xZot indulges himself in the revelry associated with the King's feast. His own self-interest draws his senses to the food presented before him and, coming from a background not dissimilar from court life, he understands that the dishes being served represent the very best examples of local cuisine prepared meticulously for the King and his guests enjoyment. xZot bites into a particularly sumptuous stuffed meat parcel only to release a pocket of warm, jelly like stuffing that oozes out of the corners of his mouth. Concerned about a possible breach of etiquette xZot quickly looks around at the Kurabanda only to see nods of approval. It would appear that even in this part of the Galaxy there is a acknowledgment of the old social adage that the art of eating is much more than just consumption. Nodding back xZot savours the delicacies in front of him
"I'm going to have to spend some time investigating this further I think..." he murmurs.
Siu-Ling eats whatever she is offered, her diet leaning towards the vegetarian side of the spectrum for now, although when animal foods are offered, she accepts them also. She prefers to drink lots of fluids, mostly water. The rest of the team also indulges in the wide variety of food and drink on offer, savoring the change of diet after weeks of survival rations and desert critters.
"Nounouche," Siu-Ling calls out during her first night in the village. I hope you've found your herd. I am sorry for having dragged you so far from home, only to send you back. May your pastures be forever green, and your prey forever juicy, my friend."
Boro graciously accepts hospitality shown by the Kurabanda for the duration of the party's stay and heals up as much as possible. He can't help but notice the change that has overcome himself since the exposure to the Ul-Mor. He is no longer deriving pleasure from what used to be the most basics of military life, the challenge of battle and the thrill of the kill is diminished near extinguished and Boro is a sad reflection of how this has played on his mind. It has become of such concern that Boro can not even be motivated to fuss over his favorite pastime of weapons accumulated by the party, that he approaches xZot with a view to discussing redistribution of responsibility of being Quartermaster.
"This "ONE" theory Hoo-haH surely has become flavour of the month...." Is how he feels he'll start the conversation. Seeing the peaceful hue that Borovski has acquired as of late, Siu-Ling puts her five fingered hand on ids tertiary shoulder and compliments id on ids attainment of such an enlightened state.
"You seem to have wrestled with your demons, idster. I admire your healing. Do not take this as a sign of weakness. They are the truly strong who can transcend their fierceness, and rise above their primal origins. So sayeth Athru, the noble soul upon the mount."
xZot considers Borovski request to have the Quartermaster task re-allocated
"I dunno Boro, I guess if there is someone else you wants to take it on, then fine but until then you are just going to have to stick it out. All things being good we should be out of here in about twenty days anyway. Pull it together big guy!".
"I would suggest redistribution of some items." says Sni'ktl. "For example I have a skein suite in fairly good condition that would be better utilized by a military person. Lets make sure we use the time well" says Sni'ktl. "We need to gather as much data as possible from the Kurabanda. Perhaps some of their brave scouts could accompany Sp'ock and GleepGlooup, even though we could use them in the play, to recon the area. The Kurabanda should know what's a safe distance and they should take both screen along just in case. The rest of us should stay here, rest up and find out what help we can get from the Kurabanda. Will they join us in a raid?"
Frontier Date 63.023Pf +77
The next day, after recovering from the banquet the night before xZot relaxes on a sunny spot on a limb of a majestic old tree.
"Ahh, its good to meet a race of beings that feel equally at home in the trees. Hearing that the Kurabanda had this group of hunters that utilize a hang glider like apparatus, I was keen to accompany them and get a bit of "air-time" if I could. I'm just not so sure that waiting out here for them to chase the prey towards me is the best tactic, but they seemed so sure it was the only way. I hope they come back soon. Now that I think about it, I'm not exactly sure where I am!?"
Siu-Ling, being the only permanent female among the group, tries to spend more time with the female Kurabanda than with their male counterparts. She gains their trust and some insight into the "other" side of their culture, since there seems to be a clear division of labour based on gender. She emulates the behaviour of a Kurabanda female, especially in the presence of their males, since a Frontiers woman's behaviour would probably be considered offensively unfeminine by these folks. Occasionally she consults with Sni'ktl when not sure about a particular element of their culture or etiquette.
Sni'ktl's social skills and his novelty value soon see him mixing in the Kurabanda social scene. As with many cultures, the Kurabanda have a strong storytelling and acting tradition and the entertainers in the culture are often those with good education and time to spare. The ones more inclined to dressing up than warfare. Sni'ktl increasingly spends time with these ineffectual types and it is rumoured that he is being considered for a pirate part in a new play about recent events by the famed Kurabanda playwright "Shakey-Spear". Sni'ktl is one of the few that realize this is a nom de plume for one of Auramanda's nephews. After xZot has astounded us with another stunning variation on Kurabanda cuisine Sni'ktl raises the medical status of the party.
"xZot, that was a fantastic dinner" says Sni'ktl. "I believe we should stay here for a few weeks to allow our wounded to recover fully. This will give me time to further investigate local healing facilities and to learn my lines."
"We really haven't got any time for that." Replies OMAC "It's good to see you expressing your artistic side here, but if we're gonna get pulled out of here it's gonna be in around 22 days. I don't think we've got time. It would seem to me our two options are hit this pirate outpost and they've got a Subspace radio, so if the DNR do come for us we can contact them. Or we somehow pull a lightning bolt out of our ass, steal a pirate ship and extract ourselves." OMAC groans from his sick bed "Keep dreamin', it's working for me. Act fast Sni'ktl, or we'll miss your debut"
"No worries OMAC we'll be done by then." replies Sni'ktl. "Kurabanda street theatre is very topical and produced with a real fast turnaround. Two or three days for a show that runs for day. Our show will have been on and be out of date within two weeks. In fact they're talking about doing a play about us, but they're having trouble getting good Dralasite and Vrusk costumes. They asked me to recruit more actors from the gang. Any takers?"
Siu-Ling, also concerned suggests learning what natural healing agents or practices the Kurabanda employ. Maybe they can patch us up better than our own medics.
"I figure this is where I can be useful, since their division of labour seems to be hinged on an offence, defence dichotomy." OMAC stares blankly.
"The males fight, females take care of the males"
"As it should be" he finally spits out. When Sni'ktl holds his daily medical assessment he mentions his desire to perform with a local pantomime group
"Snik, go for it, but I gotta tell ya, I'm not sure that everyone will be interested; like OMAC or Crisbel for example. They don't strike me as the actor types. xZot puffs himself up and mimics OMAC "There's no room for dramatics, just death and destruction!" he booms, they both chuckle. Siu-Ling overhears xZot from a moderate distance and laughs silently, noting the Yazirian's accurate impression of a male Human's stance.
"But seriously, I understand that this R&R is good for morale and if you need someone to fill a small part I will assist." xZot reminisces about the last time he agreed to act in a bit part and hopes this time he will get to wear clothes.
"Also, I noted the significance of the gifts we received at the reception, can you prepare some parting gift for us to offer the King as a symbol of our appreciation when we leave?"
"Fourteen days rest will see xZot, Sp'ock, Sni'ktl, Crisbel Borovski and GleepGlooup bruised but fit for duty" reports Sni'ktl. "Siu Ling, Data and OMAC will have deep tissue damage and Bruce will still have sore Gonads. This will not affect their performance, with the exception of Bruce in specific circumstances, but they should avoid strenuous or risky duties where possible." Gloo will still be in serious condition. His amniotic regulation muscles will not have healed by then. One of my acting friends told me where he goes with a twisted ankle so I'm hopeful."
"Now don't worry Gloo, I'm sure all this mumbo jumbo is just a cover for the healing technology that the Kurabanda Shaman guards closely. Maybe that performance earlier was their version of ER. There's nothing in all this superstition to be frightened of." Sni'ktl hails the Shaman from the lower branches of his family's tree residence. The family owns a few large trees a clear indication of significant power. "My friend was injured fighting the Star Devils. I bring him to the mighty Shaman for aid. Once again the Kurabanda Shaman performs his healing ceremony for the injured Dralasite. When Gloo shows no sign of improving he simply states that Kurabanda magic
"Not work on sky dwellers" shrugs, turns and renters his hut, effectively ending the discussion.
Sni'ktl thanks the fact he is a Vrusk. Other people have come to him complaining of itching, insect bites and Crisbel said he was sure he'd seen a Kurabanda putting insects in OMAC's bed. Sni'ktl can't help but respect the Kurabanda happy efficiency. The fire drills where everyone runs around and they are very sure to make sure we understand to run to the muster point. They are all laughing and happy afterwards. This is similar with the hunting. Sp'ock tells me they took him hunting and were going to drive the animals towards him. He waited and waited but didn't realize they'd been so efficient as to catch the animals without him and return the meat to the village before coming back for him. Again they were very happy about this. Also being a Vrusk, his comprehension has helped him to pick up when a Kurabanda is about to try and take something off him. However he wishes he could understand why they find it funny when their young paint such intricate and abstract designs on his carapace when he sleeps.
"Good to see you making an effort to keep fit Siu-Ling. All that climbing and running is very good" says Sni'ktl to Siu-Ling. Sni'ktl provides a finger splint and a rest schedule, so her training exercises do not put pressure on her wounds and compromise her recovery." Sni'ktl wonders whether Siu-Ling finds solace from her grief for Nounouche in her running and tree climbing.
"I'm sure Nounouche is back in the plains hunting with Ul-Mor. It is good that the One is all around us even though we are often parted from parts of it that we have come to cherish." But later in the day the woman approaches the Yazirian commander
"xZot," Siu-Ling approaches the alpha male. "I've been thinking," she begins, suggesting that she and a few others head back out to the forest to look for their mounts and maintenance robot. "We don't need everyone to go, just the riders and a tech, maybe?" xZot listens to Siu-Ling's request for permission to retrieve the mounts and 'bot. Despite his concerns xZot agrees
"Now, you know we're on a strict timetable, if we want to get off this world we need to contact the ship during the allotted extraction time frame. There will be little time to waste. I know you've spent more time on this planet than any of us but I still don't want you going on your own. I guess you should see if Borovski wants in, he has a Loper out there as well. I will ask Bruce to accompany you and attempt to restart the 'bot, that thing might still come in handy yet. Make sure you check in with Sni'ktl before you leave. Good luck!"
"Very good, brother," replies the Human. "I will ask them and plan to set out tomorrow at first light."
Frontier Date 63.019Pf +81
After four days of relaxing around the Kurabanda village Bruce is more than ready to go running off into the bushes with Siu-Ling. In fact all the original members of the team have begun to notice his pre-occupation with the human female. Bruce never seems to be far away whenever Siu-Ling turns up. Bruce joins her and Sp'ock, working on climbing techniques and actually is beginning to show signs of picking up the skill. But his eagerness to impress Siu-Ling is obvious to everyone now. As the couple head off in search of the robot and mounts xZot pulls Sp'ock aside
"I need for you to put some thought into our assault on the Pirate outpost. Also, I think we should ask for assistance from the Kurabanda in attacking the outpost. I am sure it is in their best interest that the pirates be defeated. We should sound the Kurabanda out on this, it would surely help us."
However all their efforts are for naught. The Kurabanda will gladly shelter the team in their village and Ermorada will lead you as close to the Outpost as possible within the forest but he flatly refuses to continue across either the desert or the lake. Over the course of the stay at the village xZot meets with, and whenever possible, assists some of the Kurabanda chefs. Absorbing as much of the local cooking culture as he can. He also prepares some of his own creations in return the grilled Sand shark proving a real winner. He also acquires samples of their spices, essences and herbs that feature so prominently in the Kurabanda cooking style, for later use. xZot adds the Beam Weapon and Body Speak skills to his arsenal during the day as he practices stripping down his weapons and working on his hand signals during the cool days in the Bachanda Forest during the time he has available.
Early the next day Siu-Ling arrives back at the Kurabanda village grinning from ear to ear. She and Bruce returned to the battle scene to find the robot without any dramas. Bruce restarted the robot while Siu-Ling searched for and found traces of both the Loper and her Jackal-Horse. As it turned out, neither had traveled for from the forest edge where food in the form of small mammals was quite plentiful. Siu-Ling had immediately jumped on the back of Nounouche and virtually flown along the forest edge before remembering poor Bruce struggling along with the robot and a Loper in tow. Returning to help Bruce with the rather troublesome Loper they trekked back toward the village along the forest edge. Then tethering both creatures safely Siu-Ling had returned to the village with the good news whilst Bruce powered down the robot again and made his way back at a more comfortable pace. The somewhat aloof human seeming to begin actually enjoying his surroundings instead of his more recent silent introverted demeanor.
When Bruce struggles into the teams sleeping quarters he hands xZot a roughly sketched map showing where the mounts and robot are now located. Before he turns to leave he says to xZot.
"What about McKilin, Raid, Jag and Con? On OMAC's timetable that doesn't leave us much time to get news to them. They won't even know we might have a possible evac now?" Leaving his commander to ponder this latest twist of events he heads back to his bunk to catch up on some rest.
Two days have passed since Siu-Ling and Bruce returned to the village with the robot and the mounts. Bruce is getting fidgety and can't work out why, then it dawns on him
"OMAC's time table was out." He says to himself, then immediately heads to xZot's cot in the team's hut, which now looks much more like an infirmary with everyone still carrying some injury. Sp'ock, GleepGlooup and Sni'ktl are almost back to a hundred percent. Borovski, xZot and himself were recovering well. Siu-Ling and Crisbel have just come off the critical list according to Chief Medical Officer Sni'ktl but OMAC and Gloo are still in pretty bad shape.
"Commander" Bruce begins, addressing xZot formally "I think we overlooked something in our time table. We haven't factored in the time to get a subspace message back to Truane's Star. If we are to be extracted on day 95 of this mission, then the ship will have to leave on day 90 but we will have to get our message off to them by day 85. Assuming they have a subspace radio at this outpost and we can get our hands on it, then we are going to be cutting it real fine even if we leave tomorrow! We should leave first thing tomorrow. I've spoken with OMAC regarding transportation and he has suggested rigging a travois for himself and Gloo that we could use behind either of the mounts or possibly even the robot, although I have my doubts that little bot will have enough power after you've loaded it up with your Kits and Ration Packs. This is my recommendation, as second-in-command of this mission, we move out tomorrow, or at the very least, let me take an advance team of volunteers. I don't think we can afford to wait any longer."
Privacy being almost impossible in the confines of their makeshift hospital ward, Bruce's plan quickly does the rounds and there is the murmur of conversation once again amongst the team members as they weigh the pro's and con's of this latest dilemma.
During their waking hours resting in the makeshift ward, several team members have been trading tips and tricks. GleepGlooup has become quite proficient with his hand signals picking up the basics quickly from his fellow Dralasite, Gloo and their young Yazirian commander, once again leading by example, joins in the silent conversations. Gleep also improves his efficiency with his laser pistol, working alongside his commander as they both strip, clean and re-assemble their weapons under Gloo's supervision and they conduct firing drills with the rest of the team. The always eager, Siu-Ling has also joined the Beam Weapons 1.01 classes. It seems despite the setbacks at the outset of this mission, the group has learned many lessons, developed solutions to their problems and now begun to take control of their destiny. Sp'ock thinks back briefly of the encounter with this human in the dry sands. He remembers her grace of movement the fluidity of her attack before beginning his first climbing tutorial and comments.
"Your technique is not as mine, but the honour of training with you is mine." He looks out on the foliage, the thick interwoven branches as GleepGlooup joins them, also willing to learn the appropriate techniques to scale tree, rock or structure.
"This is where we will train, the slippery footing will aid in balance and grounding. Shall we begin?" And thus he begins their climbing training sessions. Sp'ock and Siu-Ling are also seen meditating and working on their Martial Arts techniques on a regular basis now. xZot sits back into the corner of the hut, reflecting on Bruce's words.
"Of course he is right." xZot thinks, as he mentally recalculates the mission calendar. "It is not as if we have been dawdling around out here, but time sure has flown." xZot casts his mind back over the last couple of months. "All this effort cannot be in vain. We must push on and find a subspace radio if we are to get out of here. Our only hope is if the Outpost has one." Then, reflecting on the lost members of our group, Jaguar, Con, Raid and McKilin "They are a long way from here, there is simply no way for us to contact them or travel that distance in the time we have available. Maybe once we make contact with the ship, it can assist us in their retrieval."
"Its not so bad xZot" says Sni'ktl. "We're only in a rush to get a message out. We will still have five days until a ship arrives and possible additional time when the ship is here. I'm sure they'll be sticking around to remove the threat of piracy so we could have a few weeks. Maybe we could give the Kurabanda a message to pass on to the Ul-Mor, for them to pass on to McKilin and the lads." After their climbing workout and seeing that Bruce's attention is more than just a casual human-to-human affinity, Siu-Ling approaches the tech and asks,
"Brother, is that a robcomkit in your trousers or are you just glad to see me?" Giggling, she toys with the male showing off her muscular shoulders and fine, graceful neck. She then offers him a strip of Roller beef, as a gesture of good will and sits near him in the periphery of a circle of Kurabanda as the stars twinkle above them. Bruce, obviously now uncomfortable with some of the comments being leveled at him, accepts the beef and chews silently, thinking about tomorrow's trek. Nodding over in xZot's direction he says quietly to Siu-Ling
"People are surprising sometimes, look at him, barely a cub and he's running the show. And the others, OMAC, Sp'ock, Boro they all follow him, despite the fact he's the youngest, smallest and least experienced! Classic stereotypes all of us." Then taking another long look at the woman by his side "Even down to the Amazonian warrior. Guess that make me the odd one out this time." Finishing his snack he picks up his Techkit and heads off to tinker with the maintenance bot.
Later, in what has become a familiar sight xZot disassembles and reassembles his pistol, practicing some basic skills, keeping his hand and mind occupied as he waits for the others to arrive to what will probably be to last meeting here. Crisbel soon announces his presence to the younger yazirian in his typical aggressive fashion.
"Hey xZot, you should try disassembling and reassembling that pistol blindfolded and see how you go, mate. Hey that's an idea, we should have a competition to see who does it the quickest, I reckon I'd kick your ass." When everyone is present xZot informs the group of his decision to move out tomorrow on the trek to the Pirate Outpost.
"I think Bruce's idea of sending an advance scouting party is a good one. Bruce, you lead this group, Sp'ock, you swap Skein suit's with Sni'ktl and go as well. Also, I would like Gleep to give his Skein suit to Gloo for the moment. Gloo is in far worse shape and really could use it. Maybe some advance surveillance will give us an advantage in our assault." Looking around xZot continues "I think Crisbel, you should go as well. This sounds like a stealth job for you. Are there any other volunteers?"
As Crisbel listens to xZot's orders or at least looks like he's listening, he thinks about what is before him, whether there will be enemy ahead and whether we will ever get off this planet.
"I don't mind going in the scout party xZot, that's what I'm here for, to kill the bastards."
Siu-Ling watches the exchange of skeinsuits between the two vrusk and the dralasites and wonders if there may be one for her, given her medical condition. Eager to please the alpha male, she says,
"xZot, I'd be happy to join them, although I don't know if I will be able to keep up. Perhaps if I ride on Nounouche for a bit, and walk the rest of the way..." she suggests.
Sni'ktl and Sp'ock complete the complicated task of exchanging skein suits. The suit designers really had no option when it came to the eight legged model other than a multi clasp system that is painfully slow to remove. The Dralasites by contrast have a much easier time swapping suites. GleepGlooup grumbling a lot about being treated like a second rate citizen, first being denied his weapon of choice and now stripped of his armour. Sp'ock formally thanks Sni'ktl for his skiensuit in the fashion of the vrusk baring his neck. As soon as time permits Sp'ock checks with Boro for the bare necessities for the scouting group.
"Travel light, travel fast in retreat." he mutters to himself "Yes, stealth is first priority."
"If Siu-Ling is going on this mission, she should take a skein suit just in case." says Sni'ktl. "Perhaps she could borrow yours xZot or OMAC's, just until she returns. While the scouting group shouldn't run into trouble, there is some safety in numbers as long as everyone is careful to avoid any encounters with the pirates." xZot listens to the eager tones in Siu-Ling's voice and considers her request.
"Siu-Ling, my immediate concern is for moving our wounded, OMAC and Gloo. If they can be moved using just Borovski's mount or the 'bot, then I will support your inclusion in the advance party. As for a better Skiensuit, from what I can tell, all the human sized suits have been trashed, so if you want to go you'll have to go as is. If it's any consolation, Bruce would offer you the shirt off his back," a smile tints xZot's face "but there's no point in giving him an excuse. Check with Sni'ktl, but I think you would be able to keep up with the pace with the others. In the last couple of days you seem to be much more your old self again."
"Thanks for the compliment. I do feel a little better, and yes, I noticed Bruce seems a bit overdue for a springtime frolic," Siu-Ling notes. "Perhaps I will give in to the male eventually," her musings make the yazirian uncomfortable, as it is quite unusual for a female of either human or yazirian stock to voice her amorous intentions, particularly to a male. Nevertheless, he listens with a straight face as she continues. "As far as going along, I'll leave it up to you. I will be ready by morning, and if you decide that it would be better for me to stay here, I will be glad to rest and continue to work on my physical training. I do, however, have one request. I would not want Nounouche to be taken along on the expedition by someone else. No one is knowledgeable in the way of his conduct, and he may turn on one of the brothers if ill treated." xZot may be taken aback by Siu-Ling's assertiveness but he tries not to show it,
"Siu-Ling, I have no intentions of having someone else handle Nounouche. I consider you and your mount as one." A smile flashes across his lips as he try's to imagine someone else handling the creature, "No, if Nounouche is needed to help move the wounded, I will need you to control him, otherwise you can stretch his legs with the advance party." She waits for xZot to respond and then bids him a good evening, going off to find Sni'ktl, as directed by xZot.
"Light duties for another week" reports Sni'ktl to Siu-Ling "that's what I would normally prescribe. However, we are in anything but normal circumstances so I will give you a clean bill of health. If you suffer further trauma though, and that includes ritualistic pugnation with testosterone fuelled jealous humans, you'll be back in plasti-casts before you get to make whatever sociosexual gains you humans place on these bouts of muscle flexing aggression." Sni'ktl smiles inwardly at Siu-Ling's surprised look as he recycles Professor Ich'nic'tar's "Human Sexual Psycho-Sociology". Then his intuitive Vrusk comprehension kicks in and he realises the look is not surprise but more a "what the #@ck you on about" look. Sni'ktl thinks himself into a more grounded psyche and rephrases. "In other words, don't get in no tussle's for now or you won't be seeing no front line action."
"Aye, aye, then, Doc!" Siu-Ling cheerfully answers the medic. "I'll take it easy for the next few days, then."
"Now remember," xZot continues "this group will need to travel fast. This is just surveillance, that means no contact." xZot looks at the way Crisbel is stroking the disruptor and wonders whether his choice was a good one. While stroking his disruptor, Crisbel laughs to himself knowing really what was on Bruce's mind, Bruce wasn't fidgety about the 'timetable topic', he had to think of something to cover the way he was ridiculously acting. Crisbel believes Bruce is in a distant lust daydream thinking about his time with Siu Ling, while they were away picking up the robot and the mounts. Crisbel under his breath
"Mounts! Yeah I bet." Siu-Ling looks questioningly at Crisbel,
"Sorry, what did you say?" Crisbel just smiles and replies innocently
"No, brother, what DID you say?" Siu-Ling demands, suddenly defensive, as she probably misunderstood the male. "With that toothy, shit-eatin' grin you're sporting there, I doubt it's nothing. What? You're making some sort of 'mount' joke, like Nounouche mounts me or what? That's so stereotypical! Just because a lot of humans back in the Frontier practice bestiality doesn't mean we all do! Now answer me, brother, before I give the Kurabanda here a reason to make you the next protagonist in their ongoing real life comedy. Did you disrespect your sister, Crisbel?"
"The rest of us will follow behind" continues xZot "and try to make the best pace we can, considering that we will need to haul OMAC and Gloo along. I think if we load the 'bot up with all the gear we should be able to rig up a travois to the mounts. It is worth a try, the alternative is we will have to carry them ourselves, but it would be slow going. All right everyone, lets get organized. We will need to say farewell to our host Sni'ktl, how did you go with those gifts?"
"Well xZot" replies Sni'ktl "we need to be careful not to insult the Kurabanda by giving them too much. One thing that is always safe and popular with these guys is a feast. So I suggest those who are staying back help you prepare a meal fit for the gods. I studied some samples of the stones the Kurabanda wear. I wish I had taken the Envirokit from Raid," he muses, thinking back to his request. Raid had claimed that he was going to continue his studies but somehow Sni'ktl just got the impression he didn't want to hand it over. "I could have programmed the Geoscanner with their profile. Fortunately the Kurabanda favour stones found on or near the surface with minimum polishing or processing and I have built a small collection of stones that could easily be used to adorn a gift and to finance the feast. For the gift, I would suggest shortening one of the Ul-Mor spears since these are produced to a higher quality than the Kurabanda's and setting it with some of the stone's. The spear will symbolize our alliance of arms with the Kurabanda and may help convince the King to lend us some warriors for the attack on the outpost. At the end of the meal, you should present the spear to the King and recognize the great value of hospitality and gifts the Kurabanda have already bestowed on us." Sp'ock had listened carefully to Bruce's theory of contact with home.
"I am not sure we need to worry too much about time to the retrieval." announces Sp'ock "I do not think the "Serena Dawn" survived the original attack. We abandoned ship because the thing was inbound for a head butt with the planet we are currently on. Little doubt the planet won. I do not doubt your calculations have caused you some stress." Sp'ock looks carefully at Bruce, aware of the pressures on these people, made well aware by Sni'ktl anyway. "I agree with your suggestion of an advance party, and would gladly join such. I question your council to haste though." Sp'ock turns to xZot. "Unless you have knowledge I lack, was even a distress signal sent by the "Serena Dawn" crew? Did we have a reassurance from the D.N.R. that a rescue would be mounted despite the loss of another ship? I believe we can call and help will be sent, more likely a full company of marines with escorts. I would advise a scout group head out first to recon." Considering Sp'ock's words, xZot casts his minds back to the fateful day of our hasty departure from the "Serena Dawn".
"It really is impossible to say Sp'ock, you'd think that a distress signal was sent, but there is no way to know. Also, I had no assurances about a rescue, I didn't think we were going to need it. It was my understanding that we were expected to be here for the duration of our contracts and would call for evacuation at the end of our time. After seeing how much consideration they gave to the rescue of Siu-Ling's original team, I'm not holding my breath that they'll come storming in to save to day if they think there is problems. It might be cheaper for them to leave us here! If it wasn't for the value of the data we are collecting here, I'd be really worried. I think we should just make our call for evac during the expected time window and hope for the best."
I really don't see what you're all so worried about," Siu-Ling points out to her Ul-Mor brethren. "This planet is perfectly suitable for us, why are you all so eager to get back to hustle and bustle? Come on, take it from Nounouche! As long as Leo and Lulu," she indicates to the two moons above, "are shining bright at night, there's no place not worth sleeping in." Her inscrutable logic being refuted by most, if not all of the group, she shrugs her shoulders and munches on a Kurabanda delicacy, a dried local berry they had told her, but knowing the locals only too well, was half wondering what the soft juicy center really was.
"I also think that the wounded should remain here for further rest. At our hosts convenience of course." xZot listens to Sp'ock's advice
"I understand your concern for the wounded but I think that we need to keep everyone together. Their best hope of survival is with us. I'm sure after we rig up a little something to haul that pair," xZot gestures in OMAC and Gloo's direction "we'll be able to move at a reasonable rate to catch up to the rest of you." Sp'ock bows formally to xZot.
"As you wish oh fuzzy one." And turns to continue with departure preparations.
That evening it seems the entire village has turned out for their farewell feast, dozens upon dozens of family members related to the warriors you helped during your first encounter, wanting to personally wish you well come bearing small gifts. Sni'ktl ingeniously devises a way to humorously return each gift to someone else, resolving the problem of having to provide a large number of small gifts and also leaving you unburdened with shell necklaces, furs, bracelets and other trinkets. The spear gift to Aurumanda is a bit hit with the villagers, appropriate in it's value and symbolism. During the feast Ermorada, the chieftain's son, approaches xZot and says that he will guide you through the forest as far as you wish to go.
Frontier Date 63.017Pf +83
The next morning the team assembles says it's final good-byes and moves down to the edge of the forest where Bruce and OMAC have fashioned a Travois. Their initial attempts to use the sling behind the Loper are unsuccessful but with Siu-Ling's aid, Nounouche is hitched up and OMAC and Gloo climb aboard. It soon becomes obvious to Siu-Ling that the load of both beings is not too much but she decides it would probably be best to lead Nounouche on foot rather than ride as well. xZot loads up the robot with his Techkit, the Bulk Ration Packs and some water, the rest of the water and extra gear is loaded onto Boro's Loper and the team is ready to head off.
Shouldering his pack Bruce waves over Sp'ock and Crisbel
"Sp'ock, you take point. Chris, you hang with me, we'll try and save the juice on your Holoscreen for now" then he turns to his commander "Well, which way boss?" asks Bruce, "Across the desert or through the forest?"
During the pre departure medical examinations Sni'ktl addresses a delicate matter with xZot. Well aware of the Yazirian rage psyche, Sni'ktl begins with some words of encouragement.
"You know the team really is shaping up well under your leadership. In fact there's only one complaint I've heard so far." Sni'ktl pauses observing the tightening of xZot's flap muscles… The Yazirian seems to be maintaining his calm though. "Since we've been staying with the Kurabanda, some of the team have remarked in changes to your odour. I would like to run some tests if that's OK." Sni'ktl narrowly avoids avoid using his geoprobe during the sensitive investigation of xZot's nether regions.
" Well xZot, you'll be pleased to know that it's nothing serious. Your colon is a little irritable at the moment though. I suspect it is due to the large volumes of Kurabanda spices you have ingested during your experiments with Kurabanda cuisine. They must have reacted with your Yazirian chemistry. While it is normal for the Yazirian colon to be more pronounced than with other races I would prescribe a more moderate load or it may become inflamed again. Not that I mind, we vrusk do not set the same store by odours as do other races. After the examination Sni'ktl stows his Envirokit on the `bot "that should make sure I don't get confused with my probes again". Sni'ktl does not stow away his Envirokit along with his medkit. Badly wounded OMAC rests with Gloo on the stretcher and listens, resting uncomfortably. As the rest of the team ready themselves for the trek. In response to Ermorada's description of the terrain ahead Sni'ktl makes a suggestion.
"I reckon we should skirt the forest heading east so we can make good time. We will have fair cover from aerial surveillance with a tree line behind us and we should see any `copters and be able to retreat into the forest before they see us. When we reach the mountains we should head into the foothills and turn south so that we come out in a position that overlooks the outpost. From what we've learnt about the dessert fauna, I suggest we stay fairly close together with a scout maybe twenty meters ahead. Remember what nearly happened to Raid."
"Mountains? What mountains?" says Bruce, checking xZot's roughly sketched map. "If we head east we run into a lake, no mountains"
"I say we head straight across the desert" chimes in GleepGlooup "The most direct route, is southeast straight through the desert. It's not like we don't know what to expect."
"I'm for going straight across the shortest distance we need to" groans OMAC from the stretcher, playing up his weakened state.
"I concur" says Bruce looking across at his commander as he folds the map and returns it to his pack.
"Well now that we have got that all worked out, let's get organized." Directs xZot "Make sure we have everything and all our supplies are replenished as best we can. You all know the plan, let's get moving." xZot turns to Ermorada, thanking him and his father once again for their hospitality and promising to return someday. The young Yazirian nods at Bruce and the advance team moves out across the desert as the rest of the motley crew shoulder their packs, wave goodbye to their Kurabanda friends and turn southeast into the Volturnus desert once more. Wrapping her 10 meters of rope across Nounouche's rudimentary saddle, of Ul-Mor design; the Kurabanda apparently not using any form of beast of burden, Sister Siu-Ling d'Avignon of the Athru tribe and Trailblazers dons her sunglasses as they clear the shady canopy of the Bachanda trees. Following the group, she leads her jackal horse, the makeshift travois carrying OMAC and Gloo dragging behind, she watches for possible hostilities near the back of the formation.
"What can I say? I'll go along with that." At Bruce's suggestion Sp'ock moves out 60 feet from the other scouts, checking that they have line of sight Sp'ock quickly checks his side arm for the current charge and ensures the setting is on five. "May not get many shots, but may get a good one in." he mutters to himself.
Sp'ock maintains an easy pace for balance moving from point to point via the least exposed route. At each rise in the terrain he stops atop a dune or hillock to survey the way ahead. His caution making this trek slower than it may need to be, but safety at this point required him to see, not be seen. Or and this on a personal level personal, shot!
The team struck out southeast, penetrating deep into the desert unmolested for the first day. xZot preferred to travel at night through the desert but now time was critical and as long as the trip is only two or three days long then the water supply should hold out. That night they rested uneasily, Sni'ktl's words from the day before still ringing in xZot's ear "Remember what nearly happened to Raid..." Where was Raid and the others now? Still their safety weighed on his conscious. The next morning, after checking compass bearings, xZot ordered a change of course to the East in search of the Dry Canal described by the Kurabanda.
Late in the afternoon,
"Bruce," Sp'ock calls back to the X-O and waving Bruce over "what do you make of that?" Pointing with his drawn pistol to indicate the subject of his interest. As Bruce moves toward him, the sand between them suddenly explodes skyward. Sp'ock reacts instantaneously, leaping backwards and firing his laser pistol twice at the surging beast (1 hit for 31 points), Bruce is blinded by flying sand as a Funnel Worm bursts from beneath the sand, latching onto his leg with it's vicious jaws (20 points). Bruce screams and stabs the worm with his spear (10 points) as Crisbel thumbs his chronocom
"xZot, we got trouble!" Then steps up to point blank range and fires his sonic disruptor into the creatures back. The pulsing sound waves play havoc with the worms internals (51 points, almost max!) as it thrashes about, Bruce still firmly in it's grip. Crisbel snarls and pulls the trigger again, unleashing another blast of sonic destruction (34 points). Sp'ock, realizing his clip was almost empty, flicks the setting to max and squeezes off his last shot, blasting the worm (34 points) but it ignores him and bites down on Bruce (16 points) who almost passes out from the pain, as he limply tries to stab his devourer.
Crisbel frowns to himself, adjusts his aim and blasts the worm for a third time (34 points) as Sp'ock drops his empty pistol and hurls his spear at the shattered desert spawn (20 points). The hideous creature sprawls to the sand and a battered, bloodied and bruised Bruce crawls clear and collapses.
"Medic!" Cries Sp'ock into his chronocom as he scans the area for more trouble. Boro arrives soon after, astride his Loper; then the rest of the team arrives, panting after their 1000 meter run. Sni'ktl checks Bruce's wounds but with limited medical supplies can do little more than load Bruce onto the travois and have OMAC walk.
"We're nearly there, I can make it" The human corpsman insists "Let's keep going, we're burning daylight!" xZot smiles to himself then signals for Sp'ock to take point again
"Not so far ahead now, no need to take any more chances" That evening you camped by the edge of the dry canal.
Frontier Date 63.016Pf +84
Careful inspection in the morning light reveals that it is probably not a natural phenomenon. The canal is too large and too regular in structure to have been made naturally by the action of flowing water. The canal is about 5 kilometers wide. After searching up and down the canal you find a collapsed wall that allows you to get to the canal floor and eventually another one to climb out the other side but it takes all of a third day. The next morning you find the pirate outpost is located inland two kilometers from the Black Lake. It is surrounded by desert terrain.
Crisbel flicks on his Holoscreen at Sp'ock's command and heads down for a quick reconnaissance, returning soon after with a report for xZot and the rest of the team. Siu-Ling uses the chance to get some fluids into Nounouche and the rest of the group as they listen to Crisbel's report.
"The outpost is a group of cheap modular construction units put together to form a single structure. There are cameras mounted here, here and here." he indicates, sketching the perimeter in the sand and marking the camera locations. "The outpost is surrounded by a high fence topped with barbed wire. This fence appears to be a typical strong chain link fence 3 meters high and topped with barbed wire. The small control box located on the northeast corner post of the fence is probably for the power, I assume the fence is electric." He smiles and continues "There is one gate, located in the northeast side of the fence. There is also a patrolling robot that exits the door and moves outside to patrol the perimeter clockwise twice before going back inside. We should be able to get within a couple hundred meters without being seen, but we should leave the mounts and wounded at least 500 meters back to be sure for them."
xZot nods grimly as he studies the map and waits to see who volunteers the first plan of attack.
"He's in critical condition," Sni'ktl informs the group "if not for Crisbel and Sp'ock's excellent shooting, our brave second in command would be compost by now. I suggest that I give the last dose of biocort to OMAC. That should get him out of that stretcher. I can't offer the same to Gloo since he needs more than first aid to see him fit for duty. If Gloo wants to come on the raid he should agree to the standard DNR 'Risk of Death in Compromised Circumstances' indemnity agreement by entering the code 537/42ref:Sni'ktl in his personal log." Gloo calmly accepts the Medic's report, remaining ensconced in the travois alongside his new companion Bruce.
"I may have an idea: that funnel worm back there," Siu-Ling points towards the Northwest where their scuffle with the worm took place a few days prior. "Looked large enough to serve a purpose." She continues to explain, suggesting that if they find a large enough creature, they could carve out its skin, leaving the rest for Nounouche and the carnivorous PCs in the group, and use it as a sort of disguise in order to get closer to the structure. "Now, with my shooting skills, I'd have to get no further than fifty meters. In sniper mode I'd have a good chance at taking those cameras down with one shot each. Bruce, what's your best estimate as far as the SEU setting that I'd need to have in order to take those out?" Bruce frowns from his stretcher "No idea Siu-Ling, if they are protected by and Albedo Screen then it would depend on the power supply for the screen"
"It may be worth a try if we can find a carcass or kill something. We're pretty low of foodstuffs anyway, and I know how much you brothers love to eat meat," she continues. "As far as that robot, either xZot or Idster Gloop here could tail me," the two techies look at each other, considering the human's words, "and once I take out the cameras we could sprint a bit further and take the robot out." She waits for hesitations and reservations and then adds, "There are risks involved. We're looking at a few key variables here. What types of optics are we talking about? Are the cameras infrared, electromag, visual spectrum, ultraviolet? How about the robot? Does it have visual or audio enhancements? Also, do we have an approximate head count of personnel inside?" As she discusses the plan with the group, Siu-Ling tends to the Tomar's horse and keeps an eye out for approaching hostilities, including any subterranean tremors that might be felt under their feet.
Hearing out the report on the pirates perimeter defenses, Sp'ock settles down with his legs folded while opinions fly back and forth. He watches xZot to see if any of the stress related twitches have, increased with this current crisis. The upper lip baring, the compulsive fondling of the laser, the shifting feet. Nah, all normal.
"I do not wish do disparage your suggestion Siu-Ling, but we do not have the time for this deception. Come daylight there may be aerial patrols, and we will be discovered, any chance of surprise means we move now, and decisively."
The team circles the perimeter of the outpost until they reach a position opposite the gate and considerably closer. Using natural terrain features you are able to get within 100 meters of the gate undetected.
"I could be the distraction" pipes up Sni'ktl. "With OMAC up, you have a front line medic on the off chance you find biocort. You could give three clicks on the chronocom and I'll stroll up to the front gate with plenty of distraction. I've been itching to do more acting ever since we left the Kurabanda."
"Sni'ktl your suggestion of a diversion is good, and here is how we do it." announces Sp'ock "With the use of our robot, a few things from my rob kit, an everflame and a box of matches we rig our metal friend to blow up. Then all we do is aim him at the gate with luck he will blow a large enough hole for us to gain entry. From there it's room to room hand to hand. All the combatants should move up as terrain allows as close to the gate as possible. When the robot blows the pirates will respond. We rush them, and beat the fight out of them as quickly as possible." Sp'ock flexes his fighting mandibles. "We either go on to glory, or out fighting, either way. We win." Gives a series of scritches and clacks known to all Vrusk as the call to suicidal insanity. As Sp'ock finishes laying out his bold plan Sni'ktl responds.
"And I was getting to like that 'bot. I'm not a military type but I was wondering, and of course it may just be my total lack of strategic knowledge talking here, but shouldn't we also consider stealth options that get us into the building before the pirates can muster a concerted defence? This could really complement Sp'ock's bold plan." Sni'ktl gives a series of clicks and whistles known to all Vrusk's as the call back from the brink of suicidal insanity to rational discussion.
OMAC stands, no longer dazed, looking round at the party of adventurers as suggestions are put forward. He looks down at his pirate patch thinking to himself
"Perhaps a little stealth is in order." Grinning to himself he decides to say nothing. He seems to have done this before he thinks to himself. OMAC is now starting to doubt the team's efficiency as a cohesive unit, wondering how many successful military organizations were Democracies. He smirks again to himself willing to go along with what's decided but intending to stay out of the first assault line. Slowly OMAC's awful past is beginning to come back to him in flashes. He shakes his head and looks again at the team around him, focusing on the present. No, it's not a military outfit, these guys are civilians, well closer to Paramilitary these days. He turns to GleepGlooup and Borovski, deep in discussion concerning the various options for overcoming the technical defences of the outpost. xZot listens intently to the conversations around him and at an appropriate time he interjects.
"I dunno Sp'ock, I don't think we have the equipment or people to attempt a frontal assault. I'm sure this outpost will be reasonably well defended, out here on its own and all. I mean, look at the security cameras and that level 4 combat robot on sentry. I think we need to take this place on our terms. I overheard OMAC and Gleep talking and I think that their idea of capturing the robot has merit and is worth serious consideration. One of us with robotics skills should enter the compound under cover of the Holoscreen and disable the robot. Maybe someone disguised as a Pirate, accompanying the person with the screen, could prevent the robot from raising the alarm before it is disabled. The whole thing would be very quick but the robot could get off at least one shot before the access panel to the switch is removed. What do you all think?"
"I think that the person with the Holoscreen should go alone since a pirate would only attract attention." answers the Chief Science Officer "At some point someone could go in, in disguise, although I think I'm the only one with much experience in that field. I'm happy to try dressing you guys up but I'm not sure we have much material to work with. Perhaps we could wait outside and ambush a patrol? I guess the robot doesn't really go by looks, the pirates probably have electronic ID. Is there anything like that in that patch you have OMAC?"
OMAC shows Sni'ktl the piece of cloth with the Star Devil logo stitched onto it but there is no indication of anything other than what it appears to be.
"Before we get to far ahead of ourselves we will need to know we can get into that compound. One of us tech guys should go down and check out the security system on that gate." continues xZot. Standing by for orders, Siu-Ling prepares to go with xZot or another techex, should her sharpshooter proficiencies be required. The rest of the team deploys in the nearby sand dunes, Borovski and Siu-Ling climbing into their saddles and trying to stay low and under cover.
Eager for any opportunity to improve his skills xZot dons the Holoscreen borrowed from Crisbel and grabs his Tech kit. Making his way down to the perimeter fence he approaches from the northeast to reduce exposure to the cameras. xZot looks for evidence of alarms or defences as he approaches the gate and hopes there isn't any pheromone sensors used in the defences, no Holoscreen is going to cover his recent colic incidences. After the robot has completed its patrol and enters the structure, xZot proceeds to the gate, still checking for signs of defences, in search of the control panel. A quick examination of the control box on the north east post confirms Crisbel's suggestion that the fence is indeed electrified. xZot quickly removes the panel with his sonic screwdriver and disables the electric current through the chain link fence before heading for the gate.
As quickly as the thrill of his success came, it left as xZot let out a groan at the sight of the Contact Recognition Lock on the gate. Looking through the gate, the locks on the main door are not the Contact Recognition variety and more manageable for one of his ability. At that moment the door opens and the Combat Robot exits the building. xZot's heart skips a beat as the robot moves to the gate less than a meter from him. Holding his breath and fighting down a sudden wave of panic xZot waits as the Robot turns and continues it's patrol routine before he too turns tail and runs back to the waiting team.
"Bruce, don't you think you might have been set up by Sp'ock in the worm attack yesterday. Didn't he call you over into the killing zone? I'd watch my back if I were you." GleepGlooup steps forward and declares
With xZot's return from his scouting expedition Sp'ock conceives a possible course of action, that may be a little less dramatic. Though he still likes the idea of blowing something up. Sort of a hit first type thing.
"Commander. Your scouting the base, while foolhardy in my opinion, has yielded some valuable data. Sorry Bruce, wasn't talking to you."
Sp'ock uses the point of his spear to draw a crude diagram of the entry doors, with two lines indicating the blind spot for the cameras. "We can make use of your having deactivated the fence to climb over and hide here and here." Indicates one to either side of the building out of sight of the doors." We have 30 seconds from entry to exit for the robot. It comes out goes to the gate then turns south. This is the ideal time for any attempt to disable the robot." Shrugs once, "any attempt to reprogram this model is tricky at my skill level. But, to deactivate, yeh that is on. I still would like to use Herbet." waves at the maintenance bot, "To detonate this thing outside the fence will draw the black hats out to us. If we set up shooters here, here and here we have them in crossfire." The point indicated for the bot explosion is the furthest from the aerial, the points for the shooters are either side of the building near the blind spot and further out in front of the gate.
Sni'ktl scritches and creaks supportively in response to Sp'ock's scratchings and shrugs. Sni'ktl likes the early part especially. For a moment he wonders what would happen if the pirates simply choose to hole up and call for backup. He gives off a momentary nervous trill in his scritchings. He has every faith that the efficient Vrusk Military leader will have considered this parameter in his strategy. "...no Sp'ock, no worries, just a little sand in my forward aureoles."
"I'll provide the distraction, I can take one hit, just don't let it get too many in" says GleepGlooup "Are we gonna stand here talking about it all day or are we gonna do it? As soon as the robot goes back inside I'm going to run up to the fence and crawl under, xZot you come with me in the Holoscreen. When the robot comes back out the door I'll distract it and you disable it. I'll stand on the south side of the door with xZot behind the robot on the north side." Winding the settings on his Laser Pistol to 2 GleepGlooup prepares to move forward. "I'm still upset that you wouldn't let me eat the animals." he mutters as they move out
After listening to the suggestions OMAC comments.
"Yeah, I can't see the point in drawing them out, if we can deactivate the bot we gain an expendable scout not to mention his credit value, by doing it with no shooting we maintain the element of surprise, if we can deactivate him stealthily we could waltz in at the end of his patrol and catch 'em all inside probably with their pants down! We need to take 'em before any of them can use the radio, one thing we can count on is there are more of them but how far away? How many? And where? The only ones who are gunna get us off this rock is us, we need ammo and weapons, some drugs would be good to We fuck up this attack and they get back up quickly we'll die here. I shit you not!"
OMAC's tone of voice is calculated and cold, for the first time the others see that there is much more to this human than they had so far thought. Although signed on as a medic, he has yet to draw a weapon and miss.
Four years later, and eager Journalism student from The Zebulon University, discovered this excerpt from Sp'ock personal log on which several exploration security papers have now been based...
Hi sports fans, It's a big day here at the final day of the big grudge match between the boys and girls from the Space Fleet and the new kids on the block the Pirates!" (Pauses for canned applause)
"As an early starter here at the game of the season the grand final of Volturnus hard ball xZot the plucky little Yazirian captain of the Federation side has taken a long lead out towards the enemy dugout. Having already successfully stolen his way past the first line of locks, he's ready to steal home. What a guy."
"The fans unable to contain themselves have already started to invade the pitch. From my vantage point here in the observation bunker I can just make out a group of running figures, one on a horse thing. Or could this be an attempt to run the whole team home?"
"We don't know what the pirate coaches will make of this a broken team run for home when the experts all thought it was going to be a slow build up. So much for Sunday tipsters, this one rest with the Monday experts to sort out." (some canned cheering), "Now for our live feed we snuck a cameras on board the pirates second defensive lock." Pauses for dramatic effect, "Yes that's right on board number four. Watch astounded as the firepower of this humble little combat droid is brought to bear on the unprotected flesh of the players."
A second voice with no sound affects behind it cuts in.
"Federation officials warn that some citizens may find the following scenes disturbing, and should activate their gore filters." )
End Log Transcript.
"And just remember, we have no biocort, so please, nobody get hurt" says Sni'ktl.
xZot listens to the enthusiasm of those around him.
"I think Sp'ock's plan is our best bet, err except for the 'blowing up the robot thing'. We might save that for later." xZot grins as he removes the holoscreen and belt, handing it to Sp'ock "Take this and go over the fence with Gleep. While he's distracting their sentry robot, you try and deactivate it. I'm not too sure how much room there is over there out of the camera lines of sight, but if Boro or OMAC can squeeze in, they can help Gleep. If there's no room, then they, like the rest of us, will need to wait outside until their robot is deactivated and then well regroup before we all enter the building. OK everyone ready? Lets get in position."
"I will attempt to deactivate the robot no more." replies Sp'ock "The level of sophistication of this thing will defeat any attempt by me to reprogram, so I won't try. As a starting plan will wait for the robots first circuit before going over the fence, then wait it out for it's next pass and attempt the do the deed." Sp'ock turns to look at Sni'ktl.
"May we meet again, in this life or the other." He turns to the remaining group members and bows formally. "Still think we could have blown up something." Sp'ock mutters and moves off towards the pirate compound, mentally running through the list of weapons he carries, and where. Sp'ock reaches the chain link fence as the robot completes it's patrol of the fence line and re-enters the building.
Borovski listens to the report from xZot and also GleepGlooup's' plan to ambush the robot. He hands OMAC one of his Doze grenades
"Here asshole, have one of these metal fruit, the first bite's a killer" he smiles then steps forward to volunteer.
"I didn't fight a Quickdeath, walk through shard grass and wrestle jungle bunnies to turn back now!"
He mounts his loper and as soon as the robot disappears from view he starts forward, racing ahead of GleepGlooup toward the fence where he hopes that xZot will have already cut a path through the barb wire.
"When the robot comes out I gonna attack it with my spear and save the grenades for the guys inside. I don't hear footsteps? You guys coming, or do you actually like it here?"
As soon as the doors close, Boro surges forward on his Loper and GleepGlooup breaks cover heading for the fence line, both staying in the camera blind spot directly in front of the gate to the west. Sp'ock begins clambering over the fence, suffering some minor cuts from the barb wire (2 points) his Vrusk body shape belying his scaling ability. He drops to the sand on the far side as Boro pulls his mount to a stop, leaps to the ground and begins climbing the fence behind Sp'ock. The rest of the team remaining hidden amongst the dunes, weapons aimed at the door. OMAC and Crisbel are already inching slowly forward in anticipation of the coming fight.
Borovski also receives some minor cuts through his Skiensuit (2 points) as he joins Sp'ock on the other side of the door. GleepGlooup arrives at the fence line as the robot exits the building for it's next patrol. Standing only four metres away on the other side of the fence. the C-4 bot immediately identifies Gleep as an intruder, levels it's Laser Rifle and blasts him squarely in the chest (40 points). Sp'ock, still unnoticed under the Holoscreen, drops down and immediately begins removing the security panel from the distracted robot as Borovski steps up and slams his spear point into the robot's side. (11 points) Reeling from the Laser rifle blast GleepGlooup returns fire with his Laser pistol also scoring a hit on the C-4 (10 points).
Before the Robot can fire a second blast, Sp'ock flicks the deactivate switch an the robot stops dead. Borovski helps GleepGlooup through the fence as the rest of the team break cover heading for the gate. Not willing to risk any alarm, xZot directs everyone over the fence where he removes a section of barb wire with his laser scalpel. With OMAC and Boro to either side of the door clutching grenades he attempts to pick the lock but to no avail.
"Let me try" says Gleep, xZot surrenders his position and the wounded Dralasite tries his luck at the locked door. "Sp'ock, you there?" He asks in the direction the screened Vrusk last spoke from. "Let's flick the door open and you can peek in while screened" At a nod from xZot the door is eased open and Sp'ock peers through.
"All clear" he quickly reports "It looks like a garage"
As you look into this area, you see a jetcopter in the middle of the garage area. You notice that the ceiling is hinged; obviously it can be opened to allow the copter to take off. There are numerous tools and parts from the jetcopter scattered about the room, and there is a work bench along the north wall. There is an intercom mounted over the workbench. The room is 6 metres wide and 8 metres deep, the only other exit is a single door directly opposite the double doors.
xZot looks through the door and into the room, then seeing the jetcopter the young Yazirian's eyes narrow. He indicates to Sp'ock and the others to enter to room and fan out
"Gleep, do a quick once around in search of any defences, we wouldn't want a silent alarm to alert the pirates of our arrival." xZot stops briefly beside the jetcopter "Whoo, I've always wanted one of these!" he whispers.
GleepGlooup quickly liberates the Combat Robot's Laser Rifle and Belt Pack before heading inside to search for security alarms. He scans the floor and walls as he works his way across the room
"Hold it just there!" warns xZot "What's that down at your feet?" GleepGlooup drops down on all sixes and locates the device against the wall indicated by xZot.
"Looks like an infra-red beam boss" answers the Dralasite, carefully avoiding the area in front of the suspect lens. xZot soon finds a temporary override switch allowing enough time for Gleep, then Sp'ock, OMAC, Crisbel and himself to move toward the door.
Advancing carefully into the jetcopter bay Sp'ock is alert for any sign of alarm. Sighting the only exit he moves over to one side of the door and wave OMAC forward.
"If you will OMAC, load your Auto pistol with doze rounds, and if you have a spare SEU clip I could use one." OMAC looks blankly at the Vrusk Security Officer
"Doze Rounds? You idiot! Have you been into Sni'ktl's Mushroom supply again? You can't use Doze rounds in an auto pistol, try a Needler or a Gyrojet weapon. And steer clear of GleepGlooup, I noticed he has his poison rounds loaded!" He grins as he hefts his doze grenade.
"Here, take this" says GleepGlooup as he hands one of his loaded laser pistols to Sp'ock "Hey OMAC, how about giving me a shot of Stimdose so I can support you guys with my new toy" as he indicates his newly acquired rifle. OMAC grunts and hits Gleep with a shot of Stimdose from his spray hypo
"Crisbel," Sp'ock continues after OMAC's tirade "stay back and out of line, get a doze grenade off someone and be ready. Everyone else ready?" He places a free claw on the door control, noting in passing that his laser is still set on maximum.
"Just have to make sure I don't miss." he mumbles
As xZot moves through the room he stops to inspect the intercom. Without activating the intercom xZot checks for any activity. Then noticing that Sp'ock and OMAC are preparing to open the single door, xZot moves into position with the albedo screen activated, laser pistol draw and nightstick at the ready.
"There's no point in blowing our cover before we need to." whispers xZot as he reminds everyone that stealth is important if we want to maintain the element of surprise.
"Can you here any noises from the next room?". Drawing on the tension of the moment xZot prepares himself for a Battle Rage when the fights starts.
"Don't everyone relax just yet," Siu-Ling warns, her self-preserving, sixth sense kicking in. "I have a feeling there is more here than meets the eye." Sni'ktl's aureoles tighten as the main party enter the hangar.
"Siu-Ling is right to urge caution, especially until we find more medical supplies say's Sni'ktl." He cringes at the loud noises of the party moving round the hangar, it seems that he was the only one to have learnt the art of lightfootedness from Raid. Sni'ktl makes sure that he has staydose to hand, the only option now if people take critical damage.
"Maybe one of you tech's could disable the starter on this jetcopter. We don't want any cowardly pirates making off with it."
Casting his eyes over the parts spread around the floor xZot realises that the jetcopter isn't in working order
"It's alright Sni'ktl, I wouldn't worry about the pirates, this thing is going to need a little work before it is going anywhere."
"Don't forget I was a demolitions enthusiast before I joined with the One." Announces Siu-Ling "If it would help our cause, I'd be willing to..." the left half of her face smiles and purrs with an interrogative inflection, "Rearrange a bit?" During an opportune moment, Siu-Ling walks by OMAC while doing a periodic security sweep and running into him, says, "Hey, OMAC, crazy hair, brother. Why do you write your name out in ALL CAPS? I saw it on your identicard when the Kurabanda sisters back at the treehouse snagged it from you."
"OMAC is for One Man Army Corp." whispers xZot, OMAC just smiles back at both of them and nods, his mowhak hair cut seeming to bristle wildly at the hint of a coming battle.
"Ready OMAC on three.....one......two.....three" Sp'ock opens the door and goes through in the opposite direction to OMAC scanning for targets in front of them, and listening for sounds of bad things behind.
"Clear!" both voices come back as xZot enters followed by GleepGlooup and Crisbel. This area contains shelves along both the north and south walls, and several small tables scattered about the centre of the room. There are many large crates on the tables. Most of the crates obviously contain food but due to the sheer volume of containers an accurate search would take some time. Sp'ock quickly points out the contact recognition lock on the far door.
"Now what?" he asks no one in particular "The clock is ticking folks, that robot is due back here in less than 30 seconds, I'm sure they will notice when it is overdue on rounds if they haven't already!"
OMAC moves through cautiously covering the lead elements.
"Maybe doze grenades" he mumbles to no one in particular. As Sp'ock enters the storeroom his eyes try to scan every nook and cranny around him, the call of,
"Clear!", coming softly from OMAC draws a similar response from him as he realises with some relief that the room is empty. Holstering his pistol he moves towards the centre of the room to join OMAC turning to see xZot, Crisbel and Gleep enter. With both laser pistols loaded and triggers ready, Siu-Ling d'Avignon crouches behind a prop and scans the ceiling for surveillance equipment.
"I say we move quickly," she suggests. "The longer we stay in one place, the less time we have to get to where we need to be, and I have a feeling that's not here."
"Crisbel, you should take this back and thanks for the use, it was most handy." Says the Security Chief as he hands Crisbel the holoscreen. "GleepGlooup, OMAC, if you would please check the walls for more of those infrared trip beams. Sui Ling, please see if any of those crates are marked with either a medical tag, or preferably an explosives hazard marker."
"I'll check for any more infrared trips, then I'd like to try the lock, if the alarm sounds we just fight sooner rather than later." answers GleepGlooup. Sp'ock then turns to xZot and asks
"Do you not think it may be an idea to get our wounded into the hangar, less exposed for them, and they can still secure a way out if we need to retreat ourselves?" In response to Sp'ock's question xZot casts his eyes back over the jetcopter and out the door in the direction of the disabled robot
"Yes Sp'ock, I think that is a good idea to get the others in here. Even injured as he is, Gloo could still be useful with his rifle if the rest of us need to fall back and, if nothing else, maybe Bruce can prop him up. I think the mounts will be OK out their on their own." Quickly contacting Sni'ktl he relays the suggestion
"What do you think? With their wounds, can they get in here without assistance? Contact Bruce and Gloo on the chronocom and let them know. If necessary, go out and help them over the fence."
"Will do replies Sni'ktl". Sni'ktl quickly calls Gloo. "We've secured the entrance, can you help Bruce over the fence and hole up in here. It should be safer if we get any trouble. I'll cover your approach." Sni'ktl takes up position inside the main entrance to the hangar, placing a solid piece of jetcopter to wedge the door open a little. With his laser pistol set on 6 he looks out for any unwanted visitors to the outpost. "It'd just be typical if the pirate commander chooses today for an inspection" mumbles Sni'ktl. "Hey Siu-Ling any joy with the crate search? We could sure use some biocort."
"It would also be an idea for us to keep the initiative if we can, first principal of warfare is and always has been mobility, we control the only way in, or out, that we know of. For us to assume that this is the only way could be a fatal mistake. For us to sit and wait invites a good grenade assault by our enemies, I believe we must move forward and take the fight to the pirates." He gnashes his fighting mandibles, a gesture carried over amongst Vrusk from a time when their mandibles carried a toxic load and were used to paralyse their opponents before eating them. "If Sui Ling finds us some explosives all good and well"
"Sui Ling, please see if any of those crates are marked with either a medical tag, or preferably an explosives hazard marker." Siu-Ling pulls both pistols on Sp'ock and leaves the setting to 4 standard energy units.
"Call me Sui one more time and I'll fry your antenna clean off that skull plate," she warns the Vrusk, raising a few eyebrows. After a few seconds, she lowers her weapon [probably upon someone's plea or order], and does as Sp'ock requested.
Indicating to Gleep to do the same xZot begins a search of the room for hidden alarms and the like. When all is clear he signals to the others in this room to move to the locked door where he and Gleep stand contemplating the security lock. Noting a general eagerness of the group to keep moving and push further into the building
"OMAC, you still got that Frag grenade? I am thinking that Sp'ock here should rig it up to the lock with some of the ion bonding tape I have in my tech kit. We might be able to blast the door down. Sp'ock, you've been looking for something to blow up, now is your chance. Get the grenade rigged up but I think that Gleep and I should have a crack at bypassing the security first. If we set the alarm off or definitely can't disable it, we can clear out of the doorway and you try blasting it down. If nothing else, it'll get their attention!"
During a relaxed moment
So, OMAC," Siu-Ling pronounces the words slowly, in the time it would take her to say "One-Man Army Corp". Her eyes look up at the human's hair. "Yeah, so what's your game? Are you a scispec or what?" Smiling at the apparent ridiculousness of the latter question, she pinches the male's left nipple and giggles teasingly. The spirit of the Kurabanda, it seems, has not yet left Siu-Ling, whose psyche seems easily permeable by the sentient inhabitants of Volturnus. Since their time with the Kurabanda, she has taken on a few of their characteristics: aside from having dropped the sombreness that plagued her when the group had just met her after their victory over the quickdeath, she seems even more limber than she was before, and her sense of humour has taken on Dralasite qualities.
OMAC doesn't even grunt in reply as he watches both xZot and GleepGlooup attempt to defeat the high tech lock to no avail
"OK let's blow the door" commands xZot as the rest of the team take cover from the anticipated blast. Sp'ock pulls the pin on the carefully placed Frag grenade and dives for cover. The resulting explosion tears a hole through the door and part of the nearby wall and smoke billows into the room. Crisbel activates the Holoscreen once more and races through the opening, OMAC and Sp'ock close behind.
Crisbel turns left heading down the corridor to the south when he hears the sound of laser blasts behind. OMAC and Sp'ock immediately come under fire from armed scanner mounted at each end of the hallway. Sp'ock takes a laser bast in the side (32 points) as he enters the hallway, OMAC manages to sprint several metres down the hallway behind Crisbel when he is blasted in the thigh (17 points). When Crisbel realises more laser beams are coming from in front of him also directed at Sp'ock and OMAC, he turns south to see two armed men exiting the door closest to him. One is wearing a Military Skiensuit and carrying a Laser Pistol, the other is carrying a Sonic Disruptor and looks to be protected by an Albedo Screen. Both men stop as soon as they see OMAC and Sp'ock
"Shit!" one of them exclaims "They are inside already" as they both swing their weapons toward OMAC and Sp'ock. Suddenly the pirate with the laser pistol turns and fires at Crisbel
"Looks like they have a Holoscreen as well" he says to his companion as he drills the surprised Yazirian right through the chest (25 points)
Crisbel collapses unconscious but not yet brain dead, to the floor. Sp'ock returns fire at the armed scanner covering the door as xZot and GleepGlooup rush past him into the fray. Sp'ock's laser beam strikes the scanner and immediately reveals the Albedo Screen protecting the camera, his heart skips a beat then the Albedo Screen flashes and burns out followed quickly by the camera behind it.
"Good thing I had the setting at max" the Vrusk thinks to himself.
"Here, have this!" Yells the injured OMAC, struggling to stay on his feet, as he hurls his spear at the nearest pirate. The spear hits it's mark (13 points) and the wounded pirate's return fire is ineffective.
"Ouch!" Was the last sound Crisbel made as his Holoscreened body dropped un-noticed by his comrades. With OMAC bleeding bad, the Black Hand Gang's assault falters. GleepGlooup and Siu-Ling appear through the doorway behind Sp'ock. Siu-Ling immediately fires at the pirate with the sonic disruptor. Using the doorway to shield her and crouched on one knee she fires both her blasters, the one in her left hand is drained with first shot going high over OMAC's head and both shots from her right hand blaster are equally ineffective.
At the sound of laser fire and shouting Sni'ktl rushes as fast as his eight legs will carry him to the doorway.
"Didn't I say something about not getting shot at in my last medical briefing?" Meanwhile, in the corridor,
"Aah, the burning sensation of a hot laser beam passing through your body, who wouldn't be a space marine." Clicks Sp'ock "Nothing else for this really, but to press on and either win or join Crisbel, wherever he is?" The Vrusk, still having one shot left in his laser, takes aim and fires at the second armed scanner, it's albedo defence flares brightly but holds off the laser beam. Sp'ock shrugs and turns to engage the pirates in hand to hand combat. "On to glory!"
As xZot rushes into the corridor past Sp'ock he sees the two pirates coming out of the door way and the automated defences blasting overhead. Realising the seriousness of the group's situation xZot draws on the Battle Rage building within him, the blood lust building as he heads into battle. As Sp'ock takes aim at the scanner, xZot indicates to GleepGlooup to take the pirate with the disrupter as he closes on the one with the pistol.
"Gleep, that guy looks like he has a screen, you might have to use your machete." but GleepGlooup ignores his commander as he fires 3 rounds from his Gyrojet pistol at the target instead, the second round finding it's mark a releasing a puff of poisonous gas around the pirates chest. Flicking his pistol onto its maximum setting xZot fires one wild shot over his target's head, draining his pistol. Casting the empty pistol away he reaches for his trusty nightstick and focuses on cracking some pirate skull, the blood lust strong with him now. OMAC power rolls to his left up the empty corridor and out of the enemy's line of sight. Then he reaches into his basic pouch for the replacement doze grenade he took from Borovski after his Frag grenade was used to blow open the door.
"I wonder..." he thinks to himself as he pulls the pin from the grenade with his teeth and imagines himself lobbing the grenade down the pirates shirt front.
"Good night, Irene!" he yells as he throws the missile at the wall opposite the pirates, hoping to bounce the grenade back at the pirates feet.
"Kurt! Get out of here, get the others!" The blaster wielding pirate says to his companion as he watches OMAC's grenade bounce off the wall and tumble behind him. With a loud pop the grenade releases it's load and the second pirate, Kurt stumbles and falls back through the door he just came through, his feet still sticking out into the corridor. The remaining pirate, unaffected by the gas merely smiles and grabs a pineapple shaped object from his bandolier, pulls the pin, and lobs it down the corridor.
The armed scanner at the south end of the corridor lances out and lights up xZot's Albedo screen (20 points, 4 SEU's used) as the pirate's grenade bounces off the wall near Siu-Ling and into the corner behind Sp'ock. It explodes and a colourless gas fills the corridor in front of the door. Sp'ock, GleepGlooup, xZot and Siu-Ling all in their weakened condition, and gathered in the corridor near the doorway, quickly succumb to the effects of the doze gas, sprawling unconscious to the floor in the doorway or corridor as Sni'ktl immediately skids to a stop.
Borovski swivels his eyespots towards the Vrusk science officer in surprise, having seen half the team charge through the door and neutralised he appears to be in shock. With only the wounded Gloo and Bruce in the garage behind him and the apparently panicked Dralasite beside him, the Science Officer takes stock of the grim situation.
xZot coughs as he sees the doze gas filling the corridor around him. Realising that this really isn't the time for a nap, anger and frustration well up in xZot's now wobbly body replacing the Battle Rage that was surging through his veins only moments earlier.
"These pirates are really starting to piss me off!" thinks xZot as he watches the floor close on his face. The room spins and darkness fills his eyes as xZot slumps to the floor alongside his companions.
"Hey Snik, how 'bout hittin' these guys with the stimdoses they each have and we get them mobile again!" exclaims the suddenly animated Borovski Getmeov. "Me, I'm strappin on the extra Kahuna's and goin' lookin' for the bastard who did that!" Quickly taking stock of the situation Sni'ktl calls out.
"Gas!" hoping that those with gas masks will use them, but it's too late. Sni'ktl holds his breath as he moves swiftly to inject those closest to the door with Stimdose. Siu-Ling is the closest patient and she quickly revives as Sni'ktl uses his trusty Spray hypo then moves on toward the still form of GleepGlooup.
After seeing Sni'ktl race out of the garage and listening to some of the chatter from next door, Gloo and Bruce both move in to the storage room heading toward the recently blown doorway.
"Want to play grenades hey? Lets play!" Roars the Dralasite as, armed with his tangler grenade in his primary psuedopod, Borovski swaggers, or wobbles, it all depends which angle you see it from, towards the doorway. The other pseudopods are holding a doze grenade and his 'Don't fail me now' spear as he hums to himself
"Billy, don't be a hero..." Boro has no concern for the armed scanner, more like has no time. He is solely concentrating on getting to OMAC and holding fast that position whilst the others wake up and reassemble into shape. One last thought as he prepared to pass through,
"Can't wait to tell the guys how much fun this has been, well at least I got to witness history! Yep the invention of extreme tattooing, just ask u three "whistle while u walkers" He sees the lone pirate aiming his laser pistol, then the double flash as the scanner and pirate both send laser beams toward him. Amazingly, neither beam strikes home and Borovski cocks his primary psuedopod and throws his tangler grenade. The pirate, scowling to himself at the poor shot, doesn't see Borovski's grenade until too late and is completely immobilised when the sticky tangler threads are thrown out from the explosion at his feet
OMAC, having parra rolled to safety, sees what goes down and pops his head round the corner. He fires three shots at the monitor, the first misses but the next two fly true and the camera guiding the laser system, shatters. OMAC ducks back and mutters too himself
"I don't believe it! I missed! Humph!" he grunts as he pulls his sprayhypo and a stimdose ampoule
"Hey look! There's Crisbel" calls out Borovski, pointing to where Crisbel's body shows as a hole in the tangler threads near the netted pirate. OMAC gives himself a shot of stimdose then moves over to treat Crisbel with a shot of Staydose. Sni'ktl quickly revives GleepGlooup, xZot and Sp'ock from their slumber with a shot of Stimdose each while Borovski, now joined by Gloo keep and eye out for trouble while Bruce watches the teams rear.
Sni'ktl's aureoles hiss as he releases his breath. Taking in fresh air Sni'ktl is pleased to have revived the fallen characters and pleasantly surprised when he doesn't join them in a collapsed heap.
"I suggest everyone should put on Gas masks for the duration" suggests the chief medical officer "Who knows what kind of gas they may hit us with next. Sni'ktl approaches the Yazirian leader with caution. Noting the coruscated purple flushes in xZot's wing membranes, a telltale sign of battle rage, Sni'cktl recalls horror stories of Yazirians given stimdose in battle rage.
"...er xZot, I was just wondering... only by way of suggestion you understand... what with some people injured and all... I thought you might like to know that Boro and Siu-Ling are probably in the best shape. I'm fairly uninjured and happy to do some scouting. Of course you're in great shape too and GleepGlooup has picked up with the Stimdose. I would recommend putting everyone else in the second line at least if we encounter any more resistance. That's just my thoughts though, of course you probably have the best idea how we should proceed."
xZot listens to Sni'ktl's advice and recognises the diplomacy in his voice. xZot thinks how he has grown to value the Vrusk's advice, but when he hears the his chief medical officer struggle with unfamiliar military terms, a smile is difficult to hide. Casting a glance towards Sp'ock for concurrence xZot nods in agreement with Sni'ktl about future assault formations.
"All noted Snik however I don't want OMAC and Gloo too far out of the way. We have to take this place before we can rest and I don't think these pirate are going to give up without a fight! I feel this is far from over."
Sni'ktl leaves xZot considering the tactical options as he tends to the health of the party tidying up cuts and applying stimdose as needed.
"Bruce, OMAC and Gloo, can you guys carry Crisbel two of you on rotation and the other watching your backs. Put him down carefully if need too at any time, but please avoid getting shot at any more."
"Ouch!" Exclaims Sp'ock when he is revived by Sni'ktl "I saw the pirate throw the grenade in our direction, there was a bang and the next thing I see is Sn'ick bending over me." He muses "Lucky really, that we Vr'usk gave up cannibalism or this might make me nervous. Also the by now familiar nausea of doze gas, gives me some hint as to what has happened." He taps the gas mask on his hip in irritation, "Clumsy! Ah the smell of doze gas, that brings back memories. Those heady days in the university volunteer riot control squads. The rubber uniform, the mindless tedium, the senseless beatings of any student with higher grades. Great days. Must still be groggy from the gas, or is it the stimdose?"
After the exchange of fire in the corridor, Bruce, feeling somewhat of a fifth wheel, moved westward into the storage room and for lack of anything constructive to do, began a methodical search through the jumble of crates and boxes in the room. Soon after Sni'ktl revives the gassed team members, Bruce finds the first useful item amongst the packaging material.
"Hey Boss!" he calls out toward xZot "These might come in real handy." he says as he holds up the pair of Incendiary Grenades he has just discovered in a box on the shelving. Bruce places both grenades on a table in the storage room and continues his search.
"Does anyone have a spare SEU clip or two I can use. My pistol seems to have run dry again." Sp'ock scritches happily, "Don't know how that keeps happening." The Vrusk security officer turns to address xZot.
"Commander. We must not waste more time here than we have already, so far we have dealt with the enemy quickly." He nods to OMAC, "But, we must press the advantage we have now." OMAC looks badly shot up and is declines the offer of leading on
"After you" the Corpman indicates for Sp'ock to lead on
"Chief Medical officer Sni'ktl is correct as to our shock troops, but now would be best." xZot's head clears of the doze effects as he surveys the surrounds.
"Damn I hate that stuff, at least the mushie spores were somewhat pleasant." he grumbles as he looks around. "Sp'ock, if you are looking for a weapon, grab the Disruptor, Screen and Belt from that guy" xZot motions toward the fallen pirate "You might as well put it to good use." Buoyed by his success with his grenade volley, Boro is also keen to make use of the sonic disruptor and albedo screen. He strips the power belt pack from the fallen pirate and throws it to the recovering Sp'ock.
"Maybe this will stop you from bringing those empty SEU clips back and asking for a refund. If you want me to take point then I'm hangin on to this baby" he states as he connects both it and the newly acquired screen into his existing powerpack.
"Can someone crack that tangled Pirate on the head, his ranting is really starting to get on my nerves" xZot looks at the tangler blocked corridor and the entrapped pirate, remembering that the group is out of any useful solvent. "The only way on, is through that door and by the look of it the door in the other side, it won't be easy to crack." he continues indicating the door in front of Borovski. Peering through, over the body of the unconscious pirate in the doorway, he can see a couch, a small stove, three chairs, a large round table with cups, glasses, a deck of cards and a pair of dice on it.
"If we could shut this guy up maybe we could hear if there are any other pirates on the other side of the tangle, not that they can get through it either."
"Wait" interjects Sni'ktl. "Lets disarm the pirate. I have some telol here and we could use it to find out how many pirates there are, and all that military tactical stuff you guys are always on about." Sni'ktl prepares a dose of telol and calls for two volunteers to untangle, disarm and hold down the captured pirate.
"You'll have to wait a while for the tangles to dissolve before you can question Doc" says Gloo as he limps forward to cover the leading elements with his Laser Rifle. Looking around xZot continues
"Maybe we should look at blasting through the wall back down where OMAC did his fancy legs-up routine? These new grenades could come in handy there." xZot looks for suggestions. "If there is only one way in and they know it, they will be dug-in and ready for us. Even a diversion would help."
"The smell of phosphorous from an incendiary grenade in the morning might appeal to you," chimes in Borovski "but I can't see it being an effective means to create a sufficient hole. Besides, how do we know that the radio is not sitting right there?" he smirks as he poses these questions. "Let's continue on, rush the room and use this Disruptor to blast through the lock on the far door, its got a contact recognition lock, so we are not likely to pick it, plus they know were here." The Dralasite summons up his energy to start running through the door.
"We got a radio to find and if anyone wants to stop us, they better be prepared to eat some of this" he yells back toward the party as he
pats his new weapon of choice. Rushing through the common room, Borovski levels his Disruptor at the contact recognition lock on the far door and squeezes the trigger. When there is no visible result from the Sonic discharge, Borovski steps back slightly puzzled, then shakes his head and tries the old fashioned way. He braces himself, raises a lower pseoudo pod and kicks the door. The entire locking mechanism, having ceased at a molecular level becomes brittle and shatters under the blow as the door caves in and an audible alarm starts blaring through the outpost.
Through the doorway he sees a desk with a radiophone on it against the north wall of this room, right near the spot xZot had planned to blow, he notes. There are three chairs in the room. A man with a techkit had been repairing the partially dismantled radiophone. He now faces toward Borovski, but is talking into an open intercom on the wall nearby.
"They are in the radio room" he reports to the intercom as he fires his laser pistol at almost point blank range into Borovski's Albedo Screen, last glow chewing up 13 SEU's from his powerpack. Borovski roars, his voice echoing through the room and corridor behind him as he blasts the radio attendant with the Sonic Disruptor (34 points). The human desperado reels back from the blast as Borovski lobs a doze grenade from his third upper pseudopod, into the confines of the small room. The missile misses it's intended target but the gas from the resulting explosion quickly overcomes the third pirate before he can reach the only other exit from the room.
"Clear!" Borovski calls out to the rest of the team as he waits for the gas in the room to dissipate.
The radiophone is obviously not working.
Not letting herself get her guard down, Siu-Ling continues to guard the secured perimeter with both pistols, looking through cabinets, drawers and desktops. She looks for things of relative use or value. SEU clips, keys/keycards, personal log managers, discs or other data storage devices are all on her list. But apart from the multitude of boxes and storage containers much of the structure investigated so far, are relatively bare.
xZot watches the radio room in front of him clear of gas. Borovski's sudden burst of aggression and determination, born out of frustration, has spurred the rest of the group to push on. xZot quickly surveys the damage to the radiophone as the stragglers catch up and prepare for the assault on the next room
"I think Gleep or I will have to come back to this mess when we have control of the building." xZot notes as he positions himself to continue forward as Borovski brings his weapon to bear on the door to the south. "We have to hunt these pirates down before we can rest" xZot reaffirms. For the second time in as many minutes, a manic look ripples across Borovski's form "A Dralasite battle rage if ever I've seem one" xZot speculates quietly to himself as he indicates Borovski forward and for Siu-Ling to take the fallen pirates equipment. Accepting the beltpack and strapping it on, Siu-Ling thanks the male and considers using the Gauss screen.
"Now, the Gauss screen only consumes SEU when its bubble is hit by electrical offensives, not other types of energy or missiles, right?" she asks xZot. "I wouldn't want to just waste the few SEUs that we have on something that will not provide protection against the source of the drain."
The Yazirian scratches his head at the human's irregular metaphors and arcane slang. She then takes a look at the pistol, inspecting it for any peculiarities and checking the condition of the piece. Satisfied that weapons appears well looked after she addresses xZot
"I'll be glad to carry this cannon for someone until it's needed. Hey, guys!" she motions to the others present. "Don't hesitate to ask if you need a laser pistol. Remember I'm carrying five now. As for ammo, how are we doing on clips?" Rather than answer, Quartermaster Borovski Getmeov swings his Sonic Disruptor toward the lock on the southern door of the radio room and repeats his door opening procedure, blasting the lock, then kicking in the door.
Then all hell breaks loose, again, as laser beams fly up the corridor running south from the radio room. Borovski's Albedo Screen lights up as he is struck by both beams. xZot is able to make out an Armed Scanner at the south end of the corridor over another door, as it blasts Boro (Drains 5 SEUs from Pack). A robot holding a laser rifle also fires on Borovski(13 SEU drain) from in front of the second door along the eastern wall of this corridor. The Dralasite has just enough time to realise his power supply is running low, when a human wearing an Albedo Suit steps from behind a corner in the corridor only four metres away and shoots Boro at almost point blank range with a Sonic Stunner, knocking him unconscious immediately.
As quickly as xZot's frown appears, at the sight of his front line collapsing yet again, the grimace vanishes. The teams chronocoms crackle to life with more good news from Bruce.
"Sni'ktl, OMAC! You guys better get back here, I just hit pay dirt! I found a Medkit!" Booms the X-O's excited report as he pulls down the brand new Medkit he has just discovered up on one of the shelves in the storage room.
"Boro!" Sp'ock reaches out to stop Borovski falling, but as he is too far away he lets his hand fall. "Where are those phosphorous grenades? Unless anyone has a better suggestion for handling a class 4 combat robot I would suggest cooking the bugger! It would be chancy to grab Boro while a grenade rattles around the far end of the corridor, but I will give it a go." the Vrusk Security Officer declares "As an alternative course of action I could set the laser on full and try to take down the robot with a two shot combo." he calls across the doorway to his Yazirian commander "I do not believe I would be there for two rounds. Choice is yours xZot." he looks at questioningly at the young Yazirian.
At the sight of Borovski hitting the deck, xZot's heart sinks as his battle rage rises. Turning slightly, xZot signals quickly to Sp'ock and Gloo to step up and join the battle, indicating toward the now concealed pirate. Turning back to Siu-Ling, xZot signals for her to knock out the armed scanner at the far end of the corridor. Then, with a move only a Yazirian can perform, xZot launches himself forward onto Borovski's limp form, reaching for one of the tangler grenades he so proudly displayed on his bandolier.
"Boy, I hope the other guys don't get the wrong idea!" thinks xZot as he grabs the grenade and lobs it down the corridor toward the robot.
"Mental note: Jumping on a Dralasite IS like landing on a giant marshmallow." xZot thinks to himself as he watches his missile bounce harmlessly past the combat robot and explode at the far end of the corridor, throwing sticky polymer threads across the southern door below the armed scanner.
"Take 'em down quickly lads. More time equals more blood and its usually ours." crackles Sni'ktl's voice over the teams chronocoms.
"You got it, Sni'ktl," replies Siu-Ling as she readies both pistols. The female human nods to the alpha male and complies with his wish, aiming at the scanner once she has a clear shot through the doorway. The Albedo defence around the scanner flares brightly and burns out as the laser beam melts the scanner off it's mount. Sp'ock and Gloo surge through the radio room and over xZot's prone form, firing as they advance. Gloo fires two blasts at the robot, striking it once with his Laser Rifle (51 points) as Sp'ock blazes away fruitlessly at the Human.
The robot returns fire at Gloo, who neatly side-steps the incoming laser beam only to walk straight into the pirates sights and drop unconscious to the floor as the Albedo Suited Human drops his second target with his Sonic Stunner.
Sni'ktl tenses as he hears the sound of battle ahead. Four of his legs start forward as another three start back in responses to the magic words "Medkit" uttered by Bruce.
"Must check the reflex muscle in that other leg" thinks Sni'ktl as he swivels on one leg and runs back to catch the Medkit that Bruce throws towards him as he enters the room. Turning back, he quickly passes the dozing GleepGlooup and administers a dose of biocort to Crisbel as he approaches the radio room. Sni'ktl hands five doses of biocort to OMAC when he reaches him then prepares to administer First Aid to the rest of the party as they shoot it out with the next wave of pirates.
Bruce limps weakly down the corridor behind Sni'ktl carrying the recently discovered Incendiary Grenades. He hands both to OMAC who is busy performing First Aid, injecting himself with a dose of Biocort. Bruce leans back breathing heavily against the wall, his wounds obviously causing him great pain as the adrenaline rush begins to subside and he becomes more aware of the damage to his battered body.
The combat robot switches targets, firing at Sp'ock but fortunately the damage from Gloo's Laser rifle has badly affected it's targeting systems and Sp'ock survives the robot attack long enough to become the human pirates' third victim as Sp'ock joins the two unconscious Dralasites sprawled on the floor of the corridor.
Siu-Ling adjusts her aim and squeezes off a shot at the combat robot. The robot avoids Siu-Ling's shot as xZot grabs the nearest loaded weapon, his hand falling on Borovski's Sonic Disruptor. He swings the heavy weapon around toward the robot and sends a blast of sonic waves toward the damaged machine (31 points). Encouraged by this small success he fires the Disruptor again at the robot and is rewarded with the sight of a smoking combat robot toppling to the floor.
Seizing what little advantage there is, Siu-Ling darts forward the last few meters to close the gap between herself and the remaining pirate. Obstructed by the number of bodies in the corridor Siu-Ling is unable to land a blow on the pirate who fires a fourth shot from his stunner. The first shot misses but the following beam sends Siu-Ling to unconsciousness as xZot prays that there is enough charge left in the Disruptor to get off one more shot.
The young Yazirian commander fires at point blank range into the surprised pirates chest (46 points). Severely wounded, the pirate staggers back toward the door previously guarded by the robot. xZot tries to finish him off but now realizes the power supply for the Disruptor has been drained. As the weapon stutters in his hands the pirate presses his thumb to the contact recognition lock and quickly slips through the door and out of sight. xZot surveys the stunned warriors around him as he climbs to his feet and calls out for the Medics.
xZot stands up and dusts himself off as he awaits the arrival of a medic. Surveying the carnage xZot casts his mind back over recent events,
"Luckily Borovski and Siu-Ling haven't been stunned before and therefore a medic should be able to revive them immediately." he thinks as he awaits OMAC or Sni'ktl's arrival. After finishing First Aid on himself, OMAC moves forward to xZot's position and applies a Stimdose to the stunned characters. During this procedure he takes particular enjoyment in pulling Siu-Ling's pants down around her ankles and injecting her in one of her buttock cheeks.
"That's gotta hurt" he smiles to himself as the groggy female human comes to and he moves on to his next patient. After reviving Gloo and Borovski he attempts to help Sp'ock but the Security Chief having already been revived once today by Stimdose continues to sleep alongside Siu-Ling who's system is also already saturated with the stimulant. OMAC merely shrugs and turns to the rest of the gathering attack force
"Anyone need a hit of biocort?" When there is no immediate response he moves toward the nearest unconscious pirate and begins hog tying him. Seeing that OMAC is working on the forward casualties Sni'ktl finally takes pity on Bruce.
"I've been worried about the squelching noise coming from your leg as you've been following us along. Here this biocort should help." After giving first aid to Bruce, Sni'ktl tends to xZot with another dose of precious biocort. "Everyone who can be on their feet is so" reports
Sni'ktl. "Boro and Siu Ling can still benefit from first aid and I recommend they receive it if further combat is likely. Until we find more medical supplies there is little point using up biocort on the rest since they won't be feeling any pain at the moment."
Recognising that the last pirate needs to be subdued before the group can properly rest, xZot rallies the troops to finalize this assault, hopefully ending the battle. Sni'ktl returns to the storage room to search for more medical supplies while xZot and the forward team discuss military tactics. xZot and the remaining conscious troops try to coax the last pirate out, indicating that a continued battle is fruitless and will only lead to the remaining pirates demise but there is no response to the offer of surrender. Not willing to launch an attack in such a depleted state the young Yazirian hesitates, unsure how to proceed.
"Hey gang, check this out!" calls out Gloo from the corner of the corridor just south of the entangled pirate. The wounded Dralasite warrior has opened the door into what appears to be the Living Quarters of the Outpost personnel. There are four unmade bunks in this room.
There are numerous beverage cans and books scattered around on the floor. There are two chests of drawers against the north wall "Looks like there are only four of 'em all up so that must be the last of 'em in that room." he says, pointing toward the doorway now being covered by Borovski.
"OK let's get Crisbell and these other sleeping beauties into those bunks then" orders Bruce, still wobbling but on his feet and obviously still thinking clearly. xZot nods and smiles at his Executive Officer, glad for the help as he ponders their next move. "OMAC, when you have finished securing the prisoners go and supervise the wounded. Borovski you drag the prisoners down the dead end corridor near the garage and stand guard over them" continues Bruce "and keep an eye on the one in the Tangler threads, I don't want him jumping anyone when the threads dissolve. OK boss, how about we check out these other rooms?" Bruce asks xZot. His commander nods and turns to examine the lock on the door nearest the Radio Room while Bruce limps down the corridor to the southern door. Gloo and Borovski remain in the corridor covering the door where the last pirate is still holding out.
xZot has no luck bypassing the contact recognition lock on his door but Bruce merely pushes on the southern door and it swings open in front of him. This room contains a type 1 power generator and a small reactor which powers the generator itself.
Fifteen minutes later, GleepGlooup, Siu-Ling and Sp'ock all begin to awaken from their various states of unconsciousness in the bunks of the living quarters. OMAC looks at Siu-Ling and says
"Do you want to put your pants on if you want to keep fighting evil today?"
"Huh? What?" Siu-Ling mutters as light returns to her eyes. Realizing that she is clad with the bulk of her pant legs near her knees, she pulls the fabric up to hide her petite pubis as she gives OMAC a menacing glare. In the arcane language of humans, she pronounces the sounds that translate into,
"Never without my consent." OMAC only response is to rub his nipple Siu-Ling tweaked earlier and smile. Siu-Ling, GleepGlooup and Sp'ock report to xZot and learns of the sole pirate who has barricaded himself in the room behind the destroyed combat robot
"We could try smoking him out," Siu-Ling suggests. "Does anyone have a smoke grenade on them? Or maybe a doze grenade?"
GleepGlooup also tries his hand at the contact recognition lock but has no better luck than his commander, then the teams Chronocoms crackle to life once more as Sni'ktl announces he has completed an inventory of items in the storage room.
"Commander, we may have the answer to our immediate problem in here" the Vrusk reports excitedly as he begins to rattle off a list of equipment discovered amongst the boxes and crates.
As he listens to his Chief Medical Officer rattles off the items found in the storage room, the smile on xZot's face gets bigger and bigger.
"Well, I think a couple of those doze grenades would do the trick here." Turning to Borovski "You'll need another beltpack for that Disrupter as well. If you blast the door and kick it in again, Sp'ock could roll a grenade in while the rest of us will cover you. We probably don't need the whole door down to start with, just enough to get the grenade inside." xZot then opens the channel on his chronocom to Sni'ktl indicating to bring the required equipment back with him.
Gloo leans against the wall as he and Borovski keep an eye on whether the pirate will come out, or even show a little bit of himself for some target practice.
"Hey Borovski, bet you 100 credits that I can shoot him first" says Gloo with a wide Dral grin.
"Waking from the effects of the doze grenade is very restful. The pounding headache the dry throat the unexplained bruises. I would recommend this to any masochist I happen to meet." mutters Sp'ock as he recovers from his recent 'Stunner' experience as he takes stock of the current position.
"Always the grenades that interest them" mutters Sni'ktl as he rattles one of the doze grenades. The Vrusk moves quickly through the complex bringing the requested items to his commander. Giving two grenades to xZot along with the other equipment, Sni'ktl stores a couple of doze grenades and a can of solvaway in his bag. "I expect they'll be wanting these sometime". He distributes the remaining contents of the newly discovered medkit between himself and OMAC with left over materials stored in a kit on the robot. In the dark and no idea what is going on the Security Chief actually relaxes. "Things are moving along smoothly as usual." he continues to no-one in particular then flicks on his chronocom "I have a few things I would like to check. What chance of recharging this belt pack? Handy thing to have. I'll go along with any attempt to smoke out the remaining pirates."
Borovski swaps his Power Beltpack with his Security Chief, plugs in his Disruptor and fires once more at a door lock. Glancing at Gloo and Sp'ock to make sure they are ready, Borovski once again kicks at a door and the damaged lock gives way from the pre-fabricated door frame. For the second time inside an hour the Dralasite is shot with a sonic stunner by the same Star Devil and slumps to the floor of the corridor. Sp'ock lobs a doze grenade, handed to him by xZot, through the open doorway as Gloo squeezes off a shot from his sonic stunner at the silhouetted pirate. Gloo's shot misses and drives the man under cover where Sp'ock's' grenade sends him to dreamland and the room is secured.
As you step in the door you see a large table with a computer about the size of a large suitcase, a computer terminal, and a printing machine. Along the north wall are a file cabinet and several shelves with various books. Once the trapped pirate is taken care of, Gloo heads off to lie down on a bunk and rest for a little while and recover from being unconscious. Having cleared the computer room, the strike team moves to the last remaining locked door to try Borovski's 'key' again. Once again the door gives way after a blast from Borovski's Disruptor and a thrust of his pseudo foot.
As you enter this room you see in front of you a surgical table with lights, instruments trays, and other medical paraphernalia. Lying on the surgical table is the strangest creature you have ever yet seen on Volturnus. It has a human sized peanut shaped body covered with a hard shell, rather like a lobster. From the lower end of the body three shell encased limbs with three joints extend, ending in tentacles apparently useful for grasping. The centre of the creature's shell has been cracked, just above the large eye near the middle of the body. The creature is not moving.
In the northern half of the room you see several tables covered with laboratory apparatus, notebooks, and a computer terminal. There are a large number of rocks of various kinds on the work tables. The room also contains sanitary and washing facilities. After xZot has had time to briefly consider the groups next move he presents his thoughts for the others.
"With the whole complex cleared we can work on a couple of things including surgery for the wounded and rest all round. At the earliest opportunity we should use Telol on the pirates to establish the story with the radio, when calls are expected, call signs etc, any expected visits or outstanding pirates, as well as the location of the main pirate base and its details. This looks like a job for OMAC and Sni'ktl."
Turning his attention to the prisoners Sni'ktl notices the fine job of binding them into chairs that OMAC and Siu-Ling have already begun.
"OK we'll wait for them to come round says Sni'ktl. OMAC and Siu-Ling, that pirate in the tangler threads needs tying up. Use the solvaway from the store and you should be able to disarm and tie him as you go. Can you see that he is brought to join his comrades? He'll be the first one we work on I think."
OMAC and Siu-Ling set about stunning then stripping the entangled pirate of his SkienSuit, Sonic Screen, Laser Pistol, Belt Pack and Doze Grenade before they hog tie him. OMAC adds all this pirates equipment to his own growing pile of kit and discards his almost shredded Skiensuit immediately with they captured suit.
"Listen up everyone, can you have a think and give me a list of questions you want answers to? We might as well make sure we get the most useful information we can out of the jokers." Sni'ktl scratches the sand from his joints as he retires to see to the patients in the living quarters. Seeing that all is well, he spends five minutes in meditation to prepare his mind for the job ahead. Siu-Ling assists in the interrogation of pirates. She suggests that anyone being interrogated should be tied to a chair with their hands tied behind their backs.
"If necessary, I will break one or two fingers on the interviewee to express that we mean business or if civil methods to get the pirates to talk prove ineffective, I'll pour some kerosene on the bound human's lap, and ask, "OK, who's got that everflame?"
The first pirate, the one from the Radio Room, recovers consciousness in the familiar, yet impersonal, radio room, a faint smell of kerosene in the air. But the recent events and the strangers are not familiar. Sni'ktl notes his lascivious glance at Siu-Ling and pleased by the menacing response that quickly plays on the captive's endorphins. Human sex and fear responses are conveniently interlaced for the current circumstances. The prisoner notes another, male human, in new combat fatigues filling a hypo syringe. The serious natured aspect of OMAC is not a subject that confuses this prisoner. Another glance confirms for him that two other comrades are similarly captive. A flicker of hope there, only two.
"Your other friend is badly injured. We are doing our best for him" says Sni'ktl advancing with using subtle scritches and kriks to dramatic effect. "Good I have his attention on my eyes" thinks Sni'ktl as the pirate looks up. "Your main concern now is your own future. Things are changing on Volturnus and we're are very hopeful that none of the Star Devils will escape justice. This may be your last chance to cooperage with us. Of course we will be verifying the information you provide with Telol and some 'alternative therapies' and you will be shot if you are found to have withheld information or lie in any way.
"Then you might as well shoot me now" snarls the pirate. Sni'ktl uses his empathic and comprehension skills to judge the pirate's response and push for facts where he seems to withhold information. Before turning him over to Siu-Ling and OMAC's gentle ministrations Sni'ktl attempts hypnosis to regress the pirate and establish his full history and involvement with the Star Devils and in particular what the pirates are doing on Volturnus.
"You must be feeling weak and tired from your wounds. We will see to them soon. In the meantime you will feel better as you relax, as you are looking into my eyes you relax more and more, you recent worries and concerns are of no consequence... you are restful." Sni'ktl sways as he speaks and as the pirate relaxes he moves to control the mind of this being. "As I count down from ten to one..." After using these methods on all the prisoners it is agreed by all involved to use Telol to confirm all the information acquired by more primitive methods, so whilst all the pirates wilfully resist giving any information whatsoever the Telol quickly robs them of their resolve. Sni'ktl merely nods toward OMAC who injects the first subject with a dose of Telol.
"What's your name, scum bag" OMAC croaks as soon as the drug takes effect
"Joey "The Wrench" Wilson" the Radio Operator replies
"What happened to the previous party?" Sni'ktl continues
"What party? We haven't had no party." the drugged pirate replies
"The previous Survey Team from Truane's Star, what happened to them" Sni'ktl quickly resumes before the aggravated OMAC can strike the more than compliant pirate as he begins to confirm your suspicions.
"Oh yeah, we ambushed them. Sweet as can be" he smiles back at the Vrusk
"What are the pirates doing here"
"Being pirates of course!" he answers bluntly
"What is their motive?"
"Money of course" comes back the obvious answer before the subject passes out due to the powerful effects of the Telol. OMAC refills his spray hypo as Siu-Ling brings in the second prisoner for questioning. This is the first pirate knocked unconscious by OMAC's rebounding grenade maneuver.
"What is your name" OMAC demands after injecting the subject immediately upon sitting him down
"What medical experiments have they been doing on people?" Sni'ktl again resumes control of the interview
"We haven't been experimenting on people." he immediately denies
"OK what experiments have you been doing on the creature in your laboratory" sighs the Vrusk
"Experimental Brain surgery"
"When is the next communication or visit from their buddies expected?"
"We contact the other base everyday by radio"
"And when do you get visits?" Sni'ktl prompts again, realising that whilst Telol makes the job easier, sometimes subjects will show incredible attempts to resist, though ultimately futile against an experienced interviewing officer
"We haven't had a visits yet" gasps Kurt before he too collapses from the effects of Telol
"OK Siu-Ling, bring in the one from the Computer Room" Sni'ktl asks as OMAC checks the rope restraints on the two sleeping prisoners. Siu-Ling brings in the third bound captive and OMAC delivers his third shot of Telol and asks the pirate
"What is your name"
"Willy "Whiz Kid" Malone" he answers
"When calls are expected, do you have call signs?"
"Any expected visits?"
"The location of the main pirate base"
"The exact location is on the map in the computer" he grunts before he too falls unconscious. Siu-Ling brings in the last of the prisoners, OMAC uses another shot of Telol and asks his standard first question before Sni'ktl once again finishes the interview
"What is your name"
"Wally "Red Eye" Jones"
"Where will help come from?"
"Slave City One"
"And in which case the direction?"
"From the North-East"
"How far away is this help?"
"How long will it take by jetcopter?"
"One hour at top speed" Is the last answer from the pirate as the last of them falls unconscious.
"Who else is hungry?" asks Siu-Ling once the area is secured, heading off toward the Common Room with a box of dried fruit under her arm.
"Anything is better than survival rations with extra sand!" She urges everyone to congregate in the common room and eat while the team discusses their objectives. "I'm all for fixing that jetcopter if we have the right tools and know-how."
When no one else shows any interest in the items, Siu-Ling pockets the dice and cards. She also searches the installation again for any grenades, detonators, explosives, weapons, or other useful things. Looking around to make sure no explosive traps have been set.
"Is there any way that a detonator could be rigged?" Siu-Ling asks the Technical types after examining the cache of Tornadium uncovered in the storage room and adding two of the 50 gram charges to her own equipment and leaving her spear in the storage room.
"xZot" I am pleased to report that you, Siu-Ling, Borovski and myself are fit for active duty. Sp'ock and GleepGlooup will recover within a week on light duties. First aid and rest will see, Gloo, OMAC, Bruce and Crisbel more active."
After assessing Sni'ktl's evaluation of the wounded, xZot, whilst acknowledging that it would do everyone good to have a long rest, reminds his chief medical officer of the need to contact the evacuation ship
"Unfortunately, it seems that the radio in this outpost is only capable of local transmission. Therefore, there must be another pirate controlled facility with the sub-space radio somewhere close by and we still need to find it. If we don't get to a radio and contact the Evac ship in time, we could be stuck here for who knows how long. I don't know about you, but that thought doesn't appeal to me. They didn't race back to retrieve Siu-Ling and the others last time did they? I think we should all be ready to move out as soon as you get everyone patched up and mobile. There is simply no time to waste."
"Fine" thinks Sni'ktl. "We'll just patch 'em up and throw 'em at the next bunch of pirates we see."
"I'm afraid old chap" chirps up Bruce "that I'm going to insist on some form of surgery Sni'ktl. It looks like we are going to need to access the computer to get this 'Slave City One's' co-ordinates, and I know I'm gonna work a whole lot better at the keyboard without my blood pouring all over it!" The human X-O smiles through the pain of his injuries "Unless of course, you have some skills I'm not aware of?"
Sni'ktl groans at the nod from xZot as he heads off to examine the contents of the surgery. He is pleased to survey the surgery facilities at the outpost and quickly searches the lab and surgery for any more biocort as well as any clues about the experiments the Pirates have been performing.
"We also need to work on repairing the radio and jetcopter." xZot continues with his duty roster "I think GleepGlooup and myself should work together to repair these "two heads better than one and all that" he says, turning quickly he catches Gleep "and stop with that other head trick! Dral humour! Hmmm. I think we should try to reprogram the combat robot that we disabled outside. Get it operational again but only to recognise us and no others. Also some repairs on the fence will be necessary to re-secure the compound and re-establish the a security cordon. Some work on the computers will be necessary as well I would imagine. Maybe Bruce and Sp'ock can work on this?"
"I would like to attempt to reprogram the Mark4 robot. A simple change of it's recognition protocols should just about be outside my skill, but what hey." answers Sp'ock. Prophetically enough, later that day Sp'ock reports that after successfully removing the security lock he was able to list the robots functions. The patrolling robot's mission is to guard the complex and repel all intruders. Guard the complex is defined as a continuous cycle of two clockwise patrols of the exterior of the complex, followed by two patrols of the interior corridors. Repel is defined as sounding an alarm by intercom (if inside the building) and then shooting to kill. Intruders are defined as anyone without a visible Star Devils tattoo or insignia. He was then able to change the definition of intruders to that of anyone WITH a visible Star Devils tattoo or insignia but he was unable to make any further changes to the robots mission.
"I think to take advantage of an opportunity to recharge our depleted clips and belts, someone will need to familiarise themselves with what's involved. Maybe Borovski or Gloo?" continues xZot
"If we don't have a subspace radio here, then we need to go somewhere that does." Gloo answers "I think also that while we are here we are blind so my suggestion is to move out as soon as possible. I agree that we need to find a way to recharge clips and packs. We also need to use whatever equipment we find to get us all back in good condition for any ongoing trials. I would like some of the equipment that we found if no one objects." pipes up Gloo as he hands Quartermaster Borovski his wish list. "2 frag grenades, 2 doze grenades, 1 length of 15m rope, sungoggles, an All-weather blanket and solvaway" mutters Borovski as he reads the list. xZot leaves the team to their various duties and heads out to the garage.
"Whoa, a jetcopter. I've always wanted one of these!" xZot casts his eyes over the partly disassembled jetcopter quickly identifying that all the parts seem to be present and therefore it is basically just a matter of re-assembling it. "When these things get going they can really move! If we can get this thing operational we'll be able to move around a little more efficiently. It'll only hold four passengers but at the speed this thing'll go, we can move everyone in a couple of trips and it'll still be quicker. We should be able to quickly go back and collect Raid and the others at the Arch, now that we are mobile again there is no point leaving anyone behind if we can help it. If nothing else it'll be way more fun!" xZot mutters away to himself as he picks through the pieces of the jetcopter trying to work out the mechanical jigsaw.
Siu-Ling, having followed her leader into the garage and in a fit of inspiration, slips into a Kurabanda flashback and assumes the distinctively arboreal stance as she crouches down, perching on the roof of the jetcopter. She inspects the propeller of the vessel, then its rocket engine, and reports/describes its condition as well as she can to the techies down below. She then jumps down and lands on her feet first, absorbing the rest of the impact with her hands, just as she observed her Kurabanda friends back in the bachanda forest days ago.
"Well, now that the installation is secure, why not bring Nounouche in here and see if he can sniff out some food?" she suggests, her smooth and trim tummy grumbling at the thought of a warm meal.
"Excellent" Sni'ktl exclaims when he uncovers another cache of 20 biocort, keeping 10 for his own Medkit and giving the other 10 to OMAC. After studying the notebooks for 15 minutes, Sni'ktl learns that the pirates appear to have found good deposits of vibrillium and tomarium, precious rare minerals, somewhere on Volturnus. The creature is an Edestekai who died while undergoing experimental brain surgery.
It is here that he administers to his patients during the day. Sni'ktl is proud that no one has died in his charge yet. Despite the brave faces and the macho bravado, Sni'ktl knows these people are hurting. As Gloo baits Borovski, Sni'ktl noted the telltale signs of fatigue. Only two psuedopods functioning, the others that the Dralasite has manifested at the moment are clearly for show. Still the spunky Dralasite was thinking clearly, he has provided the most useful input so far about the information to be extracted from the prisoners. He sets to work, performing minor surgery on Bruce, the results being quite satisfactory and allowing Bruce to get to work on the Computer later that day, relatively pain free. (20 points back for Bruce)
But Sni'ktl knows that they also hurt inside. Siu-Ling seems to be grasping at any model of behaviour to maintain her ego boundary. Still she is is very fine shape physically Sni'ktl notes as she athletically dismounts form the jet copter. Noting a sharp flick of flaps and a glint of glee in the eyes as xZot stands over the jetcopter Sni'ktl realises that this body language says a bit more about the teams ETD. With all those bits to the jigsaw it doesn't look like we'll be moving out at first light. Sni'ktl tends to his patients and duties as planned, knowing that there will be time to consider further use of biocort the following day. He recalls a tip from his field medic training manual, Surgery saves lives, but first aid a little and often saves more per medkit.
Sni'ktl joins the team in the common room. "It's looking good boss" he addresses the young leader. "How's it gone with the radio? Are we gettin off this rock soon?" he asks.
"Well I've got the Radiophone back online and ready to transmit boss" reports GleepGlooup "It's up to you how you want to proceed. The log books indicate pretty regular transmissions as you saw"
At an opportune time xZot corners Gloo
"Have you have a chance to look at the reactor equipment? Do you think you'll be able to work out how to recharge the depleted beltpacks? This will be pretty important if it can be done, so utilise anyone else if you need assistance. I think we are going to need all the ammo we can get our hands on. We are bound to encounter more pirates and I don't want people running out of ammo at the wrong time" xZot mind drifts back to the earlier incident when the last pirate skulked away after staring down what would have been certain death.
"It took a bit of figuring out but it's done," the Dralasite reports to xZot "I've recharged all the Beltpacks we have between us, but there's nothing I can do about depleted clips except confirm how much juice you have left in them. We don't have a lot of time at present."
"So how long exactly do we have until the window closes on calling for help?" asks Sni'ktl.
"We need to get a message to Truane's Star by the day after tomorrow Sni'ktl" answers Bruce. "Looks like there is quite a bit of fresh food, well at least not survival rations anyway" he continues as he dumps several tins and packages of concentrate on the table. Might as well hook in, looks like another big day tomorrow. xZot manages to complete the repairs on the Jetcopter before he drags himself off to join the exhausted members of his team in a deep slumber.
Frontier Date 63.015Pf +85
The next morning Sni'ktl orders almost everyone who will listen to stay in bed as he does his rounds. As soon as he can get effective results from the Biocort he administers First Aid on OMAC, Gloo, Bruce and Crisbel. OMAC elects to perform Minor Surgery on GleepGlooup in order to bring Gleep up to at least 'walking wounded' status. After a successful operation on Gleep, OMAC also treats Siu-Ling with First Aid as well as treating the relatively healthy Borovski bringing much of the team to almost acceptable levels of combat readiness despite Sni'ktl's continuing concerns.
After a relatively unsuccessful first attempt at extracting data from the computers, Bruce sets to work again the following morning. Soon after xZot completes his first test take off in the Jetcopter, through the roof of the garage Bruce appears waving the newly printed documents he has managed to dig up from the computers databanks.
The pirates have discovered rich deposits of vibrillium and tomarillium in the hills of Volturnus. They have discovered an intelligent race, the Edestekai, living in the hills and have taken advantage of their religious beliefs to enslave them. They accomplish this by capturing priests, planting radio receivers in their brains, and convincing them that the voices they then hear are the voices of the gods. Of course, the voices are the pirates, telling them, that they must serve and obey the Star Devil and his men.
The computer also contains information on the fate of the original expedition to Volturnus. Their ship was hijacked by the space pirates, and all passengers aboard were killed or enslaved, except for Lt. Col. Jameson and Grod, the Dralasite. They escaped and lived for a time with the Kurabanda. They were captured by pirates during a raid on the Kurabanda village, and are currently held prisoner at the pirate mining town in the hills. The computer contains a map and instructions for reaching the mining town.
Soon after reviewing this new information, xZot takes off alone in the Jetcopter to rescue the Black Hand Gang team members left behind weeks earlier in the desert. After days of wandering around in the blistering heat, xZot relishes the chance to fly across the wasteland taking his time under rotor power h resists the temptation to kick in the Jets of the still unfamiliar vehicle.
"It's a good thing I spent as much time in the simulators as I did" he repeats to himself for about the fiftieth time when he realizes that he has reached Crisbel's Arch. After circling the feature for several minutes and seeing no sign of life he decides to land about one hundred meters away from the stone arch and search the area from the ground for his friends. Soon after his first successful, if somewhat bumpy, desert landing he is surprised to see not four, but five humanoid forms appear from the shelter of the stone archway. He blinks again as he stares hard at the new figure obviously befriended by his old comrades but before he can say anything or ask any questions Raid steps forward.
"Hi xZot. I'm glad to see you are still alive. Where are the others?" xZot quickly fills the desert dwellers in on the location of the rest of their team the turns to the newcomer
"So what is it about this planet that we keep finding women stranded in it's desert? OK you can fill me in on your story later. I can't fit all of us in for one trip so let me take Raid, Jag and McKilin back first and I'll come back for Con and you" On that abrupt note he bundles the three passengers into the Jetcopter and takes off back to the Outpost all the way calculating distances and times trying to work out the next stage of their plan. On the journey back to the Outpost Raid climbs into the front seat beside xZot for a quiet chat.
"I wanted to apologize for the silence and inattentiveness that I've shown at times after our arrival here on Volturnus." Raid turns his gaze away from the others and out across the desert floor as it slips away beneath them. "I've been struggling with some...um...personal issues. While recovering from that Quickdeath battle, darn thing nearly killed me, I had a lot of time to think things over. You may notice a difference in me, but I promise to be a valuable member of the team again."
xZot doesn't say much in reply, preferring to await Sni'ktl's psychological evaluation after re-integrating their old friends back into the squad. Soon after xZot skillfully lands the Jetcopter outside the Outpost perimeter, noticing that Siu-Ling and Borovski have brought their mounts inside the perimeter now and are in fact lounging in the Volturnus sun in improvised hammocks strung outside the Outpost. xZot orders all his passengers out and to report to Sni'ktl in sick bay for a medical examination while he returns to pick up Con and the mystery new guest and find out her story.
Later that evening after dinner Raid brings up the subject of his holoscreen.
"If I ever manage to get off this planet alive, I'll have to repay the loan for that thing." He points at the screen unit. "I don't mean to sound demoralizing, but some of you may not live to fulfil your IOU. It would be easier if I reclaimed it. That way, if I lose or break it myself, no one else could be blamed."
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