opening cycle.  OMAC signals for Gloo to slip through the north-eastern airlock door and meet X'anthe as soon as possible while he and the rest of his fire team train their weapons on the cycling eastern door.
  "Well, at least no one's dead yet."  Sni'ktl muses.  With no one needing medical attention, Sni'ktl opts to assist the team's martial endeavours.  Donning his IR goggles, he returns to the corridor and adds gyrojet rounds to the bots' offensive on the quickdeath.  The CMO's third shell actually manages to penetrate the beasts' hide (5 points).
  "SPACE!!!!!"  Cries the enforcer.  "A Quickdeath!!!!!  What the hell?  We can never get away from those damn things".  Con levels his laser rifle at the airlock waiting for the quickdeath or whatever else is there to step through the airlock.  As soon as whatever it is pops its head through Con plans on taking a head shot at it.  If the target is something other than a quickdeath or sathar or combat robot he considers an attempt to capture the intruder for interrogation purposes.
  Up on the bridge of the Omicron, events take a dramatic turn for the worst as xZot has a strange tingling sensation in the back of his head.  Turning instinctively to check behind him, xZot is almost blinded by a flash of light searing past his head.  After the combat was over xZot could never recall if his albedo screen was already activated or if some older instinct caused him to flick on the device before the second laser beam struck him.  All he knew for sure is that the albedo screen flared to life and prevented him from having a nasty scar in the middle of his forehead (3 SEU's).
  Gleep's mind perks at the words he hears, "Quickdeath!"  The horrible memories of being in its' clutches leaves his mass to shudder.  "Well, I better get ready to reduce its' longevity some," he says as he grabs an incendiary grenade with one hand.  He also checks to make sure his gyrojet has a full load and with a third arm, he prepares a tangler grenade.  "Dang!  Why didn't I bring my laser rifle with me?  And where are my frag grenades?  But, who would think I needed that stuff here?"
  The security door opens and just like in a bad dream, through the door slithers a sathar stormtrooper clad in military fatigues, or at least the sathar equivalent, weapon at the ready.  Gleep opens fire, striking the evil worm with his third shell (5 points, 3 to skiensuit).  With his free second arm, Gleep gambles and hurls his incendiary grenade.  The missile initially misses his target, hits the airlock door and bounces back to explode directly behind the surprised sathar trooper (22 points, half to skien suit).  The worm returns fire with it's laser rifle, the second beam lighting up Gleep's albedo screen (4 SEU's).  "xZot, looks like we might be best set-up for a running battle.  If I they bust in here and I have to run, which way would you like me to head?"  asks Gleep.  "Oh, Oooh" he says to himself as more armed sathar appear in the airlock doorway.
 
  In the robot storage room, Mr Sp'ock just shakes his head as the teams best doctor engages in a fire fight.  The Vrusk Security Chief gives the equivalent of a shrug and moves to the airlock door leading to the robot storage room and begins the opening sequence.  Sp'ock flicks on his chronocom.  "Commander xZot, I'm moving to secure the eastern airlock while the combat robots deal with the quickdeath."  Out in the corridor, both combat robots fire twice at the quickdeath, striking twice and penetrating the creatures reflective hide for minor damage (11 and 6 points).
 
For a long time Siu-Ling has fancied herself a sniper, but a sniper defines herself by the events taking place during the milliseconds following the pulling of the trigger, and providence has seen fit to give her few of those opportunities.  Her eyes have not yet fully adjusted, thus her vision is still intermittently a bit fuzzy, but she squints as she sees movement below her....
 
Blinking in disbelief, Commander xZot draws his laser pistol and returns fire at the rogue security robot, distracted by the need to find cover and activate his chronocom, xZot misses the robot as he ducks behind the bridge console and calls out to his nearest ally.  "Get to the bridge Raid, I'm under attack from our own robot!"
 
This time Sn'iktl is witness to a more traditional attack as the quickdeath slashes out with it's razor sharp claws, ripping away chunks of combat robot armour (26 points).  Both robots reply with a barrage of laser fire close range (40 points) causing a number of slight wounds along the beasts flank.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 24 seconds
  In the northern hatch, Siu-Ling waits patiently, a grim look on her face as she listens to xZot's report and knowing she cannot move to his assistance without leaving the airlock undefended.  She glances down at the door Kane should be entering from then swings her attention back to the southern door and the imminent gun fight.
 
Mr Sp'ock's voice crackles over the comm net.  "Hold the airlocks people.  We've got to hold the airlocks and keep them off the second deck. OMAC, you've got most of the manpower in your fire team.  You need to assault the outer airlock and cut their supply line, then we will finish off whatever is trapped inside."  Then as an aside to his fellow vrusk.  "Hey Snik, you wanna stay OUT of the firefight?  The last thing we need is a CMO with a quickdeath dart between the eyes!"
  In the western airlock, OMAC sweeps his gaze around the room at his fire team, making eye/mebrane contact with each of them and nodding slightly at each acknowledgement of the task ahead.  Crisbel, Gloo and Borovski have all spilt their fair share of blood alongside him but McKilin hasn't seen the same amount of action, having spent much longer in cryosleep.  OMAC holds McKilin's gaze a second longer than the rest, noting a steely quality that hasn't been part of the young medic's character in his earlier adventures.  "Acknowledged Commander," OMAC answers xZot "Fire team ready to assault on my mark."  OMAC takes a step back to allow the dralasites into the front rank so all his troops have a clear field of fire at the opening hatch doorway.
  In Auxilary Control, Gleep flinches as the sathar unleash a volley of laser fire at him.  Much of the fire is too high but one blast lights up his albedo screen again (5 SEU's).  Then Gleep's heart skips a beat as he hears someone attempting to open the door behind him.  "Shit, I think they're behind be!"  He cries into his chronocom as he reaches for the door with an empty pseudopod.
  X'anthe starts as she too hears someone attempting to open the door on the opposite side of her room.  She puts her wrist communicator near her mouth and whispers, "I hope you guys are almost here because they'll be through the door and in here any second."
  "xZot, can you overlay a 2Hz stroboscopic resonance on the lighting?"  Queries Sni'ktl.  "Spo'ck, you got any IR goggles?  Lets see if we can't get these quickdeath's confused. McKillin, you're IC Medic on your front.  B1, B2 - stretcher mode - report to Con Anderson's position.  If lying down go to retrieval pattern alpha. Con don't lie down unless you want medivac."
  "Don't worry about that Snik!"  Con looks for something that provides cover from which he can shoot while in a standing position.  Even if he has to hug a corner in the passage way, finally opting to stand in the doorway of the open hatch he came through.
  "I'd like to open the weapons locker as well, if you don't mind, we may need some extra firepower."  Raid answers to xZot's call for help.  "If nothing else, a quickdeath might sink its teeth into the security robot rather than into someone's body again.  We've had enough of those experiences."  Raid acts immediately after hearing xZot's reply, moving to the bridge as fast as he can run.  The technician reaches for his sonic screwdriver, ready to remove the security robots access panel as soon as he enters the bridge.  On the opposite side of the door, Raid hears the Security robot firing at his Commander.  Behind the bridge console, xZot hears laser fire tear into the console and as he rises up to return fire, his albedo screen flashes again (6 SEU's) briefly blinding the young yazirian.
  Gloo readies himself in the western airlock behind X'anthe's doorway.  Her weapon in one pseudopod, his own selection in three more arms as he plants himself solidly on the remaining two appendages, trusting in his friends ability to cover his flank, Gloo prepares to lay down covering fire for X'anthe as soon as he has a clear field of fire.
  Squeezing through the still opening door, Kane sighs with relief at the sight of the teams premier sharpshooter, covering the southern door.  Spying Kane, Siu-Ling smiles with grim eyes and recalls her earlier remarks when she informed him that his shift was done.  "Get some sleep, champ; let me earn my credits."  Now her heart beats with decade-old adrenaline, giving her sight a tinge of pink as the uneasiness of the anticipation of combat builds in her.  "Ready to pop your combat cherry youngster?"  Unsure how to reply, Kane brings his weapon to bear on the doorway and takes aim.
  Seeing the quickdeath bottled up, at least temporarily, by the teams combat robots, Sni'ktl decides to effect a tactical withdrawl pursuant to his combat superiour's recent advice.  Skittering across the room, Sni'ktl joins Mr Sp'ock awaiting to opening of the eastern airlock door, not a little anxious at the likely prospect of further personal combat.
  "Time to try and fall back."  Gleep decides.  He hurls his tangler grenade at the three sathar attacking him and turns to yank open the door behind him, his gyrojet pistol thrust in front of him.  The grenade skids across the floor to Gleeps left and pops open sticky tangles all over the sathar on the left.  Directly behind the door Gleep opens is another, slightly startled sathar, fumbling to bring it's own weapon to bear.
  Blinking wildly, xZot tries to do the same with his laser pistol.  He squeezes off another couple of blasts at the rogue security bot but again fails to register a hit.  "Gotta conserve my ammo."  xZot thinks to himself.  "We've gotta get the armoury open and ammo upstairs ASAP, if the sathar get too many troops aboard, we may not have enough ammo to kill them all."  He says to himself.
  "What the...?"
  "Oh Oooh!"
  "Now what?"
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 30 seconds
  "Looks like the bad guys just keep gettin' uglier."  A range of similar comments errupt across the comm systems as all four airlock doors swing open to reveal the Black Hand Gang's newest enemy.  The Zuraqqor, as these aliens are later to be known across the Frontier, are a race of intelligent, bipedal insects.  They have large buglike eyes, two antennae, and small wings.  These particular Zuraqqor are also armed with Automatic rifles, the sound of which begins to echo through the corridors of the Omicron.  In the north, south and west airlocks, the Zuraqqor burst into the airlocks, laying down covering fire with their automatic weapons.  In the first 6 seconds, every BHG occupant of the three airlocks sustains at least a minor injury.
  The last remains of Siu-Ling's skien suit fall away as she is wounded by the Zuraqqor (14 points) but not enough to distract the sharpshooter or save her attacker.  While Kane yelps with pain as he sheds his first drop of blood with the BHG (17 points), Siu-Ling squeezes the trigger of her Laser Rifle.  The 10 SEU charge of her laser pistol burns a hole through the creatures forehead, dropping it in the doorway.  Siu-Ling and Kane shudder at the sight beyond the first Zuraqqor corpse, a cybodragon! Kane fires a pair of laser beams from his pistol, hitting with the second blast (22 points) and managing to get the cybodragon angry.
  In the southern airlock, Con also feels the pain of not wearing a skiensuit (29 points) but his return fire of two 5 SEU blasts also manages to claim a Zuraqqor warrior with the second shot.  Now Con also faces a cybodragon, but unlike everyone else on board, he is alone.
  In the western airlock the damage is spread more thinly, with everyone sustaining only minor wounds (5 points each, half to skien suits).  OMAC is the first to respond with a laser pistol in his right hand and an automatic pistol in his left.  OMAC fires both weapons into the Zurraqor warrior, hitting with both weapons and hurling the insectoid corpse back through the doorway.  Borovski follows up by firing through the doorway at the quickdeath behind, making the creature angry with the first shot (9 points).  McKilin also fires through the doorway but with little effect before Crisbel empties an old clip into the quickdeath's flank (5 points).  Gloo ignores his scratch, instead pushing through the doorway to X'anthe.  He hands woman a laser pistol and immediately fires on the sathar coming through the opposite doorway with his pair of beams light up the sathar albedo screen (8 SEU's).  X'anthe quickly adds some supporting fire, keeping reinforcements from poking through the doorway.
  To the east, Sp'ock and Sni'ktl wait with some trepidation as they listen to the battle widen while awaiting the opening of the airlock door, now in it's final phase.  Behind them the combat robots continue their joust with a quickdeath.  The quickdeath suffers another minor wound (9 points) while inflicting more damage on the front line combat droid (36 points) with it's savage claws.
  Gleep fires 3 rounds at pointblank range at the surprised sathar in his doorway.  Two shells hit (21 points) but the determined enemy stands it's ground and returns fire, lighting up Gleep's screen again (10 SEU's).  Caught in an ugly crossfire, Gleep also takes fire from the two sathar now behind him (4 SEU's).
  Up on the bridge, Raid manages to open the door behind the security bot and begin removing the access panel while xZot soaks up more damage from it's laser fire (4 SEU's).
  Outside the north and south airlocks, the cybodragons stop and hurl a ball of flame through the doors.  Con leaps away from the flame, getting burned in the process (13 points) as he falls back through his open doorway.  To the north it's Kane who is on the recieving end, not ducking fast enough to avoid more scarring (13 points) from the sathar constructs.
20.06
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 36 seconds
  In literally a blind fury, the quickdeath in the western airlock launches itself at Borovski, teeth and claws flashing madly.  The sturdy dralasite manages to escape injury, ducking aside blithely as the quickdeath's eyestalks retract and the claws flash through empty air.  Outside the robot storage room the BHG suffers it's first loss as one of the combat robots is shredded (39 points) and rendered inoperable by another quickdeath. The remaining quickdeaths inside the ship are held in check by their sathar handlers as more reinforcements board the ship.
  Con spots the southern door of the airlock being held open by a maintenance robot and feeling a little outgunned right about now, he dives for this escape route as the cybodragon enters the airlock and opens fire.  Laser fire from the cybodragon's eyes rips into the maintenance robot (56 & 53 points), destroying the articulated doorstop as Con falls through the doorway.  A ball of fire from the flamethrower installed in it's mouth singes Con (16 points) before he can slam the airlock door shut behind him.
  Outside the bridge, Raid manhandles the security bot's panel off and deactivates it with the flick of a switch. "What caused the malfunction?" He wonders, looking for the source of the robot's problem. Can I reprogram it? He wonders, if not I'll make sure it can't be reactivated, he thinks to himself.
  Con decides to execute a withdrawl from this area. He does not want to totally turn his back and run, but engage in a firing withdrawl. He flicks on his chronocomm, "Commander, I'm falling back from the airlock.  We just lost a maintenance droid, I think it saved my life!"
  Hearing Con's unsaid plea for help, Raid turns to xZot and asks if he should go to the weapons locker. "We need some heavy firepower, quick."
  The remaining combat robot, fires at the quickdeath and wounds it slightly, twice more (9 & 13 points), gradually wearing the creature down.
  Gleep realizes the sathar in the doorway is preventing the quickdeath from joining the attack so he decides to try and block the airlock door behind him with more tangler grenades. Using one pseudopod to block the sathar in the doorway he reaches for his last 2 grenades with his other pseudoarms and hurls the projectiles at the airlock hatch. Neither of the grenades penetrate the hatch but another pair of sathar stormtroopers are enmeshed in tangles, effectively blocking access from the outer airlock. The remaining free sathar near tha hatch and the sathar in the doorway all fire at Gleep, another beam lights up his screen (4 SEU's) but he still remains unscathed.
  Sp'ock enters the eastern airlock and comes antenae to antenae with his first Zuraqqour and promptly opens fire at point blank range. Sp'ock kills the first Zuraqqour he ever met (48 points) with laser blast to the upper thorax as his two companions level automatic rifles at the Chief Security Officer.
  "I see another quickdeath through the far doorway!" X'anthe exclaims. The ebony skinned environmentalist begins edging toward the airlock behind her while putting in some covering fire (2 SEU's per shot). "Do you want me to go for more ammo?" she asks as she slips into the airlock.
  Sathar troopers continue to enter the ship via the outer hatch and are now pouring through the Emergency Power Plant and even entering the Sick Bay. The sathar handler in the Hydroponics Lab steps aside from the doorway and motions for the quickdeath to enter the Lab and attack Gloo's position.
  At the sight of the charging quickdeath, Gloo dials up his laser rifle to maximum charge and blazes away at point back range. Both beams sear through the reflective chest armour of the charging beast (49 & 52 points) but fail to stop it's onslaught. Across the airlock, OMAC unloads both his pistols into another quickdeath, this one attacking his friend and drinking buddy, Borovski. His bullets miss their mark but the laser beam cuts through the quickdeath's flank (21 points).
  Seeing Raid working on the immobilised security robot, xZot nods at the request for heavy firepower. Turning on his heel, xZot dashes across the bridge to the door separating the navigation console from the weapons bridge and armoury. The yazirian Commander opens a general channel on his chronocom, "Con, fall back to the armoury along the security passage, I'll meet you there. Sp'ock, you and Snik get down to the bridge now! Everyone else try to hold your positions." xZot takes a breath as he considers the team disposition before continuing. "The bridge is the rally point but we will try to get heavy weapons support to the rest of you ASAP."
  James McKilin listens to his Commanders announcement as he raises the laser rifle to his shoulder and fires over the heads of his companions and even the head of the quickdeath. Beside him, X'anthe fires her last two shots and manages to wing the quickdeath in the eastern corridor (5 points) before ejecting the empty clip from her weapon. Crisbel switches his gaze between both open hatches in the western airlock as he slams a fresh clip into his laser pistol and then hands a pair of clips to X'anthe. Borovski is the last of the west squad to fire on the quickdeath, a pair of blasts emptying his rifle clip and striking the quickdeath once (18 points).
  Con nods as he listens to xZot's orders over the teams comm system. While Con turns to open the security door to his left, the maintenance robot at the other end of the corridor closes on his position at top speed, unseen by the wounded enforcer.
  "Good luck loyal 'bots" says Sni'ktl as he scuttles across Robot Storage to the airlock. Seeing that Sp'ock has competition to secure the central hatch Sni'ktl endeavours to restrict access by undesirables by lobbing tanglers at the Zuraqqor access hatch until it is blocked. His first grenade sails over the heads of his tagets, popping open behind the bug-like aliens.
  "That's the way Spo'ck, let the bugs learn to fear the the Vrusk." Sni'ktl offers support from the sidelines as he picks of winged critters with ranged weapon fire.
  Knowing he is in bad shape, Kane ducks behind what cover he can find in the airlock in the hopes of making himself a more difficult target for the cybodragon to hit. He simultaneously communicates his present condition (30 health points) as well as his personal inventory to his team mate as he does this. "I've got a mix of doze and tangler grenades on my grenade belt and an unopened First Aid Pack", he says. "Although I will probably need to use a dose of antiseptic spray on myself to continue the fight.
  Realizing the stupidity of it only afterwards, Siu-Ling instinctively drops to one knee, changes the SEU-setting to 20 on her rifle, takes careful aim, and sends a powerful beam of concentrated "light amplification by stimulated emissions of radiation" [laser] towards the cybernetic interface plate on the cybodragon's back. Hopefully with one hit she can turn the tides of the conflict in their favor. "Keep the quickdeaths back," she talks absentmindedly into the mike as she sweats and fires. The blast tears into the sensitive area (87 points) but does not inflict enough damage to slow the weaponised monster. Kane adds fire support with his laser pistol (26 & 36 points) upping the ante` but the cybodragon simply soaks up the damage and ploughs ahead undeterred.
  Behind the cybodragon in the north airlock more Zurraquor are bottle necked in the corridor while to the south and east they begin entering the airlocks.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 42 seconds
  The quickdeath at the western airlock explodes in a furiuos rage. Whipping it's tail up and around, it launches it's poisonous tail dart at a relatively stationary target, Crisbel grunts in pain as the dart lodges in his upper arm (1 point plus poison). At close quarters, Borovski stoically suffers much worse as the claws and teeth of the monster begin slashing at his skiensuit and flesh (18 points + 19 to suit). His fellow dralasite, Gloo is similarly punished by the quickdeath in the Hydroponics Lab, flashing claws and teeth shredding his damaged skien suit (9 points) and inflicting painful wounds below the suit (26 points). Fortunately the second quickdeath tail dart missed it's target. The third quickdeath also scores a hit with it's claws and teeth, although the combat robot is not as badly damaged as his organic companions (18 points). Gleep is fortunately, still protected from the last quickdeath by the sathar handler unwittingly blocking the way.  
  X'anthe graciously accepts the clips handed to her by Crisbel and reloads her weapon as she watches her companions gallantly hold the sathar constructs at bay.
  Disaster strikes in the northern airlock when the cybodragon unleashes a vicous counterattack. Unable to close on both defenders, the cybodragon fires one laser eye at Siu-Ling, slamming the sniper against the bulkhead (48 points). Leaving the woman for dead the cybodragon fires it's second eyebeam at Kane. When the lasers miss, it tries the flamethrower (13 points).
  Crisbel fires at his aggressor, hitting twice on 50% power setting (13 & 8 points) while OMAC doesn't waste time reloading but draws another pair of pistols instead. He fires a wild shot with his second laser pistol, squeezes the trigger on his gyrojet pistol, misses with his first shot and swears when the weapon clicks empty with the next pull of the trigger.
  Up on the bridge, xZot races across the escape pod bay and opens the door to the weapons bridge, sighing with relief when the security robot does not immediately engage him. The yazirian heads straight for the weapons locker, pulling they keycard from his pocket as he approaches the sealed cabinet. After establishing that the security robot is out of the action for now, Raid races to catch up with his Commander.
  "I think that robot was reprogrammed." He announces breathlessly as he bursts through the doorway behind his CO.
  In the eastern airlock, the BHG finally catch a break when Sn'iktl manages to land his second tangler grenade at the feet of the Zurraquor soldier in the airlock doorway. The grenade pops open, envelloping the Zurraquor and sealing the doorway to the airlock with only one alien remaining inside.  The Zuraqquor fires a burst from his automatic rifle but his aim is disturbed by Snik's timely action and the vrusk duo survive without further injury.
  The last combat robot fires at it's quickdeath opponenet, wounding it twice more (15 & 14 points), while another rogue robot, this one a maintenace bot, attacks Con from behind while he opens the security door to the bridge. The primitive attempt at a bludgeoning attack is harmless but startles Con nonetheless.
  Meanwhile the dralasites counterattack. Gloo all but empties his powerpack with another pair of massive blasts. He hits with one shot (48 points) and shakes the quickdeath in it's tracks but still it comes in for more. McKilin steps up behind Gloo to administer first aid, plunging a sprayhypo full of biocort into the wounded dralasites back (heal 10 points). Borovski follows OMAC's example and drops his empty laser rifle, drawing his machete, pistol and a tangler grenade for good measure. He fires once with the laser pistol, wounding the quickdeath (11 points) again.
  Mr Sp'ock is next to react, eliminating the immediate threat with a pair of laser beams, one burning a hole straight through the last Zuraqquor soldier (60 points).
  Con turns to deal with this latest interruption while he waits for the security door to open. He quickly draws his sonic sword and runs it through the torso of the maintenance robot (27 points).
  Behind Gleep, the sathar handler steps aside to allow his quickdeath easy access to it's prey. Gleep fires at the withdrawing sathar with his gyrojet pistol, wounding the sathar once (6 points) while he wonders how he can handle a quickdeath single handed. Behind him another sathar fires ineffectually at him from the chaos around the airlock hatch.
  Though racked with pain, Kane cannot cease the fight, he raises himself up from the floor and fires again, striking the cybodragon with his second shot (36 points). As the beast brings all of it's fearsome weaponry to bear against the lone target, a badly bloodied Siu-Ling screams with incoherent rage and fires again and again. The cybodragon bellows with maddening pain as a pair of searing blasts tear into it's back (113 & 99 points).
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 48 seconds
  With lightning speed, Crisbel empties his pistol again (14 & 17 points), this time both shots at the quickdeath in the hallway.
  Inspired by Siu-Ling's actions, Kane surges up from the floor and toward the airlock door, firing his laser pistol from the hip.  He shoulders the door shut behind the cybodragon as his second shot hits the dragon (28 points) but the creature barely feels the pinpricks after the punishment dealt out by Siu-Ling.  Then the BHG's sniper finishes the job at hand with a precision blast to the base of the cybodragon's neck, the beam almost severing the creatures head (110 points) and bringing the beast down with a terrible crash in the middle of the airlock.
  Outside the robot storage room, the last combat robot drops it's empty laser rifle and swings at the quickdeath with a vibroknife, managing to land a passing blow on the creature (14 points).
  In the hydroponics lab, Gloo and X'anthe fire simultaneously at the deranged quickdeath and both hit their target (28 & 8 points), putting the monster down. X'anthe shouts for joy and Gloo grins before turning his attention to their other foes.
  Up on the bridge, events also seem to be taking a turn for the better as xZot reaches the weapons locker and swipes his ID across the lock and punches in the access code. Raid quickly examines the remaining Security robot, ensuring that it is operating within specifications.
  "Everything looks OK with this bot, Boss." Raid reports as xZot begins passing weaponry to him from the arms locker.  
  "Everything looks OK here too."  The commander grins back at him as he passes out charges of TD-19. "I'm sure Siu-Ling will want this."
  In the eastern airlock, Sp'ock rushes to the lower east airlock door and begins the opening sequence, motioning for Sn'iktl to close the other door behind them and join him. Mr Sp'ock opens a comm channel.  "Commander, Snik and I have gained the east airlock and are heading for the escape pods. Can you meet us there with the heavy weapons?  It looks like we've lost Sick Bay, we don't know what happened to B1 nd B2 but there is someone trying to come through the Sick Bay door to the airlock and I'm pretty sure it's not any of our guys."
  Sn'iktl arrives at Sp'ocks side and glances about nervously as they wait for another airlock door to open. The CMO keeps flicking his gaze back at the Zuraqquor suspended in the tangler threads in the opposite doorway, wondering about the insectoid species, where it came from and how did it become a sathar ally.  "No space suits!"  He suddenly exclaims, then switches on his chronocom.  "xZot, they aren't wearing space suits! Either they don't need them, which is highly unlikely, or they don't intend depressurising this ship!"  Beside him, Sp'ock nods,
  "Nice work Doc.  Now we don't have to worry about being sucked out into space or suffocating, it's just the lasers, automatic weapons and razor sharp claws."
  In the corridor by the security door, Con easily sidesteps the malfunctioning maintenance bot but he fails to hit back as he concentrates on opening his escape route to the bridge.  "Not to mention the broomstiscks!"  Con mutters in response to Sp'ock and Snik's comments over the comm system.
  The last combat robot now takes the full brunt of a quickdeath attack (34 points), metal armour torn away from the metalic warrior like paper mache'.  In the western airlock, Borovski recives similar treatment from his adversary (34 points, half to suit) but is better protected by his military issue skien suit.
  Before Gleep can even decide how to deal with the quickdeath, the creature is all over him, slashing, clawing and biting.  Even through his skien suit the dralasite trooper feels the pain (17 points to suit, 16 to Gleep) and before he knows it, his suit is in tatters. His gyrojet pistol now emepty, Gleep drops the weapon, draws his laser pistol and with a third pseudopod, reaches for the power cable from his powerpack to arm the weapon. As he takes a step back from the doorway he pushes the power setting to maximum and prepares to empty his power supply as fast as possible.
  Adrenaline pumping through his system from the quickdeaths attack, Borovski lashes out wildly with his machete, but it is a pair of point blank laser blasts that take the prize this time, (14 & 11 points).  Then McKilin is behind Borovski, injecting the warrior with biocort while he is still in combat with the sathar monster.
  "Careful Doc. This ain't no picnic!"  But the medic ignores him as he continues administering first aid while the battle rages around him.  The sound of automatic weapons fire from the Hydroponics Lab gets both their attention but they both sigh with relief when there are no sounds of alarm or cries of pain from their friends inside.
20.07
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:22 hours + 54 seconds
Across the Omicron, Quickdeath muscles respond to lethal messages from primitive brains bent on the destruction of the ships occupants. Outside the robot storage room, the teams' last remaining combat robot is traumatised further by it's quickdeath assailant (39 points) but still barely capable of performing it's final function as a fighting decoy. The metallic warrior swings again with it's vibroknife, punching through the quickdeaths reflective armour (12 points) and barley drawing blood. In the doorway of the auxiliary control room, Gleep suffers the full force of quickdeath fury as the last remaining fibres of his skien suit fall away and he suffers terrible injuries from the claws and teeth of the monster (35 points). The third quickdeath is almost the last thing Borovski ever sees as it too rips apart a skien suit and tears into dralasite flesh (32 points after suit destroyed).
  "What's the plan Commander?" Mr Sp'ock asks xZot over the comm as he waits for yet another airlock door to cycle open. "Where are we heading after we've got the weapons from the armoury?" xZot ponders his Security Chiefs question as he continues passing out weapons and ammo from the weapons locker.
  Taken aback by the attacking robot, Con falls back against the wall and breaths a sigh of relief. With the robot is still posing a threat and as this particular bot is not the personal property of a team mate, Con swings away with his sonic sword, this time almost carving the machine in half (43 points). "I've got a slight delay here boss." Con interrupts his commanders thoughts over the chronocom. "Another rogue robot."
  In pain and anguish, Borovski empties his SEU clip in his laser pistol and swings savagely with his machete at the rampaging quickdeath but his terrible wounds are rapidly draining his strength. Across the airlock Gloo drops his now empty laser rifle and draws his sonic sword, closing on the advancing zuraqqor warriors as he does so. Adrenaline surging through his system after killing the quickdeath, Gloo swings at the nearest alien (32 points) dropping the creature where it stands.
  Gleep yells into his comm, while firing as fast as his pseudopod will allow, "I have no escape from here gang!" He looks for a way to close the door but he will his level best to take care of this beast on his own, which seems his only real choice. Gleep slams a pseudopod on the door panel, closing it in the quickdeath's face as he realises he is still firing an empty weapon. He ejects the empty clip and reaches for a new one as he turns around to face the one free sathar behind him. A quick check of his arsenal confirms Gleep has no more grenades.
  Her eyes dart from side to side as she wakes up. She doesn't know how long she's been out but the frost on her laser rifle muzzle suggests that she was only unconscious for a few seconds. Over her is Kane, his first-aid kit on the floor by her side. "Where did they all come from? So you're a medic now?" Siu-Ling appears to have limited recollection of the last few moments; and although she is conscious and feeling a bit better due to his questionable medical prowess (more of a placebo than anything else), she asks Kane for a hand as she lifts herself to her feet and remembers screaming and blasting away at the monstrous cyborg. But where did these beasts come from? Taking stock of the situation, Siu-Ling resumes her post covering the airlock door despite her almost lethal injuries. On the other side of the door she can already hear zuraqqor warriors beginning the opening cycle once more.
  In the hydroponics lab, Gloo reels back as the remaining zuraqqor opens up on him with an automatic rifle, hammering his now unprotected body with low calibre slugs (21 points). From the eastern airlock X'anthe takes careful aim at the last of the zuraqqor in the Hydroponics Lab, squeezing off a single 5 SEU beam at her enemy. "Nice shooting Gloo!" says X'anthe, pretty pleased with her own shot as well. The zuraqqor staggers back from X'anthe's blast (31 points). OMAC opens fire with a fresh clip in his gyrojet pistol, he wounds the creature twice (21 points) before he empties the remaining SEU's from his laser pistol down the corridor, missing everything. Behind him Crisbel reloads his laser pistol again.
  In an amazing feat of accidental programming, the rogue maintenance bot manages to land a blow on Con, and eliciting a cry of pain (14 points) for it's effort.
  On the way to the starboard side of the bridge, Raid had flicked off his holoscreen and flicked on his albedo screen. He was now fully visible, but covered in a shimmering glow. "Give me the biggest, meanest looking weapon in the locker." Raid says. He then orders the functional security robot to follow beside him. "Let me know if you want me to bring anything else to the others. I could carry extra weapons or ammo to them. They'll need it."
  xZot nods as he sends Raid and the Security bot down the corridor parallel to Con's position. xZot flicks on his chronocom to the team channel and begins issuing a string of commands, answering Sp'ock's questions along with several others. "Con, hold your position there with that rogue bot and block anything else from exiting the airlock. I will bring Sn'iktl to your location ASAP. Mr Sp'ock will reinforce Raid and the security bot at the airlock door between Con's location and the computer room. OMAC, I want you and your team to try and reach Gleep's position ASAP. Kane, you and Siu-Ling try to link up with X'anthe and Gloo in the hydroponics lab. We are spread to thin, we've got to concentrate our fire power and get medics to our wounded." xZot closes the channel as he heads for the door to help Con.
  Sparing a few minutes to analyse the tactical situation during this brief respite in the struggle to maintain control of the ship, Kane is struck with a thought. "Is it possible they are here for something other than just the ship itself? I wonder if there is something of value on board that they could be searching for? Something that we are not aware of? That would explain why they have split their forces the way they have..." activating his chronocom, Kane alerts the others to his suspicions.
  "Maybe they're after what's in the hydroponic lab. I wouldn't put it past the zuraqqor to concoct some cyberfungus or cybermucus to sling at us." Siu-Ling replies.
  Using the peace created in the aftermath of the cybodragon's defeat, Kane begins the opening sequence for the airlock door behind him. Acting on the possibility that they will soon have more "company" coming their way now that the cybodragon is down, Kane considers the pros and cons of becoming a medic and being able to administer a dose of Anaesthetic Drugs/Pain Killer to himself during this lull in combat. Kane is about to make the suggestion that he and Siu-Ling may be able to use the bulk of the downed Cybodragon as possible cover when zXot's call comes through ordering them to the hydroponics lab. He moves to support the critically inured sniper as they both limp toward the airlock door.
  "Tangle with the dreaded Vrusk at your peril scum" snickers Sni'ktl as the enemy strain against his deftly dispersed webs of entrapment. Sni'ktl anxious to see to the wounds of the bridge crew, scurries about agitatedly behind Sp'ock as the vrusk pair await the opening airlock door. "Boss, if we all make it to the upper deck, can we purge the lower deck? Or do we do it Siu Ling's way?" Sni'ktl asks over the teams comm system and the absently adds, "Attention medical team" chirp's Sni'ktl. "Biocort is recommended as primary treatment ahead of antiseptic - this is not a surgical situation. Also use antitox for those hit by quickdeath darts and stim for anyone slowed by wounds."
  In the auxiliary control room, Gleep ducks behind cover as the sathar fires twice in his general direction. Meanwhile James McKilin adds some more ineffectual fire to the gunfight against the quickdeath while trying to convince Borovski to drop back from the front line and receive some serious medical attention.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours
  The last of the teams combat robots, is torn to metallic shreds by an enraged quickdeath outside the robot storage room (41 points) while OMAC shoulders his best drinking buddy aside to take the brunt of the quickdeath's assault. OMAC's skien suit absorbs the lethality of the blow but the brave trooper does not escape unscathed (21 points to OMAC and suit). Outside Gleeps door, he can hear the sathar handler move the quickdeath aside so they can re-open the door.
  With it's weapon empty, the zuraqqor in the hydroponics lab falls back toward the opposite door as it reloads the automatic weapon. Meanwhile Con takes another painful battering from the rogue maintenance bot (15 points).
  With her last 5 charges, X'anthe takes another carefully aimed shot at her enemy before reloading her weapon again. "I don't suppose you've got any more clips handy?" X'anthe asks Crisbel while she reloads her pistol. Gloo advances on the last zuraqqor and cuts him down with another blow from his sonic sword (26 points).
  Sp'ock ad Sn'iktl fall over themselves as they rush through the western airlock door, slamming it behind them and racing across the lifeboat bay toward zXot's position. In the northern airlock, Kane and Siu-Ling wait impatiently for their door to open while they keep a close watch on the door through which their enemy will arrive.
  In auxiliary control Gleep pokes his head out from behind a computer console and blazes away at the sathar with his pistol, two shells reach their mark but the enemy is also wearing a skiensuit (17 points half to suit).
  Con swings at the rogue bot one last time, removing it's head with a single deft bow (35 points) and moving to close the airlock door being opened from the inside. "I've taken out the bot, commander." he reports as he awaits reinforcements.
  With his weapon reloaded, Crisbel takes aim at the quickdeath and squeezes off a pair of laser beams. Although not high energy beams, the blasts are enough to finally topple the sathar construct (10 points) and expose more targets beyond.
  The security bot and Raid reach the southern airlock door and begin the opening sequence, Raid smiling when he hears Con's report and good news from the west when OMAC reports on Crisbel's success.
  "One dead quickdeath boss!" OMAC yells into his chronocom over the blast from his gyrojet pistol. Three more shells scream down the corridor at the zuraqqor beyond but only one zuraqqor is slightly wounded (2 points). Under cover of OMAC's move, McKilin drags Borovski reluctantly away from the fighting and begins minor surgery on the battered Dralasite fighter. With the quickdeath down and OMAC engaging the zuraqqor, Boro allows himself the respite as he begins to take stock of the situation around him.
  xZot sighs with relief when the first positive reports begin coming in and he smiles and waves when he spots Sn'iktl and Sp'ock crossing the bridge towards him. The young yazirian turns back to open the security door giving him access to Con's position.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 6 seconds
  Using the airlock door for cover, OMAC fires 3 more shells into the nearest, skien suited zuraqqor (4, 8 and 6 points). Gleep repeats the same actions in auxiliary control but only hits his sathar once (13 points, half to suit).
  In the hydroponics lab, Gloo surges forward and through the opposite door of the lab to find another sathar trooper. He swings again with the sonic sword, the sathar defences useless against the sonic weapon. The sathar cries out in apparent pain as the blow lands (31 points) and turns it's weapon toward the attacking dralasite. Behind Gloo, X'anthe tries to keep up as she reloads her pistol.
  At the southern airlock, Raid and the security bot open their door as the zuraqqor open another door to reach Con. The sathar and cybodragon in the airlock turn toward Raid and the security bot as the zuraqqor push through the other door to meet Con, sonic sword in hand. The cybodragon fires it's laser charged eye beam directly at Raid, lighting up his albedo screen like a fireworks display (11 SEU's). The security bot returns fire at the cybodragon (19 points), barely tickling the creature. Raid responds by tossing a frag grenade into the middle of the confined airlock. Somehow the cybodragon manages to avoid the full blast (24 points) and is only slightly hurt by the grenade. One of the sathar is also protected by the cybodragons body and with his skiensuit only suffers minor damage (12 points), the other three sathar are more hardly done by, taking the full blast and knocking them off balance (24 points each), their defensive suits severely damaged as well.
  Hearing the blast, xZot rushes down the security passage to join Con who is now engaging the first zuraqqor. Con thrusts his sonic blade through the zuraqqor's ineffective defensive suit, wounding the creature (24 points) as he notices xZot carrying some of the teams extra weaponry but before the smile reaches his lips Con is falling into a dark oblivion.
    "Noooooo!" Wails xZot as he sees the warrior fall, the zuraqqor inside the airlock still firing his automatic rifle as the human enforcer collapses to the deck. xZot stumbles and then realises, he too has been caught by the zuraqqor's burst of fire (13 points to Con and xZot, half to xZot's suit). "Man down! Man down!" xZot cries into his chronocom.
  The zuraqqor outside the western airlock open fire at OMAC but amazingly the fearsome human warrior weathers the hail of lead unscathed. In the northern airlock it is Siu-Ling who ends up dragging Kane through the airlock door as zuraqqor warriors enter the airlock hurling more lead in their direction. The human couple collapse through the door, closing it behind them.
  McKilin finishes his treatment of Borovski with more biocort, "You really should rest before going back into combat."
  "Whatever you say Doc." Borovski answers as he ignores the medic and climbs to his pseudofeet. "But Gunny needs me up there." He indicates toward OMAC's position.
  "Crisbel and cover for you Boro, just rest up a bit while I get some plastiflesh over those wounds. You need antiseptic as well."
  "I got it covered Boro." Crisbel adds "You've done your bit for now." He says as he moves to OMAC's aid. Crisbels' first shot drops the zuraqqor wounded by OMAC (32 points) and his second shot wounds the second alien (19 points). Borovski grumbles but stays with McKilin as the battle appears to be turning in the BHG's favour.
  Skittering as only a pair of vrusk can, Sp'ock and Sn'iktl arrive at xZot's side. Sp'ock immediately moves to the airlock door while Sn'iktl administers medical assistance to their fallen comrade. Inside the southern airlock the sathar troops open fire at Raid and the security robot, hitting the robot twice (25 and 24 points). The sathar facing Gloo fires two wild blasts with his laser rifle, completely missing the enraged dralasite. While in auxiliary control, Gleep also manages to avoid further injury from his sathar attacker.
20.08
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 12 seconds
  Swivelling it's torso to remain facing the cybodragon, the security bot fires it's laser weapon again, piercing the creatures side both times (15 & 23 points). The cybodragon responds by turning it's head full of laser eyes toward the robot and unleashing a fierce volley of laser fire (46 points), all but destroying the machine.
  Siu-Ling and Kane limp down the corridor nursing their wounds, when they reach the security door, Siu-Ling begins another opening sequence.
  Three more shells scream across auxiliary control from Gleep's weapon, two of the missiles strike their sathar target (15 & 7) points, half to suit). When the sathar only fires back once, Gleep wonders if his opponent has an empty weapon now?
  The last zuraqqor in the western corridor screeches again as OMAC fires his last gyrojet shell, wounding the creature (8 points, half to suit). Behind him Crisbel reloads again while Borovski begins to agitate for more involvement in the fighting. McKilin reluctantly releases his patient for combat. Taking a clip offered by Crisbel, Borovski reloads. The zuraqqor returns fire again but the determined opposition seems to have rattled the lone insectoid and he misses again.
  In the southern airlock, the uninjured zuraqqor unloads his automatic rifle into Sp'ock, tearing holes in his skiensuit (35 points half to suit), while the other zuraqqor fires at Raid who has no skiensuit defence (22 points) and yelps in pain as his body is pierced by the low calibre lead slugs.
X'anthe reaches the far door of the hydroponics lab and takes cover behind the door as Gloo deals with the sathar beyond. The dralasite's sonic sword rises and falls, the sathar collapses in the doorway (27 points) as the BHG rack up their first sathar kill of the battle.
  Flushed with the success of his first grenade attack and angry at the wounds suffered at the hands of the zuraqqor, Raid hurls another frag grenade into the airlock. This time the cybodragon takes the full force of the explosion and still seems relatively unhurt (49 points), the same cannot be said for his allies. Raids second grenade also envelops the less injured sathar and both zuraqqor. The sathar is seriously injured, his body hurled against the far wall of the airlock by the force of the blast. The zuraqqor nearest to Raid dies despite his skien suit and the other zuraqqor joins his sathar companion against the far wall. Sp'ock bursts through the airlock door, laser pistols in each hand blazing. The surviving
zuraqqor takes two laser blasts (14 & 23 points) to the thorax and dies, the second pair of beams miss the sathar as Sp'ock makes room
for his team mates to join the exchange. xZot appears in the doorway, aims his laser pistol at the cybodragon and shoots it in the chest (23 points), it seems like little more than a pinprick.  Out in the corridor, Sn'iktl drags Con's body clear of immediate danger and begins First Aid on the downed enforcer.
  Zap, zap! Gloo ducks at the sound of incoming laser fire. Down at the intersection of the western corridors a sathar sentry has opened fire on the dralasite.
  The sathar in the southern airlock concentrate their fire on the security bot and while much of their fire is scattered, one of the enemy soldier manages to score a hit and topple the badly damaged machine (29 points). The fourth sathar fires at Sp'ock, missing the elusive vrusk both times.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 18 seconds
  Swinging back toward Raid the cybodragon unleashes another blast of laser fire, searing directly into his albedo screen. The defensive field flares like a miniature sun as it absorbs the energy from the cybodragons weapon (13 SEU's) but Raid remains unharmed.
  Siu-Ling keys her chronocom and announces her and Kane's location, "X'anthe and I are on the other side of the door Siu-Ling. We're under fire from a sathar sentry to our south so keep your heads down when your door opens." Gloo responds to Siu-Lings report
  "Roger that." Siu-Ling answers "We'll wait for your signal before we come through." The wounded sniper continues as she and Kane move to each side of the security. Behind them they can hear the airlock door opening cycle begin. "Just don't take too long."
  Siu-Ling mumbles after keying off her chronocom. Kane decides to leave his pursuers a parting gift by shoving a pair of tangler and doze grenades down the corridor when he and Siu-Ling go through the doorway. Kane shares his "plan to deter pursuit" with Sui-Ling as he does this, adding that this may also (hopefully) leave someone alive at the end of this mission for them to question/interrogate (read as torture).
  Observing the shimmering signs of albedo screens on the sathar, Mr Sp'ock turns his pair of laser pistols on the cybodragon but only one of his four blasts strikes home (30 points). Raid continues in his role as grenadier, hurling another frag grenade into the airlock, this time he misses his mark and the cybodragon escapes damage but the 2 sathar nearest Sp'ock are caught in the blast area and despite their defence suits, are killed instantly. Raid keeps to the rear of his robot guard for cover. "Don't let them take the bridge. Let's fall back if we have to."
  Retreating back toward the intersection, the zuraqqor in front of OMAC reloads it's automatic rifle.
  After stabilising Con with first aid, Sn'iktl opens his medkit and immediately begins major field surgery on his incapacitated team mate. Con groans in acknowledgement of the CMO's efforts.
  Arriving at the exit from the hydroponics lab, X'anthe levels her loaded pistol at the sathar engaged by Gloo waiting for an opportunity to shoot the evil worm. "This thing will be sludge!" X'anthe cries excitedly. She slips her weapon hand out the doorway, squeezes off an aimed shot at the Sathar sentry and is rewarded with the flare of an albedo screen (5 SEU's). "Damn, I can't hurt him." She says.
  "Nice shot though." Gloo smiles back then ducks back through the hydroponics lab doorway as the sathar returns fire, two blasts scorching the wall where he was standing.
  The sathar in the southern airlock fire single aimed shots at Raid, both missing the grenade throwing technician.
  With Crisbel and OMAC covering the airlock door, Borovski decides to reinforce Gloo's flanking attack through the hydroponics lab, crossing the lab he takes position behind X'anthe. As he reaches the doorway, Crisbel fires while OMAC reloads. Crisbel's first shot (31 points) kills the zuraqqor and the second lights up the sathar's albedo screen (6 SEU's). Gloo emerges from the hydroponics lab, sonic sword in hand and charges toward the sathar sentry. Under attack from two quarters the sathar is caught flat footed and Gloo lands a telling blow (33 points) penetrating the surprised sathar's defences. With his first patient back in action, McKilin turns to administer First Aid on OMAC while he reloads.
  "Thanks Doc," the gruff fighter says, rarely acknowledging the medic's work, McKilin smiles to himself at the small gesture.
  Gleep takes careful aim with his last shell and puts his shot right on target (11 points half to suit) but still fails to put his opponent out of the fight.
  xZot holsters his pistol and wrestles Con's laser rifle and powerpack into the doorway, plugging the weapon in as he retakes his position with more substantial weaponry.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 24 seconds
  His weapon empty again, Gleep squeezes himself into the corner between the door and the computer console while he reloads and prays for help to arrive soon.
  OMAC starts down the corridor, firing as he closes on the sathar sentry. Every shell misses it's target but the firing does cover his advance as the sentry tries to avoid OMAC and Gloo's attacks. When the security door at the northern end of the corridor open, a prone Siu-Ling's line of sight is blocked by her comrade so the injured sniper crawls through the doorway and into the relative safety of the hydroponics lab. Seeing Siu-Ling in such a distressed state, McKilin races through the lab to be at her side. He immediately begins rendering First Aid as he assesses he next move.
Hoping to end the immediate threat, Gloo swings again but this time the sathar manages to slip back and out of reach in the nick of time.
  Raid's last frag grenade wounds the cybodragon slightly and takes out the sathar next to it (23 points each). Casting aside his empty laser pistols, Sp'ock pulls his laser rifle from it's sheath across his back, levels it at the cybodragon and pulls the trigger twice, putting a pair of laser beams into the monster's chest. The dragon hollers in pain (63 & 59 points) as the accumulated damage begins to mount up.
  Crisbel advances down the corridor and turns the corner to see a pair of zuraqqor guarding the doorway to auxiliary control. Firing twice, he empties his laser pistol into the first guard, killing him where he stands. With both grenades primed and set to explode in 1 round, Kane has just enough time to toss them down the corridor and close the door, but not the Sathar and its ally enough time to realize what he has done and try to escape. X'anthe moves into the corridor, helping a grateful Kane into the hydroponics lab and closing all the doors behind him after watching Borovski march down the hall to back up Gloo's attack against the sathar guard. "So where to now?" she asks Gloo. "Through the door or down the corridor?"
  With Con's rifle set to maximum power, xZot fires two high energy beams of energy at the cybodragon. He swears profusely when the first blast misses and shouts for joy when the second shot strikes the beast square in the chest (98 points) and brings a howl of rage and anger from the monstrous cybernetic creature. In the corridor beside xZot Sn'iktl moans with despair when he realises his initial treatment isn't working. He opts instead for a less widespread procedure, a more minor field surgery with more successful results (20 points back for Con). In a fit of blind rage the cybodragon forsakes it's laser attack and launches itself at Sp'ock, all teeth and claws. Sp'ock's skiensuit absorbs some of the punishment before
being torn from his body and more wounds are inflicted upon his battle scarred carapace (32 points after suit destroyed). The last remaining sathar in the airlock, reloads while watching the melee while above, two more airlock dors open, allowing more sathar allies to enter the fight. A pair of quickdeaths, followed by a pair of zuraqqor file into the airlock then a third airlock door opens and another sathar joins the growing crowd.
  On the upper deck the lone sathar sentry fires at OMAC, missing with his last shot as the BHG overrun his position. The zuraqqor facing Crisbel fires a burst from his automatic rifle down the narrow corridor catching Crisbel, OMAC, Gloo and Borovski (10 points each, less suits) in the line of fire.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 30 seconds
  OMAC fires in anger three times at point blank range, the worst range for the slowly accelerating gyrojet ammunition. Only one of his shells hits the sathar (12 points, half to suit) and causes minimal damage to the tough worm. Beside him an equally angry Crisbel draws his machete and charges down the hall at the zuraqqor, chopping into the creature's body (22 points, half to suit).
  Outside the southern airlock Con struggles to rise, "This seems to be a common reaction of BHG members to biocort when administered under combat conditions," Sn'iktl observes, "Perhaps this warrants closer investigation?" This time the CMO stands back and allows the healed warrior to gain his feet, watching closely as he pulls himself together mentally.
  X'anthe is suddenly startled by the sound of the security door cycling open next to her. "Hey guys, they are coming through after Siu-Ling and Kane." She warns her friends as she turns to face the coming threat. Hearing X'anthe's warning, Kane opens the lab door and moves to help cover the opening door. "I've got your back." Kane says to X'anthe as he takes his place in the hallway. Inside the lab, McKilin begins treating Siu-Ling's more serious wounds, using more and more of his biocort as he slowly returns the female warrior to a combat ready state. "Such a waste of beauty." He murmurs over his patient as he works.
  Inside the southern airlock the quickdeaths attack.  A poisonous tail needle burries itself in the wall near Sp'ock's head as Raid feels his body being smashed against the bulkhead by a charging quickdeath (37 points), claws and teeth tearing at his flesh.
  Hearing the sound of weapons fire outside his door, Gleep's morale begins to rise.  He leans out slowly and opens fire again at the sathar across the room, scratching him once with the 3 shells (3 points).  In the hallway outside, Gloo pushes past OMAC and arrives at Gleep's door, calling out to his friend inside.  "Open up Gleep, were here!"  Behind Gloo, Borovski stops at OMAC's side to help him deal with the sathar guard, one blow with his machete and the sathar is dealt with (16 points), permanently.
  In the doorway to the southern airlock, xZot is incredulous at the sight of the sathar reinforcements now facing his depleted force.  Hefting the laser rifle he fires again at the cybodragon, hoping to even up the odds a little.  In those 6 seconds, xZot became the hero his team needed for survival.  Both blasts tore into the cybodragons body, the first striking the creature below the throat (80 points) and the second, squarely between the eyes, sending the creature to the Great Beyond (86 points).  With the quickdeath literally on top of him, Raid draws his machete and slashes out at the outrageous beast, catching it cross the neck with his blade (24 points) opening up an almost fatal wound.  Partially shielded by the presence of the quickdeaths, xZot's team are not exposed to auto fire from the zuraqqor.  Sp'ock takes advantage of the situation and fires at the uninjured quickdeath, striking the creature with his second shot (30 points).  Without the same restrictions, the sathar open fire at Sp'ock, one shot hitting the vrusk security chief and knocking him unconscious to the ground (-7 stamina).
  At point blank range, the zuraqqor in front of Crisbel couldn't miss if he tried and it didn't.  Crisbel's skiensuit absorbs enough damage to keep the yazirian on his feet (11 points after suit), though not without some discomfort.
20.09
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 36 seconds
  "I can't hold this quickdeath!" Raid yells. "We need to slam the doors to the airlock and dog them or secure them somehow." Defending himself with his machete now, Raid slams it in the quickdeath's face (12 points), penetrating the creatures brain through it's open mouth. Stunned, Raid stumbles backward as the creature collapses in front of him. "Damn!" He mutters to himself.
  Crisbel swings his machete at the zuraqqor again (7 points through suit), slightly wounding the creature as it evades the brunt of his blow.
  Outside the southern airlock Con struggles to his feet. He retrieves his laser rifle along with his extra powerpack from the armoury and sets up a defensive position waiting to lay down some fire while waiting for further orders. Con's first two shots burn into the remaining quickdeath's flank, effectively penetrating the beasts reflective armour (48 & 46 points) and seriously wounding it.
"Well how about you get my front?" X'anthe smiles at Kane "After all, you are probably a better shot than me." She steps to the side of the hallway allowing Kane a better position and then takes up a firing stance behind her fellow human. X'anthe checks her ammunition and double checks her power setting is on 5 SEU's and decides to careful aim with each shot now that her ammunition is almost exhausted. Behind her, McKilin continues to treat Siu-Ling. The sharpshooter recovering her composure quickly.
  "We're going in!" Borovski shouts to all his companions within earshot. "The real party is happening downstairs now." Borovski heads down the corridor toward the central airlock and activates his chronocom to advise his team mates of his intent. "Check with us on the way past and make sure we've secured the airlock."
  The wounded dralasite stops and looks back at OMAC "You coming or what?"
  "Gung ho mother fucker!" The cynical trooper responds "Ooooh Raah! Lead on!"
Looking down at the sathar corpse, Borovski sheaths his machete and picks up the sathar's weapon and any handy clips before heading back to the central airlock.
  Gleep continues to trade fire with the last sathar, hitting the worm twice with his next 3 rounds (28 points, half to suit) and killing him. Sighing with relief he collapses back behind the shot torn computer console.
  As Kane moves to assist X'anthe in preparation for the lab's defence the door opens and a sathar trooper enters the hallway. X'anthe takes aim and fires from the lab doorway but misses the sathar who responds by firing at Kane. Fortunately the worm was distracted by X'anthe's fire and in turn he misses Kane.
  Down in the southern airlock the sathar continue firing their laser weapons, one of their beams lighting up Raid's albedo screen (4 SEU's).
  "Here! Take this!" Sn'iktl yells to xZot, handing him his belt pack. As the young yazirian grabs the ammo belt and plugs in his laser pistol, the Chief Medical Officer draws his gyrojet pistol and opens fire at the last quickdeath. Squeezing off three quick shots, the medic hits twice (11 points) barely scratching the enraged monster. As the creature crosses the airlock xZot opens fire as well but fails to add to the tally himself other than to offer himself as a shiny target. The quickdeath lashes out at the team's commander, sinking it's teeth into the yazirian officer. xZot's civilian skiensuit absorbs much of the damage (25 points, 13 to suit), leaving him battered but still standing after the violent assault. The pair of zuraqqor fire bursts of automatic weapons fire back at the BHG, catching the entire group in front of the door way in the blast (7 points to quickdeath, 14 to xZot, Con, Raid & Snik, half to suits)
  On the upper deck, Gloo slips alongside Crisbel and thrusts at the zuraqqor with his sonic sword. Ill prepared for the attack the bug staggers back from the blow (35 points) before collapsing at the end of the corridor.
  Kane fires twice at the advancing sathar but misses with both blasts. "I tossed a doze and a tangler down the corridor before we closed the security door. They were primed and set to detonate in a few seconds so its doubtful that both of our pursuers could have escaped that bedlam unfazed. Nonetheless, we should still plan on facing a pissed off worm and his new pet bumble bee." Kane takes stock of their situation. "McKilin!" calls out Kane, "I have a slightly used First Aid Pak that will probably do us allot more good in your capable hands than it would in mine." he says to the medical officer before tossing him the Pak. As an afterthought he adds "When you've finished with Sui-Ling, I could also benefit from your medical training."
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 42 seconds
  Refusing to admit defeat, xZot stands his ground as the raging quickdeath launch another attack at him. Although wounded yet again (9 points & 10 to suit), xZot senses victory at hand, the quickdeath's attack seeming to falter along with that of the remaining sathar allies.
  Upstairs at the hydroponics lab, X'anthe fires again, this time hitting the sathar trooper (32 points) who appears disoriented by the determined resistance.
  "Thanks, Mac!" Siu-Ling gasps as McKilin administers aid to her seared and punctured flesh. "What'n the hells is going on?" Half delirious, she tries to focus on controlling herself as the pain is soothed by the spray hypo dousing her wounds. Once the biocort has had a chance to get well absorbed by her ribs and surrounding muscle tissue, the sharpshooter gets up again and smirks. "You're one in a million," she thanks him again as she sets the SEU-setting on her rifle to 10 after seeing that's all she has left. "Let's fuck these guys up." Siu-Ling puts her last 10 SEU blast through the sathar's head (54 points), killing it instantly and taking the pressure off the team's north flank.
  "Nooooo!" xZot screams at the top of his lungs as he defiantly points his blaster at the quickdeath's centre mass and fires two more blasts, striking the creature once more (13 points). Standing alongside his commander, Sn'iktl fires three shells from his gyrojet pistol, hitting twice (14 points) and then Raid once again delivers the Coup de Grace, leaping from the body of the first dead quickdeath and delivering a blow from his machete across the back of the last quickdeath's neck, severing the spine (11 points) and dropping the creature dead in it's tracks, alongside it's terrible mate. The zuraqqor blaze away again at xZot's crew but both bugs fire high as xZot and his companions dive to use the quickdeath carcases for cover.
  Up in the Auxiliary Control room, Gleep advances close enough to the entangled sathar to see the worms stop struggling and bite down on the famed cyanide capsules surgically implanted in their mouths. All three go limp within the tangler threads within seconds as Gleep flicks on his chronocom.
  "Auxiliary Control Room secure." The relieved dralasite reports to his comrades. "The last sathar up here just killed themselves!"
  Waiting for the central airlock door to cycle open, Borovski checks his ammunition load, removing clips from his stunstick and sonic stunner for use in his laser pistol. Beside him OMAC waits impatiently, listening to Gleep's report over his chronocom and reloading all his weapons.
  "Is she going to be OK?" asks Kane, the concern for his wounded team-mate evident in his voice as he notices for the first time just how bad Siu-Ling actually looks. An affirmative grunt is the only response he gets to his question, as McKilin diligently oversees Siu-Ling's recovery. Kane carefully steps over the sathar's body and peers through the north door. Up near the airlock door he spies the stunned form of the zuraqqor lying in the corridor. Motioning to his companions, Kane heads back up the corridor toward the north airlock. McKilin curses as Siu-Ling limps along behind Kane, X'anthe taking a position by the door at the intersection.
  At the other end of the corridor, Crisbel pushes on around the corner, closing on the sathar at the southern airlock door. Racing up behind the worm, Crisbel takes a swing with his machete, seriously wounding the enemy combatant (11 points) through his defensive suit. Down below, Con fires two more maximum charge blasts at the sathar and another worm dies horribly as a laser blast cuts him in two (107 points)
  Gloo makes his way in to the Auxiliary Control room and joins Gleep at the edge of the tangler threads blocking the access to the central air lock. Glancing at the sathar corpses he heads back out the doorway. "You stay here and cover this mess in case they try to come back." Gloo says to Gleep, indicating the tangled mess in the airlock doorway. "I'm going to join Boro and OMAC in the central airlock." Gleep nods and turns back to peer through the threads into the central airlock.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 42 seconds
  Reaching the open door into the northern airlock, Kane quickly crosses the airlock and pulls up short when he reaches the southern door. Looking down the corridor a the central airlock, Kane sees one of the OMICRON's service robots standing in the airlock doorway, holding the door open. Reaching to flick on his chronocom, a stunned Kane informs his companions of his discovery. "I think I just found out how they boarded us so easily. One of the service bots opened the door for them!"
  Behind him, X'anthe moves down the corridor and confirms that the zuraqqor warrior is incapacitated. Allowing her zoological instincts to take hold, she begins dragging the creature toward the hydroponics lab in order to better secure her new specimen.
  In the lower southern airlock, Con takes aim with his last shot and finishes off the last sathar with a blast right between the eyes.
  When the central airlock door opens, Borovski opens fire at the first available target with his laser pistol, taking careful aim with the clip set to half the available load, giving him two shots before switching to his captured sathar weapon. Boro's first shot takes his sathar opponent square in the chest (61 points), dropping him straight away. OMAC comes through the door behind him, firing both his laser pistols at the other two sathar in the airlock. One blast strikes each of the sathar sentries (49 and 52 points), dropping them also.
  In the same instant, Siu-Ling arrives at Kane's side and opens fire at the recalcitrant service bot, power set to maximum SEU's. The beam strikes the robot in the head, burning through it's central processor in half a nanosecond. The now useless pile of scrap metal, clatters noisily to the floor of the airlock as a single sathar and a zuraqqor companion come racing into the airlock from the eastern door, the sathar carrying a marked medical case from the OMICRON's Medical Lab. McKilin moves to help X'anthe drag the captured zuraqqor into the hydroponics lab where they begin tying the creature up.
  Ignoring the zuraqqor across the airlock, Sn'iktl holsters his pistol and darts out to the unconscious form of Mr Sp'ock, sprayhypo in hand, "Cover me," he cries out to his friends as he attempts to save his fallen comrade. The zuraqqor across the airlock, reload their empty automatic rifles as a pair of sathar open fire from the corridor behind Raid.
  Having followed Snik and Sp'ock through the east airlock and across the bridge, the sathar managed to gain a position behind xZot's team. Raid's albedo screen flares twice (11 SEU's) alerting him to the new threat from behind and most likely saving his life yet again. Raid steps out of the line of fire, grabs a tangler grenade from his belt and hurls it between the zuraqqor. His aim is perfect, the missile landing in between the bugs, popping open and covering both targets with sticky tangler threads. Seeing Raid's predicament. xZot grabs his last dose grenade and lobs it down the corridor from where the laser fire emanated. Unable to see his target, xZot throws the grenade too hard and it misses the sathar troopers, rolling down the corridor to explode harmlessly behind them.
  Upstairs in the central airlock, the surprised sathar fires up the corridor at Siu-Ling and Kane, missing them both, while the zuraqqor fires a burst from his auto rifle at Boro and OMAC. The pair laugh at the scratches (6 points each) from the automatic fire as they turn to deal with the newcomers. Gloo arrives in the hallway behind Boro and OMAC and unable to fire at the sathar or zuraqqor, tries to get into the airlock for a clear shot. Watching the action through the tangler threads in the Auxiliary Control room, Gleep decides to abandon his post and reinforce the rest of his team. exiting the room he turns south to follow Crisbel.
  The sathar ambushed by Crisbel turns and tries to fire at the attacking yazirian but can't get off an accurate shot in the confines of the corridor before Crisbel drives his machete home once more, killing the sathar. As the sathar body slumps to the ground, Gleep arrives on the scene.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 48 seconds
  Nodding at Gleep, Crisbel turns to enter the southern airlock and is shocked at the site before him. Sn'iktl is kneeling at Sp'ock's side, claws working rapidly to reveal the injured vrusk's wounds and treat the downed warrior. Carcasses of two quickdeath's, a cybodragon, zuraqqor and sathar are testament to a savage fire fight that is still being fought as he sees Raid and xZot trading shots with someone down a side corridor to the east. Crisbel decides to cross to the north door and secure the access to the central airlock.
  Three sathar crowd out of the corridor and into the airlock, their sheer volume of fire driving Raid back. Two laser blasts smash into Raid's albedo screen and are soaked up (11 SEU's) but when the power supply runs dry the third blast strikes human flesh and everything goes dark for Raid as he collapses to the ground (-17 points).
  The sathar in the central airlock fires a blast at point blank range at OMAC, hitting him in the side (26 points) as the sathar heads for the exit into his own ship but OMAC has other plans. Dropping his empty laser pistols, OMAC draws his gyrojet pistol and fires 3 shots, hitting the sathar twice (11 points) and wounding him through his skiensuit.
  Seeing his friend fall, Con picks up his Sonic Sword, slams a fresh clip into the hilt and heads for the sathar troopers. xZot puts in covering fire with his blaster and misses everything but Gleep adds his fire from the upper doorway, wounding one of the sathar with his gyrojet pistol (6 points). Below them Sn'iktl works feverishly on his fellow vrusk. After administering a dose of staydose to keep his patient alive and completing First Aid (10 points back), Sn'iktl immediately begins more serious battlefield triage.
  Kane and Siu-Ling advance side by side down the corridor to the central airlock, firing at OMAC's opponent as they advance. Kane strikes the sathar once (30 points) and Siu-Ling finishes him off with a head shot. From the western doorway, Borovski advances, firing at the zuraqqor. A shot to the chest (61 points), kills the bug before it can pick up the medpack dropped by the sathar. Gloo enters the airlock behind Borovski and fires down the opposite corridor at another approaching sathar but both beams miss the sathar, striking the airlock door instead.
  The sathar seeing the central airlock now in the possession of the OMICRON defenders activates an emergency signal on it's comm unit, bites down on it's embedded cyanide pill and slumps to the floor of the corridor.
  Down in the southern airlock, xZot, Crisbel and Gleep are witness to the result of the sathar's emergency signal as the three last living sathar on the ship also commit suicide rather than allow themselves be captured by the OMICRON defenders.
Frontier Date 40.296: 14:23 hours + 48 seconds
  The Black Hand Gang are as surprised by the sudden end to the combat as they were by the sudden start of the boarding action.
  "Everyone sound off!" xZot orders as soon as the last sathar body hit's the deck. He begins to feel a wave of relief as his team members report their status one by one.
  A loud series of metallic clanks and scrapes, then a shudder through the ship startles the occupants of the OMICRON until they realize it's the sathar vessel disengaging from their hull. The sound of the other ships engines accelerating away from the OMICRON brings a collective sigh from the BHG as they assess their position.
  Looking over at Sn'iktl, xZot begins to ask about the wounded but holds off when he hears Snik asking for McKilin's assistance. For several minutes it appears to be touch and go with Raid but the expert combination of two of the team's best medics saves the life of their Chief Science Officer.
  After stabilising Raid, McKilin treats xZot with First Aid after failing an attempt at Minor Surgery while Sn'iktl successfully carries out Minor Surgery on Con. Gleep and Kane also receive First Aid from McKilin before xZot assigns pairs of his people to round up the entangled zuraqqor and secure them in the hydroponics lab. The rest of the team police up the bodies of sathar and zuraqqor scattered around the OMICRON, the northern and southern airlocks are turned into temporary morgues, the carcasses of the quickdeaths and cybodragons being to heavy to move by hand.
  After treating the most serious of the wounded, Sn'iktl and the medical staff order all the walking wounded off to their quarters for bed rest while the OMICRON continues it's journey to PGC headquarters.
Frontier Date 40.309
  Thirteen days after fighting off the combined sathar/zuraqqor attack, the BHG arrive in the Prenglar system with the OMICRON, their mission complete. The four captured zuraqqor are handed over to the authorities for on Prenglar for further study along with the captured weaponry from the sathar and their allies. Sn'iktl, X'anthe and Raid having made the most of their isolation aboard the OMICRON for the last 13 days, were also able to complete comprehensive tests of their prisoners and the other booty, adding much new research on the Zuraqqor and Sathar to the BHG database.
  After handing over the OMICRON to the Pan Galactic Corporation, xZot and his team are whisked across the spaceport to the waiting express shuttle back to Zebulon. The Black Hand Gang are feet dry on the Hub of the Frontier for less than an hour before they begin their 15 day journey home.
  "You gotta admire that Mega Corp efficiency!" OMAC announces to his friends as they head to the waiting shuttle craft.
  "They're paying us by the day for the delivery of the OMICRON," X'anthe answers the loud enforcer. "The deal included the trip home, the sooner they get us back to Zebulon the sooner they can stop paying us."


1 Experience Point

2 Experience Points

3 Experience Points

Bonus Points - e-mail, Pic, Background

Bonus Points - VTC Logo

McKilin, OMAC, Sp'ock

Boro, Crisbel, Gleep, Gloo, Raid, Sni'ktl,

xZot, Con, Nathaniel, Siu-Ling, X'anthe

X'anthe, Borovski, Con, Kane

xZot, Kane, Crisbel

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