When Sni'ktl signed up for a command post he didn't realise it meant that he would be struggling with a stretcher, struggling on account of him being as big a wimp as the "Commander" on the other end.
"Jeeze its heavy. What's McK saying about poison? Aw fuck better get a move on we wouldn't..." As Sni'ktl hits the floor his last thoughts are of a strange white bearded fellow in a red and white space suit and a spaceship drawn by some exotic fauna. McKilin would probably call them Raid-deer after the funny thing Raid does when he sticks his thumbs against his temples and wiggles his fingers with his tongue out when Crisbel isn't looking.
"Lying flat out on a stretcher gives one a unique chance to observe the group in stressful situations and how they interact," thinks Sp'ock to himself. "The almost manic way that Gloo hides his fear behind a very obvious bluster. Sni'ktl and his selfless attitude towards the others welfare has filled me with racial pride, and some small annoyance at his pride in humility. Most interesting has been Crisbel's change in behaviour. Not too many days ago he was engaged in drinking song contests with his Yazirian mates. Today he threatens anyone who may be critical of his actions. I will bring this to the attention of xZot and Sni'ktl, although they probably have seen this themselves. All of this ego conflict is one of the reasons I prefer the company of robots."
Once on his feet Sp'ock approaches Crisbel.
"Crisbel, I have been greatly impressed by your skill with the laser pistol, and would learn from you the ways of this weapon. Will you teach?" When not unconscious or eating Sp'ock spends as much time as possible. Huddled together with his O-Group xZot says,
"Where are we on the map?"
"Next to the BHG icon thingy" pipes up Gleep
"Weren't we going to rest here? I thought we were at the end of 12 hours travelling and were going to rest. Are we very far from the bears?" OMAC disagrees
"Fuck that! Let's keep on the move"
"Don't we need to rest?"
"It appears we could still travel for a couple more hours" Borovski says to xZot
"Sounds fine to me but we need to rest somewhere soon. I think we will be underground for some time yet. When is Jag mobile?"
"Another 4-5 hours" Borovski grumbles "He's gonna pay for me havin' to drag that sorry ass around. I still reckon we move eastward at next intersection"
"Sounds good to me, 'til then I guess we can only continue up the map" The team groans, hefts their packs once again and continues to trudge north for approximately another 2 hours before the tunnel reaches another natural cavern. There is one tunnel exiting the cavern to the northwest and another exit to the southeast. There is a faint glow near the ceiling of this huge room (500 meters across). The glow appears to be about 250 metres away. As Raid moves closer he can see a phosphorescent mineral at the base of a 3 meter chimney extending upwards into the dark.
"They're not radioactive droppers are they?" asks Borovski
"Raid, can you establish whether we can harvest this for a light source?" calls out xZot.
"I hope there's no acid drops in there!" GleepGlooup mutters
"You fuckin' idiot, be my guest...hero!" snorts OMAC
"Looks like a natural cluster of minerals, not particularly large" calls back Raid
"What about the ToxRad gizmo? What does it say?" GleepGlooup checks his toxyrad gauge
"No warning signals here"
"I'll give Raid a boost," volunteers Borovski "but I doubt my Dralasite ass will fit up there"
Raid collects a sample of the mineral as OMAC trains his Auto pistol up the chimney. Borovski boosts Raid up to the chimney wall and shines his torch up into the darkness 30 metres above him. Gloo has his laser pistol in hand and peers into the darkness above, Borovski asks
"What do you see Raid?" OMAC steps back and says
"Fire a round up the chimney!"
"Trigger happy bastard" xZot thinks "OMAC, always the diplomat." Raid jumps down from the chimney and OMAC asks if anyone has a flare?
"Jaguars' got a holoflare"
"Do we have much in the way of healing at present?" asks Gloo. Borovski ignores him
"I've a tangler grenade which should stop anyone or thing coming down that and sneaking up behind us later"
"I think the healing will wait till we rest next" xZot says to Gloo "Nah, I don't think we should waste a grenade on this"
"Cool" answer Gloo and Borovski together, then suddenly collapse in a fit a of Dralasite laughter at their synchronicity. Recovering from his laughing fits, Borovski gasps
"Shall I acquire Jag's holoflare from his person for OMAC?" Gloo sets his laser pistol to 2 while OMAC rubs one of his rounds on the glowing mineral, loads it into his chamber and fires up the chimney, jumping back from the mouth. The round ricochets up the chimney and then drops back to the ground, eliciting a hissing sound from up the chimney. OMAC runs. xZot turns to Boro
"You still got that grenade handy?" Gloo moves away from the chimney as he calls behind him
"Fire another one, maybe we can really piss it off!" Borovski immediately locates and prepares to use grenade
"On your command xZot..."
"...we follow" finishes Gloo. GleepGlooup grabs a stretcher with 2 of his pseudo pods, brandishing his machete and Gyrojet pistol in 2 other pseudo pods and starts heading towards the south east exit.
"If nothing is coming down the chimney, them lets move...quickly" commands xZot. Raid is also heading toward the exit
"Let's get out of here!" Gloo starts slowly moving towards the south east exit then starts to run to the exit as the whole team breaks into a run, Borovski re-laces his grenade to a readily accessible position, picks up lard ass on the stretcher and bugs out. The team exits the room safely and proceeds down the corridor for another hour before it bisects. The corridors head off to the south and the southeast.
"Keep heading SE I reckon" states xZot, OMAC and Gleep concur
"Cool SE it is" says Gloo. After another hour of travel Jaguar is revived and back on his feet leaving the team with only one stretcher case left. The corridor turns due east, when OMAC says
"It's about time we rest don't you think?" Borovski says
"Right Jag you bastard, hand over all your money! You owe me big time" Jag says
"Money? Will you settle for being first on my future heal list?"
"Bloody medics, think they can bribe the whole universe with their fancy, schmancy bullshit." The rest of the team have gathered around enjoying the light hearted moment when suddenly a large section of the wall collapses releasing a 250 centimetres deep lava flow 10 metres behind the team, slowly advancing towards them. Gloo yells
"Run" and starts to pick up the speed. xZot says
"Let's pick up the pace guys!"
"Full blob speed ahead" calls out Borovski. xZot Checks to make sure that everyone is on the move as GleepGlooup lurches into action and Borovski drags Jag along with him.
"I'm not finished with you yet!" The teams once again races down the seemingly endless rock tunnels fleeing the advancing lava flow. The passage continues east for another hour before it splits northwest and southeast. The lava is still following the team, though now it is several hundred metres behind effectively create a point of no return until it cools enough to walk on, which would be several days at least
"What do ya reckon, SE again?"
"Yo" OMAC concurs again "Lets not fuck around, keep moving" Borovski says
"NW will only take us back in a direction from which we came I reckon" So The Black Hand Gang stumbles onward for another 2 hours before collapsing exhausted in yet another cavern several hundred metres across and apparently uninhabited. The lava flow has turned up the north west passage way
"We should rest somewhere about now" wheezes Gloo
"Jag might need to take first watch, he's the only one who's had some rest recently" xZot thinks out loud as he watches OMAC take his hypo from his medkit and inject himself with a stimdose and says
"I won't be going to sleep, 4 hours from now I need a volunteer to do the second watch then lets bug out! OK Jag can take second watch"
"Goodnight, I'm going to sleep" and GleepGlooup collapses
"Cool" replies Gloo and finds a hard surface to snooze on.
Four hours later the watch changes with no interruptions, another 4 hours later Jaguar, pumped to the eyeballs with Stimdose, runs around waking every body up.
Frontier Date 63.063Pf +37
"Come on guys! Come on guys! Let's go! Let's go!
"How's Sni'ktl lookin? Is he awake yet?"
"One of these days Jag. Pow! Right in the kisser" quips Borovski as the team forms up and heads off down the southern passage travelling south. Another Four hours march through the darkness and Sni'ktl is again able to walk and the wounded are ready for another round of First Aid. GleepGlooup hands all of his Biocort to OMAC who says
"Come and get it boys, Gleep is first in line with Boro and Gloo" OMAC then applies a dose of Biocort for himself "There are 3 more of these here who wants em?
"Take it any way I can get it, but don't get any funny ideas" Borovski says as he steps up to OMAC's First Aid Post. OMAC also performs First Aid on xZot, Jaguar and Raid.
"OK that's all the Biocort from Gleep's pack and Jag is empty now as well. I have 5 biocort left, Sni'ktl has 9 and McK has 5" OMAC sees the extent of Sp'ock's injuries and suggests that Sni'ktl look after him with a First Aid as well. "Better check on Gloo to, he still looks pretty sick." McKilin tends his own wounds and assists OMAC as he treats his patients
"Guys here is the drugs from the kit, I will keep the hardware" GleepGlooup divvies up the drugs from the spare Medkit as follows. OMAC - 2 Local Anaesthetic 1 Plastiflesh 3 Omnimycin 2 Antiseptic 3 Telol 3 Stimdose 3 Staydose 3 Antibody plus 3 Antitox. Sni'ktl - 2 Local Anaesthetic 1 Plastiflesh 3 Omnimycin 2 Antiseptic 3 Telol 3 Stimdose 3 Staydose 3 Antibody plus 3 Antitox. McKilin - 2 Local Anaesthetic 1 Plastiflesh 3 Omnimycin 1 Antiseptic 3 Telol 3 Stimdose 3 Staydose 3 Antibody plus 3 Antitox. Jaguar - 2 Local Anaesthetic 1 Omnimycin 1 Telol 3 Stimdose 3 Staydose 1 Antibody plus 1 Antitox.
GleepGlooup then reseals the spare hardware into the Medkit and packs the smaller bundle into the bottom of his pack. During the meal period, Raid breaks down the last of his Bulk Ration Pack and let's Borovski, the Quartermaster, know that the party will have finished off his pack tomorrow and you will need to break open the next Ration Pack.
"Ok, do we proceed south?" xZot Signals agreement and the team moves out once again. The corridor gradually widens into another large room. This room is dimly illuminated by phosphorescent mineral deposits. It is more than half a kilometre long and 250 metres wide. You hear the sound of many running feet, and a number of grunts, hisses and squeals.
OMAC drops to the ground and pulls out the Holoflare he took from Jaguar earlier. He aims it down the corridor, lights the fuse and says
"Let there be light!" xZot peers down the tunnel after the flare, Borovski draws his favoured machete in anticipation. The holoflare launches itself down the passageway and bursts 200 metres down the corridor to light up a stampede of 20 lizard like creatures rushing directly down the corridor toward you
"Holy phuck, bring it on" exclaims Borovski. xZot screams
"Who's got Grenades?
"Guess who?" Borovski smiles
"Well stand behind Jag and throw them! When the time is right, that is" Borovski asks
"1 doze and 1 tangler, any preference?"
"I'd say the Tangler first"
"Doze" Gloo says "in front of them but away from us, then the tangler"
"Shows you what I know about grenades!" smiles xZot as Borovski prepares doze grenade for priming and launching when these Lizard steaks are at
optimum range. OMAC unclips his doze grenade as well while Gloo licks his lips and stands ready with laser pistol set on 2
"We should fall into our operational Teams if we aren't already together" xZot say "mmmm, Volturnus Iguana"
"Con! Hook in with your grenades" commands xZot "Follow the grenades with a volley of laser and pistol fire" Gloo says
Medical Officer's Log.
The gas seems to have no long term side effects .. 'choo. Except ... 'choo for this ... 'choo slight irritation in the...'choo 'choo air holes. SCREEEIITCH BLAART... That's better. Note that in my absence McKilin has demonstrated excellent organising skills and should be considered for promotion to full medical officer at the earliest opportunity. OMAC also showed excellent initiative and should be considered for a commendation. My review of medical supplies indicates that we are running short of biocort. I will inform xZot and Sp'ock of the need to adopt a low risk approach to encounters until this situation is remedied.
After reviewing the situation xZot realises that the lizards are still outside the range of our weapons.
"Damn!" mutters xZot under his breath, then turning to Sp'ock, "Well, what do you think?" but before Sp'ock can answer "I reckon that we use tangler grenades to block the corridor; wait till they're caught and then let 'em have it!" xZot continues somewhat excitedly. The tension around the group has risen sharply as the noise of the approaching lizards grows. "Those of you who can, should consider taking careful aim and lets co-ordinate those grenades so as not to waste any of our ammo." Realising that he had just cut Sp'ock off, xZot, somewhat self-chastised, pauses to listen to the group's military commanders' wisdom.
"Shit" exclaims Gloo as he sees the horde of lizard critters bearing down on the party's position. He says "I don't think this is Kansas people" as he listens to what xZot and Sp'ock are talking about. Gloo butts in and says "I agree with one thing guys, lets move to the wall and then you can talk about it"
xZot's reaches towards his belt in search of the now familiar bulk of the Laser Pistol at his side. Noting that everyone else has been setting their pistols to power level 2, xZot does the same. xZot once again attempts to go into a Battle Rage as he waves his Laser Pistol around. When the creatures come into medium range xZot is about to open fire with the Laser pistol, when OMAC grumbles
"Hold your fire, wait 'til we hit 'em with the grenades first"
Boro is fully intent on entangling as many of these vermin as possible with the tangler grenade he has prepared. When they reach 35-40m from the party he prepares to launch his attack centred on the attacking group as a whole in order to nullify a quantity of them if not all.
"Just like throwing mud pies at a baby" he thinks in order to reassure himself. Tie up as many as we can with the grenades then he intends to hook in with his machete to start slicing up those lizard steaks. "Time to throw another lizard on the Bar-be"
OMAC draws his laser pistol flicks setting to 5 then switches laser pistol to left hand and prepares doze grenade. He waits until the target is 20 metres away and lobs his grenade, taking up two handed supported firing position with his laser pistol muttering
"Come get some you reptilian scum bags!" The lizard stampede quickly closes on the team's position as they scatter to the walls on each side of the corridor. Borovski lobs a Tangler grenade into the centre of the pack and it explodes entangling 3 of the creatures. OMAC hurls his grenade and swears as it whistles over most of the pack exploding at their rear and only dropping one of the creatures. Grunts a squeals fill the air as xZot screams
"Now! Now! Now! Throw the grenades!" But almost half the team is merely cowering against the wall trying to avoid the on rushing stampede.
"It's only the depth that varies" Gloo mutters as he moves to the tunnel wall never taking his eyes off the stampede. Strangely enough, fresh steaks still play heavily on Gloo's mind and serves as motivation against fear. Lucky huh? With his pistol aimed down the corridor, Gloo waits for the grenades for his cue. "Yeah, take that Godzilla" says Gloo as he squeezes off a shot and is rewarded with the singe of lizard flesh "Take that, you soon to be Pot Roast!"
Sni'ktl is uncertain about what the strike team is doing with the holoflare.
"I'm sure they know their stuff" he thinks as he readies to continue along the passageway. Days of unconsciousness have left Sni'ktl with no sense of where he is or where he is going. Only a strong sense of trust in his fellows and occasionally annoying optimism keeps him content. "Oooh that seems to have stirred something up." As the lizards stampede towards the party, Sni'ktl takes up position near the wall and his laser pistol on 2 and takes careful aim awaiting the order to fire. His shot goes wild as the lizards crash through the corridor trying to avoid any obstacles. The Shovel mouths stick to the centre of the corridor as they rush past the team and on up the passageway, disappearing into the darkness once more.
The expedition members stare at each other in bewilderment as a series of different emotions well up inside each member...
Sni'ktl notes in his medical log
Medical Officer's Log.
Many of the party are showing signs of fearful paralysis.
NB must remember to ask Boro more about rearing young.
"I suggest the scout team scouts while a strike team collects lizard samples for later study. I think three were caught in tanglers. Phew that was one pack of lizards in a hurry to get somewhere!"
"Something sure put a rocket launcher up there dates, beware of what's possibly chasing them?" Borovski laughs
"Shall we go and look? I suggest the Command Team and Second Strike Team check out where they came from while everyone else stays here taking samples" xZot agrees
"Might as well look around since they're all gone now"
"Looks like a big cavern with an exit to the west and three to the south"
"GleepGlooup, Jag prepare to move out! You heard the Chief" Borovski bellows
"I do feel safe with our brave military commander coming along" Sni'ktl says "Looks from the map like the West tunnel must be a dead end. Could be worth checking it out so we don't leave any nasties between us and the others? What do you think xZot?"
"I guess we should kill the lizards that we have trapped and establish if they're eatable"
"Brave I might be, but that don't mean I'm leading" answers Borovski
"Good job we're leaving our two scientists behind to establish that" Sni'ktl says. Raid takes some samples of the lizard creatures as you advance into the cavern and determine there are no occupants
"Let's continue down the western wall. Any nests?" Sni'ktl edges his way round western wall holding the flashlight for the command team Borovski maintains his usual position at rear and also holds flashlight in spare pseudopod. Sni'ktl plays his flashlight round the cavern looking for the telltale chink of egg shell but no nests are discovered in the cavern. Borovski checks the cavern ceiling for droppers Sni'ktl shines his light towards the western passage looking for signs of movement as the teams approach the opening
"Bloobies" States McKilin, "They are called Blobbies!"
"The western passageway looks empty" Sni'ktl says, "lets go South" Sni'ktl shines plays his flashlight across the three southern exits.
"What do you guys reckon, southeast one?" xZot says
"Lets go South East, that passageway reminds me of a back alley in the hive where I grew up" and xZot mutters
"Who needs a compass..." Raid once again takes point and heads off down the south east passageway
"Follow that maniac, we don't need to spilt up any more" says Borovski. Sni'ktl follows wondering if the scientists have been taking geological samples in the caverns and encourages them to do so if they aren't already. Sni'ktl scritches and scratches in suspense awaiting the scouting party's report. Borovski calls ahead
"Hey Raid what's happening up front ?" Sni'ktl listens to static of the chrono .... waiting ..... thinking ...... reflecting ..... getting hungry. Sni'ktl listens intently then the chronocoms crackle into life as Raid reports in
"Hey. Anyone seen the Janitor?"
"Huh?" Raids voice comes back again.
"I'll just leave these here"
"If you've found the loos, I'm first in" As you continue up the passageway you find a broom a bucket and a mop stacked by the rock wall. The bucket is empty and covered in dust and cobwebs, the items look unused for some time. The tunnel winds on southward for another 8 hours and then you are entering another room in this seemingly endless cavern.
The air here is much cooler than other parts of the cavern. Sni'ktl shines flashlight into cavern looking for exits or signs of life.
"Sssshhh, I hear something. Sounds like running water" Sni'ktl shines his flashlight in the direction he can hear the water from. The gurgling sound appears to come from the rock in the southeast wall of a room the passage has entered.
"Raid, can you check that water out? If it is drinkable we'll refill our containers" Commands xZot "I don't think knock a hole in the wall is a good idea what do you think Raid?"
"I think that's the only way we are gonna get the water Boss" says Raid.
"Does any of those geological courses you've done help up here Raid, or do we just stand back and blast!" Raid speculates that if we can hear gurgling then there is probably water and air on the other side of the rock.
"Which means its unlikely to flood the cavern unless its just an air pocket" comments Sni'ktl. Borovski exerts his strength in attempting to move rock and Sni'ktl adds his puny strength to Boro's. The rock wall here is definitely cooler and looks like you could hack through the "softer" rock with machetes
"I hope this water is naturally mineralised - maybe with a natural fizz" speculates Sni'ktl, the xZot orders up the other team members
"Lets get a few of the big guys on this - Crisbel, you help Borovski" Sni'ktl steps back and wipes forehead "and try on to break those machetes" Several minutes later you are rewarded with a ready supply of fresh potable water. Raid takes a sample of the rock "Looks like Basalt, definitely volcanic which fits with all our other Bruce, not enough room for anyone to squeeze in though. There was an air pocket above the underwater stream here" Sni'ktl says
"Lets camp" Borovski agrees and Gloo lets one rip as Sp'ock passes out. xZot says
"OK then let's make camp, set up watches etc. We'll refill our water while we camp, restock all the water packs. xZot makes a bed away from Gloo
"Nothing personal you know"
"xZot I recommend that everyone be required to bath, even the humans, in order to reduce the risk of bacterial infections." Borovski seconds Sni'ktl idea.
"Did we grab that bucket?" asks xZot and Sni'ktl nods. OMAC begins to trip down and clean all his weapons as the team restructures it's watches and the medics tend to the seriously wounded with another round of First Aid. xZot, Con, Bruce, Sni'ktl and Crisbel are all declared fit for duty and exempted from treatment to conserve the dwindling biocort supplies. Sni'ktl talks to xZot or whoever on watch
"So if the pirates went to so much trouble stopping us from getting here, what's here that's so valuable? OK, I've re-done the medical inventory for the 9 remaining Biocort" Sni'ktl says "xZot, please make sure no one gets injured for a while"
"I won't hurt anyone" Borovski stirs in his sleep as the party squabbles over distribution of healing. Several hours later Sni'ktl is woken for his watch
"zzzzzzzz... zzzzzzzzz.... zzzzzzzzzz... Oh must be my watch now" about halfway through the 4th watch the sentries are alerted by squeaks and beating of wings as some flying creatures swoop out of the darkness. Gloo ducks and says
"Anyone got a flashlight?" Sni'ktl tries to scare them off with his flash light and shouting and Borovski says
"I used my last tangler grenade earlier, any suggestions?" xZot looks for cover and Gloo's still crouched moves to cover as the Flitters swoop in. Sni'ktl, laser pistol on setting 5 aims a shot at point blank range and blasts one out of the sky xZot swings hi nightstick at them and tries again to summon his Battle rage but to no avail. Gloo pulls his axe out, takes a swing and chops down another Flitter, 2 more Flitters attack each of them.
"Wake up you lazy bastards" yells Sni'ktl at the sleeping team members and spots Gloo being bitten once, the creatures teeth barely piercing his Skiensuit, the other 4 swoop at xZot and he is also bitten (1 point) through his Skiensuit
"Ouch"" Then the Flitters immediately turn and fly away into the dark again, screeching and wailing
"Hooray" yells Gloo as Sni'ktl quickly pulled his Medkit open and checks over Gloo and xZot for infections
"Damn it I was looking forward to some wings to go with my steak" mutters Boro then Sni'ktl reports the results of his tests
"OK they both have something..." He sets to work on treating the alien disease and has immediate success with xZot but no luck with Gloo.
"Let me try that" says OMAC applying slightly different techniques also treats Gloo's disease. Both patients will fell fatigued for the next day or so but should not suffer any further ill effects.
"Thanks OMAC" says Gloo
"I have updated the medical inventory, 3 Antibody plus used today" reports Sni'ktl to xZot.
The rest of the night passes uneventfully and the Team awakes feeling slightly more refreshed after having had decent meal and sack time.
Frontier Date 63.062Pf +38
With all the Water Packs fully stocked and a dinner supplemented with Shovelmouth meat, now declared safe to eat by the Environmentalists, morale has also increased somewhat. xZot once again indulging himself in his penchant for culinary experimentation provided some entertainment during the evening meal.
Sni'ktl however has also noticed some sideways looks and muttered comments from some of the team members, particularly since the stampede incident the previous day when several individuals seem to have either panicked and froze or have just lost all interest in living and are becoming nothing more than walking zombies. Bruce, Con and Jaguar have become more despondent and introverted, especially over the last couple of weeks. The caverns in particular seem to have almost amplified the psychological condition of these individuals. Crisbel and McKilin seem to be suffering from a similar malady, though at this stage are still in the early stages and should be more easily treated.
On the positive side several other individuals seem to have found their focus and are coping quite well. Sp'ock and Gloo have both developed a fascination with explosives and have been picking Jaguars brain for any tidbit's of information they can wrangle out of him in relation to Demolitions. Gloo has come on in leaps and bounds with his Beam Weapons skill, Con and Sp'ock have also become proficient with Beam Weaponry. Gloo has also been working on his throwing accuracy, practicing with OMAC, lobbing rocks down the corridor at anything that moves and a lot of things that don't. By and large, most of the team is stable if somewhat battered but conditions seem to change so rapidly on this planet.
"Move Out" yells OMAC, enjoying his role as the surrogate Sergeant Major of the security team. Boots are tightened, packs are shouldered and the Black Hand Gang heads off once more into the dark tunnels beneath the surface of Volturnus, Raid Array taking his familiar position at point. Several hours into the march the chronos once again crackle to life as Raid reports in
"Looks like we are definitely not alone down here now. I found a trap, will sit tight until Sp'ock gets here to show ya." When Sp'ock reaches Raid's position Raid shows him the edge of a crudely covered pit. At the bottom of the pit are several sharpened stakes. He raises an eyebrow at Sp'ock.
"Watch your step" and turns south again into the darkness. Sp'ock points out the pit to the rest of the team when they catch up and guides everyone safely around the trap. Several more hours later the passage opens into yet another cavern with several entrances from the west, north and east. After quick examination, Raid continues onward through the eastern most exit, hours pass and he discovers another intersection and reports back to xZot
"OK, we have another three way split here, north, south and east. Want me to keep heading East?" xZot relays the information to the rest of the command structure and the general consensus is to continue east. About an hour later Raid reports in again, this time with only two options, north or south. "I think we should be heading north xZot" advises Raid "I know that looks like we are back tracking but I think the cavern is following a switchback path and is heading upwards"
"Well that's as good a reason as any. Give it another couple of hours and we will stop for another rest." xZot responds. Raid pushes the pace and just over two hours later reports another split in the passageway and a widening in the passageway where they could camp again. The team reaches the rendezvous and collapses after the forced march. "Well we seem to making better progress now, but where the Hell are we heading?" xZot wonders out loud "OK set the watches, grab a feed and get some sleep. At least we have a couple more days march before we have to decide to head back to the water supply or move on." he confides to Sni'ktl.
Frontier Date 63.061Pf +39
The next morning the team pushes on again, this time to the north, looking for a way back to the surface. Marching hard the group heads north for most of the "Day", after about 4 or 5 hours the tunnels seem to be getting warmer, after another couple of hour the difference in the temperature is quite noticeable but with no indication of immediate danger xZot drives his men onward. The passage has become increasingly hot all day as you advance. Raid rounds a narrow bend and sees a large room ahead. A fiery red glow illuminates the room and he feels an intense heat coming from it. As he moves on, the passage opens onto a narrow ledge overlooking a vast lake of molten rock.
Large pillars of crystal rise out of the lake to the height of the ledge, which is nearly 30 metres above the fiery surface. Near the middle of the lake, two or more of the crystals are fused at the top, forming narrow bridges. Many stalactites hang to within three metres of the crystal tops. Some of these stalactites are huge and well anchored; others appear thinner and shakily attached. As he watches, one of the thinner stalactites falls from the ceiling to the lake below. While he studies the scene he notices that jets of flaming gases and molten rock stream out of the lake, splashing against the crystal pillars and even the ceiling of the cavern.
There doesn't appear to be any safe way across the lake, for your ledge runs only part way around the lake. On the other side, you can see a similar ledge, with a passage leading away from the lake. The distance between the two ledges appears to be about 200 metres. Raid raises his chronocom and opens a channel to xZot
"Well Boss, looks like we camp here tonight while you work out how we are going to proceed" xZot frowns to himself as he moves up to join Raid
"Sp'ock, set up a perimeter and get a fire going for dinner. Sni'ktl, I want a status report on the wounded when I get back" he turns and whispers to OMAC and Boro as he leaves the campsite "Keep an eye on Con, Bruce and the others. We don't need someone to drop their bundle now, keep a sharp eye! OK let's see what Raid found." xZot trudges up to meet Raid and survey the situation.
Sp'ock spends a long period of time staring at the lake of fire and the crystal columns the mad red colour scheme is really a pain. With a start Sp'ock stamps out of the massive funk that had overcome him.
"Damn." He clashes his rear legs together, a sign of imminent Vrusk self-destruction, or an itch that can't quite be reached. "xZot, your eminence ness, I have shamed your promotion, my nest, my race and myself. With your permission I'll just pop off and shoot myself. Don't feel concern I'll make it quick."
xZot listens to Sp'ock chastise himself for a while and then interjects
"Jeez, its all right friend. Here look, I've got a Birch branch in my Kit here somewhere, whip yourself with that a few times". Pausing to look at Sp'ock's expression xZot ponders "That may be the missing herb in last nights dinner, dried Birch in whipped Vrusk essence'." xZot holds it together for a moment and then cracks up laughing "You should have seen you face then, hahaha..." When xZot rejects this offer Sp'ock pipes up again,
"I think I have a solution to our dilemma with this barrier to our path." Pauses for dramatic effect. "We must make our way across this lake of fire, or go back to the caves and face this problem another day. I believe with the use of my climbing skills the rope scattered around the party, and more luck than an Irish Protestant at a St Patrick's parade that we can cross using the crystals." After composing himself xZot continues
"I think your idea of the ropes has merit but we should also study these jets of gas and molten. There just might be a pattern that could make our attempt safer. Raid and McKilin, front and centre, I think you guys should put your Environmental skills to use and look at the dynamics of this lava lake. Are there any natural features that could make this crossing safer? Any patterns? A best line of crossing? Anything?" Also, xZot confers with the other Yazirians in the group "What do you guys think? Will the lava give us enough thermal to glide across sections of this lake? I don't know about you but its been sometime since I got some air in these flaps!"
"xZot, I thought I asked you to make sure no one else gets injured?" Asks Sni'ktl. "Now I hear that Sp'ock's planning to go climbing all over those crystal columns and you Yazirians are thinking about catching some nice warm thermals under your flaps. Madness. OK, OK, so there's not much choice and yes the scientists should come up with some ideas to help but we really do need to make this as safe as possible. Can you ask the scientists to test a skein suit sample to see if they will protect against heat and lava, maybe try making a protective suit from the all-weather blankets for extra insulation. Please make sure that anyone who goes gallivanting around in there is wearing the best skein suit and is securely roped off. Even though it goes against all my ethics, I will also help by trying to hypnotise whoever takes the risks. If they're thinking the whole thing is a holo-simulation they'll be a bit less nervous. I'll suggest that there's some groovy chicks watching to make sure their adrenalin stays up though." Pacing back and forth, Gloo mutters
"I don't really like fire. We Drals are a little combustible, if you get my drift." Staring at the crystals, Gloo examines the walls to see if there is any small ledges running around but can only make out the ledge the team is camped near, and a vague outline of what looks like another ledge 200 metres away on the opposite side of the cavern. Listening to the party talk the problem through, Gloo says "I don't have any ideas on getting across but I reckon the crystals are going to be much hotter than we are anticipating, so we need to really think about how to get across without too many mishaps". Gloo stops and thinks for a moment and continues "I do agree that the Yazirians might be able to use the thermals to glide to the other side with rope and we then use it to go over one by one. The last person would have to be Yazirian also to glide over when all is done. What does everyone else think?" Jaguar shakes his head
"In the confined space of a cavern, the up and down drafts will be unpredictable I think. We only have 30 metres altitude and 200 metres to cross. It may be possible to glide to the crystal pillars, but that looks almost as risky as just plain jumping!" OMAC sparks up some herbal body stimulant, and mutters
"Whatever!" Then GleepGlooup waddles over to him holding out a handful of dried mushrooms
"Here, try this instead" OMAC's eyes glaze over before he even tries the mushrooms "Mushrooms" he mutters again. "Hey, how far back was that last mushroom stand?"
"Only a couple hundred metres" answers Gleep "Why? What you got in mind?"
"Hmmmm" mumbles OMAC "Oh nothing in particular" as his thoughts drift off.
Being somewhat perplexed yet amused and amazed at the party's reversal of fear surrounding lava (he recalls running his ass off away from the last lot they saw). Boro agrees to lend his strength to any attempt of establishing a primitive form of rope bridge in order to cross the pit but it also quick to point out that dexterity is not necessarily his forte. As for the whisper he thought he heard of a catapult and the dral race being more sticky, one more comment regarding his personal hygiene could quite disturb his karma, it's not his fault he's big unit having to lug a hulking frame around.
"By the way you guys better decide quickly, it's damn hot in here which will only require more water consumption"
The proximity of the camp to the Lake of Fire makes for an uncomfortable nights' sleep. At least you think it's night, it seems you've been trapped in these caves for weeks. The sentries report no activity as you try to rest and gather your strength for the coming test of strength, both physical and mental. A strange silence comes over the campsite that night, due to the heat there is no need for a campfire for everyone to gather around. This is also the first night the team has had to endure a night knowing the possibility of a gruesome death is literally right around the corner.
Frontier Date 63.060Pf +40
xZot settles back, checking over the current inventory provided by Borovski and formulating their plan. Who goes first? And if he fails, who goes second? What is the best way to secure the leaders? There is plenty of rope amongst the team and Sp'ock has some climbing ability but there are no specialised traversing devices or pulleys?
"Hey Sp'ock? When you climb, how do you secure the rope? You use bolts in the rock?"
"Yep." Answers Sp'ock "We can probably scrounge some outta the Techkits, and we can probably fabricate some plates from big washers. With the laser scalpels and glue we can rig something into the rock at this end. That will cover anyone out 'til about 30 metres, then you will need to set another belay point." He smiles as he watches xZot shake his head and begins gathering up all the rope from the various team members, tying several of them into 30 metre lengths and coiling them.
In the absence of responses from the majority of the characters, xZot contemplates the latest challenge facing the group.
"I think we'll just go straight across the guts of this thing." voices xZot out loud as he ponders the mud map he's drawn on the ground in front of him. "Unfortunately, it looks like the gravity on this planet is too high to attempt any distance gliding so I guess we're going to have to so it the hard way. How much rope do we have?"
"I'll belay the first guy" volunteers Gleep "We should probably let Jaguar go first, he's no great loss if we fail..."
"I like the look of the route" Sni'ktl says. "I have been considering which members of the party are physically and psychologically up to the task of being in a lead group with the rope"
"You volunteering?" Sni'ktl ignores xZot's jibe
"The scout team would be the obvious choice based on the current organisational structure of this hive, Raid and Con are especially good physical specimens to send on a mission of this nature. However psychologically, they seem distracted at the moment. Perhaps I could persuade them or hypnotise them? Although I'm sure Crisbel would never forgive us if we didn't give him the opportunity to demonstrate his superiority? The pressures of command xZot, what do you think? Gleep seems keen on the idea of sending Jag"
"Jag because he is Yazirian?"
Yep, I was hopin' for some thermal assistance but this doesn't look like it will stack up" Sni'ktl continues
"I think we need a medic near the front"
"Well either Jag, or if we go with the Scout team, OMAC"
"OMAC is more dexterous. However I'm not sure if him and Gleep haven't taken more mushrooms. How good a climber is Sp'ock? Raid should be near the front since his environmentalists intuition may help predict eruptions" xZot turns to Sni'ktl
"We need to do the first 'leap-of-faith' test I think, before we start shipping the Party out"
"How far is it to the closest crystal?" asks Gloo
"How far can we jump?"
"Who you or me?"
"I don't have wings" quips Gloo
"Well does anyone know how much rope we have all up?" Sni'ktl asks
"We need a volunteer. Someone aerodynamic eg. not rounded." Gloo suggests and xZot smiles
"I guess that's where Jag comes in" Gloo smiles back. Sni'ktl asks xZot
"So do you want me to hypnotise Raid and the Scout team.
"Maybe he can live up to his name, Jaguar, maybe he'll grab the crystal on the way past! I have no objections, but after Crisbel's thoughts on this stuff maybe you should ask them first?"
"So Jag, how do you feel about the prospect? And OMAC what do you reckon?" GleepGlooup pipes up
"Hypnotise the bastards and lets get on with it" Sni'ktl opens his Medical Log
"Raid seems to have turned into a quivering wreck at the prospect of being required, as scout, to lead the party across the lake of fire. Maybe the wounds he is carrying are making him uncertain of his ability" Raid resists the hypnotic suggestion and is unaffected then Sni'ktl says "How much does Jag want to go? Well if Jag can make it across, I guess there's hope for any of us." Borovski persists in reminding Jag that we've been dragging his ass around up until now so Jag jumps for the crystal with a rope wrapped around his chest, a short one around his waist and a third tied into the belay position prepared by Sp'ock. Jag manages to grab at the crystal on his second attempt and haul himself to the top. Jag glides across to the first long crystal and unwinds the 10-metre length of rope around his waist using it to lash himself firmly to the long crystal. He then tightens and secures the 30 metre length from the ledge to his crystal, wrapping the rope around the crystal he realises that they are warm but not as hot as he expected. Jag unwraps his last 30-metre length and gets ready to throw one end back to the ledge so that the next character can be tied on at both ends as well as using the rope the pull themselves across. The OMAC comments
"Isn't there some giant mushie stems we could use to make a bridge? I'm going to head back down the passage and get some" GleepGlooup says "I'll go next" and shimmies across the rope line "Lets crawl to the end and go on"
"Gleep, please hold onto Jag's Med kit when he makes the next jump. It will be more use to him if it doesn't get fried" calls out Sni'ktl Lets all get over there, command team next? Come on xZot, Sp'ock" Sni'ktl heads for the ropes while GleepGlooup takes another length of rope and ties on to the far end of the first crystal and jumps to the next. Gleep slams into the end of the crystal and manages to crawl to the top of the crystal. GleepGlooup secures his 10-meter rope across the 2 fused crystals after a few palpitations.
"That's my hero bit for the night, someone else gets the next one. I ain't gonna fry my ass for no one"
"Well done Gleep" Sni'ktl says, just as xZot has a scary slip but manages to get a grip and proceed. xZot's not very good at this, he keeps giving the entire team palpitations with his scrabbling and clawing at the air while he cracks Roast Yazirian jokes. Raid crawls across both ropes out to the second crystal, ties in to the end and leaps across.
"Go Raid" Then OMAC arrives back at the scene, dragging several giant mushroom stalks
"Let's tie these between the fused crystals and the we can crawl through the whole centre section"
"Great idea OMAC, do we need gas masks? I will follow as across ready with the biocort just in case" OMAC passes the stalks out to Jag who pushes them on to Gleep, he ties one down and passes the next out to Raid who ties that one down. Con and Bruce crawl out to the end of the third fused crystal, Con ties in and jumps. He clutches the spire of crystal then ties on. McK crawls out to the end of the third fused crystal and on his way to join Con, slips and swings back into the crystal slamming his head. (4 damage) He leaps and misses again but manages not to whack his head this time.
"We need retrieve some of the rope we're already used when the last guys come across you will have to bring the extra ropes. Then Crisbel lassos a Stalactite. He swings for the next crystal, the stalactite holds and he gains the next crystal spire and the crowd goes wild. In mid swing he is hit by a splash of boiling lava and also suffers heat damage (7 damage) He ties off, and uses another rope to jump to the next crystal and makes it to the opposite ledge as well. Gleep once again has palpitations as he scrambles to safely screaming
"I'm too young to die!" Boro also has a bad slip and sustains damage (18 points) from a lava splash and from the heat. The rest of the team suffers minor heat damage but manages to transit the Lake of Fire, leaving behind a total of 80 metres of rope strung between the crystal spires. xZot takes stock of the situation
"It only took a couple hours to cross, we have a whole days travel, some first aid on Boro then let's keep moving" Borovski says
"Cheers Chief, much appreciated"
You walk only 500 meters before the corridor widens into a room. The smooth rock floor of this room is littered with hundreds of small balls of hardened lava. Some of these lava- balls are Iying quietly on the floor, but others are bouncing around like balls on a pool table. Occasionally, a lava-ball rolls into or out of a small hole in the wall. xZot says
"A natural phenomena? What do you Environmentalists think?"
"It appears not," replies Raid, "But this is Volturnus, what is natural?" Gleep suggests
"Let's proceed without disturbing them"
"How do we 'disturb lava balls?"
"Just don't get in their way man" says Gleep
"Yep, avoid all of these things and navigate through the room. This Lava Ball room should be noted in our Scientific Log for later investigation. Now keep moving."
"After wandering through more of the endless passages, you hear the sound of gently lapping water ahead. Soon, you round a corner in the passage and see an underground sea. This sea, more than 1.5 kilometres wide and 6.5 kilometres long, is nearly a kilometre deep in places, even along the shore the depth is more than 10 metres. The ceiling above the sea is 50 meters high. The entire area is illuminated by large deposits of phosphorescent minerals.
"Like the stuff we saw before." observes Gleep Looks like a good place to rest up and Fist Aid etc"
"Anything to make a boat out of?" asks xZot, looking around
"Mushies" mumbles OMAC again, gesturing at a stand of the giant mushrooms on the rocky beach
"I've seen this Holovid" muses xZot
"A raft?" asks Gleep
"I assume the only way forward is across the sea?"
"Hmmm yup, looks like it and no breeze, it's fresh water at least"
"I guess we should get to work making rafts out of upturned mushrooms. No eating this thing Gloo! Not enough stalks for more than 2 rafts. Command and First strike teams in one; and Scout and Second strike in the other. We move along the wall, hugging one but moving along. I think we'll cross at the northern most point of the beach that we are on. This is the narrowest point, then down the east wall to the beach on that side."
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