Chapter 21: Operation Alcazzar 21.01  21.02  21.03  21.04  21.05  21.06  21.07 21.08  (40.309 - 53.169)

Frontier Date 40.309 09:00
  Leaning forward into the cabin of the spaceport shuttle, OMAC taps the driver on the shoulder.
  "Change of plan kid, we're not leaving just yet." The hardened warrior turns and grins at the rest of his team mates, crammed in the back of the hover transport. "Time for some R & R." He smiles at the rest of the BHG as he directs the driver to exit the spaceport and head into Down Town Port Loren. "Drop us off at the Stellar Tower Hotel, we'll make our own way from there."
  "Hear, hear!" Borovski adds "This one's on the company I reckon!"
  "I have no doubt the VTC can afford an 'executive retreat' for 10 or 15 days." X'anthe adds, her financial expertise not being argued by any one else present on the VTC Board of Directors. "I declare the motion..." X'anthe pauses briefly, "...carried, by a unanimous vote!" A smattering of applause greets the decision as the BHG decide to hit the town, shopping, training, partying and reminiscing. The team disembark from the spaceport shuttle in the opulent foyer of the Stellar Tower Hotel. X'anthe and xZot head over to reception to book accommodation for the entire team over the next week, meanwhile the others quickly make their various plans, deciding to meet for a celebratory dinner in the hotel restaurant that evening.
  Siu-Ling is the first to slip off into the city, the largest metropolis of the Frontier swallowing up her celebrity, at least for now. The sharpshooter steps onto the monorail just northwest of the Stellar Tower Hotel building, now affectionately dubbed "The T" by the younger crowd. The locals were armed to the teeth on the space station just before making the last leg to planetside, but here on Gran Quivera, and particularly in Port Loren, the civilians don only holstered pistols and a few paramilitary teams sport a rifle or some other weapon she doesn't quite recognize. She'll have to take a few refresher courses at the holo-theatre on the west side.
  Strange things have been brewing in Siu-Ling's mind since they left Volturnus back in… she can't remember, having been in stasis for over a century now if one adds up all the three stints. Life has come and gone, fiefdoms have risen and been quashed by established regimes, while other regimes, mightier still, have gone under… and here she is, savouring a moment that nature has not chosen her to know, at least not in such a youthful form.
  Sni'ktl departs the Stellar Tower Hotel and still in work mode, heads for the nearest pharmacy. Another shore leave another visit. Sni'ktl scritches as his eyes and antennae peruse the phials, hypo's, cans and good old fashioned bottles. This time its four cans of "no sting" antiseptic, thirty cans of skin tone neutral biocort, twenty doses of "zippy dude" (a new brand of accelerator drug) and an oxydrug injector with ten shots of intravenous oxygen. Just once he'd love to come here only to browse.
  Con heads off to Wally's Weapons also attending to business before pleasure. Entering the long standing establishment, Con walks straight up to the counter.
  "Yes, may I help you sir?"
  "Yes you can." The enforcer replies, "I'll take one bow and three quivers of arrows, and a recognition grip for each laser pistol (2). The clerk pulls the bow and arrows off the shelf and tallies up the cost.
  "These I can supply straight away. Recognition grip huh? That kinda thing might take a while. Come back and see me next week, I'll see what we can arrange. I'll need to outsource some specialised labour for that one." Con grunts his response as he hands over his credit card and completes the transaction. Con grabs up his new toys and walks out the door.
  "See you next week sir." The merchant says to his rapidly disappearing back.
  After all that unexpected action, Gleep decides to spend some time just vegging. He plans to take some time soon to replenish supplies, but for now, he is too boneless weary to think and heads up to his suite in the hotel until the evening dinner.
  Raid is still surprised to be alive and hopes he won't see another quickdeath for a very long time. Listening to the other team members discuss their shopping lists, Raid decides to tag along and just replace his skeinsuit and restock his grenades and powerclips up to pre-Omicron levels before heading back to his hotel room.
  Borovski hitches a ride with Raid, picking up 10 frag grenades, 10 incendiary grenades and 5 smoke grenades at the Joke Shop before heading over to the Offworld Clothing store to place his order for specialised defensive apparel.
  "Hard to believe its been more than 27 years since I was last here." Nathaniel Kane says to himself as he walks down the streets of Port Loren. Looking around he notices that very little has changed in all that time. "Oh well, I'm not here to sight see." he says to himself as he steps through the doors of the Offworld Clothing shop.
  "Good day to you sir. I am Mrak-A-Geego, the store proprietor. Is there something I can help you with?" says the female Yazirian to Kane as he steps through the electric door.
  "I need a skiensuit." replied Kane.
  "Right this way sir." answers the female Yazirian as she lead Nathaniel towards a section in the back of the store. The store's interior decor was a unique merger of Mrak's Yazirian origins and the city's Utopian-cosmopolitan theme. The plasti-wood panelling of the floors and walls were interspersed with many brightly coloured decorative furnishings taken from the various Federation worlds of which her merchandise originated. When coupled with the overhead Holo-flare lighting and the various examples of modern Frontier music coming from the ceiling speakers, the aesthetic effect worked to give the store a certain kind of retro charm to it. In fact, the keen observer would notice that store more closely resembles a pre-frontier era retail clothing store that catered to the whims of the wealthy, fashion-conscious socialites of Old Terra, rather than as the premier clothing merchandiser of a major city at the Frontier's Hub.
  Regardless of her store's retro-like appearance there is nothing retro about Mrak-A-Geego wares. Most of the clothes are the latest craze in fashion from across the Frontier. The remainder were less distinctive, probably to appeal to tastes of her more conservative shoppers.
  "As you can see, we have a wide selection to choose from." said Mrak, noticing Kane's appraising eye. "Was their something in particular you were looking for?"
  "Military Grade. In black." replies Kane flatly.
  "This way." says Mrak as she leads Kane to a back corner of the store. "Judging by your physique, I'd say you were an athletic extra large."
  "Correct." replies Kane.
  "Then I have just the one for you." she says, handing him a suit from off the back shelf. Accepting the suit, Kane enters a privacy room to don the skeinsuit and thoroughly tests it's restrictiveness. He emerges from the room several minutes later declaring it to be a perfect fit. Thanking the Yazirian business person for her time and assistance, Kane pays his money and then leaves, already thinking of what next to pass the time until the gang gathers at the Hole tonight. Passing a holo-ad for the Capellan Free Merchants, he is momentarily struck with a sense of nostalgia over his own past.
  "I think a trip down memory lane is in order." he says as he starts walking to the Spacer's Rest.
  X'anthe heads to the north-east quarter of town with Sn'iktl and stops in at the Central Hospital to enquire about acquiring accreditation in the Psycho-Social Sciences before heading back to the city's Files and Records office to carry out some historical research for another business project. The other members of the team hit the shopping and entertainment districts of Port Loren to satisfy their various urges before reconvening at the restaurant for dinner.
  A young dralasite sitting in the train across from Siu-Ling flirts, "Y'know I'm male this spring… I notice you have battle scars, and a few bruises; care to let ol' Shumfafird take a look?"
  "Not unless you're a licensed medic, no." Siu-Ling doesn't give him a chance to verify whether he is one or not, being old fashioned and seeing that type of behaviour as unnatural. Within a few weeks it will become clear that this practice is actually quite in fashion in Gran Quivera now, although for obvious reproductive reasons, it is not an encouraged norm. She walks to the other end of the car and sits by the closest door. The railcar winds around the downtown area clockwise, and she sees the all-too-popular Hole-in-the-Wall as the railcar slows to a hydraulically comfortable halt, hissing as the double doors open and a few others enter the cab while only one vrusk leaves. The smell of the city blows in and out of the train.
  Such strange things, her mind wanders back to her dreams and thoughts. She absentmindedly stares out of the window as all the train doors close simultaneously and they begin to pick up speed again. They whiz by the vehicle mall and the business tower and stop once more at the convention centre where some ruckus over a rising razz star is apparently ensuing. Checking the SEU setting on her laser pistol, the human waits for the doors to open and tries to avoid the crowd lining up at the ticket booth and coagulating in an agora of makeshift shops camped out in front of the main steps leading up to the main entrance. She is careful to stay clear of thieving types, as she has heard that the city has had a surge in street crime during the last few months.
  With the monorail terminal behind her and the train continuing its trek westward before disappearing on a northward course, Siu-Ling makes headway for the vehicle dealerships. She is overly suspicious of others and invites no greeting from those she passes. Haggard and weak, if she doesn't get a decent night's sleep tonight, she is likely to crack. She's on medication prescribed by McKilin himself, who saved her life just two weeks earlier, but it's beginning to wear off and she will welcome a bit of pain for a while in lieu of the dull sensation that has kept her in a hazy, dream-like state for the past day or so. She'll be perfectly healed up in another day or so, and she's not about to stay in bed sulking away over a bump that by now has been treated multiple times with biocort and other cutting-edge spray products.
  A man on a mission, Con's next stop is to the Offworld Outfitters where he purchases three military skiensuits in black. As the clerk wraps the purchase, Con hands the young woman his credit card. Borovski arrives at the counter as Con is finalising his transaction and nods to his companion as he begins quizzing the shop assistant about their range of defensive systems. The Dral warrior leaves the shop with a brand new Gauss Screen, a Sonic Screen, three Military Skein Suits and three Civilian Skein Suits and a very happy sales assistant wonders why all her work periods can't be as profitable as this afternoon.
  Siu-Ling's in the largest store in the complex, Griggi's All-Terrain Emporium, which sells the widest variety of vehicles from bullet-proof explorers to fully armed aircars. She'll have to pay a pretty credit, but she knows she'll be getting a reliable vehicle. Thoughts of the tormenting dream come back, and then suddenly snap away as she is greeted by a male with violet eye clusters." A pleasant morning, miss."
  "d'Avignon," she answers as if he'd asked her name.
He picks up on it from her body language. "Ah, Ms. d'Avignon, I should've recognized you," the vrusk salesman then realized. "From the news. The Starship Omicron. Man-U-facturer!" he exclaims, his antennae waving about as other sales staff close in, clicking and praising her. "I am Xich Zzirt. So delighted to meet you in person…."
  After about a minute of attention, the human realizes that some of this ado has to do with salesmanship more than with genuine interest, although she does expect that she will be recognized by passers-by, for better or worse, unless she changes her appearance. "I'd like to test-drive some hovercycles."
  "Hovercycles, right this way. Ms. d'Avignon, this is Jabzem Tnuk, our hovervehicle expert. Jabz, would you show this kind lady the latest and greatest?"
  After a few minutes, she's disclosed that she can pay up front but needs a tip-top machine. Jabz' father had some adventures during the early years of the Volturnian Reconstruction, so they share stories about the Great Game and the vast bachanda forests. "Lately, it's all come back to haunt me, though," the novice demolitionist admits.
  "Oh?" the yazirian hover specialist purses his lips.
  "Like last night, I kept dreaming of the cybodragons, and the eorna slavebots. Ugh! There's nothing more repulsive than seeing something that's dead come after you, with rotten or preserved body parts!" She gags and changes the subject, "Anyway, so this one's 2500 cr. and the ones there are about 2000 each?"
  "That's right, but remember, this one reaches speeds of 130 km/h and an experienced rider can cruise on it at 95 km/h. It corners better with intelligent counter-steering so your laboratory turn speed is set to 75 km/h. At 2500 it's a steal. It even has a swivel turret mount if you want to mount a rifle on it."
  "If this works out, I'll be coming back for an aircar," she discloses.
An hour later, she is finalizing the purchase. The woman handling the transaction must be in her late 110s. Her carapace is frail and bristled where it pokes out of its mesh clothing, and she limps a bit on her left legs. "Well, young lady," she says to the human who was born before her. "You take care of yourself on your new hoverbike. You'll see the deduction from your account at the close of the market tonight."
  And with that she thanks the folks at Griggi's and heads out and emerges from the building at the corner of Pan-Galactic Boulevard and Perseverance Avenue. Legally she can only go east along this one-way causeway through the heart of the Frontier's capital. She gives the throttle a good twist and the accelerator motor purrs as she picks up speed. The cycle has a good amount of momentum, and she needs to use her brakes a bit more frequently than with a monoaxial groundcycle, which is what she learned on.
  A human kid on the walkway above her throws a drink that splatters the ground right in front of her. Her instincts kick in and she immediately tenses up, then remembers that hovercycles don't slip on liquids like treading vehicles do.
  The sniper whizzes by the Hole-in-the-Wall again, hoping to meet up there with Gloo and xZot later this evening. The pain is coming back, and although she has another pill on her she holds off on taking it, preferring to be kept aware of her body's current limitations while she's operating the vehicle. And it is a nice ride, coasting counterclockwise as the train storms through the monorail overhead. She hangs a right at 30 km/h and feels the comfort of the cycle's handling as she heads south past Wall Street.
  Next Con the enforcer stops off at the Convention Centre to see what's new. As he walks through the centre he comes across a table manned by two Clarion Royal Marines. A pimply faced ensign asks the enforcer if he has ever considered a career in the Royal Marine Corps. Con turns to face the young ensign, revealing the scar that runs down the right side of his face.
  "No, no I haven't." This draws a raised eyebrow from the female senior officer. "All skills welcome. You look like you have seen some action. Can we sign you up? We can always use men like you who are tough in a fight!"
  "I'll keep that in mind, son." The senior officer eyeing the roguishly good looking enforcer.
  "You might want to consider it, Mr...."
  "Anderson" the enforcer finishes her sentence for her as he accepts her business card. "I already have a job and it pays pretty damn well, thank you. But, you never know what the future holds, Lieutenant..." Con looks at the name on the card. "...Blakely." Con walks away from the two military recruiters.
  It is a smoggy morning, but a sunny, blue sky above somehow cheerfully complements the pollution that creates the illusion of a red horizon all around. Siu-Ling has an appointment just south of the business district. Earlier this morning, she perused the Galactinet files on Port Loren properties and found a small house for rent, going for 300 cr. per week [change if needed], with a basement, a garage, and an aircar pad. It is for rent until the end of the year, at which point the property will probably go on the market. The place itself is not that nice by the holotour she took online: the landscaping is poor, but it is fenced off and could be an ideal place to lay low for the group, or even for herself.
She reaches the southwest sector of the downtown area, which was quarantined by a great wall during a period of much civil unrest in the city. Luckily for Siu-Ling, she was in cryostasis then. Much of the wall has been taken down since, and streets have been rebuilt through the previously impenetrable infrastructure. The street that runs along its northern edge, some of which is still present, is duly named Wall Street. Siu-Ling gets to a strip of houses just southwest of the GQ Zoo, parks her hovercycle on the street by the front gate of the house she now recognizes, and is greeted by a dralasite couple.
  "Greetings, Ms. d'Avignon. Such a nice cycle! How are you?"  Pleasantries continue as they move through the house and property.  The garage is large enough for two explorers, she notes.  The helipad is large enough for a jetcopter, but giant, thorny morning glories have grown through the foundation and part of it could use a bit of restoration work.  The house is liveable, but much of it will not last 'til the end of the century.  Having spent maybe 20 minutes browsing through the property, the sniper notes that the roof is stable and the attic is an ideal location for a defensive guard position.  If need be, the property just south of her has no obstacles should they need to make a quick getaway in an explorer.  For her needs, and maybe some others in the Black Hand Gang with whom she's discussed being roommates, it is ideal.  A no-lease, short-term place to store the goods she is about to accumulate.
  "So 300 a week, paying 3 weeks in advance plus a deposit of how much?" she asked.
  The smaller dralasite asserts, "1000. That gets you into the contract, and another 900 pays your rent for the next three weeks. If there are no damages to the site, we will refund you the 1000."
  "And when can I move in?"
  "It's available now," id says.
  "Well, I've got a few things in a locker downtown, but if you don't mind, I'd like to take care of the paperwork now."
  "Excellent!"  Minutes later, paper has been signed, scanned, emailed, and confirmed, and by the end of the business day, her account will show the transaction.  They hand her keys and a master remote that opens the front gate—rusty as it may be—and a few doors and windows.  It can also be programmed to control media devices, though the house currently has none.  Once inside, she takes a minute to call up xZot and tell him the news before heading back out to Wilderness Outfitters on Wall St. hoping to acquire the arsenal she'd always dreamt of.
  Later that day, Siu-Ling finds herself in the upstairs night school above the holo-theatre, signing up for a course in the latest beam weapon technology.  She's cleaned out the local ammo dealer who has a hover cart and hovers around the downtown area during the weekends, and is all set to also try a few hours of target practice in the simulacrum chamber.
  "Thank you," she says to the human behind the window, and leaves the line with a confirmation number already uploaded to her chronocom. Across the hall are the simulacrum chambers. She enters a vacant one, swipes her identicard across a visual scanner, and pays for three hours of target practice. At first, holographic clay pigeons fly above her, and she spends 1 SEU hitting each of them. In reality, she is firing at an albedo ceiling, which—like the walls and floor—are 100% resistant to laser fire. Things sure have changed in the last century!
  At the restaurant of the Stellar Tower Hotel that night, xZot announces during the banquet that the team will be staying over in Port Loren for 40 days GST before returning to the Zebulon system. "That should give everyone plenty of time to blow off some steam, do some shopping and get your training sorted out." After the cheers subside xZot adds that "The VTC will be footing the bill for the next week at the Stellar Tower Hotel, as befits it's long term employees. You can all make your own arrangements for the remaining three weeks before we return to Zebulon." The banquet and subsequent drinking carry on for several more hours before the BHG move out into the entertainment district of Port Loren.
  OMAC, Borovski and several of the other team members drag their friends to a series of bars and night spots across Port Loren, following whoever is setting the drinking pace at any given moment. Con leads them on to the night club and casino to hit the gaming tables for a few hours before pulling up a stool at the Hole in the Wall, less several hundred credits courtesy of the Casino, for some drinking, before heading off to the ship.
  "Aaah, the Hole in The Wall" Sni'ktls favourite bar is as lively as ever. Always something different here. Tonight its good old fashioned cocktails. Sni'ktl orders a silver slug slush - shaken of course - and waits for Siu-Ling. As he activates the slush pump on the cocktail straw and allows the mind altering (for a Vrusk) slugs to permeate his throat cavity he notes how much comfortable the clientele seem to be with Vrusk drinking habits. Returning to an upright position he removes the ichor from his antennae and surrounding seats, adjusts his dress and fondly reminisces to the night when the management provided free inertia shields and laid on a bar room brawl. That was before his time with the Gang. Naive and happy.
  "Well, if it isn't Dr. Slushy!" Siu-Ling greets her friend amidst the mostly vrusk and dralasite crowd. "Where are the others?" she asks, looking around for xZot. Over the next half hour most members of the team end up at their old watering hole, the Hole in The Wall, the establishment having an almost hypnotic effect, drawing it's customers in from across the Frontier's of space and even Time itself.
  "Absolutely, definitely - done deal" Sni'ktl replies to Siu Ling "just remind me in the morning and I'll get right onto it." A neutrino of thought imposes on Sni'ktl's much sozzled consciousness. Should he really be promising things in this state. Then Siu Ling smiles and offers to buy another slushy and the rest is history. Someone else will have to clean up the ichor this time.
  After a few slug slushies and morphilade sucries, Siu-Ling too is tipsy, and even thinks she recognizes Gleep, though in the end it's just another sharp-dressed blob pimp. "S'lemme tellyoo 'bout the place I got," she leans over to the vrusk medic and slurs, her eyes looking wildly about. "It's got a heliumpad, a mirage… garage, I mean…" she goes on, sparing no detail about the escape routes and sniper cubbies. "I swung by the munishuns deal'r today and ordered me couple a stogies: sonic 'sruptor, brand-new KE rifles…"
  "KE?" asks the vrusk.
  "Kinetic energy. Fancy lasers… prodeetypes… said they sh' be the only game in town ten y'rs from now," she repeats the commercial she saw on the holovid in the weapons shop. "Gonna stor'em in the spare room. Anyone wans to fuck with us is really gonna hafta givit hells.
  She then calls up her boss via chronocom. "Hey, xZot, you comin'?" she slurs as best as she can, well on the safe side of off-duty.
  The Spacer's Rest is an quaint little establishment, right next to the Gaming Hall, at the very edge of the city's business district, and is owned and operated by a mysterious, middle-aged Yazirian male who goes by the name of Shotglass. Now whether that's due the bizarre, custom-made dark goggles he wears when he examines your creds to see if their legit, or because of his renowned proficiency with those oversized slug-throwers he tends to carry while he does it, well that's anyone's guess. In truth, not much is known about old Shotglass, but its said that he held the title as the Best Bartender in Spacefleet for years before retiring at the conclusion of the Great Sathar War. Sometime thereafter, he came to Port Loren and opened the Spacer's Rest, as a "honest" establishment dedicated to serving the needs of those living the Spacer's Life. The more idealistic patrons of his establishment believe that old Shotglass did this to give a little something back to his fellow Spacers; some grand noble gesture to repay a lifestyle that allowed him to escape his early years of hardship and suffering. Personally, Kane attributes a less altruistic reason for his actions: good old-fashioned Greed.
  He'd heard it said by some that old Shotglass is so greedy, that he has declared Poverty to be his racial Life-Enemy. And that's the reason that damn near anything not regulated by Federation Law can be bought and sold in the backrooms of the Spacer's Rest (provided he gets a cut). Kane also heard it said by others that the Spacer's Rest is really just a front for Shotglass' real business, the clandestine trading of sensitive information. "Now I don't know how much of that is fact and how much is fiction, all I know for sure are these two things: 1. Shotglass has never been caught doing anything illegal; and 2. He makes the best damn Super Novas this side of Volturnus." Kane muttered to himself.
  Since the Spacer's Rest is patronized mostly by the cadres of hard working citizens who specializing in the transportation of merchandise, its decor is reminiscent of the insides of an old space freighter. The place is smoky, dimly lit, and reeks of the cloying scents of illicit narcotic smokes and machine lubricant. Lit by garish lights, nude women of all shapes and sizes (mostly human), gyrate on a metallic stage to the beat of some harsh Frontier tune, almost lost to the background noise of conversation, raucous laughter, and the occasional fistfight. Say what you will, it's still a decent enough place to visit.
  Taking a moment to absorb the ambiance of the room, Kane is momentarily reminded of the last time he was in a dive like this, back when he was just an apprentice spacer on a CMF transport freighter. Choosing a table equal distant from the exit and the stage, Kane sits down and ordered a drink. Losing himself in the revisitation of those distant memories, he was caught unaware by the arrival of the stunningly beautiful waitress bringing his drink.
  "Your drink handsome." she says.
  "Thanks." replies Kane, sliding her a credit chip. The way in which her smile changed into a look of surprise, told Kane that his tip was definitely more than she was use to seeing.
  "Thanks big spender! If more of our patrons tipped like you, I'd have long since bought my way out of this place. By the way, I'm Lenna." she said, her smile back and even more inviting than before.
  "Kane." he replied with an equally inviting smile.
  "So Mr. Kane, what brought you this way?" asks Lena, taking the unoffered chair across from him at the table. "Not the entertainment I hope."
  "Business of course."
  "Business?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. "Your not part of any of the crews from the corporate ships currently in orbit, nor are you a free trader. That's for sure."
  "How can you be so certain about that?" asked a puzzled Kane.
  "Shotglass keeps tabs on all freighter traffic to and from the planet. So we always know who our clientele is. Both the good and the bad. And the independents don't tip like this." she said holding up the credit chip. "So what kind of business really brought you here?"
  "I am in the... salvage and redistribution business, you might say," Kane replied casually. "I just returned from a very profitable business venture and decided to stop by the Spacer's Rest after getting nostalgic about my own days as a apprentice spacer."
  "I see." she replied not entirely convinced. "Well, you probably came in at the best time. We're at our least busiest now with this lull in incoming freight traffic. It will be nearly a day before this place gets lively again. How long will you be here?"
  "Now that I cannot say. I will just have to wait and see." said Kane.
  "Yes, we will." she replied. Her response to his statement meant that things could get interesting for Kane. Unfortunately, it was Shotglass' sudden commotion behind the bar that told him just how right he was.
"Lenna, an Imp-class yacht just exited Void-Space and is on approach to. It's Trey." said Shotglass from behind the counter. "He should touch down in several standard hours." Although Kane had no idea what that meant, it was clear from her reaction that Lenna did. No sooner was he about to ask, than the door opened and a pair of unkempt thugs entered. Looking around the room, they spotted Lenna and proceed directly towards her location, coming to a stop just behind Kane's chair. They were ragged and dirty, nothing more than a matched pair of young third-rate bullies. The one on his left was short and stocky, while the other was tall and lean. Judging by the way the some of the patrons were slowly backing away, the must also be regulars.
  "You know Trey doesn't like it when his girls run around on him." said the taller one.
  "I'm not Trey's girl, nor am I afraid of him." angrily shot back Lenna.
  "I'm sure your not." replied the taller one. "But it's your friend here whose life you've just endangered." His threat now directed towards Kane. At that, her eyes visibly widened and her face changed from lightly tanned to chalk white. Pleased by her reaction, the shorter one put his hands on Kane's shoulder, painfully trying to knead the muscles there. Obviously his own attempt at intimidation. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that Kane wasn't the type who was easily intimated or that he had several friends nearby.
  "No, that would be your life in danger now." A serious voice announces from behind the pair of thugs. Startled by the new voice, the pair of thugs turn around coming face to face with OMAC staring down at them. Swaying beside OMAC, Con swigs at his ale while Borovski pulls up a chair nearby.
  "You! You're..." Stutters one of Kane's harassers, recognising Kane's friends from their media packages, splattered all over the planet datanets
  "That's right." Smiles OMAC from under his trademark Mohawk haircut. "Now shoo!" He waves toward the door and the pair disappear faster than a Quickdeath at an Ul-Mor Manhood Ritual.
  Kane watches them until they were gone, then notices that both Lenna and Shotglass were looking at him and his companions. "You've got to get out of here Kane." said Lenna, the first to speak. "Trey will go crazy when he sees what you did to his men."
Kane laughs "I highly doubt that Lenna. Trey wouldn't even rank as an amateur."
  "And speaking of amateurs..." OMAC says to Kane. "Let's get out of here before you get into more trouble."
  Looking at his flashing chronocom, Kane is reminded of his ten o'clock meet up with the team. "Just enough time to make it over there by foot." he says to himself as he finishes his drink and heads out the door with OMAC, Con and Boro. Maintaining his brisk pace, Kane makes it to the Hole-in-the-Wall in good time, noticing that some of the group has already gathered inside. Upon entering, Kane heads directly to the bar, intent on completing his remaining task before the team's departure back to Volturnus.
  "Rockton Hartsel?" Kane asks as he approaches the bar's proprietor. An affirmative grunt is his only reply. "I would like to become a little more adept at tossing things. And I hear that you are just the man to teach me." adds Kane as he slides a credit stick forward.
  "Particularly things like knives and grenades, eh?" responds the proprietor as he accepts the credit stick without looking at it. Once he does though, his attitude became much more agreeable. "Think I have the time to show you a few tricks." he says, checking a compu-pad. "But there may be a short wait before I am ready to begin your instruction."
  "No worries." replies Kane, giving Mr. Harstel his chronocom's contact number. "I shall await your call with the details. For now however, I will be over at that table with my friends, enjoying your fine establishment." With that, Kane walks away from the bar and over to the table where his team mates were seated. Pulling up a chair, he greeted each of his mates, before being seated and ordering. With the first round of drinks on Sui-Ling, it wasn't long before their camaraderie reminded Kane just how lucky he was to be a part of the Black Hand Gang.
  "Sui-Ling." Kane says during a lull in the Hole's joviality. "After having fought along side you on the Omicron, I realize that I could really benefit from your weapon expertise. Would you consent to letting me hire you as an instructor in Beam Weapons?"
  "Maybe if you stop mispronouncing my name, Natty," one human said to another. Siu-Ling, having just bought herself a ton of weapons, is glad to have someone to try them out with her.
  "Agreed." replies Kane as he arises apologetically from the table to give the sniper a deep bow of respect. "Surely it was the alcohol that was the cause of my misspeak just now." Siu-Ling accepts the apology and the spirit in which it was given and Kane returns to the upright position and summons a waitress over to their table before resuming his seat. "Mates, I will cover next round of drinks." he says to his assembled group. "And maybe a few appetizers as well for suddenly I feel famished. Would anyone else care to partake in my late-night snacking?" At this point in the proceedings Siu-Ling offers free lodging to Kane or any other BHG team member in her shanty house.
  "Thanks Siu-Ling." says Kane, accepting the offer for lodging.
  "I am always looking for a new sparring partner, should you be looking at widening your skill set?" Mr Sp'ock says to Kane. "I'm sure Siu-Ling here will attest to my ability at dispensing knowledge to humanoid martial artists."
  Siu-Ling nods her response to Sp'ock's statement when she sees the surprised look on Kane's face. "Mr Sshhp'ock is mosssht profiiischient." The sharpshooter adds shortly before passing out."
Frontier Date 40.310
  The following morning is missed by almost every member of the BHG and much of the afternoon is spent comparing stories to investigate their various and sundry methods of returning to the hotel earlier that day. A number of hangover remedies are experimented with including an old human custom, Hair of the Dog, curiously enough, this time demonstrated by a Dralasite (Borovski).
  After a day of shopping and a night of drinking and gambling, the ragged enforcer makes his way over to the fitness centre for a much needed work out. Con goes through his usual routine of bench press, curls, squats, butterflies and the much hated and very sadistic abs work out. After a few hours of this Con retires to the locker area for a shower. As he cleans up, shaves and dresses he senses a fear of him from some of the other patrons of the fitness centre. They notice the scar down the left side of his face, they turn away. "Fear me!" he thinks of these normal people off to their nine to five jobs. "Do you really want to know who put this scar down the side of my face? Or this one across my chest...or the one my shoulder...or the lashes across my back?" Con knew the realities of his life would make any of these spud heads pee their pants if they ever encountered Pirates, Quickdeaths and Sathars. The scar did not make Anderson into a monster in fact what made men never look into his cold grey eyes made their women want him. In him they saw the Danger Man, the bad boy and the mystery man. The enforcer, once dressed in civilian clothing pulled a lone laser pistol from his bag. He checked. In the city he only needed the one. He tucked it into his waist band and through on an overcoat and left the locker room. As he made his way towards the door a voice called out to him.
  "Hey Anderson!" He looked back. It was the Royal Marine officer from the day before.
  "Lt. Blakely, good morning."
  "Please, call me Helena."
  "Off to the recruiting office, Helena?"
  "No, I am off duty today." "Mr. Anderson, about yesterday..."
  "No need to apologize...and call me Con."
  "I wasn't going to apologize, Con. Your jacket...or what's left of it, was military?"
  "There's more to you than you let on. How about come up to my apartment for breakfast and we can talk?"
  "Fine, but you won't learn much." Later at Helena's apartment. As the two clean the breakfast dishes.
  "Well, your right Con. I didn't learn much. My Universal man of mystery!" as she moved closer.
  "I can't tell you everything!" He answers fighting the urge, but giving in to it.
Early that afternoon. The two lay about her bed. Con lying face down, dozes in and out of consciousness, suddenly comes to life as he feels Helena touch his back. "You were flogged?"
  "Yeah...I have felt the lash, part of my past life. So, Mr. Corporate security officer, tell me. You don't talk about any family, you don't talk about the scars...Tell me!" she demands as she pins him to her bed. Brushing the light brown hair from her face.
  "Fine...I was married once. Her name was Adrianna. She was pregnant. She died in childbirth and the baby about two minutes later. I was in the military once. Your Royal Marine Corps...I ran away from home found passage to Clarion and enlisted in the RMC. The jacket should look familiar, Helena...its the jacket of a Rifleman, His Majesty's Very Own 49th Rifles! Yeah...I was flogged, RMC justice. Nothing you officers would have faced. A bastard Sergent named Bale had me flogged for stealing some left over food from the Officer's Mess. I was a private soldier then. I eventually became "Chosen Man" then Sergent."
  "I'm sorry, Con. I shouldn't have pushed."
  "Don't worry Helena, for the record, They gave me an officer's commission so its not like your sleeping with a man from the ranks. Me and my lads were assigned to some assault scout. There had been attacks on some shipping by pirates. One, The Athena, was taken a prize, ships company included. We stumbled across their base. My cowardly, pissant of an officer led us into an ambush. He bought it right away. We managed to fine where they were holding the hostages. Taking casualties every bit of the way. The crew was pressed into service. The principals were thrown in a cell waiting to be sent off to something awful, I'm sure. We made it back to the assault scout. Me and Darius were the only one's from the boarding party who survived. Darius died a little later. When we got home they made me an officer for dragging back some courtier's fat daughter and her snotty friends. Once I was given my commission they took me out of the 49th and assigned me to a supply depot, out fitting and supplying ships for extended patrols. No one like an officer promoted from the ranks. I was an outcast in the officers mess because I wasn't a gentleman, and I was an outcast amongst the ranks for being an officer. Even worse, I was away from the action. I was wasting away taking inventory of supplies...I finished my time and resigned my commission then fell in with this lot taking care of corporate security. The pay is better, and I am not looked down upon because of rank, and I get all the action I can handle and then some. Tell that story to your Man-Boy ensign the next time he thinks about asking me to join up!"
  Con left her bed and got dressed "I'm off for a drink, I'll be at the Hole-in-the Wall." He left the apartment and went to get drunk, hoping to run into his mates.
  Over the following weeks various members of the Black Hand Gang work on improving their skills, training with other members of the team with the requisite skills or seeking out the appropriate individuals across Port Loren with the required accreditation and the associated fees. Borovski trains with Beam Weapons, Siu-Ling improves Demolitions and Martial Arts while X'anthe enrols in an introductory course of Psycho-Social Sciences to round out her complement of Biosocial Science Skills. Kane acquires the basics of Thrown weapons and also improves his Beam Weapons Skill with Siu-Ling as is instructor.  Siu-Ling also purchases an Aircar and a selection of personal weaponry, defences and other equipment during follow up shopping trips.
Frontier Date 40.364
  Four weeks after delivering the OMICRON to Port Loren, the Black Hand Gang board a chartered flight from the Prenglar System, via Dixon's Star and Truane's Star back to Zebulon. The journey takes 15 days and is almost an extended holiday for the BHG members who are transported in First Class Luxury, courtesy of the Pan Galactic Company for delivering their flag ship intact, back to PGC headquarters.
Upon arriving planet side at Volturnus, xZot and his team are whisked away by Eorna government officials who deliver the group to their destination far below the crystal city of Volkos.
"Welcome back everyone." Commander Jameson greets the team enthusiastically when they arrive in his briefing room. "I trust you are all ready to enter stasis once more." He smiles again "Of course this development with the Sathar and the Zurraqor working together is likely to complicate matters somewhat but I'm sure our hosts have factored this into their Great Plan." Jameson uses a remote control to dim the lights and bring up some of the teams research data on a wall sized display screen from studying the zurraqor prisoners and autopsies conducted on several corpses.
"The Eorna are most appreciative of recieving this information prior even to the UPF getting this intelligence." Jameson reports. "As a gesture from the eorna, your salvaged ship has been transported to a shipyard in the Zebulon system and will be stored and maintained for the team indefinately and at minimal cost to the VTC. Congratulations, you now have your very own, fully operational spaceship. Now you just have to learn how to fly it."
"Before we send you back to the statsis chambers I understand there have been questions relating to the motivation of the Sathar and Zurraqor to board the OMICRON. The Eorna have also been concerned abut this turn of events and have been studying the mission tapes and reports." An image appears on the display screen showing a grainy still image from the final firefight in the outer airlock. On the scren the BHG can see a sathar bending over to pick up a medkit dropped by one of the zurraqor. "They isolated an incident in the main airlock at the end of the firefight when a sathar and a zurraqor attempted to remove one of the OMICRON's medkits from the ship. The medkit was identified and quarantined until an analysis of the contents could be made." Another picture replaces the image of the sathar, this one clearly shows several sealed vials inside a medkit. "These vials were found to contain a new, lethal, potentially devastating virus. The Eorna are continuing to study this virus and it's links to the sathar/zurraqor alliance." Jameson flicks off the disply screen and brings the lights back up.
"Well unless there are any questions, report to the stasis labs and I'll see you all at your next mission briefing." With that, Jameson answers any follow up questions and leaves the conference room while the Black Hand Gang prepare for their next one way trip through time.
Frontier Date 53.165
  12 years, 201 days, 4 hours, 50 minutes after entering stasis the Black Hand Gang are once again revived.  It is now Frontier date 53.165 and the Black Hand Gang have another employment contract, this time their employer is the CDC.  Once the entire team has been defrosted they assemble in the briefing room and await their instructions.  Jameson enters the briefing room and begins by bringing up some background information on the Cassadine Development Corporation.  After giving the BHG a few minutes to review the information Jameson informs them that the VTC received an information package from CDC headquarters requesting assistance.
"It seems the BHG has earned a reputation for being able to handle difficult tasks and still remain relatively neutral in the ongoing Corporate Negotiations." James adds wryly.  The Eorna and I agree that you all have the required skills to deal with this engagement and we have taken the step of transporting you to Gruna Garu before disengaging the stasis modules.  Once you have viewed the information package from CDC we will transfer you to an orbiting space station where you can rendevous with the CDC ship taking you to your mission objective.
  "Happy Hunting Gang!"
  Gleep takes the time prior to the briefing to purchase some items before leaving the planet. He purchases 2 backpacks, 2 belt packs, 10 Gyrojet clips, an extra chronocom, 10 Frag grenades, 5 tangler grenades, 2 smoke grenades and 3 incendiary grenades. After resting all this time, he feels ready to stretch his legs and get into some minor action.
  The slightly overweight and balding man in the trivid picture is still readily recognizable as Karral Willthatch.  Formerly famous as a daring adventurer, he has turned his energies toward running his multimillion credit corporation, now, as chairman of the board.  He begins to speak.
  "I am sure you are all curious about your mission with the Cassidine Development Corporation.  As you know, CDC tries to develop star routes to undiscovered worlds, then exploit the wealth of those worlds before larger corporations can move in and take over.  Ideally, we have moved on to other areas before our chief competitors, the Pan-Galactic and Streel Corporations, move in to begin their wholesale operations.
  "You do not know that CDC located one of the richest deposits of heavy metals in the known galaxy on Alcazzar, in the Rhianna system.  We have been mining there secretly for two years.
  "Last week, however, communications from our Alcazzar compound suddenly ceased.  At the same time, remote survey-satellite transmissions indicated the presence of another settlement on Alcazzar.
  "Your first mission objective is very straightforward:  Go to Alcazzar and determine what happened to our outpost and staff of 12 there.  Rescue the staff, if possible.
  "If foul play is involved, you have a second mission objective:  Learn who is responsible.  If, as we suspect a rival corporation is interfering with our operations, you must contact us via subspace radio, and identify the culprit.  Then, while we verbally make our commitment on Alcazzar clear to the foe, you must strike back at their operations, terminating it, if at all possible.
  "Needless to say you will be in a position of high risk.  Let me assure you that, should we emerge victorious, all of you will be very well taken care of. Furthermore, Alcazzar has much potential and will eventually develop; skilled individuals with knowledge of the planet will be in commanding positions.  I'm sure some things begin to come clear now, including the high rate of pay on this job.
  "You should understand, now, why we gathered this team of skilled and experienced agents.  This will not be the first time any of you have participated in conflict on an outpost world.  You all know that the UPF generally turns its back on these little wars, leaving private concerns to settle them in their own way.  We at CDC try to avoid outright hostility.  But the wealth on Alcazzar and the likelihood of an attack on our staff warrant this kind of mission!"
  Suddenly the image of a planet, bright against the blackness of space, replaces the chairman.  A voice begins to narrate.
  "Alcazzar's climate and seasonal changes are very unusual because the planet does not rotate as it orbits its star, Rhianna.  Thus, all areas of the planet except both polar caps, pass from a long summer, during which the star never drops below the horizon, to an equally long winter when the star is never seen.  The largest of two continents circles the globe, separating two large oceans, one in the north and one in the south.  Many lakes and rivers break up both continents.  The terrain varies from steep stone mountains to vast plains and forests."
  The narrator pauses, and the image expands until a hemisphere of green is visible opposite a cloak of ice.  As details become clearer, you see a pleasant expanse of plains and forests, similar to the huge parks of Triad.  The narrator continues.
  "Lush grasses cover the plains, which in lower areas, turn to boggy marshes.  The large trees do not shed their needles at any time in the year. During the day, which is the summer, the sun, Rhianna, is always visible from the temperate zone, providing constant illumination.  Most clouds remain over the ice in the night or winter, region.  Thousands of clear brooks and streams running from mountains and glaciers keep the summer region well watered, despite an almost total lack of rain."
  The image of Alcazzar expands even more, revealing a narrow stretch of plains and forest between a rugged mountain range and Alcazzar's Great Sea, the southern ocean.  A light blinks at the mouth of a mountain valley.
  "The light indicates the location of our compound, which was built over a tremendous deposit of gold and other heavy metals."
  Another light blinks, at the mouth of a valley about 120 kilometres away.
  "The second light marks the location of the new settlement discovered by satellite.  This new settlement is on one of our first test sites, a potentially rich mineral deposit.
  "Nothing is known about creatures, if any, that live on the ice fields.  The CDC Twilight Moon expedition's environmentalist reported that many types of animals exist in the summer regions, however.  Most of these types are mammals, the rest an assortment of harmless insects.  Of the mammals, only three are large enough to conceivably affect your mission: the gwerrah, a huge shambling omnivore known to inhabit the hilly and mountainous regions; the sky-shrike, a medium-sized carnivore that flies in huge, soaring packs; and the lokkuku, a primate with some intelligence and a noted tendency toward pranks."
  "More Trivid images appear.  First, a stocky quadruped covered with coarse black hair is shown towering over an explorer.  The gwerrah could have crushed the vehicle without difficulty.  Next a flight of sky-shrikes--dog-like creatures with huge, leathery wings seems to soar through the briefing room.  Finally, a lokkuku, a little creature that is almost comical after the other two, blinks into sight.  Looking much like a small Yazirian, it tilts its head quizzically and then scampers away on all four feet.
  The lights come up quickly as the trivid images fade out.  A security robot enters and hands you a system brief, an equipment list and two maps. The robot informs you that, as is standard procedure on outpost worlds, the CDC compound contained a cache of heavy weapons.  The weapons are underground, below the very centre of the maintenance garage.
  The robot answers questions for 15 minutes, then, escorts the team aboard the "Nightrunner", a fast CDC freighter preparing to lift off in two hours.  CDC provides each employee with the equipment listed on their Requisition Forms and CDC also provides the following items that the team must divide among themselves. 4 holoflares, 2 radiophones, 1 polyvox, 2 freeze fields, 2 pair of magnigoggles, 2 infrared jammers, 5 water packs. The robot also informs the team that level 6 technicians can fuse a nuclear reactor into a worthless lump of radioactive slag, a very efficient way to shut down most mining operations.  Common sense suggests that if the CDC compound was indeed attacked, its reactor was probably fused.  The fusing process can only be performed by a level 6 technician, and is not reversible.
  At the end of the briefing several team members immediately complete their equipment requisition forms and submit them to the security robot before it leaves the briefing.  The rest of the team have packs assembled for them by CDC staff and the Black Hand Gang's personal equipment is also stored aboard their transport vessel.  As the crew travel to their assignment Con approaches his young commander xZot.
  "I don't know boss, anything could have happened to them on that planet.  Maybe they expended their operation finding another deposit of something.  Could be pirates, could be they said TO CDC piss off and went into business for themselves.  I have a feeling we can find ourselves in the middle of some corporate war.  I am sure our benefactors have a better use for us than taking a look-see at one of their operations.  If we tell them its PGC or Streel, you know they are going to strike back at them."
  "Whadya mean, 'they'?"  OMAC interjects.  "We got the gig because they know 'we' can strike back."  The big human smiles at his companion.
  "I just have a bad feeling about this job."  Con continues, "We can solve the problem, but it's just going to create a bigger mess for someone else. I'll see if I have any luck with the crew.  Maybe I will be able to sweet talk someone into volunteering some intel that we don't know.  Maybe someone here has some friends at the CDC facility or met someone on a previous trip in."  After speaking his peace he leaves xZot's quarters.
  After a quick lift-off, the "Nightrunner" starts accelerating to jump speed, bound for Alcazzar.  The crew of the freighter is close-mouthed and unfriendly.  They do not even engage in the simplest conversation, seeming to desire no knowledge of your mission.
  If the compound was attacked, identifying the guilty party should not be difficult; only the Pan Galactic and Streel corporations have the resources to pull off such an attack so deep in uncharted space.  However, if PGC or Streel are responsible, terminating one of their operations will be quite a project.  Frontal assaults on armed compounds are seldom successful.
  One way to shut down a mining operation is to break into the main compound and fuse the reactor core, leaving the outpost without power. Another tactic is to destroy all the processing equipment which is probably also in the main compound.  Obviously shutting down a rival mining operation won't be easy!
  During the four day voyage, Con observes the crew, hoping to access a computer that could give him a roster of personnel at the mining station, if that is possible but his efforts are in vain.
  The CDC "Nightrunner"s captain, a human named Gerfritz Dale, will respond if the characters insist on speaking to some member of the crew. Captain Dale is a gruff old spacer.  He ordered his crew to keep silent because those were his instructions.  He is sympathetic to the BHGs' mission, and may bend the rules very slightly if the BHGs ask him for aid.
Frontier Date 53.169
  A shuttle from the "Nightrunner" sets the team down on Alcazzar, 2 kilometres north of the CDC compound.  Captain Dale won't land a shuttle any closer because hostile forces may occupy the compound.  He will not allow a shuttle to fly over or near the other compound.
  The shuttle doors open onto a meadow that is radiant with flowers of every colour.  Tall trees surround the clearing, blocking any view of the compound about 2 kilometres away to the south.
  "Move It!" the pilot growls, obviously eager to return to the security of the freighter above.  The shuttle quickly lifts away, leaving a scorched patch of earth among the flowers.
  You have instructions to contact the "Nightrunner" every 20 hours.  The "Nightrunner" will remain in orbit around Alcazzar, waiting for information from you.
  xZot and his team immediately notice the light gravity
  "Zero point eight G's."  X'anthe reports after checking the scanners in her Envirokit.
  "OK we'll split into three elements for the route march."  xZot decides.  "OMAC, you and the three Dralasites are Combat Team A on the right. Siu-Ling, Con, Crisbel and Kane take the left.  Raid, you go with them for Tech support.  I'll keep Sp'ock and the science team with me in the centre."  After a brief consult with Sp'ock, xZot orders Siu-Ling to take point with a compass and gives her the heading to the CDC camp.
  The BHG have no trouble reaching the CDC compound in one hour.  The walk takes them through a majestic forest of tall trees and little underbrush.  The woods remain silent during this walk, and the adventurers see no creatures.  They do notice, however, a number of large fruit on the ground.  Looking up, they see the same kind of fruit growing from the large trees that make up most of the forest.  Each fruit is about 50 centimetres in diameter and contains a hard pit, 10-15 centimetres across.
  Up ahead, Siu-Ling can make out the compound's reactor tower.  Soon, the wire fence surrounding the compound becomes visible.  The entrance gates in the fence are swinging loosely, obviously blasted open.  A security robot stands motionless just inside the gates.
  The compound contains four buildings, the largest of which is the reactor and processing plant.  Several antennas and a shattered radar ball are mounted atop the reactor's cooling tower.  A large building next to the processing plant is the maintenance garage.  On the east side of the compound are two smaller buildings.  The smallest of these, the computer shed, also has an antenna atop it.  The other building is the barracks. Three heavy duty robots, another security robot and a maintenance robot are visible.  None of them are moving.
  Signs of damage are apparent.  The maintenance garage has a large hole in its north wall, and several skeletons are sprawled about the compound.  Massive piles of tailings (the waste products of the mining operations) sit outside the fence behind the processing plant.
  "I suggest taking some of the pits from the fruit back in the forest and throwing them at the robots and buildings and seeing if there is an ambush waiting." Gleep suggests to his team mates. "If we can throw from cover, we can see if there is any reaction to the noise." Several team members disperse among the trees collecting the fruit and pips Gleep referred to. Gloo comes up to Gleep.
  "Have you lost your mind Gleep?" he replies in a low grumble, "Throwing things at a security bot is just as likely to cause it to shoot at us."
  "Gentlemen, gentlemen." Con says, involving himself in the conversation, "It would be better to toss a pit or rock or something to see if the robot is functioning. It's better than letting one of us get blown to bits, right?" Con picks up several pits and heads back toward the CDC compound. Raid will bioscan some sample fruit on the way to the compound and save the pit.
  "How many of the fruits appear to be partially eaten?" Siu-Ling asks.
  "Not many from the looks of these." X'anthe answers "But it's hard to say with the pits," she continues "the fruit could have simply rotted off the pit, or the pits could have been picked clean."
  "I would also recommend that our first objective is the supposed weapons cache under the maintenance building." Gleep continues, "I would rather have a heavy weapon if there is something really wicked out here!"
  Gloo turns and points to Raid. "We can just as easily get holo-boy over there to mosey on up and take a looksee with his holobelt and one of those Infrared-Jammers they gave us and since he is our roboticist as well he could probably turn it off before it even knew he was there." Several heads begin to nod along with Gloo's comments, "I want to see about the armoury as much as you do Gleep, but I would like to do it alive, we have the initiative right now, I see no reason to give it away. There's plenty of time to screw the mission up later." Gloo uses a pair of magnigoggles and continues to look over the compound. "That briefing mentioned one of the best ways to shut an operation down was to fuse the reactor, should have our toxyrad gauges out to be safe".
  Siu-Ling scans the compound again, using the second set of magnigoggles supplied by their employer. "Despite the damage to the buildings, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of damage to the security, heavy-duty, or maintenance robots." The sniper reports. Gloo looks over the bots and grumbles,
  "They attacked the compound and left bots they could have used to mine with, I would have stripped this place clean."
  "Your mother wears army tents." Gleep whispers the Dralasite curse to Gloo. "I still think that checking to see if the robots are even functional before anyone goes near is a smart thing. If there is a creature that would play jokes anyway, any sentient being in the compound might think that a noise of a thrown pit is just that. Might save us having to save Raid." Gloo turns to Con,
  "Tossing Pits is all well and good but if you have somebody they might not be able to see even with IR sensors running around all tossing the pits would do is alert them that something is up, but if you'd prefer to have to fight your way in be my guest and toss away." and gestures to the base. Gloo looks around and continues "Even if they are CDC bots, we won't be listed as friends anyways will we, since we just got here and nobody could tell them to expect us. The bots may think we are bad guys and those remains over there certainly aren't going to help us."
  Suddenly Gleep's radiophone bursts to life as Captain Dale radios from the "Nightrunner",
  "I am under attack by an unidentified assault scout ship and must leave the Rhianna system to save my crew and ship; good luck."
  "You gotta be shittin' me!"
  "No fuckin' way!"
  "Here we go again." xZot sighs as the rest of his team let fly with a stream of invectives at their new found abandonment.
  Fifteen minutes of venting later xZot recalls his team.
  "We'll compromise," xZot decides. "Con, you throw your missiles, then Raid will go in and recon up close. Everyone else take up covering positions." xZot looks over at Sp'ock who is making his own assessment of the tactical situation. Sensing his commander's gaze, Sp'ock turned his antennae in zXot's direction as he voiced his opinion.
  "It matters not, we must advance. We were only able to bring light weapons and limited ammunition with us travelling on foot from the shuttle to here. If our rivals are here in strength then we will need those heavy weapons. We must pursue an assault."
  Raid waits while Con throws pits into the compound, and then prepares to move forward if it looks safe to do so. Seeing the wisdom in his team-mate's action, Kane assists Con with his Pitted Fruit barrage into the compound's inner perimeter. He continues this until Raid makes ready to enter the CDC compound, a signal that Kane will interpret to halt as the science officer feels confident that area is safe enough to reconnoitre. After half a dozed fruit pits are hurled inside the compound there is no reaction at all from the robots scattered about. Raid announces his intention to scout ahead, he nods at Gloo and activates his holoscreen along with an IR jammer.
  "I'm going in." Raid says as he disappears behind his holoscreen and heads towards the gate.
  Gleep takes aim into the compound with his meagre laser rifle, watching carefully for movement or reaction to what can only be seen as a pity full effort to gauge reaction. Seconds later the Dral is grinning wildly at his own unintentional pun, a particularly human aspect of humour he had begun enjoying of late.
  Borovski is perplexed by the groups preoccupation. Demonstrating, he has no time for food fights with inanimate tin cans. "Just say the word, and I'll start creating a pile of paper clips and microchips. I've nuked 'em before & I'll nuke 'em again". At this point Kane then taps the Rifleman on the shoulder and says "Con, let's cover him;" Pointing out the pair of vantage points offered from behind the front gate posts of the compound's wire fencing. If the rifleman is in agreement with Kane's assessment that the gate posts will provide both good cover as well as an unobstructed field of fire into the compound along Raid's indicated pathway, then the pair will sprint into position. Once there, they will kneel and set-up a crossfire for fire support should Raid need assistance, their rifles at the ready.
  Con nods to Kane in agreement. He unslings his rifle from his shoulder and sets up in a position where he and Kane can catch the robot in a cross fire situation in order to protect Raid. Con is thinking that if the bot does decide to fire on Raid we can distract it with fire from multiple directions. Once he is set he will lob one of the pits near the bot to see how it will react. Gloo readies his laser rifle set on 10 and aims at the bot hoping not to fire on it.
  Raid checks the robot near the gate first, and notices that is switched on.
  "Hey Raid, that bot is facing inwards and not at us, see if you can deactivate it, if it's still good anyways." Con calls out to his comrade. Raid quickly removes the access panel and 60 seconds later the robot is deactivated. Raid then moves to the nearest building entrance and peeks inside the Maintenance Garage. The doors to this large single room are open, revealing three parked explorers and the remains of a blown-up aircar. The explorers do not appear damaged. In addition to the hole in the wall that the characters could see from outside the compound, this building has a number of blast holes in the roof.
  The explorers are typical examples of this type of vehicle. Each can carry six passengers (including human sized robots), and has three entry/exit points. A small door at the right front of the vehicle leads to the driver's seat; a large, double door at the back, allows large items to be loaded and unloaded; and a small hatchway in the centre of the roof allows one character to ride with the upper part of his body outside the vehicle. The explorers can carry two extra passengers on top, if necessary.
  Raid flicks on his chronocom and reports back to the team on his find.
  "You want to come in and secure the garage first sir? Or should I check out the rest of the buildings?" Raid asks.
  Outside the perimeter some of the BHG are beginning to get agitated at the wait, Raid has been inside the compound for several minutes with no reaction at all to the barrage of fruit pits or the deactivation of the security bot. Borovski turns to OMAC and says,
  "There's weapons in there, whaddya say we go get our share?" Regardless of OMAC's response, Boro thinks to himself, "There's more to this place than a couple of recycled toaster ovens acting as possible security because if that was the case, they would have sent some galactic scouts to earn a badge." He then locks, loads and prepares to head toward the underground weapons cache.
  On the right, Siu-Ling and Crisbel take up positions along the fence line covering the compound while on the left Gleep and Gloo do the same. Boro and OMAC advance through the gate and head for the Maintenance Garage. Behind the front line, xZot, Sp'ock and the others wait to see what develops next.
  Activating his chronocom, Kane asks Raid about the condition of the security robot.
  "Does the combat droid show any signs of battle damage or fatigue?"
  "The security bot looked functional." Raid answers, "I deactivated it, but we could easily reprogram it for our own use I suppose. No visible signs of battle damage."
  "Thanks Raid." replies Kane into his chronocom. After taking several seconds to consider his team-mate's assessment of the droid, Kane speaks again. "Kane to xZot. Maybe we should let Raid check out all the other droids in the compound first and see if they too have been activated and are still intact/fully functional; and if so, have him deactivate them before we all go rummaging around this place looking for the weapons cache. This could be a trap were about to stumble into."
  xZot orders Raid to deactivate the heavy duty mining robot near the garage while the rest of the team weigh up their options.
"I am 98% positive that this is a trap of some kind." Kane continues speculating aloud. "Who in their right mind would do this kind of damage to a base, but leave fully functional and salvageable combat and mining droids behind intact? No one would unless it was part of some kind of trap.
  "Agreed." xZot replies.
  "For all we know, those mining robots could have our heavy weapons mounted internally and could just be waiting for the signal or a programmed stimulus to attack. For that matter, they might be wired to act as timed detonators for explosives set to blow the compound and us, when activated again!"
  "Now who's paranoid?" OMAC quips at Kane's musings.
"It may be a more prudent move to have Raid deactivate all the robots first while he is still protected by his holo-camouflage and the IR Jammer before the rest of us enters this compound." Kane suggests.
Gleep recommends that it might be best that Raid at least deactivate all of the robots within view of the entrance to the maintenance hanger first. "We can then move in and use it for cover. We can also store excess equipment in one of the explorers to unencumber ourselves. I certainly don't need to carry an extra pack right now, I hope. We can then spread out in teams from that point and check out the remaining buildings to prevent someone attacking from the right if we go left.
  "Time is a factor now. Any biological defenders were possibly alerted by any number of things by now." xZot answers. The commander advances to the fence line and examines the fence closely. "This looks like an electric fence but the power is out." He announces
Borovski flicks on his chronocom "xZot. Boss....... it's Boro, I feel like I'm standing at the entrance to the party and I can't get in because I'm under dressed. I need some of those heavy duty weapons to complete my ensemble. Besides, if it is a trap, and it gets sprung, then Raid's going to be the solitary target. I'm thinking it's time move on in and get the party started". Borovski heads towards Maintenance garage looking back his pseudo shoulder towards OMAC "How bout you lead on? and stop thinking you can hide behind me"
"If this is a trap," Raid says over the chronocom,"you should use the buildings as visual cover and stay out of the line of sight of the remaining robots. Maybe you could cut a hole in the fence and come in from the rear of the garage where I am. Then we can plan our next move. The fence should be checked for security systems before any cutting, though."
  Con can't do anything about the fence, but agrees with Raid. He continues to keep Raid covered just in case something decides to jump him.
  Hearing Raid's report on the Maintenance Garage and after listening to the comm chatter, Mr Sp'ock decides to impose some order on the situation.
  "At 60 seconds per robot it will take too long to deactivate all those robots if there is some operational defensive system here. The entire action on the OMICRON only lasted a few minutes from start to finish." Sp'ock reminds his companions before issuing his orders. "Combat Team A secure the garage now, that's OMAC and the Drals." He begins, "Combat Team B will cover the compound. As soon as the garage is secure I will bring in xZot and the Command Team then I want both Combat Teams to converge on the computer shed. If there is an automated defensive system here, it will be controlled from there, let's take it out of the equation ASAP."
  Kane acknowledges the XO's orders and complies as instructed. Con continues to cover the team. Once they are in place, Con moves forward to "B" team, and preps for the next move. Gloo and Gleep follow Boro and OMAC to the garage where they conduct a cursory search for occupants. OMAC opens a com channel to xZot.
  "Nothing doing in the garage. As soon as Raid is done with the mining bot we'll move on the computer shed."
  "Roger that." xZot confirms as he signals Con and Kane to take a position near the first deactivated security robot. Siu-Ling and Crisbel move to covering positions at the gate posts. As soon as Raid finishes deactivating the mining robot he double checks his holoscreen is still activated and announces that he is heading for the computer shed.
  A jumble of debris, foot prints, and wheel marks cover the ground inside and around the compound. It's impossible to estimate the number of attackers, or determine any other details of the attack from the tracks and debris. The skeletons in the compound are the remains of the CDC mining staff. Sky-shrikes have picked the bones clean, but five Yazirian, a Vrusk, and five human skeletons are visible. The twelfth member of the crew, a dralasite, had no skeleton to leave behind.
  Raid approaches the building housing the compound's computer as both combat teams converge behind him and the rest of the team enter the compound. The building shows no signs of the battle that raged in the compound two weeks earlier. As Raid opens the door to the building, robots all around the compound spring to life, focusing their sensors and weapons on the nearest visible member of the BHG. In addition to the robots already visible in the compound, several more robots appear in the doorway to the barracks and another two emerge from the processing plant.
  Across the compound, fourteen sets of limbs level a veritable arsenal of Frontier weaponry at the automated enemy and once again, battle ensues.
Frontier Date 53.169 724 hours
  As fate would have it, Con is the first one to open the proceedings. With his laser rifle naturally aimed to his left as he approached the computer shed, Con swings his rifle up at the first maintenance bot exiting the barracks. Firing twice, he hits the bot both times (18 points each) and the battle is joined. The two heavy duty mining robots closest to Gleep are next to act. One wields a huge drill, the other a rock crusher and both come at the dralasite tech. Fortunately for Gleep, their size inhibits their attacks and Gleep manages to evade both machines. He uses his laser pistol, set on 5 and aims at the nearest of the robots. Firing twice, Gleep hits with the first shot (27 points) as he steps between OMAC and Borovski as he tries to move to the southeast, avoiding the fire from his own team.
  "OMAC, you take out the solitary security bot to your east and I'll begin to introduce myself to the welcoming party exiting from the reactor and processing plant". Borovski announces. Laser pistol remaining set on 10 SEU and holstered as Boro notices that the enemy are bunched together. Over his chronocom he continues, "There in a tight bunch, Gleep & Gloo, I'm going to Frag 'em straight up. Are you with me if we then take 'em head on?" Boro removes 3 frag grenades, one with each pseudopod, and unleashes a pair of them at the approaching group of security and heavy duty robots. His first grenade misses it's intended target and rolls behind the main grouping, the ensuing explosion only causing minor damage to the drill wielding mining bot (21 points). The second grenade lands right in the centre of the group of hostile robots. The mining bot closest to Boro, Gleep's target, takes the brunt of the explosion (40 points) while the other mining bot and both security robots suffer minor damage (20 points each).
  Back at the rear of the column, X'anthe moves over toward the immobilised security robot near the gate seeking cover. As she heads for cover X'anthe fires twice at the security robot coming to life near the barracks and is delighted to see both shots hit their mark (25 & 31 points). Ahead of her, Siu-Ling takes careful aim with her laser pistol set on maximum and shoots the maintenance bot in the barracks doorway. Her mechanical opponent wobbles as the beam takes out much of it's sensory equipment with a devastating head shot (59 points).
  Anticipating friendly casualties, Sn'iktl dashes forward to the side of the reactor building trying to stay low and out of the enemy line of fire while he keeps his senses tuned to the imminent needs of his healing profession.
  Armed with nothing more than a vacuum, the damaged robot outside the barracks attacks Siu-Ling but the lithe sniper easily evades maintenance droid. In the barrack doorway another pair of equally poorly armed robots attack Kane who also manages to avoid injury, using the doorway for cover as he prepares his own assault. Behind Kane, Crisbel and McKilin react by pouring laser fire into the droid now attacking Siu-Ling. Crisbel hits once (26 points) while McKilin adds moral support but misses twice.
  Down by the computer shed, OMAC levels his automatic rifle at the security robot near the shed and opens fire. The security robot is struck by several bullets from OMAC's burst but remains functioning (31 points).
  "Just being paranoid, eh?" Kane sarcastically imitates OMAC's voice over the comm net as he lets his rifle swings behind his back and removes a tangler grenade from a vest restraint and primes it for contact detonation. Kane holds the grenade aloft for a few seconds before shouting "Slime in the hole!" and tosses the tangler grenade into the open doorway of the compound's barracks. The grenade sails over most of the robots in the barracks but some the threads from the resulting explosion do splash across the rearmost robot. Unfortunately for Kane, the tangler threads are not strong enough to impede the functions of most fully functioning Frontier robots.
  Raid doesn't hang around in the doorway. He immediately pushes the door open into the computer shed looking for some control mechanism to shut down the robots and sees two more security robots immediately inside the door. After seeing the two security bots inside the shed, Raid closes the door most of the way. He leaves it open just a crack and shoves a fragmentation grenade through the small opening with enough force to roll about 4-6 meters into the room. "Two more bots in the shed!" Raid yells. "I'm giving them a frag!" He finishes as the grenade explodes harmlessly in the far corner of the computer shed.
  Observing the containment of the robots in the barracks, Sp'ock strolls calmly forward, levelling his laser rifle as he advances. When he reaches a point level with Sn'iktl, Sp'ock opens fire at the northern most heavy duty robot, hitting it once with his laser rifle (51 points). xZot advances with his security chief but his laser pistol fire is ineffective. Opening a com channel, xZot issues new order for Raid. "Use your grenades on the robots behind you Raid. We might need evidence from those computers you are throwing grenades at!" The yazirian commander explains.
  Just as the compound security robots bring their weapons to bear, Gloo fires his laser rifle twice at the heavy duty mining robot only meters away from him. Both beams tear into the robots body, melting away chunks of metal (64 & 51 points). OMAC receives fire from the security bot near the computer shed, one beam lighting up his albedo screen (7 SEU's). The security bots from the reactor building fire two shots each at Boro and Sp'ock respectively, both BHG members are struck once each. Both Sp'ock's and Boro's albedo screens flares brightly (10 and 12 SEU's) protecting their wearers from harm.
Frontier Date 53.169 07:24 hours + 6 seconds
  Feeling exposed with nothing but a robot to hide behind, X'anthe decides to seek cover with Sn'iktl behind the corner of the refinery building. The tall, ebony skinned, environmentalist sprints across the compound to join her companions.
  Meanwhile, members of Combat Team B begin clearing the compound. Crisbel fires twice at the maintenance bot attacking Siu-Ling and disables it permanently (32 points). Con laughs at Kane's slightly off imitation of OMAC. The former rifleman keeps his laser rifle set at 5 SEUs and helps out Kane with the maintenance robots for the time being. Con's first shot finishes off the maintenance bot in the barracks doorway (23 points) and his second shot grazes the next bot (10 points) in line.
  Grenadier Borovski continues hurling frag grenades at robots with great success, his next two missiles landing in between, and dealing out serious damage, to all four robots (security bots 51 & 74 points, mining bots 60 each). "Prepare to become that pile of paperclips and microchips splattered everywhere." Chuckles Borovski while he 'plays'. As Combat Team B clears the way, McKilin decides to rejoin HQ squad and races across the compound to the corner of the refinery building. While McKilin makes his move, Siu-Ling carefully squeezes off another blast, striking the next maintenance droid in the chest (48 points) and emptying her pistol clip.
  Following his commander's order's, Raid turns and lobs a frag grenade onto the same spot targeted by Borovski. The resulting explosion, although not devastating on it's own, adds enough damage to finish off a security robot and damage all three remaining robots (27 points to 1 security and 2 mining bots, 14 points to security bot).
Mining Robots Attack
  OMAC becomes the first BHG casualty when he ends up on the receiving end of a rock crusher wielded by one of the mining robots (29 points, half to suit) and Gloo manages to avoid becoming the second casualty when he avoids the drill thrust at him by the other mining bot. Kane and Con aren't so lucky as three maintenance bots exit the barracks and attack Siu-Ling and her to male companions. Siu-Ling avoids injury but Con is stabbed with electrosnips (8 points, half to suit) and Kane is burned by a lasoldering iron (11 points, half to suit).
  Sp'ock fires twice again at the mining bot with the drill, his second blast ripping away more metal (62 points) as the BHG press their attack. Alongside the security chief, commander xZot fires as well but again misses everything. Seeing OMAC being struck from behind causes Sn'iktl to flinch momentarily before he skitters out from behind the refinery wall to assist his wounded team mate. Dodging flailing robotic arms and BHG weaponry, Sn'iktl reaches for a sprayhypo of biocort as he ducks and weaves his way to OMAC's side but the human warrior ignores the medic as he empties his autorifle into the security robot in front of him (37 points). Standing next to OMAC, Gleep fires twice at the mining bot that attacked from behind and somehow manages to miss with both beams and the fierce battle rages about him. Gleeps' plan to use the computer shed as cover, still looking unlikely.
  Kane decides to use both his electric sword and laser pistol, still on setting 5, to fight his closest robotic opponent. He fires once at the droids cylindrical body (31 points) as he draws his sword. Gloo defends himself with another pair of laser beams lancing out toward his attacker but only one beam of concentrated light strikes home (48 points), not enough to stop the robot attack.
  Now the calibrated crossfire from the two remaining security robots manages to catch four BHG members. Sn'iktl, OMAC, Gleep and Borovski are all struck with laser blasts, lighting up their albedo defences (12, 9, 8 and 10 SEU's)
Frontier Date 53.169 07:24 hours + 12 seconds
  "Get a paper clip out of this!" OMAC quips to Boro as he drops his empty autorifle and reaches for a pair of pistols. In his right hand he aims and fires a burst from his autopistol at the security bot next to the computer shed, keeping a laser pistol in reserve. Lead strikes steel at high velocity and pieces of the security robot are literally torn from it's body as OMAC almost cuts the automaton in half with a hail of bullets (32 points).  
  Crisbel also drops his empty weapon and brings his laser rifle to bear, firing a pair of quick blasts at an unscathed maintenance robot behind Siu-Ling but by sacrificing speed for accuracy, the robot escapes unscathed. Robot parts, paperclips and microchips included, whizzed all around them. Siu-Ling drops her empty laser pistol and with maintenance robots almost on top of her, draws her vibroknife and stabs one of her attackers (12 points) in the torso.  
  Disappointed with the lacklustre results of his tangler attack, Kane continues to combat the maintenance droids up close and personal. He fires twice with his pistol and swings his electric sword enthusiastically but only manages to shoot the droid once (29 points).  
  Gloo backs up while switching his rifle's settings to 20, then continues firing on the heavy bot approaching him. His first blast (121 points) sends a shudder through the metallic monstrosity and his second shot finishes it (108 points), burning massive holes through the robots core.  
  Maintenance bots make poor combat troops and these are no different to the standard variety. Whilst they can absorb some punishment, their offensive capabilities are limited and all three droids fail to land blows on anyone from the BHG as the now one-sided, melee continues in the compound.  
  Borovski resists the temptation to lob more frag grenades and instead, withdraws his laser pistol from its holster, leaves it set on 10 before adjusting his sights onto the security bot in the doorway of the reactor and processing plant. He unleashes a volley of fire determined to take this obstacle out. His blast (56 points) takes the target cleanly in the head and decapitates the bot with a flash of light, heat and molten metal.  
  Mr Sp'ock runs around behind the disabled mining robot and fires at the last mining robot attacking OMAC from behind. He fires twice and misses both times, cursing at his poor shooting.  
  X'anthe and McKilin move to flank xZot and begin firing their laser pistols at the maintenance droids. McKilin manages to hit Con's opponent once (34 points) but barely slows it down. Con is grateful for the help as he fires at the bot that attacked him and Kane. In the restricted room of a melee he only manages to hit once with his rifle (17 points) and the fighting continues on.  
  Gleep forgoes his plan for cover until he has a clear shot at getting to it, instead he concentrates on removing the nearest threats first. Turning to face the mining bot behind OMAC he shoots it twice at point blank range with his pistol (28 & 29 points), slowly beginning to wear the robot down. Careful to avoid becoming the robots next victim, Sn'iktl injects OMAC with a dose of biocort as he quickly applies first aid to his friend (10 points back for OMAC).  
  Seeing that the combat has closed to point blank and melee range, Raid stops tossing grenades to avoid hitting friendlies. He considers trying to deactivate the last heavy duty bot but realises the fight will be well and truly over before he would have time to complete the task. He quickly decides that some laser work would be more appropriate for the job at hand and draws his pistol, firing twice at the robot (28 & 25 points) but not soon enough or deadly enough to save OMAC from a second strike from the rock crusher.  
  OMAC staggers forward as he is struck for a second, harder time from behind (38 points, half to suit) but Sni'ktl' timely medical assistance has kept the hardy warrior on his feet and in the action.  
  xZot smiles as he sees his team quickly dispatching the enemy forces. He stops and reloads his pistol as he takes in the last gasps of the compounds automated defences. 
Frontier Date 53.169 07:24 hours + 18 seconds
  Gloo curses as his next blast at OMAC's opponent misses and barely grunts his satisfaction when his second shot finds it's mark (94 points). The last remaining mining robot now responding sluggishly to it's programming lumbers slowly forward. Mack O'Malley, known to his companions as OMAC, the One Man Army Corp, swings around, bringing his autopistol to bear, the wounded warrior empties his weapon into the lumbering droid (29 points). From behind now the robot is hit again, this time Sp'ock firing a pair of laser beams hits once (49 points) as the Black Hang Gang pours it's concentrated firepower onto their adversary. Sni'ktl moves to take cover behind a destroyed security robot as the battle continues around him.
  X'anthe rests her head against the refinery wall as she reloads her pistol and takes stock of the situation. Remembering the briefing about sabotaging the nuclear reactor of a compound and her proximity to said reactor , the scientist glances at her toxyrad gauge and her eyes widen slightly at the detectable spike in background radiation readings. Turning to her left, X'anthe warns her leader, "Commander xZot, we've got a radiation leak from the reactor."
  Across the compound Con continues battle with his current opponent, firing and hitting twice (30 & 19 points) Con destroys his target then looks around for any surviving bots. Siu-Ling continues swinging at the robot in front of her, watching it wobble unsteadily as she plants her vibroblade into the junction of it's head and torso and saws violently (14 points). Taking his time, Crisbel steps around the wreckage of a destroyed robot and levels his rifle at the back of Siu-Ling's opponent. He pulls the trigger twice and blows the back off the droids head (30 points), ending it's career permanently.
  Raid does his best to deal out some laser blasts to the remaining robots and keep the team from getting pounded by rock crushers and drill bits. He fires twice at OMAC's attacker but in his caution to avoid his team mates, Raid ends up missing everything.
  Clearly impressed with his own skill, Borovski murmurs, "Like my Aunty Lortap used to say 'They can't aim & shoot without heads'." As he scours the surrounding area. "Hey OMAC, you gonna waste that bot or what?" Sighing at the lack of targets, Borovski decides to empty his clip in OMAC's support. He squeezes off a carefully aimed shot from his pistol and adds to the mining robot's discomfort (40 points) while drains off the remaining SEU's from his weapon.
  While McKilin reloads his laser pistol, xZot dashes forward, rases his arm over Gloo's head and fires a pair of laser beams at the mining robot. xZot's laser beams (34 & 40 points) deliver the Coup de Grace on the metallic behemoth and Kane, who is now warming to his combat role, delivers the final blow on the last maintenance robot, striking with both his electric sword and a blast from his laser pistol (33 & 23 points).
  With the last robot in the compound neutralized, Gleep heads for the garage and the explorers within, planning to get his communication equipment up and running to see if there is a signal controlling the robots. Boro, with his right pseudopod waving madly, attempts to attract xZot's attention in order to volunteer for the clean out of the garage. xZot shakes his head and sends Boro to the computer shed instead.
  Siu-Ling picks up her laser pistol again, sets it to 2, walks over to the ruined maintenance bots, their limbs twitching like cockroaches surrendering to that good night and shoots at point-blank range the hinges of robotic limbs that are still moving, saving the motherboards and chips in case the group wants to scavenge them. She then puts the setting back to 10, holsters her pistol, slings her rifle off her back and plugs in into her powerpack, setting it to 13.
  When the fighting stops, Raid walks over to the garage, climbs into the explorer nearest the door and starts it up.
  "OMAC, Con, Boro and Siu-Ling, I want you to neutralise the security robots in the computer shed with hand to hand combat. I don't want those computers damaged, they are most likely evidence and we might need it to cover our asses. Kane, Gloo and Crisbel, cover them form out here with Mr Sp'ock." The young yazirian leader turns to his science team, "Snik, you take X'anthe and McKilin and check out the barracks while I take the garage with Gleep and Raid." xZot pauses and considers the last building in the compound. "For now I want everyone to steer clear of the reactor building. Let's not go looking for more trouble than we already have!"
  Gleep drives the explorer slowly across the compound, passing the behemoth of the deactivated mining robot and pulling up alongside the stationary security robot near the front gate. While he considers how he can pack bot into the rear compartment, xZot checks out the next vehicle with Raid.
  "Well, well. What have we here?" xZot murmurs, indicating for Raid see the telltale wiring, partially concealed under the second explorer.
  "Looks like a booby trap boss." Raid replies as they both examine the undercarriage of the vehicle more closely.
  As the two technicians begin their detective work, Mack O'Malley charges through the door of the computer shed, sonic sword in hand and albedo screen flashing. Behind him comes Siu-Ling, Boro and Con, the lithe figure of Siu-Ling flashing forward, her sonic sword held aloft.
  Siu-Ling swings at the robot as she races down the wall, making room for the others to crowd into the room. Her sonic blade strikes the robot side (37 points) tearing away layers of armour and body work as OMAC lunges forward with his weapon (34 points) and penetrates the other robot's armour, cutting deep into it's internal mechanisms.
  Both security robots retaliate with laser fire, three of their four beams lighting up albedo screens as OMAC, Con and Boro are all struck once each (10, 12 & 10 SEU's) before Boro and Con swing and hit their respective targets (29 & 36 points).
  Before the robots can fire a second volley, Borovski stabs his opponent again (22 points) and OMAC finishes it off (36 points) with another well placed blow from his sonic sword. Siu-Ling attempts to repeat OMAC's act but it is Con who lands the last blow (31 points) when Siu-Ling somehow manages to miss.
  The four man whirlwind, or rather, two man, one woman and one dral tornado, suck in huge gulps of air as they take in their surrounding. Mack O'Malley hefts both dropped laser rifles from the security robots and carts them over to the door.
  "Someone wanna police up those power packs and we'll get the tech heads in here to sort out this lot." He thrusts a square jaw at the computer consoles as he heads back out into the compound.
  Snik, X'anthe and McKilin enter the building that was the barracks for the workers. Twelve bunks, an automated kitchen, a large table, and 18 chairs are the building's other contents. Looking closely around the shelter they notice clean spots at the foot of each bunk, where the worker's foot lockers were kept. Blast spots on the walls show that some laser and automatic rifle shooting took place in here.
  When OMAC informs xZot the computer shed is clear, xZot calls a conference of his techs and demolitions people to examine the booby trap under the explorer. After hearing their evaluations xZot orders his people back out of range of the expected blast radius as he prepares to diffuse the bomb himself.
  "As Commanding Officer you should delegate this job to another, to a specialist." Sp'ock objects
  "As the most experienced technician here, I have the most chance of success." xZot smiles as he counter's Sp'ock's rationale. "Now step back and don't make me order you." xZot almost pleads as reluctantly, Mr Sp'ock backs away with the rest of xZot's team.
  The yazirian commander and technician re-enters the garage, opens up his techkit and begins checking circuits and connections as he discards options and methodically traces the complex wiring of the booby trapped explorer. Seconds stretch into minutes and though they seem to stretch into hours for xZot and his friends it is indeed only minutes before the leader of the Black Hand Gang once again proves his mettle and successfully deactivates the rigged explorer. xZot climbs into the cab of the vehicle, starts the engine, not without a little apprehension and drives the explorer out of the garage to the applause of his team mates as they gather around their commander in the CDC compound.
  Gleep announces to the assemblage that he has set up his radiophone in the first explorer but has been unable to locate any other signals at this stage.
  "Boro, you can go and check out the new toys now." xZot announces as the combat specialists file into the garage to examine the weapons cache. Raid locates and flicks a switch that moves a plascrete slab that matches the rest of the floor, the weapons are hidden beneath floor, still in their transportation crates. Mr Sp'ock takes an immediate inventory of the find: 20 power beltpacks (50 SEU), 10 power backpacks (100 SEU), 2 heavy lasers, 2 recoilless rifles, 25 recoilless shells, 2 rocket launchers, 20 rockets for rocket launchers, 3 heavy weapon swivel mounts, 20 Autorifle clips and 20 SEU clips.
  The swivel mounts fit easily around the roof hatch of any explorer. A technician needs one hour to install a swivel mount and one heavy weapon on an explorer. No more than one heavy weapon can be mounted on one of these vehicles.
  While the combat elements of the BHG sift through their new toys, xZot and the technical staff head over to the computer shed. The building shows no signs, inside or out, of the battle that raged in the compound two weeks earlier. Inside the shed, several huge type 4 parabatteries sit against the south wall. A computer occupies most of the rest of the building and is still on when they enter the building. Gleep looks an enquiry at xZot who nods for Gleep to take a seat at the console. He quickly taps at the keys, "Level 3." he announces shortly then follows with, "Yeah they got computer security on board. You want me to try defeating it or bypassing?"
  "Try and bypass for now, we don't know how much time we've got." xZot responds.
  "OK boss." Raid quickly opens up an access panel on the machine while Gleep reaches for his sonic screw driver but after several minutes hands his tool over to his commander. "No joy for me, you want a try?"
  xZot takes the tool and sixty seconds later hands it back to Gleep and gestures once more at the seat in front of the console. Gleep sighs and takes a seat, quickly realising that none of the original programming remains in the computer. He continues working away at the keyboard, managing to recover some partial files which xZot is then able to further enhance. The pair end up with some rough pictures of the people who reprogrammed the computer.
  "Enlarge those images." xZot says to Gleep as they continue to try and enhance the images. On larger resampled files, they see that the reprogrammers wore corporate insignia on their suits.
  "Well, well, well, whaddya know." xZot speaks more to himself than his companions.
  "Streel huh!" Raid adds
  "Our old friends." Gleep finishes.

1 Experience Point

2 Experience Points

3 Experience Points

Bonus Points - Ship Naming Competition

Bonus Points - Ship Naming Comp. Winner


Crisbel, Sni'ktl, McKilin, OMAC, Sp'ock, xZot, X'anthe

Kane, Siu-Ling, Gloo, Boro, Gleep, Raid, Con

Kane, Con Gleep, Siu-Ling, Boro


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