"The one, the one, the one, the one...." Sni'ktl mutters "So Sp'ock, what do you reckon about this one thing?"
"Could be a hive mind but if restricted to warriors is most likely a trial by ordeal?"
" My investigations indicate no reason to distrust the Ul-Mor."
"I still think that our future is with these guys" says xZot "The One? Well we'll have to see how that pans out but at least we are heading out of the desert!" Sni'ktl nods in agreement
"The question then is what lies ahead on the Path of the Warrior" Sp'ock "your insight cuts through confusion"
Frontier Date 63.071Pf +29
After several days travel, you have reached the Burning Lands. Deposits of phosphorous, magnesium, and various salts cover the entire area, and numerous geysers, gas fissures, and lava flows erupt through the crusty ground. Athru says you will spend only a short time on the surface of the Burning Lands; after a period of travel you will reach a large network of caves. The Ul-Mor know a safe path through the caverns and out into the desert on the other side of the Burning Lands. You will follow this underground path to the Place of True Warriors. Athru warns you not to stray from the safe path, for there is an endless expanse of winding caverns teeming with unknown dangers. You travel through the caverns for 24 hours, walking well behind the main body of Ul-Mor. The tunnels are between 5 and 10 meters wide, while the ceiling rises as high as 12 meters. Occasionally, the tunnels spread into underground rooms as much as 1 kilometre in diameter, with ceilings as high as 20 meters. You constantly pass large stands of a mushroom type fungus growing from the cavern floors. The stalk of this fungus is almost as thick as a small tree trunk. There is nothing else unusual in these caverns. As you move along, you pass many smaller passages leading away from the main path, but the Ul-Mor carefully avoid these passages and warn you to do the same.
Frontier Date 63.067Pf +33
After spending 50 hours travelling through the caverns with the Ul-Mor, you are woken by loud crashes and loper screams. As you get up, you feel the cavern floor vibrating and see whole sections of the ceiling crashing down. You do not see any sign of the Ul-Mor, who had camped a considerable distance ahead of you. Three of the five exits from the room are now blocked."
"Ooh" says Sni'ktl
"Ooh too" says Gloo "Shit, should've seen that coming"
"Ooh no" says Sp'ock "Well we no they aren't precognitive then" Then Sni'ktl says
"If we go back, we should go the way we came. GleepGlooup would your map show us a clear way out? The alternative is to find a way through to the Path of True Warriors"
"Maybe this is part of the test?" Gloo says "If it is, I reckon we take up the challenge. Go hard or go home! good motto. I think we should go south east" To which Sp'ock says
"South east or East. Will not all paths lead to the One??"
"I hate CONFINED SPACES" Gloo says Sni'ktl lights a torch while xZot and Jag takes off their sun goggles and lets their eyes adjust to the new darkness. Then Sp'ock announces
"We waste time, and light. xZot, leaders choice, allocate your scouts, we should go."
Sni'ktl says "If we run out of flashlights, my "Everflame" lighter says guaranteed for 20 years. I always wondered about that" GleepGlooup laughs at the irony of the situation and xZot takes command of the situation.
"I think we head South East. OK Raid take point, the rest of you take your regular positions. Let's move out!"
After 500 metres the tunnel splits again...north east, east and south. Their is very little or no dust here revealing any tracks mostly bare rock and then there are patches of soil possibly washed down from the surface. The passages climb up and down slopes quickly making depth estimates almost impossible.
Sni'ktl says "I say go South" and Sp'ock answers
"This is not a democracy yet." looking significantly at xZot and deciding the look is lost on a Yazirian, only another Vrusk is sensitive enough too pick up the meaning and sighs
"I agree, we should try South. This is roughly the way back" says xZot "maybe"
After travelling 3 kilometres south the passage turns east for another 2 kilometres as you proceed boldly, behind Raid. Sni'ktl thinks
"Oh dear, I do hope we don't meet up with anything. These people get very excited when they get to shoot at things" Then the tunnel turns northeast for another kilometre. Sp'ock looks nervously at roof expecting act of god. Then the corridor opens into a chamber with 5 other exits. You see more of the mushroom like fungi you have seen throughout the cavern area. These fungi however, appear a little larger than most. The air in this area is difficult to breathe because of the amount of dust in it. Sp'ock puts on hi gas mask and Sni'ktl tries scanning the fungi dust for toxins or hallucinogens but the toxyrad gauges show nothing of poisons and have no indicator for hallucinogens. Sni'ktl reaches for his own gas mask and realises he doesn't have one!
"Everyone can put their Masks on if they help." says xZot "It's an Order if you like" Then realises that most of the team don't have gas masks. The 5 exits from the room are northwest, east south and 2 to the southeast plus the one you came in via the southwest. Sni'ktl says
"I say head northwest" Sp'ock looks at xZot.
"This is why I shun leadership roles. Another 'life' or 'wander in confusion' decision to make, on too little info." xZot agrees
"NW looks like the way to go" Thinking that every time he tries to open his mouth Sni'ktl always beats him.
Almost an hour after leaving the fungi filled cavern, the first effects of the spores begin to show themselves. Con, Bruce and Sp'ock were all protected from the spores by their gas masks but every other member of the team slowly began having various kinds of hallucinations, from passageways full of insects or rushing water, holes opening up in the ground full of magma or in the worst cases. GleepGlooup and Gloo seemed to be caught in the same karaoke bar singing bawdy spacer songs to a bunch of miners and Ag-ship farmers who were completely ignoring them. Most of the team realised that they were hallucinating except for the two dralasites who were cringing in terror against the rock wall. OMAC quickly sedates both of them
"It's been almost a days travel now and it will probably take some time before the effects of the spores wear off. Why don't we rest up here, keep an eye on these two, and the rest of us for that matter. If Bruce and Con take the first watch, perhaps some of us will be OK to share a watch with Sp'ock until the hallucinations stop? We can't travel far in this condition any way?"
Frontier Date 63.066Pf +34
As xZot settles back and rests, he reflects on the day's events.
"Since the cave in and our separation from the Ul-Mor, we have wandered around almost aimlessly. Our compasses proved to be somewhat inaccurate this far underground and we have little notion of whether the passage is rising or falling. I fear that we may become lost if we cannot determine a point of reference. I must check out Gleep's map..."
Since that room with the mushrooms, xZot has felt unwell. Apart from the delusions of the walls melting, tunnels stretching and spinning a surreal manner and the insects crawling all over him, it wasn't too bad. This kind of reminded him of a bad batch of B'eklah soup he made for a banquet many years ago!
"Ahh, the good ol' days, but I never could pick to good Lah'm fungi! Which reminds me, I should get a sample of these mushrooms, maybe they're edible?, properly prepared of course, maybe dried and added to a stew...Uhh oh, I'm slipping again...ooh yeahhh..."
Unfortunately, when he told everyone to put on their masks if they had them, he didn't realise that most of the team didn't have any, including myself.
"I must see Sni'ktl again and check his diagnosis of how long we will be affected for and if he has come up with any anti-toxin that he can administer, well, I'll try to talk to him when he gets off the trip he's on."
"Zzzzzzzzzzzz *snuffle* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz *snore* Zzzzzzzzzz *snort* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" Gloo snores!
"Sp'ock, Sp'ock its crawling all over you!" exclaims Sni'ktl "Here let me drag it off. Ouch...what? A breathing mask. Oh so it is. Sorry mate. Yes I'll sit back down again." Sni'ktl thinks its not his fault. "Whoever designed breathing masks for Vrusks really does need a lesson in fashion design." Sni'ktl tries meditation again but all he can get is flashbacks to the Dral's freaking out. Was it all hallucination or did Gloo's face really do that? Looking at the sedated Dral's now, they seem relaxed, almost fluid. "Hey McKilin d'ya fancy a Dralasite moulding competition.... OK bad taste yeah."
xZot opens his mouth to speak and wonders if anything he is saying is understood "The roster for the watch will have to start with you guys, Sp'ock, Bruce and Con, as you are the only ones unaffected. As the effects wear off the rest of us we should be rotated into the roster."
"Tum te, tum te tum. Bored, bored, bored. What can I play with? Oooh the pocket tool. OK knife blade, Sni'ktl be good and fold that back. Wow look at how the head changes shape on the universal screwdriver. If you hold it up to the light and do it slowly you get fantastic reflections...."
Half an hour Later.
"Zzzzzzzzzzzz *snuffle* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz *snore* Zzzzzzzzzz *snort* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" Gloo snores!
"Hey xZot you seen this screwdriver thing.... Oh yeah sorry I showed you that already... Yup fine. I wish he wouldn't finger his laser pistol like that. OK wrench, vice... ouch that hurts if you tighten it too much. Hole punch... I wonder.... no better not, the Dral's would be real pissed. Mini flashlight.... Hey the patterns in the wall look real good with this. Where the light hits its like there's a weird glow kind of spinning and spiralling out to infinity with all the universe just like relative to it all. I see now were just like here in this tunnel and there's like this whole infinity out there but its here too, right here in the wall, its just like everything reflects everything else. Wow now its turning the other way."
An hour later
"Zzzzzzzzzzzz *snuffle* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz *snore* Zzzzzzzzzz *snort* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" Gloo snores!
"Electromagnet - Hey Bruce, you still got those ball bearings? Great. Can I borrow them please, please, please, please, pleeeeeeaaaaaase." Much later "Sorry xZot run that by me again. You want a drug to remove the effects?" Sni'ktl thinks "Is this guy kidding?". "I don't know I'd need to research it. Perhaps you could ask Bruce or Con or Sp'ock to collect a sample. As much as we can carry in fact. Make sure there's some fertile spores too"
The whole room is spinning again and maybe all this conversation is happening in his mind.
"When Raid is back in the real world, and considering the last time I spoke to him he asked me the colour of the sky in my world?! Don't hold your breath it may be a while, but when he is back, I would like to have him put his environmental skills to good use and determine what he can about the tunnel system and the general geology of this area. Maybe he can determine some direction in here and better understand the overall pattern of these tunnels form."
The room spins back as xZot watches Bruce's head contorts wildly.
"We need to continue in the direction that the Ul-Mor were taking us; if we can just determine which way that was..."
"Zzzzzzzzzzzz *snuffle* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz *snore* Zzzzzzzzzz *snort* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" Gloo snores!
As he recovers from the effects of hallucination, Sni'ktl checks over the other trippers to make sure no-one's had a bad time. He uses psycho pathology to help anyone who needs it. He thinks the mushrooms are really effective. Perhaps Raid or McKilin can help cultivate them. Sni'ktl reviews the party health and notes that Jag still favours one leg and Sp'ock still favours seven. "Hey Jag, you should put some biocort on that old wound on your leg. While you've got the medkit out, could you do the same for Sp'ock. We need to stay in peak condition, who knows, the next swarm of giant roaches to come through here may be real."
Welcoming the new party member, Sni'ktl says "Hi Crisbel. I've noticed you cleaning your laser pistol. It looks like you actually know how to use that thing. We could do with a decent shot round here." Two hours after the hallucinations start, the immediate effects seem have worn off although everyone exposed still feels a bit groggy and disoriented (-5 on Reaction Speed). Another 4 hours later and into the second watch even those effects seem to have disappeared and the team enjoys another 2 hours of rest, uninterrupted.
On the last hour of the second watch OMAC, Raid and Jaguar are on duty when they begin to hear faint noises echoing down the corridor from the west away from the fungus room. Soon after they can detect occasional squeaks and the tumble of pebbles as the sounds draw nearer.
"Sounds like more than one, whatever it is and it's closing fast!" says OMAC "Better wake the others" Raid and Jaguar move to wake the rest of the team as OMAC squints into the darkness beyond. Suddenly he spots movement as figures dart out of the darkness. About 1 metre long and looking like a cross between a rat and a monkey more than a dozen figures rush toward OMAC and the waking team beyond.
"Grenade!" yells OMAC as he throws his tangler grenade at the oncoming horde. The missile drops short and bounces through the pack as the rush
on, the grenade explodes throwing tendrils across the back of the pack, ensnaring one of the beasts. Jaguar joins OMAC, lobbing his tangler grenade and Raid throws a doze grenade both of them missing their marks as the Rastie pack swarms across the last couple of metres. Jaguar spots another animal ensnared at the back of the pack as they close on him. Each member of the watch is being attacked by three of the enormous rodents and every other member of the team has another Rastie snarling and biting at them...
The cavern erupts in chaos as the Rastie pack swarms over the 3 team members on watch. Then the rest of the camp site is awake and fighting for it's life as the Rasties attack, biting and clawing at anything that moves. Axes, machetes, fists, a club and a night-stick, claws and pseuodpods flail away at the rodents as they bite down and lock jaws on all manner of Frontier flesh, fur and carapace. Crisbel, GleepGlooup and Borovski all manage to land several blows on their attackers weakening them but OMAC and Jag only get in one good hit each before being completely overwhelmed by 3 rasties each and dragged to the ground unconscious. Raid has been able to inflict a couple of good hits on one of his attackers but all three are wearing him down quickly, rending and tearing at his arms and legs. The smell of blood is thick in the air and grunts, yells and scream come from all the combatants. Bruce cries out for a weapon, any weapon after punching at the Rastie crawling over him, Sp'ock throws Bruce his Club and keeps attacking with his machete. Con and McKilin must still be recovering from the effects of the spores, neither manages to land a blow on the opening attack. Gloo, Sp'ock and Sni'ktl are all holding their own, but making little headway. xZot tries to go into Battle Rage but is barely even awake. No-one has escaped unscathed and everyone now has a Rastie with jaws locked onto an arm, leg, hip or shoulder trying to rip you apart. The smell of blood has sent the entire pack into a frenzy. As OMAC and Jag fall to the rocky floor the 6 rasties attacking them, release their grip and dash toward the other team members. 2 charge towards GleepGlooup, 2 attack Borovski and the other two turn on Crisbel.
"Ow, fuck, shit, bastards." Sni'ktl lashes out with his nightstick and fist at the monkey-rat-thing gnawing on his butt. He thinks - this is just a nightmare surely. A side effect of the mushrooms. Ow fuck that hurts probably not a dream then. As the adrenaline clears his mind he realises that trying to punch the thing is pointless. He puts all his energy into whacking it with the stick. He's only hit it once by the time OMAC and Jag go down. He compares his wild swings of the nightstick with the Rasties efficient gnawing and leeching of his lifeblood. Unless something he can shift the odds there may not be any medics left to do much. He thinks of blasting it with a laser pistol but realises that he has as much chance of blowing a hole in himself. As he takes a last couple of swipes at the rastie, missing badly he pulls out a spray hypo charged with anaesthetic. Sometimes it really helps to be ambidextrous.
"OK vermin features it's bed time for one of us". We have stopped our quest to reach daylight again due to the effects of a strange mushroom spore, and it's hallucinogenic qualities. Sp'ock, Bruce, and Con have spent most of this night, egg-sitting their spaced out companions. Hopefully the hallucinations are all they suffer. The pressure of being stranded on this rock could cause the more fragile to go psychotic, a burden we can ill afford. Must ask opinions of the others on the possible reason someone painted a large three in the middle of this area. Could it have a connection to the trial? Having spent the night in contemplation of the possible horror scenarios that may arise from this spore infection. Very stimulating in a paranoid sort of way e.g. spores introduced into lungs as a means of proliferation (hallucination causes victims to wander off in haze in different directions, die and spores grow in corpse, breaking free to create new mushie colony. Many other similar sorts of scenes have run through Sp'ock's mind in the darkness unrelieved except for the sound of Dralasites doing a lousy rendition of "All Through The Night". Morning is a time of transition from one state to another. Many are the stories of the hives transforming from a state on inaction to instant bustle with the first rays of the primary sun breaking the horizon, so the transition of the group sits in my mind as the morning of a new day. With new problems and new hopes. The hope of the survival of the entities who have come to mean much to me in a short time, the problem of what to do about the ravening mass of fur and fangs that has chosen this time to arrive on our case. A morning in truth.
Awoken abruptly from a deep sleep, xZot's drug addled mind clears surprising quickly. The Rat-Monkey like thing snapping in xZot's face would, several hours ago, have been just another conversation with Bruce.
"Hell even if this thing was hostile," thinks xZot "I could have killed it with Sni'ktl's Pocket-tool. That thing did everything, I'm sure it would have fixed this to."
Yazirian stimulants, urging a Battle Rage on, surge through his body as he become aware of the rastie engaging him in combat. Pure reaction drives xZot to grab his Nightstick, striking out furiously, the weapon connects squarely on the creature, wounding it in retaliation. The return swing of his nightstick, however, goes wild and misses. Battling on, xZot will continue to swing at the rastie that is trying to latch onto him, with the intention of turning this creature into a bloody pulp on the floor. Unfortunately, the drugs have worn off and the stark reality returned. xZot scan the surrounds noting the grim details. Outnumbered and surprised, the party is battling on valiantly; although OMAC and Jag's lapse into unconsciousness means the number of attackers per party member has increased. It is also disturbing that none of our foes have fallen yet. xZot signals to the rest of the group to use grenades if they have them.
"We need to quickly reduce our enemies number if we have any chance of surviving this." yells xZot. Turning toward Sni'ktl "Be ready to treat the casualties as quickly as possible...Sni'ktl, what are you doing to that Rastie?" Bloody medical scientists, I'll never work 'em out! xZot turns slightly "McKilin! Will you stop playing with that thing and just kill it! I need you to put your medical skills to good use over here, we have people down!"
xZot continues to strike at the Rastie on him and, watching for grenades flying over head, will move on to other foe until they are all defeated or he is knocked down. "This will be a life or death struggle for the group." mutters xZot under his breath "We stand our ground and we will make our mark."
"Fast little suckers aren't they?" Sp'ock attempts to slice and bash one of the rodents into the rock, only to find it trying to burrow straight through his belly, a cry from Bruce for a weapon, the sight of OMAC going down under claw and fang, a cry of pain, did another go down?.
"Bruce catch!" Don't look to see if he caught the club swing again, a hit, aah that hurts. Localise the pain keep swinging, swinging, there is no surrender to death only failure to defeat the opponent. No loss of honour to lose, only to lose without fighting back. We could end here in these caves with none to mourn us or know of how we faced that end. So be it, swing again watch the skin and bone give under the force of the blow. Memory shows the scarred and burned face of my drill instructor Spi'derman.
"It is permitted to hate the taking of life, encouraged in truth. The most effective soldier is one who does not wish to discharge his weapon at the foe. For he will seek alternatives to fatal response. We here attempt to teach you to recognise the times when no alternative will arrive in time to prevent killing. We will teach you when to stand, when to run, and maybe when it is time to surrender your soul to the Universal All, and fight the fight that cannot be one without despair. Always thought he was a pompous ass. But, I think he would see this as a time when retreat is not an option, I will not abandon the wounded to this fate, but perhaps a more desperate plan might work."
"Get…off…my…f*@#…ing…leg…now" enunciates Gloo as he misses every time. There are so many of the little critters, I don't know how we are all going to get out of here in one piece. They are going to carve us all up and split us between the tribe. Some kind of sushi train, what a way to go.
"Arrrrggh" yells Gloo as he tries to get that damn monkey rat off his pseudopod. Taking another swing and missing makes him wonder he hasn't cut his arm off with the bloody axe. Been close a couple of times. It was only sheer luck that he hadn't. Once Gloo hears the word "grenade" The mere mention of Grenades brings Gloo back from his fighting fury (mainly at missing and a military man at that). "Did somebody say grenades…oww…I think we should…oww…use them regardless of the…oww…consequences."
The rasties continue gnawing and chewing at the remaining team members, dragging Raid down under their combined weight before he can react. Borovski and Crisbel are also savaged by the extra rasties attacking them but manage to stay standing. While continuing to beat at the monkey rat with his machete Sp'ock takes out a doze grenade and throws it at the rodents over Raids body, dropping the injured rastie but the other 2 press on toward other standing team members. Con manages to get in his first successful strike, chopping a hind leg off one of the beasts as Bruce swings and misses. GleepGlooup pulls his Gyrojet pistol and starts blazing away at the pack attacking him. One of the doze shells hits and drops one of his attackers. McKilin swings again and misses. Crisbel quickly looks around, realising how serious the situation is and how close he is to passing out from blood loss. He pulls out a tangler grenade and hugs the rasties to him as he lets the grenade explode at his feet, completely enveloping himself and the 3 rasties tearing at him, in tangler threads.
"Take that you little fiend. Bwahhahaha" shrieks Gloo as he finally hits his intended target. Borovski lands a blow on the skull of his wounded attacker, splitting it wide open. Sni'ktl jams his hypo into the rastie and injects it with a dose of Anaesthetic before realising that it is only a Local and not a General. The rastie seems slightly slowed but continues chewing on his thigh.
Sni'ktl contemplates blasting away with his laser pistol on setting 5 but whacks at a rastie with his night-stick instead. Unfortunately, due to his injuries Sni'ktl, swings and misses.
"Darn varmint" Sp'ock manages to land a blow with his machete as he yanks the pin from a Tangler grenade with his mandible.
"Grrrh" GleepGlooup pumps out 3 more doze rounds from gjet pistol and drops another wounded rastie. McKilin looks at his options and frowns. He could use his laser pistol, in which he has little chance of success or he can do something else. He decides to perform elective surgery on one of the 'growths' that has appeared on his leg. He uses his machete to remove the thing from his leg as Bruce and xZot try to fend off their attackers. The melee swirls around GleepGlooup as he pulls the trigger and takes out his Rastie with his last doze shot. Every member is still engaged by at least one Rastie, the smell of blood is thick in the air and yelps, moans and squeals echo off the rocky cavern walls. Suddenly Borovski and Sni'ktl collapse to the ground, rendered unconscious from the wounds inflicted by the powerful rastie jaws. Those rastie then leap across the tunnel to attack the rest of the team. Sp'ock tries to head them off with his Tangler grenade but the throw is wide and the missile bounces past the rodents. Borovski and Con both strike out at their wounded attackers, Con severs a head as Borovski works on his filleting technique and two Rasties drop to the floor. xZot bangs his Rastie on the head with his night-stick but it refuses to release it's grip on his leg. Con takes wild swing at another rastie, strikes the rock wall with his machete blade and the weapon fragments in his hands. He swears and pulls his second machete from his belt. McKilin swings a mighty blow and causes sparks to fly up from the stone wall as the machete glances off. Bruce misses with his club, Gloo manages a rather ineffectual punch as the Rastie avoids his machete swing.
Then Sp'ock clutches chest and slumps to ground, xZot thuds to the floor beside him. Alarmed by the sudden turn of events, GleepGlooup changes his Gyrojet load to Tangler caps and sprays 3 rounds against the far wall of the tunnel. Gloo says,
"I'm going to go with laser pistol on setting 3 this round" After he sees that GleepGlooup has also opted for a pistol attack, both shooters miss their marks. Con cuts into another Rastie with his machete and xZot clubs his again with the night-stick. Gloo is starting to stagger under the constant assault of the Rasties. GleepGlooup fires 3 more Tangler rounds but all miss as Con chops his rodent again and Gloo hits with his second shot with the Laser Pistol. Suddenly the remaining Rasties, release their grip, and race off into the darkness. Then your hear it, what sounds like a deep throated roar rumbling down the dark corridor, from behind the rasties. Gloo yelps
"Shit" McKilin thinks we would have better chance with one big nasty rather then a dozen little ones as Gloo looks toward the noise. The Rasties have fled in the direction from which they came, the roar came from behind the team, in the direction of the mushroom cave. GleepGlooup, turns to McKilin
"Shit man, get to work on the wounded, you are the only medic standing! And somebody, break out the solvaway for Crisbel!" McKilin first rushes over to Sp'ock and works on him and then to get maybe a second medic up and mobile. McKilin uses the Staydose from each victims Medpak, attached to the outside of their government issue stretch coveralls for just such an occasion.
"Not him" says Gleep, the other, good lookin Vrusk, Sp'ock is the one with the vrusk warts" McKilin first rushes over to Sni'ktl and works on him. Meanwhile, the growl from down the corridor is getting nearer. Con unlimbers his Laser Pistol and sets it to 6, Gloo points his laser pistol (setting 3) down the corridor towards the noise and GleepGlooup checks his ammo as he scans around the ruined campsite, splattered with blood and bodies of team members and dead or stunned Rasties.
"Bruce" says GleepGlooup "Con and I will check out whatever is coming, you get Crisbel loose from his Tangler grenade, you've got solvaway?" he turns and regards Gloo, casting an eye-spot over Gloos' battered and bruised body. "You better stay back until McKilin can treat your wounds. Anybody have any idea what would make a pack of those vicious little bastards skeddadle so goddamn quick?"
"Umm yeah," mumbles Con as he squints into the darkened tunnel, just managing to make out the large shape shambling towards the campsite, followed by another bellow.
"Here it comes!"
xZot sees it all flashing in front of this eyes. The Battle; a frenzied bash-fest with my night-stick, the rastie is still clutching on, it was going to be him or me. At the end, he held out long enough to outlast me. The battle had just reached at a turning point, I could see the enemy falling, we were build up momentum... I fall... The images change before my eyes, the cave-in, the desert, the crash, the pirates; other points in our seemingly danger fraught dance with Destiny. My home, my family... images drift past. I never knew it would take so long to hit the ground, maybe this is just another flashback, maybe the fungal spore are still pulsing though my body? I fear that this is real, I saw Sni'ktl and Borovski fall just a moment before me (I wonder if they've hit the ground yet?). Maybe I'm going to find out the answer to that long debated question; Is the cooking better on the other side? Will we in dine at the Banquet of Plenty? I've studiously followed my faith, well, except for the occasional dally with various mood altering substances, but as my teacher once said "You need a point to reflect from, and sometimes, you need to cross the line to see the other side and then look back." Images reel and spin as the ground approaches. The smell of death and blood fill the air. Everything goes dark.....THUD.
"Ugh! Ah! Take that...Damn missed! Ha! Gotcha. Oops,sorry bout that. Ugh!" Cries Sp'ock. "I never noticed that blemish beside McKilin's nose before. My legs! I can't feel my legs, and when you own this many that is no small thing. I'm delirious, or, I think I am? Why am I lying on the ground, why is McKilin's looking so startled, ah, I never heard some of those things before, must ask Con what mother molesting has to with command.
As Sni'ktl blacks out he flashes back to one of Professor Ich'nik'tar's Xenopsychology lectures where he explored what it was about Vrusks that made them such efficient (and some would say annoying) workers. "From the mining colonies to the corporate boardrooms you know you can rely on a Vrusk to focus on the job in hand". Sni'ktl disagreed, he didn't think that most Vrusk were well focused at all. Then Sni'ktl snaps alert. ".....cked" McKilin has just provided a quick an efficient summary of medical status.
"Thanks Mac. A dose of Biocort to OMAC and Jag in that order. We'll needs more hands to help with the wet work. I do wish Sp'ock and Boro hadn't got into such a mess". As Sni'ktl speaks he applies efficient first aid to xZot and Raid.
"Good work with the solvaway Gleep. Crisbel see if you can't do something about that horrendous din. Throw it some of these dead monkey rat things."
Crisbel nods and turns his attention to the 'noise' Picking up all of the 'monkey rat' things, he tosses them as far from the teams position as possible hoping that it will draw away the noisemakers and any additional possible predators. That done, he returns to the others and helps where he can. The lumbering shape approaches the rastie carcasses and drops to all fours to snuffle at the bodies. The sentries drop back toward the triage area trying to avoid arousing the beast. Down the darkened corridor the sound of rending flesh and cracking bones is mixed with grunts of satisfaction. 20 minutes later the sated monster shuffles off from whence it came, toward the mushroom cavern.
"Now Mac. Staydose for Borovski if you please. And Jag would you apply staydose to Sp'ock. xZot, we need somewhere safe and near for the next 20 hours at least."
"OK Medics listen up. OMAC you need to rest for the next 20 hours. Light duties I'm afraid. Jag would you administer Biocort to Gloo, Bruce, Crisbel and Con. xZot, I want OMAC to rest completely. Con, Crisbel and GleepGlooup are in best condition for heavy duties. McK when you've tended to your own wounds I want you prepped for surgery. Can you operate on Borovski while I operate on Sp'ock? Jag you'll assist. Minor surgery is all I'm willing to risk. Then I'll want complete checks on everyone for infections - we'll split that between us and let OMAC recover." Sni'ktl sets his Chronocom with a reminder message for twenty hours and five minutes administer 'cort all round. "McK and Jag can you save the same message.... just in case"
The medicos set to work and several hours later Sni'ktl reports that both patients are now in a stable condition and should survive.
"Hey I'm still bleeding over here" states GleepGlooup "And I'm not carrying this damn thing around for nothing!" he says as he dumps the spare Medkit on the rock floor. "I'm beat. I need some sleep"
"Which way did the rasties go?" asks xZot
"The rasties went west, the other bad guy went south east" replies GleepGlooup
"I don't see any reason why we don't try Major surgery all round" states Sni'ktl "We'll probably only use about 5 extra biocort due to wastage. If major surgery fails then try minor surgery, we need everyone on their feet ASAP, OK Medics - scrub up at least the Biocort isn't running low, yet! xZot, I reckon Con, Gleep and Crisbel are fittest so they should keep watch while the first round of major surgery happens. What do you think?"
"Is it safe here? Or should we move into a more defensive position?"
"Define safe!" quips GleepGlooup
"We could move to a narrow section of passage so Jag can set grenade traps, probably rig a wire with several to cover both approaches" xZot says "I say go with the most important surgery and we'll set the watch and a defensive perimeter with grenades"
Sni'ktl agrees "OK Medics - Jag - major surgery on Gloo, McK, you do OMAC, I'll do xZot - if that's OK xZot?" As his laser scalpel hums into life Sni'ktl says "OK guys keep it clean. xZot would you prefer anaesthetic or hypnosis?"
"Give me the drugs; I see you are pretty effective with those with those" All the major surgery attempts fail, but follow up attempts at minor surgery are all successful
"OK next shift, OMAC you can operate now as well" Sni'ktl says "OMAC work on Bruce, Jag on self, Sni'ktl on self, McKilin on self" McK, Snik and Jag all failed major surgery but OMAC successfully treats Bruce and he should be fully recovered very quickly.
xZot says "I say minor surgery on the rest, as we are all conscious now" Raid, Con and Crisbel are all treated successfully. "Anyone left? OK Jag and Sp'ock finish that perimeter trip wire with some tangler grenades. Usual watch shifts, let's get some rest. We move out in 8 hours people. During the rest period GleepGlooup approaches Sni'ktl
"I wanted to talk to you about this spare Medkit I've been carting around. It looks like some of the other kits are running low on drugs. How about you take all the consumable out of this kit, and I will just hang onto the hardware as backups in case any of the other gear goes down. He pops open the medkit and starts removing all the spray hypo drugs and other consumable and hands them to Sni'ktl to dispense to the other corpsmen.
Frontier Date 63.065Pf +35
"I think we head east, if there are no other ideas?"
"Back through the mushroom room?" asks Sni'ktl
"There aren't any other options, we have to go back through that cavern one way or another. Let's try a relay with the gas masks.
"Sounds good" Sni'ktl says "Do we wait 20 hrs for staydose to wear off Boro and Sp'ock or do we carry them?"
"Con and Gloo stretcher bearers for Boro, Jag and Crisbel carry Sp'ock. See what you can rig up with some all-weather blankets and some of the larger stalks we've seen from these giant mushroom thingy's. And don't use the hallucinogenic mushie stalks!" Jag whinges but bags the light end of his stretcher. xZot turns to the rest of his command staff then nods at Raid to take point. A relay with the gas masks gets the team past the mushroom cavern without incident. Travelling some distance ahead of the team, Raid discovers a Loper body lying across the corridor east of the mushroom cavern. Continuing east through the tunnel for two more hours Raid reaches another intersection and props, waiting for the rest of the team to catch him and choose a direction. Suddenly there is a cry of pain from behind him.
"Here we go again" and Raid races back down the passageway towards the rest of the team. GleepGlooup yells
"Aaargh, get this damn thing offa me!" He grabs at something that has dropped on his shoulder, what looks like blob of jelly about the size of a basket ball, and starts peeling it off his shoulder, revealing a rather nasty looking acid burn underneath that has eaten through his clothing and is already attacking his epidermis.
Sni'ktl scratches and scritches his way through the tunnels. The bites from the Rasties have not healed well despite his efforts at surgery. Jag and McKilin similarly saved their best work for others but as for "Healer, heal thyself" that only seems to apply to psychologists.
Floating, a wash of sunlight in the darkness. Sunrise on Kawdl-Kit, the last moon sinking below the horizon. Violet, magenta, ultra violet, ultra blue, sunrise? Voices drift through the rising light, faces swim just out of sight. McKilin leaning over me, Gloo squeaking wetly, the snarl of a Yazirian just out of hearing clearly. The heat from the sun increasing, I have no feeling anywhere in my body, but that's all right. Swaying sensations a boat on calm water, the sway as I move to a more comfortable position, what was I doing? Lie back and watch the clouds drift across the quite skies, a heaviness of body, a feeling of weariness an this idyllic place, why do I feel a sense of peril? Darkness descends.
xZot whirls around after he sees, out of the corner of his eye, an object drop onto Gleep. Quickly xZot looks to the source of the object with his heightened Yazirian eyesight.
"What the..." escapes his lips as he scans the ceiling of the tunnel.
Sni'ktl is thinking through the events and whether there would be a better way of organising the medics when Gleep calls out. Sni'ktl points his flashlight at Gleep to see him peeling off the blob. Realising that the biocort recently applied hasn't cured yet Sni'ktl fears for what would happen if anyone goes down. He shines his flashlight at the roof scanning around for any more blobs waiting to drop on anyone. In his other hand he draws his laser pistol, still set on five, ready to blast any gooey looking stalactites.
"Kill that bit of slime, fuck it burns!" yells Gleep as he draws his machete and swings at the slime, chopping it in half. Hearing Gleep's cry, Gloo turns around, his laser pistol set on 2 and drawn, to see a blob of some kind go splat on the floor.
"Acid, that must hurt dude," says Gloo. Dancing out of the way, making sure it doesn't touch him, Gloo checks the ceiling for more. "Let's clear the area and do some cleansing before we continue on guys,"
xZot flashes a look toward Sp'ock "What do you think? I reckon we get our sharp-shooters; Gloo, Crisbel, etc to try and pick these things off with their lasers." yells xZot as he signals a fall-back. "Jag, get on your chronocom and alert Raid to be on the look out for more of these creatures. Everyone be vigilant."
"Gleep, let's look at that burn. That must hurt." Sni'ktl drips acid neutraliser on the wound from the bottle in his med-kit, followed by a spray of local anaesthetic for the pain. At a quick glance McKilin immediately notices that the severed Dropper is changing colour in the torch light to a fleshy colour
"Hey check this out!" He calls to the other team members "It's changing colour, must be some kind of chameleon?" Momentarily distracted by McKilin's outburst and combined with the dark tunnel roof and their chameleon like ability, nobody spots the movement above as nine more Droppers send pseudo-pods down toward team members. Sp'ock looks up just as he is struck on the head. Gloo and xZot both feel the weight of Droppers landing on their shoulders. Crisbel is also struck on the shoulder as he tries to dodge, Sni'ktl is more successful but also gets hit on the lower carapace, Jaguar and Bruce take the worst hits, looking directly up as the Droppers strike them square in the face. Running back toward the team, unaware of the danger, Raid runs directly beneath another Dropper and also takes a head hit.
xZot, Crisbel, Bruce and Raid all struggle with their attackers, tearing them off their bodies, Jag has collapsed unconscious to the floor as machetes are draw to deal with the balls of slime. Con tears the Dropper from Sni'ktl s carapace as Gloo tries to get clear of his slime. Gloo receives one more acid burn before Con is also able to free him from the Droppers' attack. Machetes and axes, flash in the torch light as the remaining Droppers are quickly dispatched. The medics treat everyone for acid burns but are unable to apply more biocort for several hours when suddenly they realise that Jaguar is at death's door.
"Quick, use some staydose and stabilise him" says Sni'ktl "Then we gotta get clear of here"
"Dead loper is a fair sign we are on the right track." Announces Sp'ock "The most pressing equation we have is energy. We have only so much power for the torches, once that is gone we are in the dark in hostile territory. Not, a very comfortable position, especially when the foe has no trouble seeing us. With that in mind the idea of having the better shots attempt to pick of the drop jelly is our best option. If we stand still we die, either in another rat attack, or when the lights go out, followed shortly by water etc. I don't think much of Raid being left out on his own as scout, we know the hostiles are out there and attack on sight, one man is easy to kill, two are more than twice as hard, three might even survive. You wanted me to act as combat coordinator, fine. My advice as interpreted by a passing prophet is never stand alone. The party is big enough to break the team into triads. One specialist soldier, a tech, a medic. All three move as one attacking the same target in melee, or firing on one area in range fire. We move far too loose, with torches on we stand out like dogs balls, we can see to the limit of our torchlight. We can be seen to the limit of line of sight. We should behave like we are being watched through a night sight at all times. Stick to the sides of the cavern, except for the point team we should be in single file from cover to cover, our thoughts should be on enfilade firing positions, and defilade positions for our oh so sore tushes"
Crisbel looks to Sni'ktl and snarls menacingly
"What are you trying to say little one, that I'm lucky?" he asks, a clear inclination in his voice of what he intends should Sni'ktl give the wrong answer here. The snarl begins to increase even more as suggestions of hypnotism enter the conversation.
"Now you mock my abilities. You think maybe I can't kill lethally without your help?!!" he spits, the rage evident in him now. "Tell you what friend, I will show you just how lethal I can really be!" As he slices a nearby Dropper in half with his machete.
"Yo! xZot. Just looked upon your set up and it was good in the eyes of the beholder" xZot turns to Sp'ock
"When I looked at the team breakdown I tried to leave each one with a medic and military support."
"Shows and with me a stretcher case it also can apply now"
"The command team possibly the weakest, but I don't hope to be in the melee too often. It's a good thing Snik's got the heavy end!"
"You can always rely on a Vrusk to carry the load" smiles Sp'ock. When suggestion of the triad comes about, Crisbel will gladly take the lead position of the lead triad. Not wanting to sound overly macho, he casually remarks that it will ensure he doesn't have to smell the others dying.
"I think we are going to have to find some where to lay low and rest until the Medics can operate again. What do you guys think?"
"Oww.. How am I going to operate when every movement is pain?" He considers something. "Probably be best if I was hypnotised to forget the pain next time I operate." Sp'ock says
"If we stand still we die. The only direction for us to safety is back amongst the natives"
McKilin frowns muttering to himself as he treats others for acid burns. No way to operate on anyone until their bodies recover from the last attempts. He considers the problems of the desert itself and wonders how much work it would be to design a suit that would capture waist water emitted by a human and recycle it enough to drink again. McKilin wonders,
"How is it that Bruce looks sooo healthy?" Borovski immediately responds
"Bruce's a pretty boy"
"He's the poster boy for star fleet" Sp'ock adds
"The general consensus is that we keep moving. I'm moving Bruce into the front row" Announces xZot
"That should take care of all that disgusting health of his" quips Sp'ock
"Three more Bruce's & we'd have a galactic boy band!" laughs Borovski
McKilin pushes Con with Bruce and Sp'ock bursts out laughing. xZot gazes down both corridors
"East? Any objections?" McKilin checks for tracks to try to determine what nasties are in the general area. He also collects samples of the blobbie things for further study. Rastie tracks are pretty obvious, and there are some large tracks and occasional stool from something bigger. As the team travels east down the passageway, past the intersection about one hours further travel, a crack opens in the cavern wall right beside McKilin and what appears to be hot steams seeps out. The gas quickly fills a 3 meter long section of cavern each turn." McKilin takes a reading on the gas, the toxyrad gauges are flashing indicating poison. McKilin frowns and then looks startled. He yells out, "Everyone, Gas Masks, it's poison gas!"
"Shit, neither Jag or I have a mask" Borovski yelps
"I don't either." realises McKilin as xZot watches Bruce and Con also put their masks on. Gleep, xZot, McKilin, Crisbel, Sni'ktl and Con are all exposed to the initial effects before they can dash forward several yards out of the area of effect. Seeing the rest of the team move forward Borovski thinks to himself the area of effect is only going to increase, gotta move.
"Step aside or lose a limb, comin' through" Borovski drags his ass and Jag's sad excuse for an ass forward at pace (for a Dral at least)
"I need another stretcher bearer over here." xZot says when he sees Sni'ktl drop to the ground from the effects of the gas.
Now with four stretcher cases and 8 stretcher bearers and only Raids' hands free of burden, the team continues east through the caverns, flash lights probing the darkness. Several flashlights have petered out and been discarded on the march, reminding everyone of their limited resources. Raid also reports that his bulk ration pack is almost empty. Another hour past the gas crack and Raid enters a large cavern room lit by dim phosphorescent minerals when he sees a 7 meter tall creature 60 meters away. It looks like a hairless, white bear. It has shown no sign of noticing him as yet and he slowly backs out of the cavern to warn the rest of the team.
"Hmm, do we have any spare rastie carcases and Frag Grenade?" wonders McKilin
"Looks like our old Rastie munching friend I reckon," says Raid
"I still have 3 doze & 2 tanglers but no frags" says Borovski "I've an unhealthy Jag?" he smirks
"Might as well have another peek. Come on Raid, if we are lucky, it will not be hungry. But then, our luck seems to be running in the deficit since starting." McKilin talks Raid into going to study the creature. "Maybe it is friendly?" A hopeful tone comes into his voice. Raid and McK, crawl back up the corridor again until they can observe the Volturnian Cave Bear again, it appears to be munching on several Rastie carcasses. After about half an hour, the bear curls up in a pile of detridis and soon begins snoring. McKilin makes a moment to silently chuckle. He nods to Raid after a while and nods for the way back.
"We are in luck. It is eating, and it looks like it is sleeping. If we are lucky, We might be able to sneak by it. It is over against the far wall, more than 30 metres from the wall off to the side. It may be possible to stay 30 or so meters away from it while sneaking to the other exit?"
"Be very, very quiet we're sneaking past cave bear, and hope it's going into hibernation" whispers Borovski as each stretcher is ferried quietly across the room by each fire team/triad, under cover of various pistols and other weapons from each entrance by the forward team and rear guard. Borovski says to Raid and McKilin
"Make sure we're leaving no tracks for cave bear to follow." The group travels several hours north from the cave bears' lair and as you near yet another intersection the alarms on each medic's chronocoms go off indicating that biocort can be re-applied to the wounded, Sni'ktl and Jag are still stretcher cases. The tunnel you are in continues north and veers east, the new passageway connects from the west, but you are now getting tired now, another couple hours move and you should rest again.
Frontier Date 63.064Pf +36
McKilin begins more First Aid work on the entire team with OMAC's assistance, then begins surgery on the unconscious Sni'ktl returning him to almost full health once the effects of the Stay dose have worn off. He then asks Sni'ktl to try to hypnotise him to not feel his own pain, hoping that it will make a difference in the operation on Jaguar. The hypnotism succeeds but is of no help to Jaguar, the First Aid treatment revives him but he is not responding to other treatments at this time and will also require a stretcher.
"Hypnotism and recreational drugs, you are really out there" observes Borovski
"Anything to help out our chances." replies McKilin
"We should lock down not too far from the intersection in order to monitor any movement which may assist our decision of which way to go? Borovski says "of course the final decision is xZot's"
Whilst on the march McKilin makes entries into his research log and christens the Volturnian Cave Bear as a "Bubba Bear" and makes some preliminary notes on the "Droppers" or "Blobbies as he has already begun referring to them. In his medical log he also makes several other observations
"Question. With medical care, just changing dressing and such. Does that increase natural healing rate at all? Being treated that way enables some healing each day, otherwise the patient seems to remains the same stable condition. The Frontier medical system has developed some excellent drugs for some treatments but unfortunately relies heavily on these drugs to be effective."
"Snik will be under from staydose for 20 hours, Jag will be able to walk some time tomorrow, everyone else can walk now" OMAC announces
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