Chapter 25  Revolution: 25.01  25.02  25.03  25.04  25.05  25.06  25.07  X Points  (53.190 16:02 - 54.314)

Frontier Date 53.190 16:02:00
   Con standing next to Raid.  "Damn. I stunk out here today.  That damn news jetcopter was a distraction, and the damn fools almost got themselves killed in the process."  Con looks up at the jet copter and gives them a mock salute to Charletta. " Be seeing you later sweetie, you need my lecture about keeping your ass out of a combat zone!"  Con now goes to each member of the team to make sure they are alright.
  As soon as most folks' backs are turned or their attention was on their weapons, Siu-Ling childishly approaches the fell beast and dumps a few rounds of gyrojet into its several heads.  "By Kali of Ipanema, I expel you from this world!"  She quotes the snazzy jingle from the hit holocomedy, "The Dral from Ipanema," a story about a sexy, young dralasite who falls in love with a vrusk from an aristocratic foreign family.
  Alyson looks at her wounds then at Kane's.
  "Do you feel as bad as I do?"  She asks before calling out, "Medic!  Is there a Medic?  We have wounded here."
  "My dear. I feel even worse."  Replies Kane to his wounded teammate.
  "You should be checked for neurotoxins."  Raid says to Alyson.  "The smaller variety of hydra can inject neurotoxins into its prey, so I can't rule out that this bigger one has similar body chemistry.  I'll radio the hospital and ask them to look into it."
  xZot and Sn'iktl arrive on the scene soon after the hydra is defeated and the wounded are escorted to the Central Hospital for treatment. Once he is assured all in the team are well, Con heads over to the hospital and get healed up.  Acknowledging Raid's medical assessment, Kane escorts Alyson to the hospital, himself in need of medical attention as well.
  The drallenilline* rush was over and after a quick dart removal and bandaging of his wound Doog had slipped away from the scene of the show down of the slug.  His reasons were twofold; he had promised to take care of the barber's rifle and he wasn't sure if the police would make an issue of it being a rifle when they finally showed up.  A crowd was forming from civilians who came out to rubberneck at the carnage wrecked by the escaped slug.
  "Amateurs."  He muttered. He loved the human expression but nobody could rubber neck like a dral.  "A few groups of people noticed him with the reproduction rifled musket and started cheering and slapping him on his back and soon he was thronged.  Luckily, Harvey the barber saw him coming and physically barred the door to his shop to all but Doog.
  "Well done!  How'd you like the rifle?"  Harvey exclaimed as he embraced Doog.
  "I couldn't tell if it shot high and to the right.  I think I was lucky if I even hit it."
  "You did fine!"  After a pause Harvey resumed.  "Normally, the one who fires one of these is the one who's responsible to clean it but I'll take care of that for you my friend."
  Doog came to full attention saluted and then formally presented the firearm to Harvey.  The barber returned the salute with even more flourish.  Then slapped Doog on the back,  "Come here, I want you to have this."  Reaching into the closet he withdrew the archaic uniform hat and expertly arranged it on Doog's head.  "Say, they said on the news you were reciting something what was that?"
  "The Charge of Clan Renegade."
   Harvey roared with laughter and after extracting a promise to meet for drinks with the rest of Harvey's regiment, Doog slipped out the far door to avoid the crowd.  But just before he did he says.  "Hey, if anyone comes asking for who it was that borrowed the rifle could you say it was a Dral named, Borovski Getmeov."  With a nod and a wink from the barber Doog slipped away to go nurse his wound.
  After a brief stay in the hospital for the wounded, xZot arranges for a discrete exit for his team members with instructions for all of them to steer clear of the media.
  "We don't need anyone drawing attention to us.  If anyone makes a connection between us and the original Volturnus expedition we could come under scrutiny, something the Eorna do not want."  xZot instructs his team members.  The team disband again throughout the city, most beginning training sessions or continuing their shopping expeditions.
  Con heads back to the hotel room for a nice sonic shower, something to eat and a quick change.  Once that is done it is off to the library and computer terminals to research his new best friend in the news copter.  After that its off to the Hole-In-The Wall for a nights entertainment.
  Siu-Ling plans to visit her stash where she keeps all of her toys and change out her inventory a bit, heading straight back to her hotel room to make the arrangements.
  After their release some time later, Kane begins formulating plans to return downtown to do a little shopping to replenish his ammunition supply and to acquire some additional skill training.  Turning to his companion, he asks.
  "Alyson, would you care to accompany me on a resupply run into down town?  Maybe Doog would also like to come along with us?"
  Doog keeps a low profile and other than the date for drinks with Harvey and his fellow re-enactors; which promises to be quite a blow out.
  While helping co-ordinate the medical attention, cleanup and recovery, Raid realizes how unprepared and uncoordinated the team had been in this encounter.  Raid replenishes his power supplies and ammo, along with his spent grenades, as soon as he finishes receiving medical attention.  He meets Con later that evening at the Hole-in-the-Wall to discuss these issues and just relax after all the chaos.  One giant hydra was enough for one day.  Raid and Con break away to a back booth with a bottle of Port Loren's best whiskey.
  "We stunk on ice today!"  Says the enforcer.  "That news copter was no help.  I thought they were goners there for a minute.  At least we kept the collateral damage down."
  "I need to get myself an oversized blunderbuss big bug gun for these odd encounters."  Raid answers Con, "Exotic Xenomorph hunters must know where you could find something like that.  Yeah we stank."  Raid orders an emission nebulae ale and watches the strange light patterns in the liquid beverage shifting into various shapes like tiny magnetic storms.  The light patterns show through the glass and onto the surface of the bar forming miniature displays that remind him of the northern lights and bringing back memories from his youth, adventuring in the higher latitudes of this planet.
  xZot joins Con and Raid in their booth.  Buying another bottle of whiskey, the young yazirian approaches his long time friends and companions.
  "Gentlemen," xZot begins, his tone of voice immediately getting their attention.  "I have decided to step down from active leadership duties for the BHG."  The commander announces.  "I never really asked for the responsibility in the first place and with Sp'ock now gone, I feel like I have lost my strong right arm."  He looks from one man to the other.  "The Black Hang Gang have always been a team, led by a team.  I think it is time for a new leadership team and I have recommended the two of you to replace myself and Sp'ock in the command structure."  xZot continues.  "There are other changes as well.  Doog and Alyson will be offered full membership to the BHG and shares in VTC.  Gloo is going to relocate to Volturnus to oversee the Brucebane operation and X'anthe will also be spending more time on Volturnus.  Our environmentalist has decided to move into zoology, quite literally.  She is establishing the VTC's first tourist attraction, the Volturnus Museum and Zoo." xZot pours out a round of drinks for his friends.  "So here's to the new leadership team for the Black Hand Gang, Lieutenant Commander Con Anderson and Lieutenant Commander Raid Array."  xZot raises his glass and drinks.  His announcement complete, xZot returns to the original conversation,  "So you were going to say Con?"
  Con takes another drink. "That reporter chick, might be a problem.  I am going to see what I can dig up on her.  Her entire life, from favourite colour to who she's been seen with outside the work place.  With the background on her, we might be able to know who we are dealing with and with the not so nice stuff, we have an edge on her if she ever decides to cause trouble for the team.  If she doesn't try to harm the team, then the info can stay in a safe place and never see the light of day.  Besides, having an 'ally' in the media might be a good tool to have if we need to leak or create a cover story to hide our operations.  What do you think?"  Con drinks again.
  Raid's mind drifts back to the conversation.  "If you can make a friendly contact in the media that would be great.  Just don't let them start demanding things from you."
  Con changes the subject again, "When we have this ship of ours, we are going to have more people on staff.  How about we assign this support staff to some of our guys to be sort of a liaison between the team, command structure and the crew?"
  Raid then addresses the organizational issues.  "Can we set that up on a chart or roster?   Exactly what constitutes support staff, team, command structure and the crew respectively?  And what is the function of each?  We could also divide into a Red team and Blue team for rapid response situations like today's or security situations aboard a ship.  Con, you could lead Red team weighted with more of our military oriented personnel, and I could lead Blue team made up of more of the technical skilled personnel. just a thought."
  xZot smiles to himself as the new commanders of the BHG slip into their new roles almost seamlessly.  Turning he calls Gleep over to join them in their informal briefing session.
  "So how are things going with the spaceship designs?"  xZot asks the Tech.  Gleep lets the group know that we have ordered two ships.
  "Folks, we have drawn up plans for a size 13 freighter, tentatively styled the 'VTC Fantom', pending a final decision by the team.  It is designed in a multi-mission capacity.  It will carry us in style, along with the pair of launches provided by Mack.  It is designed to get away from a battle, but to be able to pack a punch when it needs to.  The BHG will have luxury rooms onboard, even the crew will have fairly nice quarters.  While some of the cargo room is taken up with offence, defence and landing craft, there is still enough room to haul a lot, if needed.  Eventually we can build other freighters, as well as escort ships."  Gleep begins his run down of the situation.  "For now, we, that's Con, Crisbel and myself have ordered one other ship, a small, size 3 corvette, again tentatively named the 'VTC Stingray'.  The purpose of this ship is quick ingress/egress and the ability to run away from anything short of a fighter.  It is armed, but only as a precaution.  We were unable to find a shipyard that would allow military grade design, so we had to limit the options in that area on both ships.  We are waiting for the shipyard engineer to OK the final designs, which they have in hand.  As we 3 are paying for these first two ships from our pockets, we hope the BHG and the entire VTC will accept this with no fuss.  We do ask that the VTC pick up the cost of the crews, as they will be contracted through the shipyards for now.  We are offering a bonus package to foster loyalty."
  "The VTC will pay for the freighter and will also pay for the crews for the other ships.  To outsiders it will appear that the escort ships are subcontracted by the VTC."  xZot adds to the conversation."
  "Did you say escort ships?"  Gleep asks.  "We have only ordered one ship!"  The dral worries.
  "That's fine."  xZot replies.  "In her role of Zoo Keeper, X'anthe plans to buy and convert an Ag ship to transport life forms from other planets to join her new Zoo."  xZot explains.  "She will also be buying or building one or two smaller escorts to protect her operation and we will be able to hire the escorts to supplement our own force if necessary."
  "What are we building here?  A fleet?"  Con asks
  "The Eorna don't look at things quite the same way as we do."  xZot answers.  "They are not an aggressive race but they acknowledge the need for a presence in space, so rather than build a fleet as such, they are going to acquire fleets across the Frontier to act as their eyes.  We are the sharp end gentlemen."
  "Hey, I thought you were stepping down from active leadership?"  Con's eyes narrowed.  "Just what is going on here?"
  xZot smiles, "Well basically, everyone is being promoted.  Jameson is now Director of the Frontier Intelligence Division for the Eorna backed government of Volturnus.  I am now in his role as Commander of Operations, currently overseeing the implementation of the next phase of the Great Mission."  xZot continues to outline the rest of the plan for their immediate future.  "The Eorna government will offer a contract to the VTC to supply logistical support for a series of Volturnus Embassies and Consulates across the Frontier.  To fulfil these contracts the VTC needs to acquire ships to service a route from Zebulon to Prenglar via Truane's Star and Dixon's Star.  When the VTC has acquired additional ships, more routes will be added to the contract."  xZot pours another round of drinks as Con, Raid and Gleep take all this in.  "These contracts give the VTC the legitimacy to act in spheres of influence further away from Zebulon and thus allow the BHG to continue working on the Great Mission."  xZot turns back to Gleep,  "Tell me more about your capital ship?"
  "Ship hull size is 13, masked to look like a freighter, because it will be needed to carry cargo, outfitted to win in a fight against anything not built by the U.P.F."  Gleep begins his description.  "A launch and a cargo shuttle, taking up some of the space, but leaving enough for a good load if we have the need to act as haulers.
  "We need room for 2 launches for O'Malley's robots rescue squads."  xZot reminds Gleep, who makes some additional notes.
  "100 standard accommodations, nothing fancy so there is no 'pecking order' for rooms."  The dral technician continues.  "Crew of about 50 mercenaries, plus us filling in where we are able, or trained.  Full medical facilities with a trained doctor, because we are probably going to need it. Again, that will eat up some space, but that is part of having the larger hull size. I will give the weapons and defences once I know if we can get more bang for our many bucks."
  Kane joins the gathered team members at the booth at the rear of the Hole-In-The-Wall.
  "What's up guys?"
  "Just going over the final plans for our ships."  Gleeps says.  "We are still discussing the details but we are looking at a hull size 13-15 ship, atomic engines, hiring a crew, most likely.  We will be housing OMAC's robot army and are considering one or two smaller ships that can travel planet side."  Gleep answers Kane before getting back to the matter of crew.  "I will ask the shipyard about where to hire a crew.  We will pay 120% of the going rate for now, as a loyalty bonus.  We need a good pilot, co-pilot, ten man engineering crew, load master and crew, security chief. Others should all have some weapon skill.  Cook staff, cleaning crew, navigator, weapons crew.  Probably about 50 or so in the crew."  xZot nods at Gleep's summary.

  "That's a good start."  xZot agrees.  "We will get that underway ASAP and add more in the next phase."  Soon after xZot heads back to his hotel room and the rest of the team party late into the night before beginning their training regimens the next day.
  In the weeks following the battle with the hydra on the streets of Port Loren most members of the BHG are busily engaged in training sessions, too focused on the job at hand to concern themselves with the resulting news story of their actions defending the city's property and citizens.  In the immediate aftermath of the battle xZot arrived on the scene and invoked a media clause in their VTC contracts preventing any individual member of the team from participating in or profiting from any news events or stories resulting from their actions. These clauses now standard with many corporations on the Frontier to prevent head hunting from other corporations or industrial espionage were not really necessary for the BHG but rather to prevent the media from delving too deeply into the pasts of the various team members. Partially protected from outside scrutiny, the BHG are able to get on with their own agendas and avoid much of the media circus.
  The weapons training schedule for the team is ferocious. Con immerses himself in four weeks of intensive beam weapons training. Borovski takes a two week course in projectile weapons training, followed by another two weeks in gyrojet weapons training as he brings all his ranged weapons skills above introductory level, the dral now more than competent with most Frontier weapons. Alyson Drake also completes a two week course in beam weapons certification. After the encounter with the Hydra, Kane recognizes the value of having a secondary weapons skill and decides to pick up a basic level of gyrojet training and the same in melee weapons skill training. After two weeks training in his specialised skill set Kane turns to more mundane skills, undergoing training in Federation Law and in Finance.
  The technical specialists are also hard at work with Raid passing exams for his upgraded Computer skills over two weeks before finally taking the martial plunge and joining the troops in a week of beam weapons training. Taking full advantage of the team's stay in the heart of Frontier civilization, Raid then enrols in a three week Technician course, knowing he will need the skills in the future to fulfil his dreams of working in space as a pilot or engineer someday. Gleep also improves his Technician rating to level three over the same number of weeks. Doog completes his introductory Physics certificate in just a week and then embarks on a two week Computing course, focusing his Program Writing attention of Life Support applications. In the aftermath of the hydra battle, Doog also elects to acquire some melee weapons training as well, to better protect himself in worse case scenarios.
  After four weeks of weapons training and study at the public library, Kane decides to improve his basic technical skills as well, enrolling in a two week upgrade program as a Technician. xZot, Gloo, Sni'ktl and Crisbel all add to their own skill sets over the same period.
Frontier Date 53.250
  Six weeks after the battle with the hydra, the Black Hand Gang re-assemble in a meeting room at the Stellar Tower Hotel where the recently promoted Commander xZot opens the meeting.
  "Welcome aboard." xZot first includes Doog and Alyson to their first official briefing for the Black Hand Gang. "You entire world is about to change forever." xZot smiles and other heads nod around the table. "Tomorrow we board a transport for Zebulon where we will go the Volturnus and then to Brucebane where there will be a memorial for Mr Sp'ock. The folks on Volturnus want to say goodbye to a hero and one of their liberators."
  xZot continues with the agenda for the next few weeks, "After that we need to finalise and last minute changes to the space ship construction designs so those jobs can get under way. Finally we need to make arrangements for the long term maintenance of our bases on Volturnus. I believe X'anthe will be using the post at Mawson's Rest as an administration facility for her Zoo program." The team's leading environmentalist nods at xZot's statement.
  "I will be heading up security at Brucebane for the immediate future." Gloo adds
  "OK then, the rest of you will most likely be headed back to the freezer I imagine." xZot smiles. "Any other arrangements you need to make we can probably organise when we are on Volturnus."
  After the remaining matters on the agenda are dealt with the meeting breaks up and the Black Hang Gang leave to make preparations for their journey.
Frontier Date 53.268
Eighteen days and two stop-overs later the Black Hang Gang once again have Volturnus soil beneath their feet. Refreshing for most of them, alien to the newest members of the team. On their arrival back at Volturnus several members of the team requisition equipment from the VTC inventory. Doog takes possession of an unused Robcom Kit from Mawson's Rest while Mack O'Malley outfits his robot force with many of the weapons from various BHG armouries. As Gloo sifts through the various requests he decides to relocate and store the entire BHG inventory at the Brucebane complex and then raises the issue of purchasing automated security systems to protect the VTC's assets on Volturnus while the team is absent.
  "We should have some surveillance equipment installed backed up by security robots at the very least!" The Quartermaster announces, "That is if we expect to hang onto this stuff for more than two minutes."
  With the team now back on Volturnus, Kane sees about requisitioning a gyrojet pistol from the corporate armoury. Hoping there are any available after OMAC's outfitting of his robotic strike force, Kane tries to also acquire a couple extra jet clips for the weapon but has to order them from a local supplier, there being none in the VTC arsenal. "Sorry Alyson, but it seems we missed out on our chance for a resupply run on Port Loren." Says Kane as he approaches his team-mate at their Volturnus base. "I am going now to requisition a weapon and some ammo for it out of the base armoury. Is there anything there that you think you may want in there as well?"
  Alyson smiles and says, "Hey no big deal we will always have Paris." She says, quoting an old holofiction program, "I hope you can take a joke. Maybe next time you can show me around." Then she adds, "Yes. Either an autopistol or rifle, the same with gyrojet weapons. I was a bit busy, I picked up a few skills and would like to have the weapons to go with the skills. Kane, I'm looking to be the group master of arms I might not have the levels as of yet but I'm working on that."
  Kane helps Alyson to requisition and autopistol and gyrojet rifle and ammunition for both weapons from the supply in the stores.
  At his first opportunity upon arriving back on Volturnus, Doog also puts in an equipment requisition for one each of smoke, doze and tangler grenades plus three frag grenades. Doog, Kane and Alyson receive all their equipment requests later that same day via a courier to their Brucebane compound.
  After organising his resupply Doog approaches Raid and Con with a proposal: He calls it a personal robot. "The concept is start with an exoskeleton and begin building a small robot onto the back of it with a small type A parabattery. The robot will only have a telescoping neck and head with sensors (normal optics and infrared) and one arm with a laser weapon attached. It will have no legs or other means of propulsion, it goes where the wearer of the exoskeleton goes. The Mission of the robot it to defend the "wearer" from lethal harm and to inject him with stimdose he goes unconscious. The robot will also have a chronocom and will call for help if the "wearer" becomes totally incapacitated. The robot, the exoskeleton, and the laser weapon will all run off the parabattery. It's kind of a poor man's power armour since the exoskeleton and the robot can handle a machine gun or a heavy laser. He also, with a bit of a smirk, offers to test it if the idea is accepted.
  Sitting in a bar in Volkos enjoying a day of relaxation after the journey home, Con looks at Doog, then at his drink. "What? Maybe I had a bit much to drink, so this may be the reason why I am lost, but why not just wear the exoskeleton without the robot parabattery concept". Con looks at Raid and says, "I always to do my fighting without the high tech toys." To Doog he says. "Doog, I don't know if we have the need for such a device. Let's see what comes done the road some first. I look forward to hearing more of your ideas for proposed gadgets in the future."

  "Sure I'm always playing around with ideas, not that all of them are practical." Doog answers back "As for the new ships we're getting, you should know that I spent my time learning to write life support programs during my computer qualifications so that I could assist with some technical work."
  "Sure, do you have any specific concerns about the life support systems? Anything that you can add to the ship would be welcome. Talk to the techs involved. See what they proposing and if you have anything to add let us know."
  "I know I'm the new dral on the team," Doog continues, "But wouldn't naming ships after deceased team members be a nice memorial?"
Alyson nods and says, "I like that also. We could hold off just this time but if we do get more ships and the way it looks we are. It would be a great way to keep their memory alive." After opening the subject up to discussion, a number of suggestions for ship names come forth and give the team something to think about over the next few days.
  Doog pauses then goes on, "You been here a while? I was thinking about doing some hunting for X'anthe's zoo. Would you have any suggestions?"
  Con shakes his head. "I don't know a thing about big game hunting or stocking a zoo. Hell, I have never even been to a zoo. Must have been too much time in the orphanage." The enforcer announces. "While the team is out playing Teddy Roosevelt on Safari, I plan on finding out all I can about the reporter from Port Loren." He looks around for some feedback.
  "I would prefer we had a friendly relationship with this talking head. Just as long as she doesn't do anything to endanger the team or the overall mission, it wouldn't be a problem. She is not going to be in a position to demand from us. But, I will make sure she is protected. If she gets her pretty little head in trouble, I'll make sure she is extracted if need be. It is at the top of the agenda. As far as a chart goes, Raid. I like the idea. I want to wait on that until we know how many extra support staff we have before we start that. I would define support staff as anyone other than us. The crew, the engineering types, that sort of thing. Red Team/Blue Team. I like it. Only thing I will insist on is at least one tech/or medic in our group and some enforcers in your team." Con looks up from his drink. "You know what would be useful? If we had some sort of training facility that we could use to generate all kinds of scenarios. The team could be run through a hydra running through the streets scenario, or door to door fighting scenario or a hostage rescue scenario. You know anything that we might have to face in the field we can prepare for at home. What do you think?"
  Kane catches part of the conversation between Con and Raid, and is struck by a sudden thought that the two may find of interest. Approaching the booth where the two are sitting, Kane acknowledges his commanders' presences before going into his idea.
  "Sirs." begins Kane. "I overheard part of your conversation just now and think I know of something that can help." When he has their attention, Kane begins. "During my time as a pirate, I got to know a fellow prisoner who was a scientist. During one of his technical lessons of equipment maintenance, he spoke to me of the advanced equipment utilized by Star Law in the training of its field operatives and of other work to increase the effectiveness of their combat training methods. I remember some of what he said and believe that I can recreate his work in our own training facility on behalf of the VTC and the Black Hand Gang." Kane explains. "With your permission sirs, I can draft a short proposal for you both to review before going back into cryo-stasis."
  Con looks up at Raid then to Kane and then back to Raid. "That is exactly what I am talking about. Something like that!" Looking up at Kane. "This is some pretty advanced shit, technologically speaking. What is your tech background like? Maybe our benefactors might be able to help in such a project." Con says to both Raid and Kane. They decide to take the idea to xZot and see what he thinks.

  Doog approaches Allison after the team's informal briefing, "Hey, Ally, I wanted to talk to you about something. I've been reading up on the mission logs of the BHG and when they first crashed here they had to face a quickdeath as part of their initiation with the Ul-Mor. Now we can't really relive that experience but I was thinking about offering to help X'anthe with capturing a quickdeath. I know it's not really necessary and that we really don't have anything to prove but it just struck me as, you know..." Doog shrugs and waits to see what Allison thinks about his wild idea.
  Alyson smiles and says, "Sure. You know your way around here better then I do. You might take me somewhere that might have something I would like to get.
  Thank you."

  When the idea of capturing a quickdeath is taken to X'anthe her response is not quite what Doog hoped.
  "I am looking for animals to fill the Zoo, I am not really interested in Sathar Attack Constructs like the Quickdeath or Slither or Cybodragon at this point. Sorry Doog." She tries letting the eager dral down easily. "But I will let you know when we have expeditions planned that you can join us on."
Frontier Date 53.269
Some 20 hours after his conservation with Con and Raid, Kane requests and is granted a meeting with xZot, for which he request that all active members of the BHG be in attendance for. Once everyone has arrived, Kane begins.
  "Gentlemen... and Ladies" begins Kane in acknowledgment to the presences of Sui-Ling, Alyson and X'anthe. "A short while ago, I approached our commanders about a proposal to build a combat training simulator on behalf of the VTC." Removing a comp-u-pad from his vest pocket, Kane moves to stand at the side of the room's wall-comm unit.
  "This proposal is based on my recollection of the works of a Federation scientist I encountered some years ago while I was a captive of a band of space pirates operating along the Frontier Rim. Because of my interest in that discussion regarding that work, I found that the memory of it stayed with me longer than I would have thought, which I now to present to you. So without further adieu, Ladies and Gentlemen of the VTC, I present to you the Tactical Training Simulator." says Kane as he activates the pad, thereby breathing holographic life to his words and ideas. The collective gasps and the few appreciative grunts from some of the more technically minded members of the assemblage let's Kane know that he has the group's full attention. Taking a moment to collect himself, Kane begins the holographic slide show accompanying his presentation.
  "Part amusement park ride, part holo-arcade, part military obstacle course, the Tactical Training Simulator (TTS) is designed to provide the ultimate combat experience under "live fire" conditions. Through a complex combination of holo-imagery, acoustic generators, and robotics, coupled with a host of sensational "special effects" created through the use of several modified life support, agricultural and mining systems, I believe that it is possible to recreate any number of realistic combat environments and situations for training purposes."
  "The TTS consists of 3 parts: The Simulation Chamber, the Omnimover transport system, and the Smart Suit. I will attempt to explain each in brief." says Kane as he prepares the next portion of his presentation. "The first part of the equation is the Simulation Chamber, which can be described as simply a large, controlled area within the training-dome where the actual combat scenarios take place. The key to producing believable simulations lies with this chamber's holo-imagery systems and special effects devices (term "FX Suites"), which I believe can be created from the "modification" of standard space-based life support, mining, and agricultural systems. This equipment will serve to create the associated sensory effects needed to enhance the overall illusion of the simulation."
  "As these combat training programs will run in a first person "subjective mode", in which we as the user, can actively interact with the simulation and its characters. This interaction is only possible through use of the smart suit. Think of it as a helmet-less spacesuit incorporating a modified body-comp, low intensity freeze field, and a chronocom. The "Smart Suit" is undoubtedly the most important part of the TTS as it enables its wearer to physically interact with the simulation environment while within the walls of the chamber. Embedded within the suit is a web work of electronic sensors and low intensity freeze field devices, which are tied into a mini-computer possessing limited wireless communication ability. This allows the suit to "interpret" our body movements and actions into information the computers of the simulator can receive and can understand. The data these computers transmit back in response will be interpreted by the suit which we will then "feel" as a tactile sensations through the suit's activation of its various freeze field devices. This allowing us to physically control and virtually manipulate what happens within the simulation. We can even experience the pain of an injury or even death in battle."
  "The final part of the TTS is what I term the Omnimover System. Its is a omnidirectional. high speed tread mill/escalator/conveyor belt system that the simulation chambers uses for the transportation and placement of the props, fixtures, and "participants" taking part in the combat simulation."
  xZot briefly interrupts Kane with a pertinent question. "So this is not current technology but something we need to research and probably invest in?"
  "Correct." Kane replies before continuing with his briefing. Once having properly explained what the main components of the TTS, Kane goes on to state its expected capabilities.
  "The features of what I am proposing to build are as follows:
•The TTS should have full Life Support and medical capabilities for the health and safety of participants, in addition to installed safety protocols to ensure immediate shut down of the simulation in the event of a potential fatality.
• Combat Scenarios are executed by a cohort of customized robots with anthropomorphic bodies and built-in Holo-Screens to increase their realism as living adversaries.
• TTS will be run by a robotic brain with "Read Only" access to the main computer core and its data-storage networks. The TTS itself should have an isolated computer network composed of several high-capacity computers that interact to generate a fully interactive combat simulation that is 80% indistinguishable from reality (the current effectiveness of holo-screen technology).
• The TTS has its own separate power distribution system formed by a subterranean network of interlinked clusters of para-batteries and power generators. This provides the TTS with more that sufficient SEU power to run any combat intensive training simulation requested.
• Mobile clusters of miniature holo-projectors are mounted across the Chamber's surface to facilitate the instant creation and placement of credible constructs by means of accurate surface texture modelling laid on polygonal surfaces formed by overlapping a series of holo-imagery. The experience is further enhanced by the sounds and smells simulated by protected speakers and sonic generators (providing accurate noise level and frequencies) while fragranced fluids are atomised and dispersed through the chamber's modified life support and agricultural systems.
• Atmospheric and other Meteorological Conditions such as the wind and dust effects of a sand storm to the wind and water effects of a monsoon can be recreated by the modified Life Support, Mining, and Agricultural Systems within the chamber.
• All interior surface of the simulation chamber is protected by a flickering wall of alternating power screens which protect the chamber from any damage incurred during training sessions.
  Pausing to take a sip of water, Kane prepares to conclude his presentation by laying out all his thoughts and views on the scope of this project.
  "Alright people, you have heard me talk for a good while now about what I think IS possible based on nothing more than a conversation I had a good while ago. Now let me tell you what I think we WILL have to do to make this thing a reality. First, I think we are going to have to build more than one!"
  Kane pulls up a holo-image of a sketching of 5 structured building-complex showing 4 dome-like structures surrounding a single tower-like building before continuing. "As the federation technology currently available to us is simply not advanced enough to realistically emulate all aspects of modern warfare and place it all "under one roof", the training-dome has to be a large, multi-level, warehouse like structure in order to contain the necessary equipment, heavy machinery, and the robotic workforce needed to make the simulation convincing. As such, I foresee the need of having no less than four separate combat simulators, each specially constructed to emphasize a different aspect/condition of potential combat. Thus, I give you the Tactical Training Complex.
  "Much like the Star Law training-domes on Morgaine's World, the Training Complex is designed to provide extensive physical and tactical training, as well as provides the educational resources necessary for instruction on a variety of topics generally considered useful to the BHG or anyone else in their line of work. This includes (but is not limited to) information on military strategy and tactics, cultural and historic information regarding the federation and each of its member worlds, and current intelligence regarding the Sathar and their known allies.
  I have named the tower the War College as I believe that this will house the main computer core and massive data storage network needed to accurately run the TTS. If we want realistic simulator, we are going to need holo-information on millions and millions of objects including animals, persons, weapons, vehicles, structures, and aliens. That information will need to be collected, collated, and stored by a computer bigger than anything I am aware of. Hence the need for the War college. Besides, if we add things like gymnasium, automated medical centre, computerized educational centre, and a recreational facility we get another base. :)
  "As for the domes themselves, Training Dome 1 is devoted to all aspects of land based personal combat; Training Dome 2 devoted exclusively to aquatic warfare; Training Dome 3 is for hazardous and special environment combat training ranging from areas like the void of space to high radiation areas found on high gravity worlds; finally Training Dome 4, which will be the largest area and devoted to Combat Training requiring Vehicular Support.
  "Next, we are going have to acquire A LOT of common federation equipment and technology and then adapt it for our use. What I see needed are as follows:
Construction: The building cost of each training-dome will vary due to their differing construction requirements. This will include plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems, structural reinforcement, internal transportation (i.e. the Omnimover Systems), etc.
  Power Systems: High Output Fusion Reactor, Heavy Duty Power Generators, and numerous Type IV Para-Batteries arranged in network fashion.
  Robots: A cohort of Combat, Service, Maintenance, and Anthropomorphic Robots would be needed as well as their "less sophisticated, animatronics cousins" which would be used in varying combinations for each combat simulation.
  Computers: Each training-dome should have its own independent computer system, and the War College should definitely have a Level 6 system with A LOT of function points. The extra cost of additional components for each individual network system should also be taken into account.   Examples: wall comms, console stations, information display monitors and devices, data ports and terminals, etc.
  Weaponry: All manner of weapons and screens would have to be modified to be less efficient (i.e. fire less powerful rounds and at slower speeds or in the case of beam weaponry, lack the focusing apparatus and discharge potential) than their battlefield counterparts.
  Miscellaneous Equipment: The following items should be acquired and then modified for usage in the construction of the tactical training facility. While the technology listed is in common use through out the Federation and should not prove difficult to procure, the expense here should come from its modification and/or the quantities needed.
• Holo-Technology: Holo-Screen belts/devices, Holo-Flare lighting, and/or the requisite price of the audio/visual equipment one would expect to find in the typical federation holo-arcade.
• Sonic Technology: Sonic Devastators, Subspace Radio, and/or the audio/visual equipment one would expect to find in the typical federation nightclub, holo-theatre or concert hall.
• Agricultural Technology: The BHG could acquire the requisite equipment form any Agriculture Spaceship Equipment supplier.
• Mining Technology: None. The BHG probably acquired the requisite equipment during their defeat of the Red Devil Space Pirate and the subsequent capture of his illegal mining operation.
• "Omnimover" Transportation System: As a hi-Speed Conveyor Belt like we could expect to find in an automated factory or assembly plant.
Smart Suit: This special bodysuit embedded with its electronic circuitry and devices could be potentially the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of the project.
  "Finally, we are going to need all members of the VTC to help with this. I mean: technicians to help with the modification of standard Federation technologies used; Programmers to assist in the Writing/Modifying of Computer and Robot Programs; and agents from the bio-social and military PSA to assist in the acquisition and Research of various Items and Technology as well as for the Holo-Photography of People, Places, Things, and Events (Combat Encounters).
  "So if we are really serious about wanting a tactical training simulator that will realistically capture all aspects of warfare, then this is what I see it taking." concludes Kane. With his presentation now complete, Kane opens the floor to questions.
  Con, standing off to the side of the room listened with much interest in Kane's proposal. "Just a few questions, Kane. First, How much do you think this is going to cost? We are pretty busy with the ships right now.
  "The short answer to your first question commander is A LOT! I can't give you a accurate estimation because the truth of the matter is it just depends on too many other factors that will affect the cost. Quantity of equipment, shipping costs to Volturnus, the number and skill level of the technicians involved, price of construction materials, etc. There are just too many variables there that I have not yet adequately researched to give you an realistic answer sir. However, regardless of the cost, I think the TTS project should always take a backseat to the build up of the corporate fleet. But with that being said, there is no reason to ever believe that the VTC won't have the resources available to also work on this project. Even if its piecemeal and incremental. And if planning and budgeting are handled wisely, then this should never become a financial burden to the company at any point during it's construction."
  "Uh huh, OK second. Will you be using the technician's from the BHG? If so, how is this not going to effect the man power of the team?
  "Sir, I expect to use everyone from the BHG to help with this." Kane replies, "Everyone in this room could be involved to assist in the completion of this project, regardless of their skill level or PSA emphasis. However, this is a big project. More than what we could ever expect to do in a reasonable time by ourselves, even if we stayed out of cryo-stasis for a time. So to that end, I would expect to contract out much of this work in secret so as to not attract any unwanted attention to this project. Again, if planning and budgeting are handled wisely, then construction could continue even when the team goes back into cryo-stasis and no one would be the wiser. Therefore, my first suggestion would be the hiring of engineers to actually design and draft plans for a training-dome, a computer core and data-storage network for the War College, and a high speed Omni-mover design to our specifications."
  "And, third," Con finishes, "We are only guests on Volturnus. This planet still belongs to the Eorna. Have you spoken to the Eorna or even their blessings for such an ambitious project?" Con looks over to Raid. "What do you think?
  "At this point no. I have been working on this non-stop since I left the bar after your initial conversation. With most of that time spent recalling what was said more than a quarter century ago and then attempting to logically fill in the gaps for what I couldn't. Assuming that this proposal passes the scrutiny of all assembled and that we are in agreement that the TTS is a worthwhile project and should be pursued, then the Eorna would be my next stop."
  After hearing Kane's proposal and Con's initial questions, Mack O'Malley makes his opinion heard in no uncertain terms.
  "Let me get this straight?" O'Malley asks Kane "You wanna substitute reality with a simulation?" OMAC waves his arm around the room. "We have fought actions in the desert, jungle, space and underground, a lot of that right here on this planet, and you want to build simulator?" O'Malley shakes his head. "I got no argument we could all be training more and better, but you will never convince me that a simulator will do the job when we've got the real thing right on our doorstep."
  "He's got a good point there." Crisbel nods in agreement with O'Malley's observations. "I've never heard of a yazirian achieving true battle rage in a simulation. You gotta really get the blood pumping."
  "We also need to take into account the budgetary considerations." xZot now adds to the discussion. "As Con pointed out, we have a Frontier wide transport operation to bankroll and right now that is our priority. I agree we could use some sort of training facility but it would need to be much lower profile than what you are suggesting here Kane. That," xZot points to Kane's representation of the multi-domed facility, "Is hardly being discreet! I will take your proposal to Jameson and the Eorna and get back to you with their reaction." xZot looks around the table. "Anything else? Does anyone else have any comment?"

  Alyson waits for xZot to stop before she says,"Kane couldn't we make one smaller unit just to see if this will work? As others have pointed out, it is going to take a lot for all these building to be constructed. I was hoping for something like this but smaller, and one we could put on our ship. As you said it is interactive with programs within it. A person would feel to be part of a team. Ship boarding would be one skill I could see we might need and how to defend ourselves from that type of attack."
  In a credible impersonation of the Pre-Frontier human comedy character known as Homey Samson, Kane slaps his forehead and yells "Dope!" He then explains the practically of only build one training simulator for now rather than the whole training complex that he described in his proposal.
  "Very well, Mr. Kane." Con adds "Let us get past the building of our ships and then we can devote more time to thinking this out. You definitely have my attention on this. Con looks over at O'Malley. "I smell what you're cooking, Mack. You said it yourself about training harder and better. There is an old saying my father had when he had his men train. 'The harder we train here, the less we bleed out there'."
  xZot wraps up the meeting with an announcement that the VTC will be footing the bill for the construction of both the Freighter and the Escort ship and arrangements have been made to get the final designs drawn up. "For the freighter alone it's 130 day contract for the Engineer before we even begin construction. The Escort will be Engineered and built independently at a different location. It will be more than a year before the freighter is ready but the escorts will be available before then. Jameson and the Eorna will begin working up possible design options for ships for the other routes for the second stage of our expansion. Funds are also being set aside to secure the VTC facilities at Brucebane and Mawson's Rest, we will be using robots and other automated systems for those operations.
Frontier Date 53.272
Several days later, xZot reconvenes the members of the BHG for their final briefing before embarking on their next frozen journey.  Doog, Alyson and even Kane to a lesser extent are a little apprehensive about their upcoming journey through time but the remainder of the BHG have become somewhat blasé about their one way time travelling adventures by now.
  To the surprise of most of the team, Director Louis V. Jameson attends the briefing to present the Eorna response to Kane's proposal.  The Director opens the meeting, moving straight to the point almost immediately.
  "The Great Mission may very well benefit from some of Kane's proposals."  Jameson begins, "However we must maintain our covert status at all costs.  I have begun negotiations with our contacts over at Star Law to see if we can arrange limited access to their facilities. In return we will be offering them limited access to some of our facilities, including the more public VTC operations.  I also plan to conduct joint operations with Star Law personnel to enhance both their skills and preparations as well as our own."
  "As you are all aware by now, we have made changes to the operational and command structures of the BHG.  Congratulations to xZot, Con and Raid for their promotions.  I also take this opportunity to officially welcoming our newest members to the program, Doog and Alyson."  Jameson then turns solemn as he changes the subject once more.

  "We will be holding a memorial service tomorrow for Mr Sp'ock.  We have representatives from all the races of Volturnus here in Volkos for the ceremony.  After that it will be back into stasis for the rest of you.  Congratulations on a job well done so far and I look forward to working with you all again in the future."  Jameson closes the meeting and disappears back into the Eorna complex.
Frontier Date 54.312
Flashing red lights and audio alarms signal trouble as the various members of the Black Hang Gang struggle through the final stages of re-animation. Groggy and stiff from their latest period in stasis most of the team are only barely conscious of the uproar going on around them as they are escorted from their cryostasis pods by hovering medical staff, to showers and locker rooms down the hall from their cold sleep facility.
  Soon feeling clean and refreshed by showers and a change of clothes the team, wearing their smart new dark grey uniforms, are escorted to a refectory for a light meal before being taken to the briefing room. Sitting down at the table, Con and Raid are among the first to enter the room to find both Commander xZot and Director Jameson awaiting them. As the rest of the team file into the room the new leadership team notice several missing faces.
  "Where is Gloo?" Con asks
  "And X'anthe?" Raid adds
  "Crisbel is missing as well." Con adds
  Director Jameson smiles grimly and nods at each team member assembled around the conference table before opening the briefing. He indicates toward datapads arranged around the table in front of each member as he begins the briefing.
  "It is now the year 54.312, you have only been in stasis for four hundred and thirty eight days but we needed to revive the entire team, we have trouble here on Volturnus. If you examine your briefing notes you will find our file on the Mechanons is not a great deal more advance than what your team learned about them prior to the Battle of Volkos back when you first arrived on Volturnus but something has definitely changed with the Mechanons. It appears we are in the middle of a revolution!"
  Before the briefing is overwhelmed by a surge of questions from his audience, Jameson continues his over view of the situation.
  Over recent months and weeks across Volturnus there has been an increasing number of violent incidents involving Mechanons and members of Frontier races in the centres of civilization on this planet. As Volkos is the most concentrated centre of population on the planet, the trouble has been even more pronounced right here," He points to the ceiling, "Above our heads." Jameson sweeps his gaze around the table before continuing.
  "In the last few days the situation has rapidly deteriorated with citizens of most races being assaulted in the streets of the city by groups of marauding Mechanons. The level of violence has escalated and now citizens are being admitted to hospital for treatment of serious injuries and we have begun to receive reports of fatalities from across the city and the rest of the planet." His gaze comes to rest on Con and Raid. "To answer your earlier questions, Gloo has taken a transport to Brucebane to organise the shipment of the entire BHG arsenal to this location. We expect him back within hours. X'anthe is seeing to the operation at Mawson's Rest and Crisbel has already been dispatched off world to organise our off world assets, including the ships." Jameson flicks a switch and one wall of the briefing room converts into a view screen displaying a map of the city of Volkos.
  "Over the last few days the number of incidents has increased dramatically across the city and we believe that in the next few days the outer suburbs of the city will descend into chaos. Already citizens from the Frontier are either abandoning the city or seeking refuge inside the walls of the old city in the centre of Volkos. We have set up a command post for the BHG in an office in the Administration sector where we will be meeting representatives from all concerned parties in a matter of hours. Their details are included in your briefing material."
  Now xZot takes over the briefing as attention turns to the details of the situation as Director Jameson excuses himself to continue making his preparations for the coming meeting.
  "There are a dozen contingents of Frontier personnel whom we have cobbled together in an alliance of convenience for our mutual defence." xZot begins his part of the briefing. "The UPF have a security team defending their staff here as well as a contingent from Star Law. All the races of Volturnus have a consulate here including the Ul-Mor, Kurabanda, Edestekai and the Eorna as well as a Mechanon mission. We also have representatives from several Mega Corps coming, they all have sizeable operations here on Volturnus now. We should be meeting with people from PGC, Streel, CDC and GVMPI, they all have security teams which we will need to compliment our own forces until help arrives. xZot turns to the new leadership team.
  "Con and Raid will attend the meeting with representatives from all these organizations while the rest of you make what preparations are necessary. You will be able to monitor the meeting from here." xZot indicates the view screen which has now changed it's view to a conference room being prepared for the coming meeting. "And can communicate with Con and Raid via earpieces they will be wearing for the meeting."
  "Oh lovely!  Streel and CDC, together!  With us!"  Con says to Raid making damn sure that his comments are not broadcast all over space by covering up the microphone piece.  "I wonder what got the Mechanon's metallic panties in an uproar."  Con muses to Raid.  "Looks like they are expecting big trouble for the other mega corps to send security details."
  "The Mechanons?"  Raid remembers their part in the battle for Volkos years ago.  "They were the ones that didn't respond to my message after the battle.  I suppose they've remained secluded all these years, but at peace until now.  What could have changed?"  Raid goes to the meeting, preparing to hear the worst.
  "We are about to find out, I am sure." The enforcer replies. "For a society that did not want to be involved with anyone else, to be on the rampage like they are, something has to be the matter. Do you think there might be an outside influence involved?" Con suggests.
Alyson looks over the file on the Mechanons and asks, "Do we know what weapons they normally carry? What they have for defensive screens? Also looks like we have to be careful of targets our robots could be mistake for them."

  Putting on his head set and boom microphone Doog addresses Raid and Con, "Alyson's priorities are right. What does Star Law and the Eorna have on Mechanons concerning martial capabilities and tactics." Doog sidles up to Alyson and says, "If my memories serve me right the reports of the first time the team faced the Mechanons is in the mission diaries chapter 12. I only skimmed it didn't actually read it. I suppose that's a place to start. I think I do remember something about them actually using regular robots as servants. So I imagine, if that's true, they will use them as expendable cannon fodder. I know I would."
  Cocking his head pod at Alyson Doog says, "Wait one, I'll pull up the info that is in the public record...errr at least in the team's public record." Doog runs to the nearest computer terminal and logs in his new BHG ID and password. It isn't all that long since he was in college and the love of research that must be genetic to his line rises up within him. With the blinding speed of four pod typing he accesses the mission diaries from the early days of the BHG. Pulling our the pertinent details he turns to Alyson and reports,
  "OK Ally, the team observed the use of security robots with gyrojet weapons, combat robots with laser rifles, and combat robots with sonic disrupters. It seems the at the beam weapon equipped robot used integral or attached weapons which means they were powered off the parabattery. That is bad news in that they won't run out of ammo. It also seems the Mechanons do use the lower order robots as front line and screen. I skimmed the reports from the Battle of Volturnus and it seems that the team was involved as a troubleshooting reserve and unless I missed something they didn't actually observe the Mechanons in combat directly."
  Alyson responds, "Thank you Doog. I guess I have a lot to take in. I also should find out what to take and what not to. Figures this mission calls for firepower but we can't carry that much. Because of the gravity of the planet."
  "Once you guys decide on what you are going to wear to the dance, see if you can poke around and see what else you can dig up.  And be discrete about it."
  "Can do Captain," Doog responds and then he heads out to the medical centre, "I'll see if I can talk to any attack victims."

  "Would you like someone to help you on this?" Alyson asks, "I would like to go with you."
  Doog smiles, human style, "Absolutely Ally, with things coming unglued around here staying in pairs may be a good idea. Since I'm a bit of a tech head having an enforcer around is probably best to keep me out of trouble!"

  She smiles back and says, "To keep you out of trouble. Oh boy we are both in it now. Lead on."
Doog realizes he's over loaded himself and trudges down to his quarters in the VTC compound. "Hmmm, if I remember right the Mechanon are artificial life forms, so the doze grenades will be useless," he says to himself as he stows the doze, frag, and smoke grenades in his foot locker.
  He's still feeling over weighted and reviews his equipment. "What to leave behind?" The sword, laser pistol or gas mask all weigh the same, "I wonder, will the Mechanons use gas attacks? It would be an ideal weapon for them to use against us, But I guess I have to take a chance on that." Doog runs a power test on the laser pistol confirms its in good working order and stows it and a power clip in the foot locker and locks it.
  Opening a black pseudo-leather case he begins assembling his laser rifle and checking the scope's alignment. The bayonet he stows on his equipment belt and meticulously arranges the hat Harvey the barber gave him. Before leaving his quarters he pauses to look at holopics of Swazi and of Doog with Swazi's family and caresses his brass talisman. "Well Swazi, I'm off to man the barricades," he whispers and heads off to assist the preparations.
  After the briefing, Gleep decides to get his on-hand inventory sorted out. "I was starting to think I had too much." He thinks aloud. Now, lets see, 2 frags is enough, I hope, skeinsuit." Gleep divests himself of all his extra weight, stripping back to a basic weapons load and his techkit.

  Alyson puts her Auto Pistol and sonic disrupter into her footlocker, her combat load now a laser pistol with 2 clips, Gyrojet Rifle with 3 clips, skiensuit, albedo screen and gasmask.
  Preparing himself for combat, Kane grabs his entire supply of solvaway then equips himself with the his basic combat kit. "If there is a vehicle being prepared for use by the team, I will load both my tech kit, spare power backpack, and a few extra power clips for his laser rifle into it."  After having prepared himself for the impending fight, Kane asks Gleep to contact Gloo over at the Brucebane base and then request that he also bring back transportation for the gang's use.
  "Roger that,"  Gloo responds via the radiophone.  "I will have X'anthe meet me here and we will drive a pair of explorers back to Volkos.
  Raid and Con briefly hit the streets of the city to assess the mood of Volkos first hand before going into the meeting with the other stake holders of the Frontier. They too can sense the atmosphere of tension and repressed violence.  An atmosphere that suddenly turns violent as they are returning to the Administration Quarter.

  Doog and Alyson take a quick hop on the monorail to the medical centre.  Crossing the street from the rail station to the hospital, they observed several beings moving in haste, though not actually running.  They all seemed to have the look of the haunted expecting to be grabbed from behind at any moment.
  Doog leaned toward Alyson and said, "Do you smell that in the air?  Fear! It's hard for a dral to miss when his whole dermal covering acts as a nose."
  Alyson breathes deep and nodded affirmation.  The pair pause in the lobby of the hospital to orient themselves.  The medical centre was like nothing either had ever seen; an appealing fusion of eorna crystalline technology and Frontier design.  To their left was a gift shop staffed by a yazirian selling stuffed megasaurus', while to the right was a kiosk with a dral vending flowers, and at the back was an eorna receptionist sitting at a crystalline desk and computer terminal. However, the lobby was dominated with a huge crystal structure that changed colour and hummed with power.  The two gawked at the crystal feature till they realize that each crystal changed the pitch of its hum as its colour changed and that the over all effect was soothing music.  Alyson pointed to the reception desk.  On their way there Doog quipped,
  "Lets see how far we get on our shiny new VTC ID cards."  The eorna was almost as fascinating as the musical crystals; she or he looked like an bipedal dinosaur that had evolve hair instead of scales.  This one had thin braids that incorporated beads worked into the hair around her head.  Doog looked at Alyson then took the lead,
  "Hi.  We're under orders from Lieutenant Commander Con of the VTC to interview some of the most recent victims of the Mechanons' attacks." After passing their IDs over a crystal that turned from white to blue she returns them and asks, "Will you be needing polyvoxes for the native Volturnus languages?"
  "Oh, yes!"  With directions, a list of victims and polyvoxes in hand they were first turned away at the Intensive Care Unit where the most recent victims were unconscious or not in any shape to talk.
  "This is not going well."  Alyson sighed.
  "Those poor ids, I almost want to go out and shoot the first Mechanon I see right now.  Who's next on the list?"

  "If these things were on planet for so long why in the 'Verse would they start another fight?"  Alyson says, "Think about it what we know."  She makes sure no one can hear her then says, "Everything we have been told, they backed off.  There is a chance that someone or something ticked them off and they are mad.  Like a Volturnian cave bear protecting her cubs maybe, that started them off."  As Doog and Alyson ride a lift to the next hospital unit, Doog suddenly grabs Alyson's arm.
  "I just had a horrible thought!"
  "The reason the team entered the Mechanon's mounds prior to the Battle of Volturnus, was to see if the planetary defence system housed there was still operable.  The Mechanons still have control of that site and may have the ability to interdict the space immediately around Volturnus itself!  I hope the Eorna know if it's safe to take off or land on the planet now."  The shock of Doog's realization carries them to the next unit in silence.  After exiting the lift Doog keys his chronocom to Team Speak and appraised the team of his concerns.

  After hearing Doog's report on Team Speak, "Nice job Doog!  We will run it by xZot, Jameson and the rest of the Eorna brass.  Before we set out, we will find out what they know about the defences.  If they are still functional, we may want to make sure that it is in friendly control.  This just might make our job that much tougher."
  Con reaches for his chronocom, "Doog, were you able to speak with any survivors of the Mechanon attacks.  Hopefully, we can learn something in this meeting and combine that with what you learn, we might be able to put together some kind of profile of how they operate and where they might attack next."
  Doog answers, "Negative so far, we're working our way through the list but those we seen are either unconscious or not in any shape to answer questions.  We have one more floor to visit then we'll report back.  Ah, sorry I didn't draw your attention to the planetary defence system earlier as I've been reviewing all of the team's missions diaries since joining.  I should have been on top of that one form the get go.  The one bright spot I can see is that from the mission diaries it seems that the Mechanons only control a control centre and that the actually defence installations may be elsewhere.  You and the other veterans or the Eorna may know more about that as the missions diaries are a bit vague on that point.  However, if the actual defences are elsewhere and not under Mechanon control we might be able to take them out of the equation fairly simply rather than storming into the Mechanon Mounds.
  "Also I have one other concern.  How secure are our communications?  The Mechanons are a product of eorna technology and eorna technology seems to be a cut above regular Frontier tech. It would be very scary if they have the ability to read our mail so to speak."
  "Roger that!"  Con responds.  "I am glad you mentioned the defence systems.  That was missed by me.  Hopefully the Mechanons have not annexed that area.  I hope we can run the operation and not have to intrude on the mounds.  I am sure they will tap into our conversations.  Actually I think someone is running the Mechanons.  If that's the case, I am more worried about who other than the Mechanons are listening to us!  You and Alyson be careful."  Con says as he is attempting to get the attention of Jameson, xZot and the Eorna.
  Alyson says,"Roger that sir."
  "I hope we get somewhere with this," Alyson said with a sigh. Doog nodded, "I know, aside from the lobby, I'm finding the hospital depressing. Can't wait to leave."
  "Yeah, I hear that.  Here's the charge nurse.  Excuse me, we're looking for," she glances down to the list, "Arkadu Fonn-Arthu?"
  "Oh yes, this way, I'll show you."
  Doog interjects, "Is there anything you can tell us about Fonn-Arthu?"
  "Well to start call him Arkadu; Fonn-Arthu is technically his name but it's also more of a title.  It designates him as the son of a chief; that is also why he was here; his clutch set him to be educated at the university.  He was attacked while returning from riding his loper northeast of the city and found by government workers.  He had lost so much internal fluid we're actually amazed that he survived this long.  He has a strong will to live.  Here we are."  The eorna nurse entered a room with a single bed upon which was a squashed ball with tentacles.  "He needs rest more than anything so don't tire him too much and you should probably use with his primary mode of communication despite having the polyvoxes his audible speech is limited and it taxes him."
  "Primary mode of communication?"
  Alyson says, "Really?" and makes a face.
  "Just allow him to insert the tip of the short tentacle into fatty tissue near your spinal cord and you can communicate mind to mind," the nurse snorted at Alyson's expression, "You won't be harmed."  After the nurse left Doog, rocking back and forth, said,
  "Well, drals don't have spinal cords."
  "You ass, they do too, it's just not encased in bone.  Anyhow this is your idea I'm just here to keep an eye on you."

  "Who's the big dral now," Doog muttered as he turned his body to the watching Ul-Mor and pointed to a spot with a free arm."
  Once the cartilage point was in; Doog could talk to him like he was talking to himself but only in the head except that Arkadu's voice had a distinctly different 'taste' that was 'loud'.
  When Doog pressed for details of the attack they both relived the memory of a Mechanon with pulsing red crystals for eyes.  The Mechanon attacked Arkadu physically and relentlessly and the beating went on forever till unconsciousness over took Arkadu.  There were lesser robots present but they only participated only so far as to shoot at Arlulu, Arkadu's loper.  After ten minutes the interview was over and the Ul-Mor retracted the tip of the small tentacle that was and extension of its own spinal cord.  Doog patted one of his larger tentacles and said, "I'll do my best." Turning to Alyson he said,
  "You should try it."
  "Doog I might have to.  There is something we are missing here.  You saw the attack right?  So we know he was punched by his attacker but there is more we need.  That is to see his whole day.  Or maybe I can put it in my mine what I want and see if he could show me what I would like to know or not."  She walks up to the bed and asks, "Hello I'm Alyson Drake.  I hope you can answer me one question."  Then lifts up her hair and says,  "Please this should help."
  To Alyson the voice of the Ul-Mor had a distinct 'smell' that she could not quite place but 'dry' seemed to be the best adjective.  Getting down to business she pressed to see if the Mechanons had returned but Arkadu only remember pain that seemed eternal before blackness took him then he woke up here.
  "Have you no other memories of Mechanons or their name?"  Alyson pressed.
  "Many since youth hearing of the part played by my people in the great battle and since coming here.  What you want to know is do I have a significant memory that could be a clue as to why this is happening.  I take my loper every morning for exercise to the north of the city using the main road and return for class.  It is a predictable routine but I could not say if the Mechanon singled me out.  I was enjoying the sky when suddenly the Mechanon and other robots were there.  Two of the lower order robots shot at Arlulu and I was thrown then the attack began.  I could not say if I had previously seen this Mechanon or not."
  Alyson could taste the shame of his emotions over being thrown and losing his loper but more than that there was distress for the well being of the beast.
  "Would your loper return to a stable?"
  "There is an Ul-Mor only dorm in the university district with an attached stable but the nurse has called and no one has seen him.  Please, if you have a chance see if you can find Arlulu."  The impassioned plea from the Ul-Mor was so compelling Alyson felt as if she couldn't refuse to look for the poor animal.
  "Thank you we will go now."  She says to Doog, "We should go and let him have some rest."  Out in the hall Alyson asks, "OK now what?  And what did you promise to do your best doing?"
  "Finding his loper, it's a dinosaur like mount, he's quite attached to it having raised it from hatching and it ran off during the attack.  Not sure how I'll do it but I'll have to try.  Come on, I need to check something back at headquarters."
  Before the tele-conference, Con decides to seek out xZot, Jameson and someone in the Eorna leadership.  As he and Raid return to the Administration Quarter they witness first hand, the violence erupting across the planet as a group of Mechanons emerge from a side street several hundred meters ahead of them.  The Mechanons descend upon a vrusk businessman and his attendant service robot.  The vrusk cries out in pain and alarm as the Mechanons start beating him with clubs and tools, the service robot lets out a shrieking alarm that is quickly silenced by the Mechanons as they disable and violently disassemble the robotic servant.
  Con and Raid push forward through the fleeing crowd, desperate to intervene but by the time they fight their way down the street it's all over.  The Mechanons fleeing back down the alley way and panicked civilians screaming and running from the scene.  The robot is literally torn apart, pieces smashed across the pavement and the vrusk businessman lies battered and dying beside the robot, his body smashed and torn in the savage attack.  The pair are stunned by the speed and viciousness of the attack.
  "This is out of control already!"  Raid states.  Con merely nods his head.  As soon as a medical and security team arrives to deal with the aftermath, Con and Raid proceed toward their meeting.
  Having re-equipped themselves from their local arsenal and acquired some first hand intelligence, the BHG reassemble once more.  Raid and Con listen to Doog and Alyson's report on their hospital findings.
  "It seems that the one victim we could interview was attacked directly by the Mechanon without weapons.  It was a physical assault that after reliving the memory in direct mind link with the Ul-Mor involved, I would characterize it as an enraged beating that went on until the victim was near death.  In the memory I saw laser and gyrojet side arms but we already knew they used those weapons.  I don't know if it's significant but the crystals on top of the Mechanon's head were pulsing red."
  Alyson adds, "It may be that he was targeted since the attack came during an established routine.  Arkadu was taken by surprise.  The lesser order robots seemed to have been tasked with removing the loper form the equations while the Mechanon beat the victim to a pulp.  If this had been done by an organic being then I'd say it was a very personal attack.  There is no proof but it feels like the Mechanon had a grudge and the motive is a mystery."
  "No.  Definitely not an attack that was singled out to a particular victim."  Con agrees.  "They might be buying into their own rhetoric about us "squishies" not being like them and are making an attempt to stamp out the non-robotic races.  There has been peace for so long, I think there might be an agent provocateur out there somewhere.  Let me check out a few things and then we can put some of this jigsaw together.  Thanks for your investigating!"
  Doog fidgets then says, "Uh, sirs there is one more thing."
  "Go on."
  "The Ul-Mor involved is the son of a chief sent by his clutch to study here at university.  His name is Arkadu Fonn-Arthu.  Fonn-Arthu literally means son of Arthu however I've found that the expression is also valid for grandson or great grandson or any number of generations.  I've checked and it seems he's the great grandson of Arthu Sea People's Bane, the Ul-Mor chief that the team first met on Volturnus and that led his people in the Battle of Volturnus.  Arkadu's lost a lot of bodily fluid and like dralasites there is a point where loss of fluid becomes critical for an Ul-Mor.  The Eorna hospital staff is calling in all the available Ul-Mor in Volkos to give him transfusions.  However, only time will tell if he'll recover.  I thought you'd want to know."
  xZot arrives to escort Con and Raid to the meeting as they walk toward the conference room Con asks.
  "Have there been any strange ships coming into orbit?  Passenger liners?  Anything that might be able to be a way to get someone planet side clandestinely?"
  "Not that I am aware of xZot answers
  "How about any strange readings on scanners that would coincide with an attack?  Any kind of transmissions or atmospheric disturbances?"  Con says
  "No.  You suspect outside interference?"
  "Maybe" Con answers. "Just want to cover as many bases as possible." xZot just nods.
  "Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you?" The young yazirian smiles.
  "Heh! Yeah, something like that." Con laughs back.
  Arriving at the conference room, Jameson who is already in attendance, calls the meeting to order.  He first introduces Con and Raid to the assembled dignitaries as officers in the Eorna Security services.
  "These men have jurisdiction in this area and will co-ordinate the deployment of all security forces for the defence of the Volturnus government." Jameson concludes. "Now let's have a status report." A vrusk in the navy blue uniform of the UPF Military rises to his feet and gestures with a claw toward the viewscreen filling an entire wall of the conference room.
  "Rioting has spread across most of the planet in the last 40 hours. Volkos has not yet been completely cut off from the surrounding country but we are confident the city will be isolated within the next 20 hours." The vrusk begins in clipped tones. "Much of the outer suburbs of the city are already infiltrated or cut off by groups of rioting Mechanons. Local civilians are fleeing the city and members of the Frontier races are seeking shelter inside the old city walls surrounding the centre of Volkos."
  A dralasite in the grey uniform of a Star Law Commander steps up to the screen, indicating several gates through the city wall.
  "I have teams of Rangers at each gate now, monitoring the flow of refugees but we are not soldiers. If the Mechanons attack in force, we do not have the resources to hold this outer wall, just the gates. The Mechanons will be able to breach the perimeter without much trouble at all."
  "Well can't just abandon the city!" The yazirian head of PGC security interrupts the briefing. "The UPF has to protect it's citizens!"
  "I am just stating the situation as it now stands." The Star Law officer replies coldly. "The UPF dictates policy, we just enforce it.
  "The government of Volturnus has officially requested UPF assistance." The Eorna representative informs the meeting. "We have no doubt they will help us in our hour of need."
  "Indeed!" The vrusk UPF officer agrees. "Our position is to render all possible assistance to the Volturnus Security Forces until reinforcements arrive."
  "Reinforcements you say?" A metallic voice interjects "Or an invasion force?" All eyes turn to the source of the newcomer, the Mechanon ambassador, notable for the red and gold, colour coded torso and pale blue cast to his crystal eyes. "The Mechanon race did not request UPF assistance. This is an internal matter, a simple virus, nothing more"
  The eorna Ambassador responds to the Mechanon's dramatic entrance.
  "The Mechanons are not members of the Volturnus governing Council. You have no veto power here."
  "A virus you say?" The Streel executive asks.
  "Yes." The Mechanon answers. "These incidents involve only a few Mechanons that have caught a virus, most likely from substandard Frontier technology. We will find a way to neutralise the effect and stabilize the situation soon. There is no need for drastic action at this point." The Mechanon gestures toward the viewscreen as footage of the earlier incident witnessed by Con and Raid is replayed. "You can see here," The Mechanon explains as the view stops and zooms in on the eye crystals of the attacking Mechanons. "The eye crystals are a shade of red."
  Heads nod around the conference room, most Mechanons on Volturnus have almost white eye crystals, a rare few tinged green or blue, depending on their rank and role in Mechanon society. A complex system of classes yet to be completely deciphered by Frontier scientists.
  "Citizens need only report and avoid Mechanons with this virus and our own Mechanon security forces will take them in to custody." The Mechanon ambassador concludes.
  "Your security forces?" The CDC representative asks.
  "We have security teams enroute to Volkos from our Control Centre as we speak." The Mechanon ambassador explains. "They should be in position to secure Volkos within 20 hours."
  The room erupts in uproar as polyvoxes translate the Mechanon response to the gathered ambassadors and other representatives. So incensed and outraged at the Mechanon's actions the ambassador exits the room virtually unnoticed.
  "Order! Order!" Jameson thunders, bringing the meeting back to a semblance of civilization. "Clearly the Mechanons are not prepared to negotiate." He indicates the door through which the ambassador left. "So now we have to decide how to respond."
  Ice water ran through Doog's veins at the report of a Mechanon relief force on the way. He was quite certain about who the force would relieve and that was the scary part. Shaking himself like a limp panongila noodle he buckled down and logged on to a computer. He isn't about to sit idle while the defence of the city was so ill prepared. Since Con and Raid had so much extra on their plate maybe he could dig into the maps and look at zones of threat and avenues of attack and come up with recommendations for his captains.
  "It isn't the job of the Mechanons to protect our citizens." Gleep says, "If there is a renegade group, even if it is a virus, we should be the ones rounding them up and finding a cure. We are better trained and equipped for it.
  Con rises to his feet and addresses the Mechanon Ambassador, "Your Excellency, if this is truly a virus as you say it is, we respectfully request that you have all Mechanon in Volkos recalled to the Mechanon territory. This includes your security forces that you have dispatched. In the interest of having no more unfortunate attacks from taking place. Much like the one witnessed by Lt. Commander Array and myself while on our way to this meeting."
  Con's statement is delivered to the Mechanon's back as the ambassador leaves the room. There is no reply.
  Alyson asks Doog, "What do you think? You have been over the mission logs. Anything you come across if not here. where else we could come across any information about this virus. Seeing the Mechanons ambassador here just made things more nuts. Darn how is it spread? What about their backup could they also get it? More questions and less answers."
  "I don't know Alley, the virus is new and we have no info on it." Doog replies. "What bothers me is the ambassador doesn't want the rampaging Mechanons interfered with and we're suppose to let a relief force into the city so that there will be two armed groups of Mechanons? If there really was a virus then I'd think he'd be happy for our help in subduing infected Mechanons so they can be treated and further infection prevented. No I think its a ruse and they're up to something."

  "Yikes, three gates, six monorail lines, and kilometres of wall to defend, plus the water front." Doog exclaims "This has all the makings of a, what's that human expression, cluster intercourse. And the damn mechs have an embassy within the city!" Doog prepped an copy of the city map with sections of wall marked with alphabet designations and the rail lines marked with the colours of the visible spectrum. Once it was finished he uploaded it to the BHG's secure data base's file section. Next he pulls the copy on the original briefing to obtain the list of forces available. Leaving out the Mechanon embassy, that left the four indigenous races plus the mega corp forces; Streel, PGC, CDC, and GVMPI and of course the BHG, Star Law and the UPF.
  "Damn!" he cursed, "I can't access anyone other than the BHG's table of organization only the number of their on hand security personnel is available. And there is no way to know who's force is crap and who's is the real deal. Yep this is definitely a cluster intercourse!" Doog sent a page to both Raid and Con with message header, 'City Defence,' then sat back to wait their answer.
  At the beep of his chronocom, Doog answered, "Sir, you know that I'm a nut for maps and I've been looking over Volkos' map and defending it is looking like quite the challenge. I've taken the liberty of giving sections of wall and the water front alphabet designations, the incoming monorail lines colour designations and the gates can take compass point designations of north, west and east. This way everyone can be on the same page concerning what area of the city is being discussed or needs reinforcements."
  "I also tried to compile TOE's for troops from each group we have to work with and only got the number of forces available. That is not surprising in an emergency but that is info you may need. Despite that I've compiled recommendations if you'd care to hear them."
  Doog launches into his list, "First off we need to get a competent force sitting on the Mechanon Embassy post haste and possibly detail someone to patrol the city as a "shore patrol" to round up loose Mechanons. I don't know if Star Law has enough manpower to do both but they are a natural fit to the patrol half and obviously we need competent forces at the gates, someone more military oriented in light of the Star Law commander's hint in that area."
  "Second, the monorail stations are a troubling security concern and my first reaction is to blow them now to prevent the Mechanons from using them but maybe we should invite them to use them by not blowing them until the Mechanons are actually in the process of using them, if you catch my drift. I don't know if there are enough demolition experts to go around so it may be wise to wire them with an "idiots switch," of the big red button variety. That way anyone could push the button and blow the elevated support pylon or collapse a tunnel as the case may be."
  "Third, in studying the map I think we may need two separate reserve forces positioned in the city to respond to all the possible avenues of threat. The obvious spot for a reserve force in the southern half of the city is at the botanical gardens near to the administration buildings. It would have a clear path to respond to West & East Gates, the Mechanon Embassy, and Delta thru Zeta quadrants.  For the north, the intersection at the School of Business and Astro Sciences looks the best to respond to threats at Alpha through Gamma quadrants and North Gate."
  "Fourth, in pulling the maps for the city and this region of Volturnus I realized the Mechanon Mounds, where the planetary defence system is, has easy access to the sea; the same sea that Volkos is on. It would come as a nasty surprise if part of their relief force is water borne. To that end we should see how many jetcopters and pilots are available to set up patrols around the city to give us an early warning. Also isn't the desert Ul-Mor territory? Will it be possible to send out a few Ul-Mor scouts with radiophones to watch for the relief force and to recruit Ul-Mor tribes for guerrilla warfare against the mechas? We could slip the scouts out by boat? I could try talking to Arkadu Fonn-Athru's dorm mates to see if they'd volunteer and then it would only cost us a few weapons and radiophones without pulling down our idpower reserves?"
  Mack O'Malley listens to Doog's plan before offering further input. He points to the lines indicating the monorail lines.
  "These monorail lines are much newer than the rest of the city infrastructure and follow pre-existing thoroughfares. Each of these monorail terminals at the inner wall is also the location of a gate through the wall at street level." OMAC counts off the gates through the wall, "So in fact there are seven main gates through the wall. These three all offer vehicle access," He points to the three indicated by Doog, the rest are limited to pedestrian traffic but they are gates none the less." 
  Doog responds to OMAC, "Damn, I didn't realize those were also gates at the monorail stations! I still think we ought to mine the incoming rail lines to prevent the mechas from having a high road over the wall but that will depend on available explosive and demo techs though." Then xZot offers another opinion,
  "I agree with Doog that we should be prepared for all eventualities but I do not think the Mechanons pose a serious marine threat. Their basic nature of machine based life forms seems to include a built in aversion to water. I don't think there is a single reference to Mechanons using water travel since there have been records kept on this planet. The dock area may actually be our one 'secure' front!
  "These intersections here," O'Malley points to the three points of the triangle formed by the Biosocial Sciences Quarter, "They cover most of the approaches into the city centre from the gates. We could turn them into strong points with some heavy weapons. A couple of heavy machine guns at each of those intersections could do some real damage and stop the Mechanons from flooding through the entire city once they are over the wall."
  xZot nods his head, "Possibly," He muses. "There are about a dozen Ul-Mor mounted on lopers as part of their consulate contingent, they are patrolling the park area now with a handful of Kurabanda and Edestekai covering the area as well but most of the native forces we have at our disposal are still armed with traditional weaponry."
  "I was also wondering about the gliders." Doog adds. "What is the tallest building in town? Wouldn't that be the best location for the glider reserve to give them the longest glide time? It's probably too late to try to train the Kurabanda on new weapons but is there a possibility of cooking up a high tech war head for their bows? Aside from the grenades, asking them to face Mechanons with just bows is a suicide mission unless we find a yazirian, who can use modern weapons, to command each squad of gliders."
   "Doog, sounds good so far. I recommend getting assistance from some of the others to help sure up the plans. I am going to get an idea of how many troops are available for the defence of the city. I would like to have the lesser trained troops take care of rounding up the mechs and sending them back to their embassy and others just to sit on the embassy. The more veteran troops I want on the walls. We should have all the Mechs in the city off the street and back at their embassy. This way no more innocents are attacked and no vigilantes attack the Mechs." Con says into his headset before returning back to the meeting.
  "I don't want the Mechs involved in the defence. It would be inviting disaster. For now, until I can confer with Raid and upper management: One, if the Mech troops are coming from outside the city, I don't want them in the city. No telling if any are infected. Two, if the Mechs are coming from inside the city, I want them to stand down for the time being, until we can post them someplace where they can't hurt anyone." Con turns to the Eorna ambassador, "Excellency, since our rude friend the Mechanon ambassador, will not listen to my request about having the Mechs off the street and back at their embassy. Can the Volkos government declare a curfew effective immediately? Also, the gates to be closed to the Mechanons for the time being. I also ask the representatives of all other delegations UPF, Star Law, PGC, CDC, Streel and all the rest to report in with either Lt. Commander Array or myself to report the number of troops, medical staff and armaments so we can better set the defences."
  "Couldn't that make us part of the trouble?" Alyson asks, "If we go kick Mechanons out of the city just because they are Mechanons, then we are asking for trouble. They will see us as just scum. If we do this right we might be able to win some hearts and minds?"
The Eorna ambassador shows a mouth full of teeth as he smiles back at Con, "I do not think our Mechanon associate is being rude as such, just that we biological life forms are beneath their contempt." The Eorna excuses the ambassador's brusque departure. "The Mechanons are yet to appreciate the subtleties of diplomacy, in his mind the matter has now been dealt with, it is up to us to implement the solution as the Mechanons see it. This typifies the Mechanon attitude and behaviour to other races."
  "Regardless," the UPF official replies "the Mechanon ambassador is granted full diplomatic rights and immunity as an ambassador.  He and his embassy are inviolate in this matter!"
  "Huh?" O'Malley wonders aloud as he observes the meeting via the video link in the briefing room.
  "He said we can't whack the Mechanon ambassador." Borovski whispers conspiratorially in OMAC's ear.
  "Oooh!" O'Malley replies as he watches Director Jameson continue on the screen.
  "It's not such a big deal anyway," Jameson explains "The Mechanons only bothered sending one ambassador, no staff. We should be able to keep tabs on his movements at least."
  "I already have a team posted on round the clock surveillance." The Star Law Commander advises. "We will know exactly where he is at all times from the moment he leaves this building."

  "OK don't have to worry about that. Unless he gives them the slip." Alyson says, obviously relieved
  The Eorna ambassador then addresses Con's next question, "As to declaring a curfew, under the circumstances that seems reasonable although I don't see how we can enforce it with our limited forces. We have only 100 trained guards for the Eorna security team?"
  "Including the Star Law and UPF troops as well as security teams from the megacorps and allies from the other native races we will be lucky to scrape together 500 troops." Jameson sums up the numbers quickly. "And most of the natives don't have modern weapons!"
  "We won't even have heavy weapons in the city until Gloo and X'anthe arrive with the explorers." xZot adds "Although we have had some luck with air cover. The Eorna embassy is the tallest structure in the inner city and from there I believe we can launch Kurabanda gliders to give us air cover, or at least act as spotters. So long as we can hold part of the parkland to use as a landing field, we should be able to rotate flyers and have someone in the air for most of the day."

  "That big metal bugger better get his diplomatic software running!" Con responds to the Eorna ambassador as he is still looking at the door the Mechanon just exited. "At the very least, Excellency, the citizens should stay off the streets. I saw the beat down that Vrusk got from those bastards! Turns my stomach. He never had a chance. This is going to stop!" Turning to xZot, "What's the ETA of Gloo and X'anthe with those explorers?" Looking over his shoulder "Mack, you wouldn't have your robot army with you by any chance would you?"
  "Sorry boss, the robots are with the ship at the construction yard at Truane's Star," OMAC answers Con.
  Doog listening in to the commander's conversation realizes that Con doesn't have the manpower numbers at his finger tips. Quickly he generates a report and sends a text file and hard copy to the commanders.
  "Thanks, Doog." The enforcer says as he continues the planing of the defence of the city.
  Con turns to his young team mate, "Star Law has a tail on the ambassador, Ally. I think Doog might be right about the sweep. I really don't like the idea of just rounding up the Mechanons like that, but we will not know if they are infected or not until its too late. My only concern about Doog's plan is the waterfront. I think we might need some defences on the water front. It will leave us with our pants down! Not so much from a Mechanon attack, but from someone else. It does not have to be a big detail, but rather a look out. If something goes down at the water front we can move troops."
  The dralasite Star Law Commander listens attentively to the various suggestions now being offered up by the BHG through their commanders, Con and Raid, before speaking up again.
  "I am not sure you completely understand the gravity of our situation." He turns back to the map displayed on the view screen. "Even with all the forces we have combined, we cannot hold the old city wall. Not against a determined enemy. We will be able to hold off a rabble indefinitely but only if they try to breach by one of the gates. We just physically don't have the manpower to monitor the entire wall or the ability to get troops rapidly to a breach and even if we could stop one or even two breaches they could hit us on the other side of the city before we could re-deploy." The vrusk from the UPF concurs,
  "My Star Law colleague is correct friends. The tactical situation is grim at best. The old city wall may slow down a concerted attack but that's about all and any troops left on the wall could be cut off and defeated piecemeal if the Mechanons overrun us." The vrusk scans the room with his eyes and antennae to assess the reaction to his statement. "I believe the focus of our defence should be right here." He points to the Administration blocks on the map. "This should be our final defensive position, the seat of government on Volturnus. If we can establish a perimeter and observation posts or strong points further out we need to allow some sort of escape route back to here." As the meeting continues to offer up various theories an Eorna enters the room, steps to the Eorna ambassadors side and whispers in his ear.
  "Gentlefolk you need to hear this." The ambassador indicates the new arrival to address the meeting directly. In broken Pan Gal, the Eorna technician informs the various dignitaries that the communications network is experiencing glitches and breaks in transmission.
  "In fact Volkos appears to already be isolated from the rest of the planet. We do still have limited communication with orbiting satellites but we do not know for how much longer." The Eorna ambassador nods to his technical aid and he withdraws again. "So now what?" He asks.
  Gleep suggests that there may be some benefit to harassing the Mechs before they get to the city. "We could reduce their numbers as they progress forward. We have vehicles and longer range weapons. That would allow us to hit and run. We would always move back when we were in their range, but we could take a few out and maybe reduce the will to fight. Now, where are the explorers with our heavy weapons?"
  "So, the UPF will just let us fend for ourselves? Shocker. We will man the walls and fall back to the Admin Section to make out final stand. I agree with you Gleep. I want those small squads made up of some of the BHG and some of the more experienced fighters we have. Some of the corporate teams have some mercs with them. We will include those guys. I will ride with the squads. Raid, can you hold down the fort? You will have some of the team here just in case. The squads will roll when the equipment from the explorers are set up. Questions or comments?" Con asks of the team and the other dignitaries as he looks each in the eye.

  "Ya though, at the Battle of Volturnus the sathar probed the Mechanons first. They also deployed a large gun that was decimating their formations. The team was called in to neutralize the gun to relieve pressure on the Mechanons. Wouldn't it be nice if the eorna could come up with some of those guns!"
  Alyson says,"Maybe they know something we don't? One of those guns could be here in the old city? Using this virus thing could just let them in and look for it? Or just wipe us out from the inside. Maybe we should keep a eye on the ambassador?"
  Kane who has up until now been quietly monitoring the proceedings via a wall-comm within the building finally decides to chime with in his own thoughts.
  "While I agree with the necessity of picking a defensible fall back position to make a final stand should it become necessary," he begins, "but I wonder if there are any other locations within the city that also need to be defended? Like a City Armoury, Power and/or Water Stations, The city spaceport, etc. Perhaps quick reconnaissance missions to these areas might be required while we conduct these hit-and-run attacks. If for no other reason than to make sure that nothing is overlooked that could come back and bite us in the ass before things really go south here."
  "Also if we are seriously entertaining the notion of expelling all the "Mechs" already in the city, then we need to be sure that we are not going to be kicking them out and into the waiting arms of those that have already been infected. If that were to happen then we would have turned a minor city disturbance into a major planetary-wide catastrophe! So perhaps we would be better served by keeping the uninfected isolated and under guard, elsewhere in another part of the city that is also defensible. The old city perhaps? That way, this plan might go over a little better with the other Mechs, especially if this is the result of an infectious outbreak."
  "Finally, we need to be sure that this 'Rebellion', really is due to the outbreak of some unique Volturnus techno-virus and not merely Mechanon treachery hiding in disguise. To that end, I think we need to conduct some snatch-and-grab operations. Let's capture a few infected mechs, again during our hit-and-run attacks, get them to an isolated robotics workshop someplace and then run some tests on them to see just what really is going on inside those electronic brains of theirs. Maybe its just me, but this situation is giving me flashbacks of that "rogue robot" from our Starship Omicron mission."
  Con, remaining cold and operational turns to Kane. "Kane, there is so much that we should protect and just don't have the man power to do it." He confesses. "I don't want the Mechs out of Volkos, just tucked away in their embassy for the time being. I definitely do not want uninfected Mechs to become casualties. What about small patrols that will cover these sensitive areas, but need to return to the wall if needed?" Con offers. "The patrols outside of the city should attempt to collect some intelligence, and maybe 'grab' an infected Mech if the opportunity does pop up."
  "You will get no arguments from me on this commander." Returns Kane. "All I am saying is that we may first need to consider a few possibilities before acting. Just to be sure."
  Appreciating Kane's input to the situation. "We have no choice but to do it this way. What do you think Raid?"
  After thinking Doog responds, "If we're not going to hold the whole city there is no point in trying to sweep up the mechies. We still need to formulate a plan for the next 20 hours this is 'our move' after the so called relief force gets here then its 'their move' so to speak."
  "We haven't even ordered the Kurabanda glider to the embassy roof and set up the patrol flights. We've got a lot of good ideas going here so lets divvy up the jobs and get busy. Someone needs to take charge of the park since if we don't hold on to it we lose our air cover. Someone needs to set up our defensive perimeter around the Admin block and the park. Someone also needs to set up the harassment phase of this operation since we shouldn't let the Mechanons have the wall for free. Kane's idea is a good one too maybe he should take some troops and see if he can find any infected Mechanons for our tech guys to look at. Someone also needs to collect intelligence from all patrols and get it to the team."
  "If you want I set up a post here at the edge of the park for the glider pilots to report to me as they land and if you give me the mounted Ul-Mor I organize them into patrols and message runners if needed. You can also stick me with the defence of the park if you give me troops for that but I may have enough to do coordinating the patrols and reporting intel. One way or the other give me some orders, sirs."
  "Well, we really can't hold the wall indefinitely, so I'd say Con should organize a patrol that has the capability to fall back quickly without being cut off." Raid agrees. "The majority of our forces should guard the smaller perimeter around the admin block and hold out until help arrives. Any civilians that are able to evacuate the city now should be told to do so and the rest take shelter within our smaller perimeter. Con's patrol can act as our eyes and ears and perform any fact finding missions." Raid looks at Con. "I don't want to let any Mechanons, with the exception of the Mechanon ambassador under guard, inside the Admin block. The inner perimeter. That's what I'm thinking." Raid finishes

  In a manner which is both respectful to Commander Con and his command authority, Kane reiterates what's already been stated. "So far as I understand it, we are operating under an estimated timetable of less than a standard day until the Mechanon Relief Force (MRF) is expected to arrive. According to the Mechanon ambassador, these 'incidents' only involve Mechanons that have caught a 'virus' which they are now blaming on the use of 'substandard Frontier technology'. While I don't mean to state the obvious sir, but true or not, that's all the pretext the Mechs are going to need to seriously undermine all the Eorna's hard work and effort gone into making Volturnus a part of the UPF. We have to act." Kane declares emphatically.
  "Doog just highlighted for us that we can expect the MRF to use security robots armed with gyrojet weapons and combat robots with laser rifles and sonic disrupters. And if our intel is accurate, those beam weapon equipped robots use integral weapons powered off parabatteries. He already pointed out that the bad news is that they won't run out of ammo. Now here is the potently worse news. What happens should all those lower order robots the Mechanons use as front line troops and defensive screens become infected? And just how far will the Mechs go to ensure that this 'virus' doesn't spread beyond this city?" Kane let's that chilling thought hang in the air for a moment. Kane toggles his chronocom from clock to timer mode he continuing.
  "We now have T minus 20 hours to will find a way to "neutralize" this outbreak if we are going to be the ones to 'stabilize' the situation. So I concur with Doog's assessment of our options at this point commander." Says Kane as he nods to Doog in acknowledgment his team-mate's sound tactical judgment. "I believe that we need to decide immediately on the following issues he has outlined for us. Getting the Kurabanda gliders to the embassy roof and then setting up their patrol flights. Setting up our defensive perimeter around the Admin block and the park area. Again Doog already pointed out that if we don't hold onto the park, then we lose our air cover, and Commander Raid has designated that a majority of our forces should guard the smaller perimeter around the Admin block.
  Begin preparing for harassment and possible capture operations against the infected Mechs currently plaguing the city. Since I have been already been nominated, I stand ready. However, I will yield this responsibility to Commander Raid and stand ready to act as his second in this aspect of our plans. Maybe organize and lead a couple of capture teams into the field. I believe that I could have things organized and ready in a few hours, probably coinciding with Gloo's arrival with our remaining weapons and gear. This would also free up Commander Raid to personally oversee the conversion of an isolated Robotics Workshop into an Electronic Med Lab and Sickbay for the infected Mechs.
Collect and analyse the intelligence data we are sure to be gathering from the patrols and get it to the defenders ASAP. Since Doog has already volunteered for that I will gladly offer my support to him. And finally at Commander Raid's suggestion, we should start evacuating the city and assist those taking refuge within our defensible perimeter.  Unless I am mistaken, this covers everything that has been discussed up to this point. If I may be so bold so Commanders, I believe that I can speak for everyone here when I say that the BHG stand ready to undertake whatever assignment given to us. What are your orders sirs?"

  "Well, I'm going up to the embassy roof with the Kurabanda to set up an observation post. I'll maintain communications and help set up the perimeter from up there. Do we have a map of the admin block and the park?" Raid takes the map and leaves the meeting. He continues talking with the others as he heads up to the roof. Most of this planning can be done on the move, he figures, since time is limited.
  "OK. Ladies and gentlemen, let it be like this then." Con says as he looks at all the members of the BHG. "Raid, while you are on the roof, have the gliders fly on regular patrols. I guess they will touch down in the gardens. Have them leave from a roof top near you, and have ground crews on the ground in the gardens to get the pilots taken care of and the gliders back up top. 70 Kurbanda. Is 35 enough? Doog, take the 45 or 48 Star Law to get the evacuation under way. Escort those who want to stay to the Admin Section and escort the others to the city gate.
  "You had best use my UPF troops for that task." The dral UPF officer interjects. "Half the Star Law agents are already deployed at the gates or following the Mechanon ambassador. The rest are securing this building and the immediate surroundings."
  "OK fine" When that is done, stand by to analyse any intel we bring back. Kane, take the GVMPI boys and round up the infected Mechs. Send them to their embassy or out of the city, even better."
  "We can start ferrying some of the evacuees out via the harbour." The UPF dral offers. "Even just getting them across the canal with keep them out of reach of the immediate threat. If we can turn the boats around fast enough we could get out several thousand a day!"
  "Aly, take the Ul-Mor and hold the botanical gardens." Con continues issuing a string of instructions to his waiting staff. "We need to keep that for the fly boys. I will take a group out in the explorers for harassment/intel/recon/kidnapping function. I want 12 UPF troops with me plus 1 or 2 BHG for this op. We will keep an eye for troop movements and slow up the Mechs and grab one. Sui-Ling, I need that sharp sniper's eye of yours on the wall with the rest of the forces. When I and my boys are back, we will join you on the wall. Any concerns or questions or man power concerns?" Con says as he looks around the room. "Raid, you and I will keep in contact on troop movements and what happens in the city. Let's do this."
  Alyson says to Con, "I would prefer to go with you unless you have something else in mind for me?"
  "Alright, you will be on the recon detail with me." Con decides. "Gleep has more experience to hold down the gardens and protecting the flyboys." Says Con.
  Ally says,"Thank you. Sir."
  "By your command Boss." Gleep will take his comm gear with him. There has to be a way to cut through the interference. When Gleep leaves, he goes to set up comm gear to keep tabs on what is going across the airwaves within range.
  As Raid heads for the door, Crisbel steps between the new Lieutenant Commander and the doorway. "Maybe I should do that?" The yazirian warrior suggests. "Your skills are more suited to other areas don't you think? I will set up some air combat patrols and start sending in recon reports to the HQ, where you should be." As Crisbel exits the building in search of the Kurabanda glider pilots, he collars an Eorna guard and enlists him as a guide around the buildings of the Admin Quarter.
  "If we are setting up OP's at the gates then I am going up for a looksee." O'Malley decides at this point. "I wanna look for ambush sites between the wall and our fall back position, see if we can funnel their attacks where we want them." He smiles evilly as he follows Crisbel out the door.

  Doog comes to attention and salutes Con smartly. His first impression of him had been introspective and gloomy back on Alcazzar but now he was warming to the rough soldier as he took charge. 
  "Watch yourself out there, Doog. And Doog, no need to salute me?" Con says. Doog lays on the human style smirk that he's been practicing and salutes again,
  "Yes sir!" A bare second later Doog has shifted gears from goofing to business. He prints out a set of maps just before leaving and runs to the UPF headquarters.
  As the BHG wrap up their planning session and crackling call comes through from one of the gate security teams.
  "This is Ranger Horatio reporting. We have hostile Mechanons at the front gate." The Star Law officers voice rasps across the audio comm link. The sound of several laser weapons being discharged is heard over the channel before Ranger Horatio continues. "Only four of 'em!" He cries and then the sound of several more laser blasts. "That's got 'em for now. They went after a couple of yazirian civilians. We just drove 'em off, no kills." Horatio reports "I've got the boys keeping the power settings down with all these civilians around."
  "Very good Ranger." The Star Law commander replies. "Carry on."
  "Horatio out!" His voice barely decipherable now over the static and interference.
  "Now it begins!" Jameson smiles determinedly at the group.

  Ally says,"Sir looks like we should get some wheels for our unit. Just in case this happens again we could back them up fast. Plus we still need one to see what they have and if we can find a cure."
  "X'anthe and Gloo are on the way with our wheels, Aly. I am going to the main gate." Con
  Half a block from the headquarters Doog slows to normalize his metabolic rates so as to not appear frantic. Two armed troopers greet him at the door; checking his ID and directing him to Sgt. Toome.
  Sgt. Toome was a short human female with a hard athletic body that said she was all spring steal and strap leather and she had a hard no nonsense stare that reminded him of Sui-ling. Somehow Doog could tell that laying on his 'large and in charge act' to heavily would not work well with her nor would tentativeness. Suddenly, he knew, taking the cue from what he read in her: be strong and confident and dare anyone not to respect his position.
  "I'm Doog Lous of the VTC, are you Sgt. Toome?" After the briefest affirmative from Toome, Doog laid out two maps of the city and the admin block, "Sgt. have you ever organized an evacuation before?"
  "Smaller scale, nothing this large. I can tell you that the number one concern will be to stop people from trying to take everything they own and procrastinating to the last minute."
  "So we tell them its temporary, for their safety and that they only have 8-10 hours to leave. Also I don't want to jam up the other aspects of the preparations by flooding all the streets with evacuees."
  "You'll need established evacuation routes to prevent that. Where are people evacuating to and will we be evacuating the medical centre" Doog paused to think, "Good questions; I think that most of the indigenous races will head for their native terrain. Federation citizens will evac to the admin block which is the only section we have the manpower to defend so the med centre gets evaced too. I'll o.k. it but the walking wounded will have to be evacuated by boat and those that the docs say are too critical will have to be moved to a temporary hospital in the admin block. As for an evacuation route I think if we direct all residents to proceed directly to the outer walls and use the road that circle's the city and the monorail to get them out that should leave the main avenues of the city free for security forces to get around without too much slowing them down. I count ten major sections of the city but most are given over to the university so their population density will be light so lets organize small patrols of 2-4 to take ground cars and megaphones to patrol those areas and get people moving and you can commandeer the cars on my authority. We will need to focus on the residential areas and the med centre with the bulk of our manpower. I'll see about getting an all call sent to every chronocom in the city with the evac instructions as well."
  Toome began organizing her men and Doog called Raid. He detailed the evac plan and asked if someone in the admin section could send out an all call message to facilitate the evac effort. He also asks for confirmation that the medical centre will not be defended and discusses his plan to evac the sick and wounded via boat as well as setting up a temporary hospital suggesting the records building next to the Eorna Legation which is largely empty. Next Doog calls Con to appraise him of the evacuation routes and see if he required any changes to them.

  "Con I'd like to keep the three main gates open to the evacuees for the next ten hours then order them closed to all but defence forces? Any stragglers will have to use the monorail gates after that."
  "That's fine with me Doog. If it is going to get people safely out of the city quickly, I am for it. I concur, if they don't leave now, when they have the opportunity, then they are on their own. We may be to busy to be fighting to run another evacuation." Con replies
  After starting the arrangements for the medical centre's evacuation Doog punched the number for the head of the Volkos Transit Authority and made arrangements for the monorail personnel to stay on duty through the next 12 hours and for their families to evacuate to the administration block. Then he discusses a matter that didn't sit well the administrator. It took so bald face bluffing and the outright threat of a visit of a dral who was 'large and in charge' but in the end he secured the cooperation he wanted. Keying the command channel for the BHG leadership he announced,
  "Progress report on evac: I'm telling the general population they have 12 hours to leave and the last monorail runs out of Volkos will be at that time. Anyone who hasn't left at that time will be leaving by foot. Since transportation is in so short supply I've secured the promise from the transit administrator to ask for monorail personal to volunteer to stay with their trains for the final 8 hours to facilitate troop movements in aid of those teams with missions outside the admin block. Over."
  Doog was about to turn to Sgt. Toome to see how the patrols were organizing when a racket came from the area of the front door. It was human in a business suite followed by a guard in a Streel uniform. Doog had an instant dislike for the suit. The suit was screaming,
  "I want to know which pompous ass authorized the commandeering of my personal limo! Right freaking NOW!" Doog stepped up and swelling his size by creating air pockets with in his body,
  "I am and you are?"
  The suit ran ranted for five straight minutes with arms flailing in all directions and leaning over Doog trying to intimidate by invading his personal space. Doog let him have his tantrum until the suit shoved him. He could not believe it had happened. His response surprised him equally. Doog shoved him against a desk with three arms and drew his sonic sword without activating it he placed it directly against the suits chest.
  "Now sir your behaviour has been a tad unacceptable and you will conduct yourself civilly from here on. As for your limo being commandeered this is a declared emergency and as an agent of the VTC I am authorized by the eorna government to commandeer private vehicles for official business. These fine beings of the UPF are about to work their asses off organizing the evacuation and then they are most likely about to give their lives in defence of you and the Streel corporate compound so I'm sure you don't want them to be too tired to lift their weapons after running their asses off for 20 hours do you?"
  At the words, 'do you', Doog brought the unactivated sword to rest on the underside of the man's chin. The Streel guard had begun to draw his side arm but out of no where Sgt. Toome was behind him with her hand on his wrist whispering in his ear and he decided to leave the weapon in its holster. The suit nodded compliance.
  "Good," Doog said, "In fact I'm about to go meet with the administrator of the medical centre to coordinate the evacuation of the sick and injured and I'm sure that you will want to loan all private and corporate vehicles as well as drivers and have them outside the hospital to assist in evacuating the sick an injured as well won't you?"
  Doog added just a little more pressure from the sword to his chin. The suit gulped and whispered,
  "Yes." Standing the man upright and straightening his suit he said, "Be sure those vehicles are there I don't want to come looking for them or you."
The corporate exec nodded but said, "You will be hearing about this."
  "I'm sure."
  After the suit and his tail sulked out of the headquarters Doog said, "Sorry about that."
  Sgt. Toome punched him in the arm, hard enough to hurt saying, "Doog, you'll do." Turning to her troops she said, "You heard the dral, we're going run our asses for the next 20 hours THEN show the corporate wannabe troops what a real soldier looks like! You got your assignments; now MOVE!"
  A chorus of, "Uh-raws!" went up from the troopers as they filed out. some carried megaphones and some carried extra weapons but many carried a smile for the young dral.
  "We need to see about the medical centre arrangements," Doog told Toome. She nodded toward seven other troopers who were waiting for them and said,
  "Lets go see how a limo rides."
  Doog proceeds to commandeer the records building next to the Eorna Legation as well as an adjacent office building to be a make shift hospital for the most seriously injured and sick as well as commandeering every aquatic vehicle that is suitable for 90% of the hospital patients. He presses the med centre administrator to call in all off duty medical personal because of the emergency to help with the evac of patients and for volunteers for the emergency hospital.
  The beuracratic administrator called what he though was Doog's bluff only to overhear Doog's conversation with Con about the relacitrant administrator.
  "Doog, by all means...evacuate the patients! Definitely set up a field hospital at that position!" Con instructs his man.
  The round of meetings with the hospital administration and the Dock Master to arrange the boat lift took two hours. That alone surprised Doog as he expected it to take longer. There was an obscure saying about a hanging focusing everyone's attention and he supposed that was the reason for the speed in securing the arrangements. In the end Doog had delegated responsibility everywhere he could. The senior charge nurse received responsibility for the orderly evac of the med centre unit by unit. All patients deems unmovable were transferred to one unit and each unit was moved as a whole with all portable supplies and equipment. Sgt Toome personally oversaw the transport end of the hospital evac while managing her patrols by chronocom. The Dock Master new all the boat captains and he and his staff organize the embarkation of the hospital units. One bright light was Doctor Limback, a grizzled old yazirian doctor who had come to Volturnus to study eorna methods. He was a veteran of the Clarion Royal Militia and had set up more field hospitals then he had hair in his mane. While everyone got to work Doog had secured the building maintenance supervisor of the records building's help in organizing his maintenance robots to move and remove furniture and storage banks to make way for the   field hospital.
  It was the securing of the maintenance supervisor's help that found Doog on his present job. The maintenance super's family needed to be brought in to the admin block and Doog had promised him he get them here. He had wanted to fetch the family himself but Toome had stopped him. The patrol in the engineering quadrant of the city were finding their area deserted except for looters from the ghetto and though they had come under fire from a mob and their vehicle was out of commission they had holed up in a cafe. Doog was racing with the limo and a driver to pick them up, replenish spent ammo and send them to pick up the family he had promised to bring in. The driver took a corner at a speed that was probably way beyond the legal limit when a mechanon with glowing eyes and a pack of lesser robots hove into view more or less blocking the whole street.
  "Go through, go through!" Doog yelled then braced himself. The driver red lined the power plant slammed into robot that shattered to piece. The ground car swerved and fishtailed but the driver knew his business and they roared down the road. Doog keyed a text message reporting the location of the mechanon for the snatch team though he was sure they'd be in the wrong place to respond to this sighting. They barrelled down two more avenues and the driver slammed the car into a skidding stop at the cafe that Doog indicated. Sticking his head out the vehicle window Doog yelled,
  "Anyone order krik burgers?" Four UPF troopers jogged out of the cafe and piled into the limo. The driver gunned the accelerator and they were off the car only being stationary 20 seconds. Doog turned around and addressed the troopers, "Everyone alright? I brought some fresh ammo, grenades, burgers and squeeze bulbs of hot drinks. Sgt. Toome said to tell you that for your sins of getting a commandeered corporate vehicle destroyed you get the fetch mission. Here the address, its five stops out on Blue Rail. Grab the family and report back to Toome. There also a rocket to go with the grenades just in case you have a close encounter of the mechanon kind. I'm sorry to say this is a crappy assignment so don't take chances with your safety." Looking directly at the corporal Doog says, "Avoid fire fights but you are free to deal with threats to yourselves with extreme prejudice. Here we are." After watching the patrol enter monorail station Doog addressed the diver, "Lets take a different route back to the field hospital."
  Doog was tired, he felt it in every molecule of his being. He wondered is this truly compared to what yazirians and humans expressed as feeling tired in their bones. It wasn't like he needed a sleep period it was just fatigue of being on the run and always thinking, anticipating, planning and reacting for the past hours. He knew he should rest and eat something. He had seen to the physical needs of his own troops making sure everyone was fed and rested a little but had neglected himself.
  Eventually reason had won out and he trudged to the field kitchen he had sent up behind the field hospital. The kitchen had become a necessity and luckily and he had recruited among the civilians to set up cooking from facilities for all the races represented in the defence. The project had been enormous and he thought it would be his undoing till he located chef Ferrous and turned him loose. In the end the he had appropriated a ground truck from the PGC compound and raided kitchens and storerooms from all over the university. Luckily for Doog many civilians had been recruited for that effort and he'd been able to focus on other things.
  Doog was in the middle of a bowl of nondescript but tasty noodles when it hit him. He had never vetted the field kitchen with anyone and he had not reported its existence; it had come as part of the effort to set up the hospital. His troops and those guarding the admin block had been fed but many had not. He'd have to make a progress report and see about running food out to troops that couldn't leave their post. Suddenly the reports of mechanons testing the main gate came in. Doog decided to track Raid down and report in and see if he had any further orders. Making an extra large cavity he poured the whole bowl of noodles in and headed for the headquarters. Things were in a controlled state of frenzy in the headquarters. Eventually, Doog found Raid waited till he finished his conversation before stepping into his line of sight.
  "Doog, what's going on?"
  "I just wanted to report that the field hospital as well as a field kitchen are set up and stocked as well as may be in an emergency. The Dock Master has taken charge of the evacuation fleet and the med centre and some civilians were embarked and the last ship will be leaving the docks within the hour. I still have the UPF troops out patrolling and assisting civilians with the evac but I'm ready to pull them back at any moment or reassign them now. There has been some looting near the Jet-Riv Borough with shots exchanged but nothing serious. All the monorail personal still on duty are volunteers and we've not closed the monorail to civilian traffic like we threatened to as the defence forces have are making only slight use of the rail system. My current reports are that civilian traffic is way down at this point."
  "The hospital and kitchen should run fine without me, do you have anything else that needs doing?"
  "Alright lads it's going to be like this. OMAC and Boro will set up the heavy weapon positions. They will set up at the three corners of the biosocial sciences block. We will fall back through here if need be. We might be able to prevent the buggers from running rampant through the defences this way.We need to have the Ul-Mor and Edestekai with some Frontier forces set up barricades here to support and protect the heavy weapon positions. We need the Kurabanda on roof tops to provide bow fire on anyone getting through. OMAC, Boro and Gloo will look after the second layer of defence. xZot, Snik and Jameson will hold the fort at the Admin quarter. Crisbel will look after the glider force. X'anthe and McKilin will run the field hospital. We also have 20 lopers handy, I need 20 Ul-Mor to stand ready as cavalry. They will be ready as reserves until we need them. Any questions?" Con delivers another series of orders rapid-fire
  With things beginning to come to a head Doog calls Sgt Toome, "Sarah, I think we should get your men back here and assembled as a unit again and make sure everyone is fully supplied. The balloon is about go up."
  "That's fine Doog." Raid had just went up to the roof with Crisbel to make sure the Kurabanda were set up and had enough communications gear. "I may be heading back to the command centre myself."

  Throughout the afternoon, the various members of the BHG set about their duties overseeing the defenders of Volkos as they prepare for the coming siege. A steady stream of refugees heads down to the docks where they are methodically evacuated out of the city and over the canal, or in the case of the seriously injured, straight to the spaceport.
  The Star Law Ranger squads at each gate are reinforced with half a dozen UPF troops and a handful of Ul-Mor and Edestekai volunteers. O'Malley and Borovski hijack some of the megacorp trops to build barricades across the street at selected intersections where O'Malley also picks out several places for heavy weapon emplacements at the interections.
  During the afternoon there are several more reports of Mechanons attacking citizens in sight of the various gates and by nightfall all gate posts are reporting Mechanon sightings in their vicinity. Sounds of gunfire outside the old city walls are testament to the resistance of at least some Volkos inhabitants who refuse to leave their homes. Some are left alone by the marauding bands of Mechanons while others serve only too attract even more attention from the Mechanon rebels.
  Soon after sundown a badly degraded radio signal arrives from Gloo and X'anthe announcing their arrival at the city limits. Concerned for the safety of his friends and the valuable supllies inside the explorers, Con leads his vehicle mounted patrol along with Kane, Alyson, OMAC, Siu-Ling and Borovski out to intercept Gloo and X'anthe. Several blocks after leaving the main gate post, Con's patrol is forced to turn back with their vehicles as they encounter roadblocks made from upturned civilian vehicles and other debris. Most of the Mechanons, now gathering in larger and larger concentrations, withdraw at the sight of the approaching patrol but when the vehicles turn back, a group of Mechanons try to rush Con and his comrades.
  A dozen UPF rifles and half a dozen BHG weapons fire a volley into the milling Mechanons, stopping their advance. A second volley that actually drops a couple of rioters, breaks the will of the ill conceived attack and Con's patrol are able to advance further into the suburbs unopposed. Another forty five minutes and several more skirmishes later and Con's patrol meets up with Gloo and X'anthe and the pair of BHG explorers. The trip back to the old city is much less eventful.
  Up on the roof of the Eorna embassy, Raid is more than satisfied with Crisbel's arrangements. During daylight hours, Crisbel was launching a glider every 10 minutes giving every pilot a two hour turn around. On landing in the park the pilots reported to Gleep who would pass the reports on to the HQ via chronocom. The dral was becoming increasingly frustrated with his inability to pierce the increasing interference on all chanels. He was able to determine that the interference was almost certainly an attack on the comms system and not a natural phenomena or even a 'virus'.
  As night fell Crisbel put out a request for yazirian volunteers from the Frontier forces to take over night flights, the kurabanda unable to see at night the same way the yazirains can. Raid even took a flight down himself, glorying in the sensation of the air beneath his wing flaps once again as he decended to the park and headed back to the HQ. The night air was refreshing but he definately had better access to intel at the HQ.
  A stop at OMAC's barricade by Con's patrol lightened the load of the explorers as O'Malley requisitioned several heavy weapons for sighting at the strong points.
  "Where are gonna set the explosives?" O'Malley asks Con. "We could use some to booby trap the streets or do you wanna keep them as a last line of defence for the Admin compound?"
  "I'll think about it and get back to you Mack." Con replies, deep in thought. "I don't think they wil hit us tonight, but keep a sharp eye out anyway." Con leads the patrol back to the Admin block and tries to get some sleep.
  During the night the last vestiges of modern communication fall away as the radio net finally goes down permanently.
Frontier Date 54.313
  "I can't get a signal through to or from anywhere now." Gleep reports glumly the next morning. "I don't know where they are getting the power from to pump out a signal strong enough to cut us off, but they've done something!"
  "Well on the positive side," Sn'iktl clicks "we did manage to evacuate the worst of the medical cases. Also several thousand of the old and young have also been removed from harms way."
  Before anyone else can add to the conversation, the door to the conference room bursts open and an Ul-Mor messenger enters bearing a dipatch from the main gate.
  "Mechanon numbers building at all all gates. Believe an assault imminent. Request instructions and/or reinforcements. Signed Horatio." Con reads the note aloud to the gathered BHG members."
  Long before the arrival of the Ul-Mor messenger, Kane is standing at a wall mounted comm unit updating Lieutenant Commander's Con and Raid on the progress of his security efforts.
  "Sirs," says Kane to the images on the wall comm unit, "I have been working with the ranking officer of the GVMPI mega-corp security to take the GVMPI boys and round up the uninfected Mechs still in the city. At present we are sending them to their embassy for their protection, until they can be taken out of the city."
  "One moment Sirs." says Kane as he is briefly interrupted for a situation report by a member of the GVMPI security force. Turning to a sergeant, Kane issues a couple orders to him. "Sarge, contact officer Doog and see if you can enlist his aid in getting an inventory of the closest city locations containing large ground transport vehicles. I don't care what type. And see what can be done to obtain or covert one into a mobile command unit to co-ordinate our security efforts in the field." The sergeant quickly detailed off a man to find the workaholic dral.

  Doog was catching sacks and cases of food from the back of a PGC ground truck but it felt more like an avalanche. The Edestekai pitching them out was throwing them with so much force and speed that Doog and two others could barely keep up with his pace. Luckily this was the last trip for food to stock the kitchen so he only had to survive till the Edestekai ran out of things to throw. Leaning against the tail gate and waiting for his metabolic rates to slow Doog saw the GVMPI sergeant walking toward him. From the look of his face Doog knew he was looking for someone and that someone was him and it would be about the truck. Extra vehicles were at a premium limited to those shipped in by the mega corps. The eorna city engineering philosophy was heavily committed to mass transit and few if any eorna owned vehicles.
  Doog had pretty much appropriated every free vehicle in Volkos just to evac the hospital and to maximize the very limited patrols he had by making them mobile. Some of the evac patrols had already been dismounted and their vehicle taken since their sectors had proven to be fairly deserted. Doog had only taken the PGC truck away from the hospital caravan when it became obvious that they had to have a kitchen to feed the hospital staff, civilians and the troops. Doog listened to the relayed request form Kane weighing it out. If there was a free vehicle in Volkos that Doog hadn't grabbed then Doog didn't have four arms. Others had missions to be performed and he was well on his way to getting the hospital moved so he tossed the keys to the trooper.
  "Tell Kane to be careful out there and if he doesn't have a robotics lab set up that the building manager here can clean out an empty office or records building for him to set up a lab. I took over the records storage for the field hospital and this office building for a field kitchen. Good Luck."

  Meanwhile Kane resumed his update to Lieutenant Commander's Con and Raid on his security plans. In short, Kane has ordered that the GVMPI Corpsmen divide their entire contingent of security personnel, into a several smaller squad-sized security details. Lacking the weaponry and gear appropriate for riot control duty and insufficient transportation for both, Kane would have liked these security details to be more mobile in addition to transport capable. He quickly learns his resources are even more limited having only two members of his vrusk dominated, GVMPI's security force possessed PSA levels in robotics or medicine. Kane requests more roboticists and field medics for each security detail in case they should run across any injured Frontier Citizens or non infected Mech who are causalities of the violence.
  "You will just have to do what you can with what you've got." Con orders his loyal trooper. "Consider yourself lucky to have what you've got, at least your vrusks will be faster on foot than everyone else."
  Kane's concerns were mostly for naught as his patrols sweep around the inner city proves relatively fruitless. Only a handful of Mechanons remain in the city after the previous public announcements. As non of these Mechanons display any aberrant behaviour they are quickly delivered to the Mechanon embassy for safety. Instead Kane and his GVMPI vrusk troopers only serve in becoming frustrated as they are regularly entangled in civilian traffic heading for the docks or just milling around aimlessly.
  After hearing the Ul-Mor messengers report. Gleep recommends using low-tech comm methods.
  "We can us balloons of different colours for different messages, or flags on a pole. We could also use smoke of different colours to accomplish the same thing. The only other option is runners. That is always a fallback."
  Since communications are out, Raid decides to go back to the roof with the Kurabanda where he can see what is happening. He requests a pair of magnigoggles and a personal messenger to keep him in contact with the command centre.
  "OK you guys! I am off to the main gate." Con announces, "I need each of you at a gate. OMAC, Boro and Gloo take command of the second line of defences, man your barricades. Mack, before you go, I think you should save the explosives for around the administrative quarter. If we need to make a last stand, we ought to do it with a bang." Turning to the Ul-Mor, "We have 20 mounted Ul-Mors in reserve, they can be the lines of communications until we are no longer jammed. They would be faster than runners. Maybe one at each gate as well." Con throws on his jacket, his gun belt, whip and sonic sword are on this gun belt. Con puts his knife in his boot and flings his rifle over his shoulder and heads to the main gate.

  Kane was in the process of enjoying some 'down time' after having just returned from his city-wide sweep for uninfected mechs. When the messenger arrives Kane grabs his gear and moves to the delta sector gate with his primary weapon the laser rifle attached to a power backpack. his secondary weapons are laser pistol, gyrojet pistol, and his sonic sword.
  "Great." says Ally, "They are either worried about the virus or they really do want to over run the place. I bet our action a few hours ago just might have been the spark to set this keg off. Sir what are your orders."
  "Ally, get to one of the gates! I need each of you to get to a gate!" Con answers her

  "Yes sir. I just hope we can hold out." She says. Looking from over his shoulder as Ally makes her way to a gate Con says,
  "You'll be fine, Kid".
  Doog turns to his commander for instruction.
  "Should I remain on reserve with these UPF troopers or move to a gate?" Doog's squad of UPF troopers and Sgt Toome wait in the botanical gardens for their next assignment.
  "Doog, we need you on a gate. There should be a member of the BHG at each gate." Con responds "Take the one that leads into the engineering and physical science quarters. I will be at the one where the astronautic centre, school of business and engineering quarters converge."
  "Right, Blue Rail, on it!" Doog scanned his immediate surrounding looking for Sgt. Toome. She was walking amongst her troops talking and cajoling and all in all keeping their morale up. Her hair and navy blue uniform were as pristine as the moment he first saw her. He wondered if she ever rested and realized he was glad he was with her; she was machine herself, hard and unrelenting. Suddenly, she looked at him as if feeling his eyes on her. Doog jogged up to her and said, "Sgt. we gotta go they want us on the gate at the junction of Blue rail like five minutes ago."
  "OK troopers! Strap on your dance shoes its time to dance with the devil!" A chorus of 'Uh-raws' came back to her. Toome countermanded Doog's idea of taking the monorail to get there fast for it's liabilities; elevated and a target for the Mechanons if the balloon was going up. However, most of the commandeered cars ended up at the docks during the last stages of the hospital evac. All that was left was the beat up Steel limo. "Take the limo and corporal Renec's squad and get there now the platoon and I will run up to meet you." Doog tried to object but she just laughed at the idea of the short Dral keeping up with hardened UPF troopers.
  Doog and Renec's squad used the Streel limo as an improvised barricade at the gate. The squad seemed to know what they were doing and took up their positions as if by choreography Doog waited till they were set and took a position by Corporal Renec. Evidently he had been nervously looking over his shoulder when Renec said, "Don't worry Doog, they'll get here."
  "Was I that obvious?" Renec chuckled then asked,
  "What did you do before you joined the VTC?" It was Doog's turn to chuckle before he answered,
  "Study philosophy."
  "It's kind of a family tradition; the Lous' have all been philosophers and debaters and professors and there was a lot of pressure to follow the family tradition. I suppose this is my running away to join the circus. Hell of a circus isn't it."
  "Yeah, it the greatest show on the frontier." They both chuckled low and soft and then fell silent to listen to the night. The light humour helped Doog to settle his nerves. In the quiet of the night they waited. Waited for the rest of the platoon to arrive waited for the Mechanons to arrive and all the while wondering who would get their first.
  That's when he noticed the glow to the north and pointed it out to Renec. "Fire. Most likely looters out in the ghetto," Renec said. Doog used a wall mounted comm unit and called into the headquarters,
  "HQ, this is Doog, be advised we got a fire in the Jet-riv ghetto, about a couple of kilometres from our position. We not sure of the size but it doesn't seem to be a threat to Volkos proper. Over."
  The six man squads of Star Law Rangers at each gate have been reinforced by another six man squad of UPF troops as well as a dozen Edestekai and Ul-Mor in support. Eorna troops are picketing the wall itself between the gates and the remainder of the forces are defending the Admin quarter and the three heavy weapon strong points overseen by O'Malley, Borovski and Gloo.
  As Con and the others arrive at their various posts at the gates around the old wall they see first hand the activity reported by Ranger Horatio. Con joins the Star Law Sergeant at the main gate and Horatio points out the locations of several groups of a dozen or more Mechanons gathered within several hundred meters of the gate.
  "Their numbers have doubled within the last hour, looks like they are building up for something. I estimate about 50 of them all told." Horatio reports to Con. "Still no sight of modern weapons though."
  As the BHG officer and the Star Law sergeant watch, the Mechanons begin gathering in the roadway several hundred meters from their position.
  "I think they mean to attack us sir." Horatio points toward the gathering crowd.
  "I think your right." Con replies as he unslings his rifle. Then as one the Mechanons turn toward the gate and begin advancing, quickly accelerating to run.
  "Mark your targets!" Ranger Horatio addresses his small command and a dozen laser rifles are brought to bear on the advancing Mechanons. "Power settings to half, take aim for volley fire." He continues. "At range one hundred meters on my command," Horatio waits for the Mechanon charge to reach effective range.
  "Fire!" A volley of laser beams lance out into the advancing charge, half a dozen Mechanons are struck but they continue to sweep forward. Con fires twice, both beams striking his target and dropping a Mechanon.
  At the other gates, Con's companions open fire along with their squads wuth varying results. Kane and Doog miss both their shots but Siu-Ling's head shot takes down one more Mechanon at her gate. Alyson opens up with her best long range weapon, the gyrojet rifle. She even manages to get one shell on target (26 points) badly damaging the rebel Mech. Gleep also manages to score a hit with one of his laser blasts (18 points) but the mech just keeps coming.
  The range closes to seventy five meters.
  "Fire!" Horatio commands again and a second volley sweeps into the charge, this time dropping a couple of the Mechanons and Con drops another with two more well targeted blasts from his rifle, but the rest come on fast.
  The same scene is being played out at all six gates commanded by BHG members, the Mechanons apparently able to synchronise their attacks. Ever reliable markswoman, Siu-Ling, drops a second Mechanon with her second shot to the head. Alyson fires another three shells, hitting twice (29 points) and dropping her target and Gleep get's in another succesful blast (29 points) but fails to put his mech down. Doog fires and misses again but this time Kane hits with one of his laser blasts (29 points), damaging another enemy.
  Up on the embassy rooftop, Raid hears the opening volleys of the engagement.
  "Sounds like they are hitting all the gates at once." Crisbel says to his commander. Raid nods as he scans the city wall looking for some sign of the battle.
  "Let's get some gliders up." Raid says to the yazirian warrior. Crisbel nods, turns and pats the shoulder of waiting Kurabanda pilot who quickly launches himself into the air as Crisbel orders several more pilots into the air with directions to scout the gates.
  "Maximum power, fire at will!" Horatio bellows and suddenly the air is sizzling with high powered, rapid fire laser blasts. At fifty meters the barrage of fire is now taking a toll as most of the Mechanon front rank melts away under the laser fire.
  Raid hears the sound of weapons fire increase and can only wait for news from his messengers, frustrated at the loss of their instant communication capability.
  As the Mechanon charge reaches the gate Con watches closely, wondering how the Mechanons will deal with breaching the wall. Beside each Star Law ranger or UPF trooper, Ul-Mor spearmen and Edestekai pikemen await his command to also join the fray. Reaching the gates and foot of the wall to either side the Mechanons form smaller groups, each building a pyramid from their own bodies. Three Mechanons standing together at the foot of the wall braced against each other, then two more climb onto their shoulders. The next Mechanon is able to climb up this 'ladder' and over the wall.
  The rangers and troopers take a heavy toll as the Mechanons build their 'ladders' but the Mechanons press in their attack regardless of losses. Con manages to drop another Mechanon and badly damage another before they reach the wall.
  Alyson empties the clip in her rifle but only manages one more hit (19 points), slightly injuring one mech. Doog only hits once from his next four shots, slightly damaging one enemy 919 points) while Siu-Ling has two more shots for two more kills. Gleep and Kane both hit twice from their next four laser blasts, killing one Mechanon each before they reach the walls.   
  As the Mechanons climb onto the wall they are immediately engaged by the Edestekai and Ul-Mor and a desperate melee ensues but the firepower of the defenders quickly settles the affair. Con and one of the edestekai, cut down one of the Mechanons as he tries to climb on top of the gatehouse. At Doog's gate, the plucky dral lobs a tangler grenade over the wall at the base of a mechanon attack pyramid and stops that attack cold. A pair of Ul-Mor hurl the top most Mechanon back into the sticky webs for the UPF troopers to pick off at their leisure. Kane goes for the more explosive option, dropping a frag grenade into his pyramid, resulting in a similar pile of Mechanon crystals and metal parts at the bottom of the wall. Alyson manages to meet one of the Mechanons head on as it scales the wall. Sonic sword in hand she engages the red eyed mechanon and two quick thrusts later, the mechanon lies at her feet and the assault has been repelled.
  Star Law Rangers and UPF troopers, shielded by their native companions are able to quickly eliminate the fifteen Mechanons that reached the wall but not before several of the defenders suffer minor wounds from the Mechanon attack. All the attacking Mechanons are destroyed except for one group of five from the last 'pyramid' who escape back into the outer suburbs when Con calls a cease fire. As before, none of the Mechanons are armed with anything more than basic tools and utensils being used as clubs or knives.
  Several minutes after the opening volleys of the engagement, Raid receives similar messages, via Ul-Mor riders from all the gates. Approximately fifty Mechanons, armed with clubs and knives charged the gates. They built pyramids or ladders out of themselves to scale the walls and between 1 and 2 dozen were able to gain the wall at each gate before being repulsed. Some light casualties to the defenders but nothing serious. One of the Kurabanda flyers was able to catch sight of more Mechanons coming up to the gates in bigger concentrations.
  Over the next few hours the Mechanons concentrate more of their numbers around the gates, again well back out of effective firing range but visible none the less. As the numbers grow, Con becomes more and more concerned. The last assault they drove off but most of the Frontier troops severely drained their powerpacks. Thanks to Doog's organisational skills, he had each gate resupplied with powerpacks while the drained packs were being recharged but what would happen if they ran out of ammo during the next charge? By the late afternoon Raid's scouts were now reporting Mechanons in the same numbers as prior to the last attack but this time they seemed to be waiting for more rebels before launching another attack.
  Kurabanda pilots were also reporting other flare ups in the outer suburbs as the more belligerent inhabitants of Volkos defended their homes and businesses rather than withdraw to the city centre. Reports coming back from the spaceport indicated that the evacuation was still going forward, civilians being transported from the boats to the spaceport faster than shuttles can evacuate them from the planet. Several freighters and transports were being pressed into service to evacuate as many refugees as possible before the spaceport and orbiting stations reached their capacity but estimates were that they had between two and four days before there would be a serious strain on the life support systems of the space stations. The evacuation needed to be carefully managed or the refugees will die in space instead of on the planet.
  "We need more time." Raid realises. "We can't just get everyone out of the city until we have somewhere safe for them to go. We need to find a way to stop or at least slow down the Mechanon advance." Raid reaches for the comm hand set on the wall beside him as he looks out over the crystal city from the roof of the Eorna embassy.
  "Con, we need to slow..." Raid stops speaking when he realises there is no connection. He looks blankly at the non-functional comm unit then realises there is no power indicator. He sweeps his hand over a light switch and registers the failure of the lights to come on. "Damn, they've cut the power." Raid turns to Crisbel. "Keep the combat air patrols up, I'm going to see about the power supply."
  Raid descends the stairs to the conference room being used as a HQ, collaring the first Eorna he sees and ordering them to check the power supply. By the time Raid reaches the command centre backup generators have kicked in and power is back on in the embassy but the external power through the rest of the city is down as well as all communication lines. Not even a minute after taking a seat at the conference table, Raid is joined by several security personnel from the various megacorps all reporting power losses and their own implementation of back up systems.
  As night begins to fall, Raid wonders what else could go wrong, while out at the gates, the rest of the BHG are beginning to wonder how the Mechanons feel about night manoeuvres.
  As the reports on the mechanon build up come in from scouts during the night, the various BHG squad leaders respond differently, as is their nature.
  "Dang machines!  We best beef up a little here folks and take them out faster," Gleep tells his gate guards as he considers the available weaponry and dispositions.

"Great Maker!  How many of the tin cans do you think there are?"  Con wonders at the news from his scouts.  "All right boys and girls, a new tactic might be needed.  Its an old rifleman tactic.  Fight in twos.  If they can't build a ladder, they can't get over the walls.  Your targets of priority are the ladder builders, then the Mech coming over the wall.  Your partner will lay down covering fire at the others not currently involved in the escalade.  The priority switches to the Mech at the top of the ladders if they get close to the top of the wall.  Your partner will re-prioritise to the ladder formation.  This should topple them as well!  Pass the word!"  Con instructs those serving under his companions.  As the word passes up and down the line, Con calls for a mounted Ul-Mor.  The Ul-Mor rides up, smartly and responds,
  "Go to O'Malley, tell him we can use some of those heavy lasers and recoilless weapons up here on this perimeter. They are massing more forces here and I would prefer to make sure they can not breech this line without them taking heavy losses." The Ul-Mor rides off.
  With the lull in fighting, Kane takes the opportunity to have a few troopers remove the remains of the infected Mechs and relocate them to whatever building space was designated as being available by the eorna building manager to support a temporary robotics lab. Kane likewise summons the single vrusk soldier under his command with robotics skill training to assist.
  "Soldier, is this techno-virus the Mechs claiming as the real culprit for this situation were currently in real? Or is it just the lie their using to cover their own treachery? I need proof to find out what's going on and I am ordering you to find it! So requisition whatever equipment you will need to set-up an improvised robotics lab in the field and get me those answers! As commander Doog has more than proven to be worth his weight in federanium today, he may be of help in finding the more elusive items you may need. I will dispatch a messenger to him to except your request for assistance should need it, but Lt. Commander Raid is the unit's CSO. You should definitely keep him informed of your progress as well as of any difficulties you may encounter. Don't be afraid to seek either of their assistance if you need it."
  "Yes sir." chirps the vrusk before departing after the troopers. Watching him leave, Kane turns his attention to shoring up the defences within his area of the city and to the communications blackout currently plaguing of the city's defenders.
  The vrusk roboticist, clearly out of his depth decides to head first to Doog to acquire any equipment the dral has available before continuing on the Raid at the command centre.
Noticing a dazed soldier leaning heavily against the side of a nearby wall, obviously still green to actual combat despite a recent promotion in rank, Kane attempts to relieve him of his shell-shock before stress renders him useless as a soldier.
  "Corporal, take any man not on currently on lookout or sentry duty, and round up all the tel-com cable you can find."
  "Sir?" stammers the man in confusion.
  "Dammit man, we need communications!" yells Kane at the soldier. "If those eggheads in the command centre can't get our wireless com-net back up and running again, then we apes will have to do it ourselves! So let's get some landlines established between the City Gates and the Command Centre by laying that wire down and then connecting it to a computer and switchboard! Now move it mister!!!"
  "Sir! Yes Sir." replies the Corporal who departs, determined to carry out Kane's order.
  "He'll be fine now that he has something to take his mind off what's coming." says Kane to himself, watching him go. Tuning his attention back to the gate and the needs of the soldiers under his command, Kane issues a few more orders for reinforce the gate, creating obstacles to slow the advance of any attackers who may succeed in breaching his perimeter, and to aid the logistical efforts of his men. When this has been carried out to his satisfaction, Kane dispatches his own messenger to both Lt. Commanders Con and Raid, as well as to Doog, informing them of his efforts and will request the immediate deployment of approximately 4 heavy weapons of whatever type that can be best utilized by the most skilled soldiers under his command.
  Doog accepted the hard copy intelligence summary from an Ul-Mor rider and asked him to wait for a return response. After reading the summary Doog knew they were in for it. The mechanons would double their numbers for the next try. It was gonna get hairy come morning. They needed a new plan if they we're going to hold this gate. After informing Sgt. Toome of the intelligence summary he said, "I think we may need to adjust our dispositions."
  "I'd say so. What did you have in mind?"
  "Well first off I think we need some more fire power but I'd have to strip off everything just to carry a heavy laser and backpack. Any of your troopers big enough to lug around a heavy laser?"
  "Do drals change shape?"
  "OK. Secondly I'm not pleased about the mechies doing that pyramid ladder to go over the gate and all the available explosive has been ear marked for use elsewhere. Now, maybe I'm wrong but didn't I hear somewhere that all a UPF trooper needs to improvise a booby trap explosive is an everflame, ion bonding tape, and wire?"
  Toome just smirked at him and said, "I'll see what we still have for grenades and whip something up but see if you can get some frags."
  "Also these blocks behind us are the engineering sector of the university and the test labs are close by. What I want to do is bring up a drum of standard lubrication oil and have it set to dump on the ground outside the gate. If the mechies want to dance lets see how they dance on oil."
  "Damn Doog, you're devious, but I like it." Toome smiled and turned to yell, "Renec! round up what we have left for grenades and some wire we're gonna need a punch wire special."
  Turning to the waiting Ul-Mor Doog said, "Go back and request a heavy laser, power backpack and a case of frag grenades..." In mid sentence Doog pauses the turns and points to the spot for Ul-Mor to initiate his touch telepathy. Within the silence of their heads Doog details his plans for the coming attack.
  As he's about to take some of the native warriors off to the test labs to get the lubrication oil Doog sees the GVMPI messenger coming toward him. He hangs his head wonder now what? After listening to the vrusk he brightens; with the power cut and most electronics down it wasn't likely he'd be called on to repair a computer! Taking out his robot repair kit he gives it to the vrusk after removing the spool of wire from it.
  "Tell Kane that I said that's the best I can do right now. He could always try searching the tech and engineering sectors for more but that is likely to be a fools errand unless he can locate a civilian who will know what and where the robotics equipment is. He should try the building maintenance super, he should have a small workshop to keep up his maintenance robots." The vrusk roboticist accepts Doog's robcomkit and heads back toward the administration quarter to find Raid.

Raid, having tired of lugging around three separate toolkits, decides to leave two of them, his techkit and envirokit on the table in the command centre. He keeps his robcomkit slung over his back, knowing it could come in handy when dealing with robots.
  "Too bad I don't have my hovercycle and its tool carrier with me," he thinks to himself. Raid tries to rig a wire from the command centre to the roof that can be plugged into all standard communications devices. The idea is for the wire to use the low voltage straight from the handheld device rather than the building's unreliable power supply. He also briefs messengers heading out to the walls on the evacuation situation and need for delaying a mechanon advance.

When Kane's vrusk roboticist, messenger arrives, Raid sends him down to the robotics workshop in the eorna embassy where he hopes the team will be able to secure a damaged, infected mechanon to confirm the mechanon ambassador's story.
"Until we can capture a functional mechanon to study, there is not much else we can do." Raid explains to the vrusk robotics intern. "Just stay handy." Raid decides to send a note via Ul-Mor messenger to all his gate commanders about trying to capture an 'infected' mechanon so they can study the alleged virus.
Doog and Toome share a canteen as they review their preparations. The drum of lube oil had been the simplest to set up on the gate house. Doog's sonic sword had done duty as a can opener and they had cobbled together a pivot point for it to be easily tipped over the wall. For some reason obscure to Doog, the UPF called the booby traps 'punch wire' despite the fact that a wire had to be pulled to activate. The lube oil had been set up long before the grenades were ready. The troopers had to partially disassemble the grenades to attach each trigger wire. Then trigger wires were ganged together to form strings.
  Placing a string outside the gate had been the real trick. Under cover of darkness and every available shooter one trooper and a small handful of native went over the wall. The natives made a show of sweeping clear all debris then spreading ball bearings (another engineering school appropriation) in the approach to the gate, however their real purpose was to block line of sight while Corp. Renec set and concealed a string of eight frag grenades. Once everyone was back inside three more strings were set. One on the roof of the gate house, placed against a wall so as to blast toward the front of the gate. The last two strings were placed in front of low barricades blocking each avenue leading down either side of the physical sciences sector. Windows and doors were kicked out of the corner building to facilitate communication between the barricades. The plan as it stood was to watch and see how the mechies do on the ball bearing. Doog rather doubted that they'd be slowed much. He was going to wait till they finished the second layer of their ladder pyramid to dump the oil. If they still managed to keep coming he'd order the punch wire pulled on the gate which should catch more than a few in the blast radius at that point. If they still were in danger of loosing the gate and wall everyone had an assigned barricade at the two avenues to fall back to. They would hold the barricades for as long as possible. The grenade strings would be saved for the order to retreat. Hopefully they'd buy them some time to pull back.
  Doog took a deep pull on the canteen. He was tired but pleased. They had done well and he was confident his people knew their jobs.
  With communications down Doog adds a query to his response to headquarters asking if copies of the UPF flash code could be disseminated to the troops for use with mirror when the sun is shining and flashlights at night as a low tech method of communication. He further adds to the query the fact that all UPF troopers and Star Law troopers should know this code. He also appraises headquarter of his standing order to all his troops to make for a building roof if they get cut off by mechanons and attempt to contact headquarter with a hand held mirror.
  "I hope they can plug a computer into a parabattery and printout a hard copy card for all the troops," he says to himself. "At least if its a UPF trooper who's cut off he can act as spotter and call for mortar rounds on enemy locations at best and feed intelligence back at least; assuming he's undetected."
As Con and his troops prepare for the next Mechanon assault, several representatives from the megacorp forces approach Con and Raid.
  "Do you want some of our people to help you hold the gates?" The PGC security chief asks.
  "If we can hold off their next attack at the gates it could buy us more time until they build up their forces again?" The UPF commander says, considering the offer. "I've got a bunch of people itching to get into the action." The Streel executive adds. "I think they are just agitating for extra combat pay bonuses but we do have some pretty good people on our team."
  "Thank you, that would be much appreciated. Have your NCO's check with the BHG members at each gate and deploy your men according to their needs". Con says.
  The look on the face of the Star Law commander shows his displeasure with the suggestion from the megacorp forces but he too realises the desperate situation they are all in now.
  "Well we're all in this together." He grumbles "You have about as much to loose now as we do but how do we know your people will stand and fight? They could run at the first sign of trouble?"
  "Run? Run where?" Streel Corp replies.
  "They won't run." The PGC officer says. "Not if you put some of my people with theirs."
  "What makes you say that?" Con raises an eyebrow at the PGC suggestion.
  "Bragging rights." The PGC officer replies. "Streel would never want PGC to outdo them. Not in anything."
  As he sits and listens to the accusations and bragging that takes place in front of him, Con's expression turns to one that hints at his own displeasure. He steps up to the leader who questioned the Streel troops willingness to fight. "I've been in combat with Streel forces. They'll fight. There is no doubt about that. They'll fight you hard. They give no quarter. I highly recommend you check your egos in at the administrative quarter. It's bullshit like that, that will cause problems when we defend the city. We need to work as a team, all on the same page. There is no BHG, no UPF, no PGC and no Streel right now, just the defenders of Volkos. Any of you have a problem with that you can see me about it later!"
  With that Con makes his way back to the wall. "When that heavy laser gets here, I will fire it. Stand ready boys! Remember, partner up. One guy is to fire at their attempts for an escalade. If they get to high, take the highest man on the ladder to prevent him from coming over. Your partner will lay suppressing fire at those shooting from the ground. When you switch to the top mech on the ladder they will shoot at the other mechs on the escalade duty!"
  Back at the second line of defences, Mack O'Malley is still overseeing the building of barricades to block the main intersections covering the retreat from the old city wall. He leaves several gaps in the barricade to allow the explorers and exit point if they are needed to cover any of the gate teams. As Con's orders reach him, Mack realises they probably only have one weapon available for each gate. As requests begin coming in for the heavy weapons stored in the vehicles, O'Malley begins sending them forward with what ammunition he can spare. First he sends Kane a heavy laser with a pair of power backpacks via Ul-Mor courier with a message that they only get one weapon per gate and Con also gets a heavy laser with a pair of power backpacks.
  With only 2 rockets left for the rocket launchers, O'Malley ignores both requests from Alyson and Gleep, instead sending Gleep his second choice of the grenade launcher along with the last of the BHG's grenades, including two smoke and five each of tangler and incendiary. To Alyson he sends one of the recoilless rifles with 10 shells and Doog gets the last heavy laser with another pair of power backpacks and O'Malley sends one of the remaining recoilless rifles to Siu-Ling's gate.
  The last two heavy weapons, a recoilless rifle and a rocket launcher are mounted on the explorers where O'Malley also splits the remainder of the BHG armoury evenly. Leaving Gloo in command of the position, Mack O'Malley mounts one of the explorers and Borovski climbs into the turret of the other as half a dozen megacorp security personnel clamber into the vehicles to be ready as a mobile reserve force.
Frontier Date 54.314
  Soon after breakfast but before the sun begins to rise, small groups of defenders gather at each of the gates along the wall, readying themselves for the expected mechanon assault. Kane gladly accepts aid from the mega-corp troops as they arrive at his post and others along the wall.
  Doogs gives standing orders to all his troops that if they get cut off by the mechies and can't fallback on the admin block they are to enter a building and go to the roof. everyone has a piece of mirror taken form the walls of bathrooms from nearby buildings with which to signal the observers on the roof of the eorna legation building. Not that there is air lift available to rescue but that's the order he gives in case of being cut off.
  Just before dawn an eerie stillness settles over the city, as if the planet itself is holding it's breath in anticipation of the morning's events. In the grey light of the early dawn Con and the other gate commanders can make of the gathering forms of mechanon rebels as they begin to gather in the street, several hundred meters away from each gate. Along the wall, the defenders slip into their defensive positions, calmly awaiting the approaching storm.
  Gleep sets 2 frag and 2 tangler grenades to the side, ready to grab as needed and then sets his laser rifle to the side for when they get too close for the grenade launcher.
  Con checks his combat load to make sure he isn't carrying anything he doesn't need. His rifle, pistol and gun belt, sonic sword, whip and knife. He decides to send one of his power backpacks to the rear, sacrificing the extra ammo to free up his load for manoeuvrability.
  As the enemy formations begin to appear, the defenders heavy weapons are brought to bear on the enemy concentrations, waiting for the command to open fire. Across the city, at the same time, all the mechanon concentrations begin advancing toward the gates in the old city wall. Con has a clear field of fire for almost 300 meters from his post whilst at the G1 gate whilst Alyson sees clearly out to 500 meters. As soon as she sees the mob moving, Alyson opens fire, the weapon set to half power (10 SEU's). Taking carefully aimed shots with the weapon, Alyson continues to fire on the advancing mob as fast as possible. She drops five of the mechanons before they reach the 150 meter mark of their advance and then she smashes apart three more once they reach short range. Around her, the combined Star Law, UPF and meagacorp force raise weapons, taking aim at the advancing enemy while Ul-Mor warriors and Edestekai males wait behind the walls with spears and pikes.
  The defending forces hold their fire until the mechanon mob reach fifty meters this time, saving their ammunition for most effective fire. Around the defensive perimeter the other heavy weapons begin to open up as the mechanon charge comes in to view.
  At the front gate, Con opens fire when the charge is 300 meters away. By the time Con empties his powerpack, the mechanon mob is only fifty meters from the wall and massive volleys of fire a lashing out from the old city walls, decimating the front ranks of the charge. Eight mechanons die by Con's own hand before he stops to reload.
  Gleep opens fire with the grenade rifle using incendiary loads in the shells at 100 meters, again at 50 meters and a third time at point blank range, the mechanons beginning to build their pyramids to scale the wall. Whilst his first two shells do not land exactly on target, the mechanons are packed together so tightly that each explosion of phosphorus damages or disables several of them, their metal skin burning after the initial explosion. The last shell is bang on target, toppling the pyramid of five directly in front of him, killing all but one of the mechanons in a pyramid of fire.
  Preferring to stick with her laser rifle, Siu-Ling hands the recoilless rifle over to one of the UPF sergeants. He opens fire at 100 meters, misses his intended target but kills a mechanon to right of his target anyway. The next the two shells kill both mechanons he aims at and then the enemy are at the gate. Beside the UPF sergeant, Siu-Ling is putting on a display of fireworks that impresses even the Star Law rangers. With her laser rifle set to half power, Siu-Ling blazes away at maximum cyclic rate in to the mechanon charge. By the time the mechanons reach the wall another eight have been killed by the sniper who curses at her two missed shots while she unplugs her empty powerpack.
  On top of the gate at G15, Kane opens fire as soon as the mechanons come into sight 100 meters away. Four of his five blasts from the heavy laser, slam into targets, chopping down four mechanons before they reach the wall.  
  At the Blue Rail gate, G11, Doog watches as Corporal Renec opens fire with the heavy laser at the approaching mechanon horde. He hits, misses, hits, misses and hits again, killing three mechanons before they reach wall but it is the volley of fire from the reinforced defenders that decides the issue.
  When the mechanons reach fifty meters from the wall, the combined defenders unleash a volley of fire at maximum rate of fire. Up to two dozen mechanons drop in that first blast in every attacking column. The second volley of fire at twenty five meters cuts down another thirty attackers at each gate. With half their numbers blown away already, the remaining mechanons sweep forward over the bodies of their fallen. As the mechanons reach the foot of the wall it is now almost impossible for the defenders to miss. Defensive fire into the mechanon assault pyramids drops another three dozen as most of the escalade attempts are thwarted by Con's tactics of targeting the pyramid builders first and slowing the advance.
  At several points one or two, sometimes three mechanons would gain the wall, only to be engaged and driven off by the Ul-Mor and edestekai. Con, Kane and Doog all manage to capture an damaged mechanon at their particular gates although all three mechanons had to be bashed into submission, as none of the mechanon attackers would yield to any requests to lay down their arms or cease attacking.
  Just as the melee is coming to a close at the gates, eorna messengers reach both Gleep and Con's gates. The eorna troops are quite alarmed and Con quickly learns that while all the gates were being assaulted, another, smaller squad of around 30 mechanons had gathered near the monorail station at Yellow Rail G7. Using the same pyramid tactic they managed to get several infiltrators onto the wall between the eorna guards. The guards sent messengers off to the gates on each side of the breach but by the time reinforcements could close the gap, three eorna were dead and stripped of their weapons and approximately two dozen mechanons penetrated the breach.
  "Damn!" Con swears as he motions for an Ul-Mor messenger. "Take this to OMAC." He thrusts a scribbled note at the runner and then details off a patrol of half a dozen troop to search the Astronomy Quarter. Link up with OMAC and the explorers if you can. Con looks back out at the aftermath of the devastated mechanon assault and decides to clean up the problem inside the perimeter. He sends a note to each gate commander to bring a squad and joined the sweep of the Astronomy Quarter.
  When the Ul-Mor messenger arrives from Con, Mack O'Malley hollers a command to Borovski.
  "Mount up partner. They've breach the perimeter." O'Malley and Borovski take their explorers to the Astronomy Quarter and quickly link up with other BHG led patrols to sweep through the infiltrated territory. Within the hour the various BHG members gather with their six man patrols to sweep the Astronomy Quarter. The mechanons are soon isolated and eliminated after refusing to accept quarter in a short but violent engagement. All told the defenders suffer only a few light wounds from the entire engagement and overall, morale appears to be quite good amongst the defenders.
  As the afternoon progresses uneventfully, Con decides to call a meeting of the BHG and other officers to assess their situation and plan their next move. At the meeting Raid is also able to present some information about the mechanons themselves.
  "After examining the mechanon subjects I have been able to establish that they are definitely behaving abnormally compared to all our previous data."
  "No kidding?" O'Malley interjects.
  "Zip it O'Malley." Con gives the soldier a hard look, O'Malley just smiles back.
  "However I am not so sure that the cause is a virus." Raid continues. "It's more like they are following a new logic path. What I am not sure about is whether the change is voluntary or enforced." 
  "Huh?" Borovski asks "What you talkin 'bout?"
  "I believe they have discovered a new concept but their technology is so alien I am not sure if I am interpreting it correctly. It will take more time and most likely someone with more experience than me, to get to the bottom of this." Raid finishes disconsolately.
  "Bottom line, do we have enough evidence to eject the mechanon ambassador from the city?" xZot asks but Raid shakes his head.
  "I am not really sure what I've got so far." Raid replies. "So no, nothing to prove that he is lying to us. At least not yet."
  As the meeting opens up for input from the rest of the team, Doog stands up and produces a credible throat clearing noise despite the lack of a throat.
  "If I may, I have a couple of small questions and an observation. I noticed that the balance sheet showed two subspace radios as the equipment coming down from Brucebane. I haven't had a chance to double check that? Why can't we use those? Surely the mechies can't jam subspace? I know that the subspace radios are heavy suckers so put one on one explorer and the other in headquarters to give Raid some limited command and control during the event of another breach it just could save time and lives."
  "No good." Gleep answers Doog's suggestion. "All we are getting is white noise on the subspace."
  "Secondly," Doog tries again, not to be discouraged. "We also have 3 holoflares and if we could scrounge more; enough for one at each gate then a flare could be sent up to warn of a breach and headquarters could start the explorers rolling in that direction. However if we have no more than three than maybe they should be held here and set off to inform all the gates of a critical situation or as a method of giving a critical order that applies to all gates. Say, multiple breaches fall back on admin? Finally, anyone notice anything weird about the attack plan?"
  "Like what?"
  "Well the first attack was something like 50 mechanons at seven gates for a rough total of 350 with seriously heavy casualties. I don't think we got hard numbers on percentage killed but for the sake of argument call it 75% that would have left them about 88 survivors and it took them a day to amass 100 at each gate for a total of 700 and we damn near waxed 75% or better again so that they will have 175 survivors. That's odd cause they could have put 50 at each gate to keep us honest and amassed 400 at one gate and been in the city. So why the screwed up attack plan? Now they're rebuilding an we expect another attack with double at each gate for a total of 1400 in two days. It seems like they're using lower cast mechanons as expendables and that they're able to produce about 600 to 650 per day. So the question is where and how are they being produced? Supposedly they hate biological life and value robotic life? Well they seem pretty damn callous about robotic life? I'm beginning to think that the mechanon high command is using these civilian mechies as a pawn since they're so low on the caste system getting them to use up all our ammo before sending in the higher caste security mechanons? I don't suppose we could generate any intelligence on where are these civilian mechis are coming from and take it out?
  "Yeah!" Con responds. "They keep sending civilians to get slaughtered while the military caste patrols their barriers at night." He looks at Raid "Do you really think there is some sort of outside interference putting the Mechs up to this? We might have to get into their embassy and their home territory to find out for sure!" Con offers up just to remind everyone how serious things can get if that is indeed true.
  Gleep changes the subject with another question for Con and Gloo. "What kind if devices do we have to set up some booby traps for the next attack? We have any TD-19. Also, we could use some frag grenades as traps. Timers should be easy, but placement is harder. We need to reduce numbers before they get to the gates." Gleep explains. "I want to set up the TD-19 in a disguised manner at a corner or something like that near the gate, about 250 meters away."
  Alyson asks, "Do we have any type of sensors that could tell us if they are tunnelling? 500 or 1000 meters isn't a long way to go."
  Gleep recommends that a small party, maybe three, go to check out the mechie camp during the day. "Best to keep to the shadows and maintain a clear path back. If something happens, take different paths back." If no one else steps up, then Gleep will lead the team.
  "Gleep, I like the idea, but I am not sure I want to risk you setting up out there. If you do, how about in the streets that lead to the gates?" Con suggests
  "You are the boss, boss. I will do whatever you need. It would be a good idea for Raid to go on the recon. He hides better." Gleep replies
  "Raid, what do you think? Can you pull it off? If you go, get back here fast at the first sign of trouble." Con asks his co-commander
  After the meeting Alyson returns to her command position and addresses her gate team, "I need the best two man team on this weapon. One shooter and one loader. You will fire into groups of them. That way the others can cut them down."
  Gleep takes advantage of the break to retrieve his TD-19 and try to set up a timer. He also retrieves his 6 frags, 6 tangler and 1 incendiary grenade from his stores.
  After the meeting Doog heads for his room to collect more ordinance form his personal supplies. He straps on his laser pistol and stows all his grenades and gas mask in his satchel. When he finds the squad that accompanied him to hunt down the mechie that breached in the astronomy sector he asks'
  "Did you all get any food?" With a nod form the corporate troopers, half were Streel and half were PGC, he goes on, "We're gonna lug back a draft of food for our gate. But lets do this smart so lets get some spears from over by that explorer and lash together a couple litters." While the troopers are lashing together two litters and trying to out do each other Doog tracks OMAC down. "OMAC, listen you've been at this game a long time do you have any advice for poor tech guy?"
  "I got two pieces of advice for ya rookie," O'Malley says to the inquisitive dralasite. "Never volunteer for anything!"
  "You said you had two pieces of advice?"
  "Oh yeah, never eat yellow snow." At this, Borovski and OMAC erupt in fits of laughter and Doog wanders off, wondering where on Volturnus there could be snow, let alone the yellow kind.
  "Boy am I glad I didn't ask Borovski for advice!" Doog heads back to his gate and checks on his troop and his defensive dispositions. He starts to pace out of frustration but thinks better of it not wanting anyone to see him agitated. There's a defecation storm coming and it was going to hit not just all of Volkos but Doog's gate in particular. Doog had pulled every thing he could think of from the study of history and Yazirian Literature in the way of tactics but to be honest with himself he knows he's too green at this and very much afraid of failing.
  "Well if you don't know if you have the right answer to a problem then you need more info," he says to himself. It sounded like a scouting party was in the offing when he left the admin block but he'd probably be a liability for that mission especially if they had to beat feet. No, he'd see what he could observe from the top of the gate house."
  Giving order for some more lubrication oil and ball bearings to be brought up and new barricades to be built on the avenues that touch the walls leading into the gate area square. If they breached the gate and got into the square they'd still be ringed by barricades. Doog heads to the gatehouse planning to spend the next eight hours observing and charting mechanon behaviour to see if any patterns develop. After locking the safety on his rifle he settles into observing through the scope watching mechanons at their barricades.
  The night after the second Mechanon assault, Raid leads a small three man patrol over the wall and into the no-mans land between the defenders of Volkos and the mechanon forces surrounding them. Raid and a the pair of Star Law Rangers accompanying him are able to quickly establish that the mechanons have constructed a crude but effective barrier completely surrounding their defensive position between 500 and 1000 meters beyond the wall.
  At several points in between to the opposing forces, mechanon 'civilians' are seen to be gathering in concentrations similar to the previous day. Each of these rally points are out of sight of the Volkos city wall but further investigation shows that several of these assembled groups are also out of sight of the mechanon barrier as well. Each of these groups also appears to be out of contact with their own forces.
  "Perhaps we have an opportunity here?" Raid whispers to one of the Star Law agents.
  "Could be boss," Horatio answers the BHG officer "but they still seem able to co-ordinate their attacks."
  "Never the less, we cannot hold off another attack on the walls if we let them continue this build up unopposed." Raid muses. After completing a circuit of the perimeter, Raid leads the Rangers back to the Volkos Admin Quarter for another conference with his troops.
Frontier Date 54.314
  "Raid, what do you think if we change up our tactics for a bit? Con asks. "What if we left set up some charges or something so, when they advance we can blow some of them or the barricades to bits?"
  Reflecting on discussion so far, and of Raid's analysis of the examination of the infected Mechs captured during the last skirmish in particular, Kane is struck by a sudden thought as well as a couple questions of his own.
  "Maybe we are looking at this from the wrong end." Says Kane to the assembled group. "The Mech ambassador stated that this 'infection' was brought on by the Mech's use of 'substandard federation technology' which implies that this is a hardware problem. And if that's the case, then we should be able to both find and identify what Federation produced robotic parts and equipment is/are the culprit. So even if their Mechanon technology is currently beyond Raid's current understanding, shouldn't it still be possible for him to verify at least that part of the Mech Ambassador's claim? Unless I am missing something, a simple parts comparison of the technology used in our robots as opposed to theirs should give us something concrete to either corroborate or refute his story."
  "An excellent question Nate," Raid responds "Unfortunately I had no luck in that area. Myself and xZot have conducted a pretty thorough examination of the their physical forms and so far we have only been able to find Eorna based technology. Certainly nothing that could be identified as Frontier origin is present in our three subjects."
  "But isn't that just the very proof that we need to make the case that this 'virus' is just an excuse for Mechanon treachery?" Asks a somewhat confused Kane. "If the Mechs are claiming that the Federation is indirectly responsible for the Volkos Civil Disturbance (via the Mech's widespread use of our technology), and that their entire Security Force is needed to deal with the problem of the infection (presumably because it's use was limited solely to their civilian population), don't we now have the proof to refute this claim and prove that from the onset their actions here were unjustified?
  "Another question, where are all the Mechs armed with modern weaponry hiding? So far, all we have battled have been mechs wielding melee weapons. And while their numbers have been steadily increasing, so we have to assume that so to are the numbers of those with modern weapons. So where are they?"
  "We can only make educated guesses about their troop deployments at the moment." Con steps up to answer this question.
  "What really happened to the city's power? Has it been totally cut off? Or is it merely being redirected to a new location?" Kane continues. "I am having problems believing that the infected Mechs would have shut off all the city's power, because they also need it to keep themselves fully powered. Surely it would have been better to redirect it to another location where only they could benefit from it. However, I can see the MSF doing this as it would be a good way to prevent the "infected" from remaining operational once their para-batteries run out."
  "It seems as though they have indeed disconnected the city's power supply," Raid answers. "During our overnight patrol there was no evidence of power outside the old citadel. All the street lights are off and there doesn't appear to be any power for the outer suburbs."
Kane also offers a possible solution to their current energy crises. "If we scrounge up a small generator and connect it the wheel of a tireless ground vehicle via a belt, that would allow us to convert the motive energy of the wheel's rotation into usable energy for the generator. So we could make a belt-driven dynamo that would produce enough power to recharge the remaining power packs as well as power the equipment in the control centre. Granted, this would work only as long as the vehicle's parabattery holds out, but since we are limiting the amount of equipment we are trying to power/recharge, then potentially a single battery could last for several hours at least. Surely that is more than enough time needed to recharge the power packs of our energy based weapons! And since we also have several spare parabatteries brought from Brucebane as well as those in the city vehicles that we have been using in the evacuation effort, we could probably hold out for sometime! Again, all we need to do is find a generator that is small enough to be portable but there has to be something like that around, certainly in the engineering section of the city that should be easily located." Kane offers up.
  "We have generators Nathaniel." Sn'iktl adds to Kane's proposal. "They are being used to supply essential services for the hospital and refectory."
  "That's right," Con continues. "We can drain off excess power to top up some of our powerpacks but we are going to have serious issues replacing powerpacks at the same rate we can drain them. On average our people used 60 SEU's each in the last engagement. In the space of less than a minute we fired off over 4300 SEU's! A sustained firefight will deplete our ammunition much faster than we could ever replenish it."
  "We need to try and buy more time to find a solution." Director Jameson finally decides. "Con, I want to come up with a plan to drive off the mechanons building up for the next attack. Let's take the fight to them and see if we can't keep them off balance. The mechanons do not have a culture and history of warfare, we do. Let's use that knowledge and experience to our advantage." Jameson looks around at the gathering. "If we wait until tomorrow morning they will have twice the numbers available to them as the previous attack. I want to hit them this afternoon or tonight and try to even the odds before they can swamp us with another assault. Let's see if we can drive them back to their own barricade, give us a bit of breathing space."
  Doog 'coughs', an affectation not a real cough, and offers,
  "In the interest of just throwing out ideas we could always use fire. Light buildings near staging areas to throw them off and disrupt their preparations; the citadel wall that we're holding ought to act as a fire break. It has the beauty of being simple but I imagine the eorna would have to sign off on 'setting the torch' to their city. Also if we could power up a computer data base I bet I could locate a muscle powered catapult that could be built in job lots and would give the native defenders some throw weight in stead of them having to wait while the rest of us fire on the oncoming horde. Ammo for that is free just use rubble and stones. It's not even like they need to be very skilled with them as the mechies pack in so tight it'd be hard to not hit them. We've gotten down right ancient with our tactics at my gate going so far as to set up a vat of oil over the gate to dump on the next pyramid of mechies. We really should pool our knowledge and pull up some tactic and stratagems from ancient times that worked for sieges prior to gun powder. If we can put enough low tech solutions in place they may add up to enough to slow the mechies down and let us conserve on high tech ammo." Kane adds his own ideas to the suggestions offered by Doog.
  "Is it not possible for us to use the Mechanons fear of water against them? Or to our own advantage at least? What about constructing a modest-sized moat around the administrative building and adjacent park area? Digging a moat should be easy enough if we use vehicles to drag around welded scrap metal as "an old-fashioned plough blade" to break up the terrain and then use heavier vehicles with scrap metal welded into metal plates as a shovel blade to push away the terrain for clearing. We have lots of manpower here to help with that, and if we work everyone in continuous short duty shifts, with long rest periods in between, then no one should become too exhausted to fight when the need arises.
  "Likewise, I would like to offer up the idea of using the city's fire fighting vehicles as mobile water cannons. While normally something like this would only be suited for crowd control, against unarmed robotic opponents (especially those with a psychological aversion to water) they could be used with devastating effects. They may not be those tanks you were hoping for commander Con, but they would have the advantage of having an almost unlimited supply of ammo to fire." Says Kane pointing toward the city's river. "And in a pitched fight against robots I'll take them!"
  "Finally, we should also explore the possibility of reworking some of the plumbing beneath the city's streets into high-pressure, static water cannons to use against the Mechanons in the event they should breach the gates and try for our headquarters. With the aid of the building manager and his maintenance robots, it should be possible to disconnect the plumbing to some of the adjacent buildings, and convert the piping into giant water jets with adjustable direction nozzles. I believe any needed parts and equipment to do this could easily be found in either the Aerospace College, Physics Science, or Engineering Section of the city."
  Con gives Jameson a most serious look. "Sir, those barricades will have to come down for starters. So, hopefully if Raid and his party can go back out there under holo screens maybe they can set some of the barricades to blow leaving no place for them to hide. I also offer this..." says he..."maybe we can use the explorers like tanks and just give them a good old fashioned land battle. We need to do one of two things, we need to either break the lines of the civilian mechs and cause as much chaos for them as possible.. Or just go for the jugular, which would make us not only destroy the barricades and cause chaos amongst the civilian mechs but push ALL of them back to their territory and take their city. We might be able to end this sooner and even find out what the hell is going on."
  Doog realizes that this conference will take a few rounds before it settles on a plan of action. So making like he intends to use a restroom he steps out to see the two man detail that accompanied him to the HQ. He dispatches them with a scribbled note and a sketch of a muscle powered catapult to Sgt. Toome. If nothing else she'd get their troops busy stripping materials from buildings and get some catapults built so that the Ul-Mor and Edestekai could add their throw weight to the next attack. With little more then a day before the next attack, he hoped they had enough time to build enough catapults to make an impact in the battle.
  "The most troubling thing I think, is that traditionally when a forced besieges a city and they throw up earth works surrounding a city to prevent anyone escaping. If the mechanon security forces are building a barricade and manning it then it means one of two things." Doog theorises. "If it's to keep in the rampaging mechanon civilians in then why are their numbers climbing? If it is to keep them in and their numbers are climbing then the civilians mechs are building their replacements within striking range for us and we really should press the attack. But if the replacements for the civilian mechs are being built elsewhere then the barricade manned by the mechanon security force is to keep someone else in." Doog let his last statement hang in the air.

1 Experience Points

2 Experience Points

3 Experience Points

Bonus Points - Ship Names

Sn'iktl, X'anthe, xZot, Crisbel, Gloo, McKilin

Borovski, Siu-Ling, OMAC

Raid, Con, Gleep, Doog, Kane, Alyson,

Doog & Gleep 1 each. Kane & Con 2 each


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