"My aren't you just the cutest little man ", coos X'anthe, running her fingers through xZot's fur as she climbs aboard the jetcopter. "What's your name sweetness?"
"That's the commander, xZot" interjects Con before xZot has a chance to reply, removing the female humans hand, from the young yazirian's shoulder. "Capital Zeeee, small eX, and don't you forget it!" grunts the large human.
"Really! How wonderful. I am soo pleased to meet you", the woman responds, then snapping to attention "Science Officer X'anthe of the Truane's Star Department of Natural Resources, reporting." X'anthe thinks to herself, "If everybody else thinks he's the boss, who am I to argue? I'd put out for the unnamed one himself to get off this damned rock." then continues aloud
"So do I report direct to you, or go through Chief Science Officer Raid?"
"You report," interjects Anderson again "to the X-O Mr Mawson, I'll introduce you when we land." Con then sits himself in the jetcopter between X'anthe and his commander. The jetcopter lifts off under xZot's guidance and quickly reunites the Black Hand Gang and their fellow castaway explorers.
"Hey Gloo, you owe me 100 credits, fancy having a free shot, uninterrupted and still missin', hang on, I've a side of a barn here in my back pocket, lets pull it out and see if you can hit it?" Aware that the last pirate dropped his stunner in the computer room and is yet to be relieved of his albedo suit, Boro removes the armour from the prisoner and suggests that perhaps Bruce or Con take possession of it. Bruce nods at Borovski's suggestion.
"Let Con have the albedo suit, I think it's more useful to him for now."
After retrieving the sonic stunner and clips Borovski thinks to himself
"Time to get some Beam weapons practice in, might go shoot some tin cans off the perimeter fence for a bit of fun". Come to think of it, better grab Gloo, get that money and engage in some training exercises, bound to improve his accuracy, I hope. I must remember to check with xZot about the loot, he thinks, as he squeezes off his last practice rounds."
Inside the compound over in the Laboratory, Siu-Ling approaches the body of the poor creature, and takes pity on its flaccid frame.
"Is it dead?" she asks Sni'ktl as she probes the chitinous corpse, and then she grabs her pistol from its makeshift holster, just in case it is alive and aggressive.
"It's OK Siu-Ling. It is dead and if it were alive it would probably be as scared of you. It's clearly an intelligent species and I hate to think what the pirates have done to it. Now I know your peaceful inner child would prefer to be absent for the next bit."
"Thanks, Sni'ktl," Siu-Ling says to the vrusk as the tension fades from her brow. "I had a dream that I was raped by Kurabanda zombies last night, so thoughts of things jumping out from shallow graves, or operating tables, for that matter, are making me a little edgy. Hey, and you know what? You've been really cool to me since I joined up with you brothers, and if there's anything I can blow up on your behalf, you can count on your lil' sis." The human demolitionist gives her partner a wink and leaves the room, the sound of vrusk digits prodding into an Edestekai corpse.
In need of a bath, both Siu-Ling and Nounouche eat their portions of the rations found in the storage room. After a complete count, the team had uncovered considerable foodstuffs, much of it relatively fresh, enough for 4 men for 3 months. Siu-Ling wanders off in search of running water. A quick search of the immediate area reveals that she will either have make a 2 or 3 kilometer ride to the nearest lake edge or rely on the potable water from the outpost storage dump. Siu-Ling opts to hold out on the bath, then looks for an adequately large container that can serve as a water bowl to quench the jackal-horse's thirst, and accepts responsibility for keeping it filled.
"There must be a shower facility somewhere nearby." Siu-Ling muses then begins searching the storage room again and sure enough, uncovers a portable camp shower, obviously unused by the pirates as it is still in it's shrink wrapping. Then using Nounouche as a guard so that no one, not even OMAC, sees her bare hiney. Siu-Ling sets up the camp shower, outside in the passage between the Surgery and the Computer Room. After that, she tries to give the Tomar's Horse a shower, but it is obviously not interested in bathing, just drinking then eating, wolfing down the offered foodstuffs Siu-Ling has salvaged from the storage room.
While xZot is busy ferrying people to the outpost, Sni'ktl amuses the team with his impression of their leader. Using polythene for wing flaps he ruffles and unruffles as xZot often does when excited and then stands with a hand hovering over his laser pistol. "Grub's up" he finishes using one of xZot's favorite expressions. Sni'ktl's impersonations remain a little rugged and he is sure that Crisbel was somewhat offended at his Yazirian depiction. He spends a little time over the next two days trying to perfect his interracial charicatures. On xZot's return to pickup Con and the new female he finally gets a close look at this new companion.
"Wow that has got to be the ugliest, blackest human I've ever seen." Mumbles Bruce when he sees X'anthe step down from the Jetcopter.
"That's the X-O, Mr Mawson" Con informs X'anthe, pointing toward Bruce. When X'anthe arrives with xZot, Siu-Ling gives her an indifferent nod, and welcomes her to the group with a catty sarcasm. Siu-Ling has grown accustomed to being the only female in the group, and now feels threatened by the competition for masculine attention.
"Jees I'd forgotten how ugly she was."
Sni'ktl studies his returning colleagues and X'anthe and their interactions with the rest of the team. Asking a few questions during examinations he soon develops a picture of their physical and mental health. During his examinations, Sni'ktl administers further First Aid to OMAC. As the medic recovers, Sni'ktl provides OMAC with three doses of Biocort for Crisbel, Gloo and Sp'ock before pronouncing the whole team fit for duty.
As Crisbel wakes from unconsciousness, he is drawn away from the white light after an out of body experience. Crisbel rose above during his unconsciousness spell and saw the conflict. Feeling very proud of his team he sighs,
"Well done you guys, you've got what it takes to take on anything and anyone." Crisbel moans while re-adjusting his sling, "What I'm alive, who saved me?." Crisbel turns to Sni'ktl, "Hey thanks Sniktel, for operating on me, I owe you one, before you know it I'll be back out the front as Scout."
"Sni'ktl not Sniktel" the Vrusk Medical Officer mutters to himself, overhearing the comment Siu-Ling prods Crisbel's bruised ego still further "Want me to shoot 'im for you?" Siu-Ling laughs
"Oh fair go, Siu Ling! Shoot a creature while he's down. What is this, gang up on Crisbel week? In case you have forgotten I'm injured, where's my sympathy?"
"I was just messing around, poking fun at my own nitpickiness more than anything else" apologizes the slim human female.
"Glad to have you back friend" says Sni'ktl as he ministers to Crisbel's needs. Recalling the Yazirian's pleasures displayed in the caves, Sni'ktl provides the party's erstwhile scout with 10g of the dried mushrooms to make his recovery time less boring. "Hey if you're really interested in the scouting business, I could show you some of tricks I learnt off of Raid. On the other hand I can't think of anyone I'd rather have watching my back, which you obviously can't do from the front. So if you're interested in sticking close with me all I can say is look at this huge sack of 'shrooms I'm toting around."
"So Sorry Schnit'zel, I mean Sni'ktl for the mispronunciation of your name, forgot this mission was a spelling test!" the Yazirian smiles "Thanks for your support Sni'ktl, those Mushrooms are really taking the pain away, Ha Ha Ha Ha' Crisbel giggles. "Seeming I've been replaced up the front by RAID, my MAAAATE, I wouldn't mind sticking around you, down the back. Oh, but Sni'k it's not just for the mushrooms, even though they make me feeeeeel sooooo good!"
": Preliminary assessment of the returned members of our party is mixed. All are in good physical health. Raid seems to have recovered his burning desire to survive and has recovered from the malaise of disinterest and recklessness following the worm attack. Con, Jag and McKilin on the other hand seem to have lapsed into a similar state of passivity as occasionally afflicts our second in command, "Data". For example, McKilin had made little effort to investigate the Ul-Mor appendages despite the generous payment I offered him for this service. The rest of the team are in fine shape partaking in their usual displays of machismo and bravado. I just hope no one goes outside the fence while Gloo and Boro are working off their competitiveness on targets, even practice rounds pack a bit of a sting. Prognosis - Data, Con, Jag and McKilin, while capable of following orders, should not be relied on in situations requiring initiative. This calls into question Data's ability to remain as second in command. By contrast X'anthe seems to be full of vigor and enthusiasm and will doubtless provide much needed female companionship for Siu-Ling."
End Medical Log
"Good to have you back Raid". Sni'ktl imitates the human inflections he has learnt that signify more is being said. He fails to read whether Raid took this to include his return to full metal health. "And good to see you have a new assistant. I must say, I haven't had much time to put what you taught me into practice, so I guess this will be more use to you two than me." Sni'ktl returns the envirokit he had borrowed, knowing that it will be put to more active use. Raid accepts the envirokit from Sni'ktl and then goes over to examine the newly acquired maps gleaned from the pirate base computer.
"I'm just checking out the geological lay of the land around the mining operation. With the computer I might be able to derive a three dimensional topographic map showing the best approach and escape routes." He sits at the terminal and fiddles with the data. "It's worth a try."
"How do you want all this recently acquired stuff split up?" asks Borovski of his commander as he goes through the teams inventory taking personal possession of the 2 Incendiary grenades, 3 frag grenades, a doze grenade and 2 SEU clips to power his Disruptor. With 18 powerclips remaining, Boro starts to distribute them, 1 each to every individual in the party with the balance kept in storage for now.
After dinner and Raids' request to recover his Holoscreen. X'anthe approaches Borovski
"So I hear you're the guy I see to obtain some gear. What have you got in the way of rechargeable weaponry and how do you use it? Can I also get some scalpels, maybe 4 or 5, 10 would be better? Oh by the way if there is anything you want me to tote just let me know I'll be more than happy to help in any way I can."
Sni'ktl cleans the gore from his gloves having completed the dissection of the Edestekai. He hopes he has learnt enough about this alien physiology to be able to help these poor creatures should the need arise. Boro and X'anthe enter the room asking after scalpels. Sni'ktl shows them his laser and sonic scalpels. Noting X'anthe's look of disappointment, Sni'ktl jumps, as usual, to the wrong conclusion "Sorry X'anthe they aren't as good as the old technology for manicures".
After finishing his First Aid rounds on Crisbel, Gloo, and Sp'ock OMAC reports back to Sni'ktl
"Ya know Doc, it wouldn't hurt us to try a little Minor Surgery on some of these guys, they are still pretty battered a couple of 'em. We still have few Biocort left and more fighting to come." The human medic continues, "I realize that you have been busy with your research" OMAC jerks his head toward the dissected Edestekai body "but I don't wanna see any of our guys end up like that!"
Sni'ktl reports to xZot on the fitness of the team and regarding his concerns about the lack of drive and enthusiasm shown by some. In particular he is concerned about Bruce's ability to function as second in command.
"Perhaps you could suggest another role for Bruce that would channel his energy more fully and then he might agree that someone else could take the burden of command from him. I think we should be collecting all the Star Devil uniforms we can and whoever fits them should be wearing them when we head out of here. At least that gives us a chance to bluff that we are a patrol returning with prisoners if the need arises."
"Look what the 'bot and me caught boss." Sni'ktl gives a close impression of Willy "Whizz Kid" Malone and shows how a bit of make up could help some of the team carry off the pirate look effectively. "Oh another thought. Maybe we should get word to the Kurabanda before we go. I'm sure they'd love to salvage this place for trinkets and building materials. That way we make sure the pirates have a harder time re-establishing anything here."
Raid likes the idea of dressing up in the Star Devil clothing and looks for the nearest fit for his size and build. There not being anything resembling a uniform he settles for a set of stained mechanics overalls he finds in the garage. Although somewhat grubby, they are by far and away more serviceable than the well-worn coveralls he has been wearing since landing on Volturnus almost three months earlier.
"Anyone see any helmets lying around near the jetcopter? They would really help disguise our facial features." Raid attempts to piece together a Star Devil uniform along with a helmet, if one can be found, but after examining the various outfits the four pirate prisoners are wearing he comes to the realization that they have no uniform. The only distinguishing mark they have is the same Star Devil tattoo and a small patch replicating the tattoo sewn roughly onto their shirt or vest for obvious identification by the security robots. Much to his chagrin, Raid has no luck finding a helmet of any kind. Obviously these pirates don't hold workplace health and safety regulations in very high regard.
Frontier Date 63.014Pf +86
After completing his morning rounds checking on his group's status xZot reminds everyone that it would not be wise to don the pirate outfits just at the moment
"Sp'ock only just finished reprogramming the perimeter robot to recognize that Star Devil logo as the enemy and to shoot on sight. I suggest that we distribute the clothing around but not wear them until we leave the base. And that reminds me, didn't we collect some other star devil badges earlier? Maybe we can fashion uniforms for those that don't have them and just put a badge in the same spot. Maybe no-one will notice the difference at a quick glance."
"Won't that get us shot by the robot?" Siu-Ling asks quizzically. "I mean, if we just reprogrammed it to shoot anything in a Star Devil uniform, won't that be like putting a dart board over our chests or pseudotorsos and saying, 'have at it, circuit guts!'?"
"This is exactly my concern Siu-Ling. I am suggesting that no-one puts on a pirate uniform until after we have left the outpost." xZot confirms. "Also, I would have liked to bring the robot with us to guard the jetcopter but, with it programmed the way it is, we might find that it turns on us again if it identifies us as Pirates. Considering that we are about to launch an assault against the main base we will have our hands full as it is without getting shot in the ass by the robot!"
Overhearing the debate on robot programming Sni'ktl can't help speaking out of turn.
"It sounds simple to me. The programming recognizes Star Devils and I bet that's to do with the patch they all wear. We can run some trials maybe with the prisoners to verify that. Anyway, if I'm right, a spot of velcro for our uniforms and a bit of delayed timer programming for the bot should see us clear from being shot."
"Maybe if Bruce or Sp'ock had enough time, they could reprogram it from scratch, or at least make enough of a modification so that it would have less ambiguous directives," the human argues. "Aw, heck, what am I saying? I'm just the demolitionist/sharpshooter. I'm the last person you should be listening to about robots. Don't mind me."
"Hey, Sni'ktl this is just an idea like but maybe we could find some rocks or berries we could make paint from so you could give us all temporary tattoos so we pass a closer inspection?" Says X'anthe "You being our expert on disguise and all."
Sni'ktl uses his environmental and disguise skills to asses the human's suggestion.
"It's a good idea X'anthe, but I don't think we have the best resources on hand to do that. We could maybe use these biro's or we could try the old fashioned way." Sni'ktl indicates the point of some surgical lances he has found in the lab. "I think OMAC has more experience than me with tat's although you might not like where he suggests putting them." Sni'ktl employs his disguise skill to assist people in looking somewhat like pirates although this requires little more than removing whatever official insignia is still remaining on the tattered skiensuits or coveralls worn by the battered rescue team.
"The pirates must have a change of uniform each for when their others are in the wash, or do they really smell that bad?" Sni'ktl wonders aloud then a gust of breeze from Con's direction reminds his olfactory organs that the Black Hand Gang is more than a little pungent as well. Sni'ktl retires to the bunkroom for some more meditation although he finds his mind troubled with the uncertainty of what they must do next. Unable to settle into his usual tranquil space he searches the room for any spare Star Devil uniforms, patches, material or sewing equipment but to no avail.
Realizing that the main pirate base would be expecting the daily call from the outpost xZot reviews the transmission log looking for any clues as to call signs or the format that the daily transmission takes. When satisfied that there is nothing else to be learned from the log xZot seeks out Sni'ktl to see if he thinks he could mimic Joey "The Wrench" Wilson's voice for the purpose of making the call.
"Maybe you can put some of the Dramatic skills you have been working on to use here?" xZot asks the budding Vruskan thespian. "We need to assure the pirates at the main base that nothing is any different than previous days. I assume that the recent problems with the radio were only short lived. It is possible that the main base may have been aware of these problems. If so, we should be able to use this to our advantage to explain why the call isn't on schedule and maybe even why the voices are slightly different."
"It might be better for Sni'ktl to initiate that dialogue by saying something like: 'What? I can barely hear you. You sound like a Dralasite in heat,' just to give it additional legitimacy," Siu-Ling suggests.
"I'd be happy to give it a go, although I think I would have a better chance of hypnotizing Wilson or one of his mates. I'd like to try that first" replies Sni'ktl. Sni'ktl mesmerizes 'The Wrench' for a second time and the radio ruse appears to go off without a hitch. The pirate at the other end of the radiophone finishing the conversation before it even really started with
"Get that damn radio fixed and report in every bloody day, you idiots. You know how the boss gets when we don't follow procedure!" before abruptly hanging up at his end.
"Time is running out for us and we can't afford to lounge around here. There are places to go and pirates to kill before we can get off this planet!" xZot reminds everyone. "Maybe we should dose one of the pirates with telol again to get some more details about the Main base? We know where it is based on the maps extracted from the computers and we have a method of transport but it will take a few trips to shuttle everyone to a position where we can mount the assault from. Any information about the base will help assess the best direction to approach from. Is there anything else in the Computers about the main base, Bruce?"
Bruce and Raid return to the Computer Room with xZot for a more detailed examination of the Hardware and it's contents
"OK, Standard Mark III Box with the following programs, Computer Security, Installation Security and Information Storage, all Version 3. Life Support Version 1 and Analysis Version 5" he whistles finally at the last one "Yep, those are all the programs and there's no more data except what I found first time around"
xZot returns to the Common Room and casts a glance over the equipment report provided by Borovski
"The holoscreen is a bit of a problem. Just at the moment, I'm not concerned with value of the screen as long as whoever has it puts it to good use, to the benefit of the whole group. I appreciate that Raid wants it back, but in doing that he will have to take back the role of Scout from Crisbel as well. I don't think Crisbel will be very happy with the change, he's gotten a bit attached to the holoscreen even though it has brought him closer to death than he would care to admit. Since he isn't fully healed maybe Crisbel will be happy to drop back from being out in front. As for the rest of the equipment, most of us are already totally loaded up, so the only ones that can carry additional equipment look to be the likes of Gloo, Con Anderson and Jag. I think you should divide up everything the rest of us can't carry and distribute it around those that still have some capacity."
"I feel ready to resume duties as scout," Raid stands straight and faces the Yazirian, trying to radiate confidence, "and my stealth skills are a bonus while using the holoscreen, but I won't dispute your leadership decisions xZot. The group and our mission come first. Put me where you need me."
xZot looks at his own equipment stored in the corner of the room noting that the weight of his Tech kit is his biggest problem
"Con Anderson, you are travelling pretty light at the moment, can you carry my Tech kit for me? I don't think it's weight will cause you the problems with mobility that it causes me."
"Not a problem sir" the huge human says as he hooks his commanders' Tech kit onto the top of his own pack.
xZot explains to Crisbel the recent decision he made regarding Raid and the Holoscreen. Crisbel feels empty, as he hands over the Holoscreen to Raid reluctantly.
"There you go Raid, here's the Holoscreen, have my position as scout. Gees you sure know how to kick a Creature in the guts when he's down, enjoy it while you've got it, MATE! 'Cause I'll be back soon, back to claim my role."
Raid avoids Crisbel's gaze while re-familiarizing himself with the Holoscreen controls and power supply. Hopefully, he thinks, attitudes will improve once everyone is back in the heat of action working together.
"I'm probably doing him a favour. Being point man isn't the safest position. You don't take this job without accepting the risks."
OMAC, observes the exchange but makes no comment as he smiles smugly to himself.
As xZot does the rounds checking in on the preparation of his troops for the next encounter, he makes a few suggestions
"Siu-Ling you still have a few spare laser pistols that you are toting around with you there. I think you should check with X'anthe and Con Anderson as I don't think they have a pistol of any sort. If that is that case, can you give them a pistol each? We have plenty of clips at the moment so they should go to Borovski and get a couple of those each as well."
"Will do," she answers. "Aye, boss," she says as she's walking away. Sometime later X'anthe chats with Siu-ling
"I was wondering if you could lend me one of them laser pistols and if you'd be interested in joining me for some practice in martial arts, it's been a while since I had a sparring partner?" Approaching X'anthe, Siu-Ling circles her like a sand shark and stops right in front of her, looking deep into her eyes and bending forward a little while inhaling her scent.
"Sniff, sniff," she sniffs, as she loosens the strap on one of the holsters and puts the laser pistol in the female's hand. "Don't let 'er get away from you," she warns the human "With what school are you familiar?" she asks X'anthe. "Krak-fu? Jew-dough? Samuri-kai?"
"I am familiar with the Krak-Fu school" replies X'anthe. "Shall we dance?"
"Let's then!" agrees Siu-Ling, bowing and entering a megasaurus (cat) stance. "Kya!"
Siu-Ling concentrates on improving her offensive strategies, but not attempting to harm X'anthe. The pair face off and begin sparring, Sp'ock moving quietly to observe the two human females as the tempo quickens. Siu-Ling manages to gain a minor advantage early and follows up by pressing her attacks, X'anthe weathers the flurry of blows, maneuvering Siu-Ling around and into the sun before counter attacking suddenly. Siu-Ling quickly shifts to a more defensive mode of combat, fending off the more serious attacks. Ten minutes later both combatants have enjoyed a lively work out but neither has gained a clear advantage. Sp'ock clicks at both of the human females in rather derogatory terms for the next ten minutes, giving them both a huge chewing out for acting like a pair of teenagers. The Vrusk Martial Arts specialist then launches himself at both women at once, quickly dropping X'anthe with a Krak-fu nerve pinch and pinning Siu-Ling after a classic Jew-dough throw. After a decent workout X'anthe and Siu-ling set of to find Boro to requisition some clips agreeing to keep the incident to themselves, for now at least
"How many do you think we'll need, Siu-Ling?"
"With these brothers," she answers, "you kind of have to push your weight or they leave you with a half used clip and a fistful of pebbles. But don't worry, they're efficient as a Vrusk in heat." She whispers the last part, not wanting to offend the nearby Sp'ock, whose demeanor has already been sharpened by the workout.
When informing Borovski to expect a visit from X'anthe and Con, xZot notes the undistributed items
"It doesn't look like the albedo suit is going to fit Crisbel's Yazirian form. I think to reduce some of the friction about the holoscreen you should give him a couple of grenades and the spare belt pack for his disruptor. His old belt pack he had went with the holoscreen. I'm not sure the medication Sni'ktl has prescribed is the text book medical procedure! But hey, difficult situations call for difficult decisions I guess. I think I'd rather keep him angry and give him a big weapon, point him at the pirates and let him go!" jokes xZot.
When Siu-Ling, Con and X'anthe report to Borovski, the Quartermaster hands two of Siu-Lings Laser Pistols to Con and one to X'anthe. He also gives the three of them another SEU clip each and stuffs the last clip in his own pack. Con is now a sight to behold, decked out in his shiny brand new Albedo Suit, a pair of Laser Pistols on his belt and a range of primitive melee weapons clinging to his backpack.
"Alright you three, help me load the rest of this inventory in the cargo bay of the Jetcopter" Borovski orders as he supervises the three humans load the excess gear onto the vehicle.
During a quiet moment, Siu-Ling retreats to an out-of-the-way room or corridor and takes a nap, strapping her belt one notch tighter in case OMAC gets any more ideas. She wants to be sharp and wide awake by tomorrow, so a full night's rest wouldn't hurt. Surprisingly when she heads outside to make sure that Nounouche is well fed and his water bowl is full she finds Con Anderson outside tending to the animal.
"I became quite taken with the creatures myself" Con explains "I've mastered both Tomar's Horse and the Loper" the towering Human declares as he swings himself up into the saddle of Borovski's Loper "It's a pity our physician can't tend our loyal mounts as they deserve" he continues, indicating the wounds still carried by both mounts since the trip through the Shard Grass plains. Con exercises the Loper around the perimeter and offers to do the same for Siu-Ling noticing her fatigued condition.
"Absolutely," Siu-Ling responds with a wide grin. "Any assistance that you can give him would be much appreciated. Although we have not ridden together for very long, Nounouche is like my baby. Be gentle with him, my brother. "Oh..." she pauses. "You... are... a brother, aren't you?" she asks Con, referring to his status as an adult member of an Ul-Mor tribe. Con's eyes narrow as he returns flatly "Do you honestly think I could live among the Ul-Mor and learn their ways without participating in the Ritual of Quickdeath? You were obviously not present the day the twice blessed, Black Hand Gang took the field, sister." Con dismounts from the Loper and leaps smoothly onto Nounouche's back, leading the animal through a short workout before heading off to find OMAC and seek treatment for the animals.
xZot addresses the whole group in a final briefing before moving out.
"I have done a couple of calculation and it looks like we will need to call for evac off this planet before tomorrow if we have any hope of a early exit from this place. I think that once we have made our call we should fall back to this outpost. It is reasonably well fortified, in our control and from what I've seen, well stocked with supplies. I don't think we are going to have a surgery, a generator and the like at our dispose anywhere else soon. I think that McKilin and Jag should stay behind and monitor the defence at this place while the rest of us attempt to get the signal out. Leaving two behind will mean one less flight and this will cut a few hours off the whole shuttling process as well. From what I can work out with the Jetcopter, I will need to refuel after I return each time. This will mean that Gloo will have to be on the last flight so that he can undertake the recharging process. My thoughts for the first group are Raid, Sp'ock and Siu-Ling. Some advance scouting and strategic planning will be necessary so that once everyone has been transported we can continue into the base with minimal delay. The next trip should be with Borovski, OMAC and Con and then Bruce, X'anthe and Gleep then finally Sni'ktl, Crisbel, Gloo. "Any questions? Good, lets get to it!"
"Wait," Siu-Ling halts before they break as her upper lip begins to twitch and a tear forms in her left eye. "Does this mean Nounouche has to stay behind, too?"
"Yes," Bruce answers "unless you have any other suggestions? You can always stay here?"
Holding back a sob, the demolitionist-sharpshooter takes a deep breath and then sighs, her gaze fixed on the floor at her feet.
"McKilin, can I trust you to care for him while we're gone?" The Science Officer nods in reply
Raid goes over the topographic data with xZot to facilitate a low level, stealthy approach to the mining operation.
"How close can we get without the jetcopter's rotor being heard? We want to get dropped off close, but not too close. Behind a hill would be nice, within walking distance of the compound. That way, my first scouting job would be to climb the hill and take a peek over the top."
After the assault on the main base has been discussed and a plan of attack decided upon, xZot fires up the Jetcopter again and begins the task of transporting the group to a site near the main base.
As the jetcopter makes good speed over the Bachanda forest and you gaze at the terrain ahead, you notice far ahead and slightly below you what appears to be a mass of vegetation floating in the air! It is moving slowly and as you draw closer, it maintains a position below and in front of you.
"What's that over there? I didn't see anything about this on the map." xZot indicates to the floating island just ahead "Anyone ever seen anything like that before?" xZot checks the instruments on the 'copters dash for signs of any warning indicators. Then realizing that he doesn't really know what the warning indicators look like he looks back at the mass of vegetation. Raid pulls out his envirokit and presses a few buttons on the vaporscanner and bioscanner.
"I'm not sure what it is, but if it gives off any airborne spores or seeds we may be able to get some readings. Try to fly downwind of it." He adjusts the scanners' sensitivity levels looking for anything unusual in the air as it rushes through the open cockpit of the aircraft.
"If it isn't challenging or threatening us, lets just leave it alone. I don't want to get too close and get caught up in something unnecessarily. Unless anyone can see anything, I'm going around it." xZot successfully maneuvers the jetcopter to pass around the floating mass. "Keep an eye on it and let me know if you can see if there is anything is on there he calls back to his crew. xZot accelerates sharply to make a run for it but cannot help but keep an eye on this unusual phenomena as he circles around the bogie and continues the flight north east.
There are two separate installations at the location marked on your map. The first is the 'town' itself, referred to as Slave City One by the pirates. The second is a small Edestekai village about 500 meters northwest of Slave City One. Both are visible from the air, as are areas where the Jetcopter can safely land.
Whilst waiting for her ride with Bruce, Gleep and that cute little xZot. X'anthe checks and rechecks she loaded her pistol properly sets it to setting two and lies back to catch some sun and calm herself down ready for the excitement to follow. A shadow falls across X'anthe as soon as she lays back.
"Did you check your weapon before?" Con asks and before X'anthe can answer "And it was Ok then? Well then leave it alone, it'll be OK now. Mr Mawson?" Con turns toward Bruce "What does the boss intend doing with the prisoners?"
"I have no idea" the X-O answers "Maybe we should feed 'em to Boro's loper." He smiles at the trussed up captives "Personally, I reckon we should give 'em to the Kurabanda, after what we saw back in the forest, or maybe even let OMAC play with 'em for a while"
"I'm for that," votes Siu-Ling. "I don't think lopers eat meat, though, so you'd have to marinate them in some algae or something, but the Kurabanda plan actually sounds better."
"A Loper that doesn't eat meat?" Con roars with laughter. "You better take another look at those canines girl, they'll tear your lungs out!"
On departure, Sni'ktl waits with Crisbel and Gloo, feeling safe travelling with two such seasoned warriors. His mind is still troubled with uncertainty. What will the pirate town be like? How many Star Devils are there? Will we be able to sneak in and out without a confrontation? Will anyone take the slightest notice of a call for evac? Finding no answers to these questions Sni'ktl takes pleasure in the resplendent Volturnus landscape speeding past below. Glass plains, the glint of crystal mountains in the distance, the tall bachanda forests and the occasional stone formation that speaks of age old mysteries beyond the ken of recent visitors. Under other circumstances this place would be a fine place for a holiday thinks Sni'ktl as they approach the rest of their comrades and an immediate future where peril is the only certainty and comradeship the only reliance.
"Excuse me Bruce can I have a word? In Private!" The X-O frowns at the brash new member of the team and former castaway
"That's Mr Mawson to you, trooper! Now what do you want?" he asks X'anthe
"I've been thinking we're going to need some kind of diversion if we're going to get through this with more than four of us getting back here. So how about we spend this time collecting all the spears we can so that when we get there, one of us can set about freeing and arming slaves. Escaped, armed slaves may be a big enough diversion for us to get away with our skins intact. I'll gladly do it! I reckon I can carry about 25 spears if they're tied properly. I might need some one to help me with the locks but. I also think xZot should stay with the jetcopter as he's the only one who can fly and we may need to beat a hasty exit! Well any way that's just my opinion but if you don't like it, it doesn't have to travel any further" finishes X'anthe. The X-O smiles broadly at his new found, volunteer packhorse
"I like your initiative trooper." he smiles back "OK you do the rounds, anyone with more than one melee weapon can hand over their spare spears or other weaponry to you. When we penetrate the perimeter it will be your job to free and arm the slaves. Here, take this" he says handing his spear to X'anthe. Sp'ock, OMAC, Con and the three Dralasites all hand over their spears to X'anthe. Borovski also directs X'anthe to take the spear from the cargo of the Jetcopter.
Over 300 kilometers to the north east, xZot approaches the town and notes the smaller village nearby, he selects a well protected landing site a couple of kilometers away from both facilities and sets the jetcopter down carefully.
"Alright, everyone out. I don't want to hang around here for long, the quicker I get back, the quicker we can get everyone moved." Looking around at the landscape "You guys will need to do a bit of reconnaissance to give us the best options so that when we are all here, we can move out quickly. We will need to have some idea of the best ways to approach and if possible, gain entry to this Slave City One. I am sure that this will be where the radio facility will be housed. Some observations of the Edestekai village may also provide us with opportunities as well. And don't take any unnecessary risks out there, I don't want to add "Rescue" to our tasks. We'll be busy enough as it is!" he jokes in an effort to lighten to mood of the discussion. After removing all the advance party's equipment, xZot fires up the engines again for the return flight. "I'll be back in a few hours, good luck." he calls out as the jetcopter lifts off.
Raid takes a deep breath to calm himself as xZot and the chopper move into the distance. His first thought is to listen for background noises in the immediate area and to locate a nearby hilltop to observe from, preferably a hill covered with vegetation or large rocks.
"Hopefully they operate some noisy mining machinery in that town and they don't hear our comings and goings." He turns to his two companions. "OK...let's take a look around this place. Staying low and under cover while moving. I can stick my head over any hilltops first with the holoscreen activated for a minute or two. That should be just long enough to check things out while conserving energy. We may be able to find some well-concealed observation points that we could all watch from without using the screen. Shrubs and boulders work well. Oh...and let's cover up any shiny or reflective gear we may be carrying or wearing." Raid begins to move in the direction of the Slave City. "We can spy on the mining operation first, then take a quick look at the village afterwards, unless you want to split up. Any objections or suggestions? If we do split up, we'll have to rally back here in a few hours to meet the others."
Raid moves between high points using low concealed ground, then peeks over hilltops and rises from whatever natural cover is available. His first objective is the larger mining camp.
xZot's return flight to the Outpost is uneventful, the monotony of the hour and a half return trip unbroken until he arrives at his destination. There is a brief flurry of activity as Gloo sets to work recharging the jetcopters power supply and the next three passengers climb aboard and secure their personal equipment. Twenty minutes later, xZot is back in the air and beginning to feel like an old fashioned cab driver. Borovski, OMAC and Con are all rather quiet, each contemplating the coming action or going over mental checklists. The young Yazirian pilot changes his return flight plan slightly to avoid the area of the 'floating green thing' and races back toward the scout team. Ninety minutes later he deposits the three warriors into the same clearing as the scout team and returns for a second time to the outpost, the sun beginning to reach the top of the sky. xZot focuses on the job at hand, guiding his vehicle safely back to the outpost where he refuels and picks up his third load of passengers.
Lists of names, rosters, another life in a boring world of hard work for little gain at the end, like a rash on a computer screen the words "Magistr... Magistr... Magistr" along with a sense of wanting to kill someone. Sni'ktl awakes from a bad dream. "Yes, he checks, just a dream. Unusually vivid though, first deep epsilon state I've registered for a while. Perhaps a local virus has brought it on. xZot is saying something. "Flucked out for sloping liandas" - "sorry - oh..floating islands - I haven't seen any no". Sni'ktl recovers his poise and emerges from the jetcopter well rested for the trials ahead.
After twelve hours of almost constant flying xZot knows that he will be drained by the time he has finished flying his shuttle missions. It is late in the afternoon when he sets the Jetcopter down for the fourth time in the clearing just over two kilometers from the Edestekai Village and the pirate mining camp.
"OK Boss, how about you catch a couple hours rest" recommends Bruce as soon as xZot dismounts the Jetcopter. The 2-IC then addresses the rest of the gathered team members "OK I want two volunteers for a recon patrol around that mining camp!" the X-O continues, then turning to Sni'ktl "Would you like to take a team down to establish contact with the locals? I'd also like you to organize some more medical work on some of these boys before we launch any assault. That precious biocort of yours is no good to any of us dead! Sp'ock, you want to go with the recon team or work up a plan from here? Come on people, we're almost out of daylight so let's get to it!"
"Hang on just a minute there Sni'ktl" interrupts Bruce "First Aid isn't cutting it! That's my whole point, some of these people need surgery and they need it now! Now you know as well as I do that we can keep patching up the little holes with First Aid but for these people to bounce back from the major injuries fast it's gonna involve at least Minor Surgery. Most of these guys won't survive another serious hit." Bruce jerks his head towards the more seriously injured team members. Hoping that he has managed to talk the Medical Officer around to his side Bruce heads off to consult with Raid after the initial scouting trip.
Sni'ktl thinks about the X-O's request for more medical aid for the troops. In the interests of minimizing risk, bolstering morale and supporting Bruce's new found leadership interests, Sni'ktl hands four doses of biocort to OMAC.
"Take these to supplement your supplies and see to it that you, Sp'ock, Crisbel, Siu-Ling, GleepGlooup, Gloo and Bruce... er Data... er Mr Ridley... oh you know... receive first aid."
Sp'ock coughs loudly
"By the Hive Queen, this human is right!" Sp'ock says to his Vrusk counterpart as he draws him away from the Junior members of the team. "You should consider the best place to conserve the Biocort is internally Sni'ktl." Sp'ock scritches apologetically "Not that I feel it is my place to correct the worthy medical officer but first priority is the combat medic." Sp'ock indicates with his third left side leg in OMAC's direction "then should come any front line troops. Anyone who could benefit from surgery should, immediately. I agree OMAC, Gloo, Siu-Ling, GleepGlooup, Bruce and of course, myself, should all go under the knife before we move out."
"Hm" thinks Sni'ktl, as he checks his chronocom. "First aid is no good at the moment anyway. OMAC, belay that order. Crisbel, Siu-Ling, GleepGlooup, Gloo and Bruce need minor surgery now. Here, take two more biocort. I'll want a report when I return on how that went."
OMAC grunts in reply, then sets to work diagnosing both Sp'ock injuries and his own. A short time later Sp'ock is enjoying the almost magical effect of OMAC's skilful use of the wonder drug biocort. The human medic then runs into trouble using the Autosurgeon on himself and has to call for Sni'ktl's assistance. The Chief Medical Officer rushes to OMAC's side and completes the procedure but not before a dose of the precious biocort is lost. OMAC grumbles about the lack waste and the lack of practical surgical experience
"Too much First Aid and not enough follow operations, we're getting rusty Doc." he says to the Vrusk, trying to read the alien Vrusk facial expressions. OMAC returns to his patient list, successfully diagnosing Crisbel, Gleep and Gloo's injuries then smiling to himself as he turns to Sni'ktl
"Looks like I'm having a bit of trouble with the human anatomy today" he grins "I'll need you to check Siu-Ling and Mr Mawson out." Sni'ktl nods and fires up his medscanner, successfully diagnosing Siu-Ling but he also has problems dealing with the X-O's wounds, unsure as to the best way to proceed. OMAC tries his hand at Minor Surgery with no luck on the rest of his patient list, the whole time issuing a string of expletives as 4 more doses of biocort are used to no avail. The Chief Medical Officer is able to step in and help with Crisbel, Gloo and Siu-Ling but GleepGlooup and Bruce have fared no better. After their marathon sick parade OMAC grabs a quick nap while Sni'ktl continues looking for volunteers for the first contact mission, no one has put their hand up straight away.
"Hey X'anthe, I see you found an epicure set" jokes Sni'ktl. "Those things look pretty dangerous, do you fancy coming to find out if the locals are interested in using them?"
"Well I really wanted to make some more of these but it appears as if everybody else is going to be otherwise occupied so sure why not. Maybe they've got some they will be willing to trade for?" replies X'anthe
"OK" Raid reports "I've managed to circle around the mining camp and the nearby village. We should be able to stay under cover until we are about 500 meters away from either set of structures. There is quite a bit of activity in the village but there doesn't appear to be any Frontier races down there, just the locals." Raid explains, gesturing in the direction of the Edestekai village. "The village itself isn't much to write home about, mostly primitive dwelling type structures from the look of it, although there is a rather curious crystalline structure near the center. Looks like a three sided pyramid about 10 meters high. I estimate anywhere between 300 and 500 residents in the village, all Edestekai."
"Oh locals, that's good" Sni'ktl replies to the second in command. "I'd like to take someone with technical skills to help find out more about these radio receivers. I'd also like someone to watch our backs so I'll ask around for at least two volunteers. I only just got here. Does the scouting party say the village is pretty safe or will I need more back-up?"
The Environmental Officer then begins scratching a rough map in the dirt.
"This is the basic layout of the mining camp" Raid explains, showing the rough position of fence lines and buildings "The whole complex is surrounded by a chain link fence the same as the Outpost but there are guard towers in each corner. I didn't get in too close first time around, so I don't know what kind of scanners or other defences they might have. There appears to be a landing pad near the middle of the camp and this oval shaped structure is made from wooden logs whereas the rest of the buildings look like prefab, 'crete modules. This building behind the gate also has double doors so it's quite likely a garage, although I haven't seen any vehicles." The human says as he scratches his head.
"Alright, go and grab a feed and a quick kip while I bring xZot up do speed. Con, you and Borovski stay on picket duty the rest of you be ready to move out when xZot gives the orders. Last chance to grab any extra gear from the chopper people, we will be travelling light so get your shit wired down tight." Bruce finishes his address to the troops then heads off to discuss options with his commander.
Raid gives Bruce a affirmative nod before heading out to stand picket. He positions himself behind a large rock at the top of a hill that offers a commanding view of the mining town and its surroundings, then double-checks his chronocom to be sure it is still functioning properly. As he peers out over the alien landscape, thoughts and memories of his family and personal loss that he has tried to suppress come back to his mind. The pain is deep and real.
"Stay focused on the task at hand," he tells himself, "and you'll make it out of here alive. You won't be much help to the others if you're consumed with your own problems." Raid's eyes nervously sweep back and forth across the field of view watching for any movement around the town. The tension gradually increases as he awaits xZot's orders to move out, but then, steeling his mind for action, he fights back against his instinctual fears. "The others can count on me when the time comes," he resolves in silence.
X'anthe, realizing that if they need a slave revolt, nine spears just ain't gonna cut it, starts looking for things she can use to make weapons. She doesn't limit herself to spears she makes anything she can from the materials available, clubs, spears, staves, anything. When she figures she's made as much as she can carry or times nearly up she stops and performs the next step. X'anthe looks over the weapons she now has at her disposal and thinks something's missing. With that she picks up all the weapons she's made and her laser pistol and moves off to a spot where she can be alone. She proceeds to mix some earth and water together, cuts her finger and squeezes one drop of blood for each weapon into the mix.
"First Mother! Mother of us all here my prayer. Bless these weapons that they may free your children from slavery and oppression. I bring together this earth representing fertility and water needed for growth and the folks blood that they may connect through me with you so that their blows be true." With that she rubs a portion of the mix onto each weapons handle. Feeling better she returns to the group.
"Yoo Hoo Brucie! How long before we leave?"
"If these things prove to be unfriendly two combat monsters may be required, Gloo if you could join us?" Sp'ock answers Sni'ktl later when the Environmental Officer comes looking for volunteers to scout the Edestekai Village. "Little sister" he continues to Siu-Ling "you are in charge of security in my absence, subject to Mr Mawson's approval, of course." Sp'ock hands Siu-Ling one of the Underwater Detonators he acquired from Jag before leaving the base. "Here this should work OK above water" he then packs the 3 charges of TD-19 from the jetcopter cargo hold into his pack along with the 2 remaining detonators. Sp'ock then takes the solvaway and hands one vial each to OMAC and Sni'ktl. xZot, X'anthe, Gloo and Sni'ktl each receive a frag grenade and a dose grenade from the Security Chief as he also pockets a pair of grenades himself.
"Mr Mawson, if you would be so kind? I've been reviewing Raid's data." Sp'ock indicates the crude scratching in the dirt "These two buildings either side of the wooden stockade are most likely barracks. I concur, this is most likely a garage in front of the gates. The most likely choice of the communications targets would be one of the buildings to the East, furthest away from the stockade, where they most likely hold prisoners. The 'T' shaped building with lots of doors and good access to the garage is my most likely target. If you would pass this on to the Commander I shall be accompanying Sni'ktl to the Edestekai village, where I do believe we will find potential allies."
"Our Mr Mawson is certainly finding his stride again" thinks Sni'ktl, "with Con right behind him he shouldn't have much trouble regaining his authority." Sni'ktl asks around for volunteers to join him. Then he runs over his plans with the assembled team of X'anthe, Gloo, Sp'ock and Con who has also volunteered.
"OK I reckon that the Edestekai will be pretty cautious of strangers. The pirates seem to be treating these folk like work 'bots and I reckon they'll have used their insignia as part of whatever brainwashing they're up to. So we should all wear pirate patches until we know more about what's happening. Try not to shoot any of these fellas, we want them as allies at the end of the day. And keep your eyes peeled for pirates, they probably have a good idea of who's on their crew and they won't be easily fooled by our impersonations. OK, get your gear together and lets ship out." The first contact team head out towards the Edestekai village and who knows what kind of reception.
Awakening for his nap xZot realizes that he has slept for longer than he should have. Looking around quickly xZot re-affirms where he is, subconsciously answering the questions in his mind as they are formed.
"Volturnus…" he murmurs, realizing the depth of the sleep he must have been in. It has been some time since he as slept like this. The natural, Yazirian high created by the speed and height at which he's been travelling at has ultimately worn off and rest, apparently, was necessary. Seeking out Bruce for an update, xZot casts his eyes around the activity in the immediate area
"Good, it looks like everyone is getting prepared." he notes. "This isn't going to be like any picnic we've ever been on before." xZot mumbles to himself in a dry, almost human tone. "Bruce, what is the current status?"
"Well the medicos have managed to patch up most of the team pretty well, except for myself and GleepGlooup but we can both still take the field sir." The X-O reports grimly "Mr Sp'ock has several tactical suggestions and objectives regarding the Mining Camp and Mr Sni'ktl is investigating the Edestekai options"
"Hmm, the village being so close raises my interest. Why don't we send an advance party down in to the Edestekai village to check out the situation in there? I think a small party made up of, say, Sni'ktl, Raid and Siu-Ling could probably infiltrate the village and assess the situation. These guys are probably the most experienced to go in and make an assessment don't you think? There maybe some opportunities in there for us that we should consider before we mount our assault on the main city and I think a quick infiltration of the village and a couple of discreet enquires could assist us. The rest of us are still in com range if they need back-up anyway." Glancing around, he adds "I have noted of late X'anthe's enthusiasm to be actively involved, maybe she should go as well?"
"Actually sir, Sp'ock took X'anthe, Con and Gloo on patrol with Sni'ktl down to the village. Siu-Ling and Raid are on picket duty at the moment while the other catch some zzz's. It's going to be too late for us now to get in a 'Dawn Attack' on Slave City One, we need to be using their radio tonight sir." the X-O looks up from the mud map into the young Yazirians eyes. "A Dusk Attack? Hit 'em at the end of their working day?" the human wonders aloud "Is that what you're thinking he asks his boss.
"Once we have done a bit of reconnaissance from the village, I think we can focus on the main city. By my count there are five pirate badges that we've recovered along the way, plus the holoscreen. That's six of us that should be able to bluff their way in to the compound without too many problems. It' s the rest of us I'm not sure about. We should also remember that we do have the Jetcopter from the Outpost and I wouldn't have thought it would've looked that strange for a crew from one of their Outpost's flying in. Once inside, maybe those group members can assist with the entry of the others. This is a little way off just yet and I'd like to gather a little more recon before we rush off anywhere, really this is just a few thoughts to consider."
Meanwhile, two kilometers to the northwest of the Black Hand Gang's temporary Headquarters, the contact team is approaching the Edestekai village. Sni'ktl briefs X'anthe, Sp'ock, Con and Gloo on his intentions.
"Our priorities are to disrupt whatever signal the pirates are using to control the Edestekai priests and to sway the villagers to our cause. I bet the crystalline structure Raid reported is more than just a phallic totem so you tech's should inspect it. If its a relay for the signal, fix it however you can. Look out for priesthood types though since they are most likely to start trouble. We should wear our pirate patches until we've established that these folk our going our way. They will probably be a bit suspicious of people arriving at nightfall so let's try not to look too threatening."
As the five man, scout team approaches the village they see about 20 Edestekai, armed with spears, forming a ring around their party. They are not attacking or making any hostile gestures. One steps forward from the group. This Edestekai is wearing a red, purple and white scarf wrapped in a complicated way around the upper part of his body. It throws a handful of grain at your feet. The remaining Edestekai begin chanting, clicking their limbs together, and apparently dancing in a complex pattern around you. The ritual dance and chanting lasts for about 10 minutes. At the end of this time the Edestekai with the scarf leads the Edestekai toward the center of the village. The other Edestekai form a column with the party in the center and it is obvious to them that the Edestekai want them to go somewhere. The column marches to the temple in the center of the village.
Entering the village Sni'ktl takes note of the primitive cultural signifiers and the interest aroused amongst the Edestekai. Noting the lack of 'children' he wonders, are the Edestekai scared, or simply showing deference to their false gods? Is this a natural racial response or a learnt response to the Star Devil insignia? With no background studies Sni'ktl trusts his instincts to guide him.
"Do not fear, we come to add our blessings to the great crystal. No need to disturb the priests" announces Sni'ktl as the team move at a quick but steady pace the heart of the village. Approaching the crystal, Sni'ktl halts ten meters from its base. "Human, Dral and Vrusk, come bless the crystal with our energy," says Sni'ktl in what he hopes is a priestly fashion as his companions commence their investigations of the object. Turning to the crowd that has gathered Sni'ktl uses his empathy skill and Vrusk comprehension to asses the Edestekai response. The deafening silence shows that they could fall either side of the fence. Sni'ktl knows enough about mob psychology to be prepared for the unexpected and seeks a way to sway the fence posts favorably. "Today we bring great blessings and new tools for the work ahead. The great X'anthe has gifts for you."
The crystal structure is a three-sided pyramid about 10 meters tall. There are no solid walls; the sides are all made of columns of crystal and rock, leaving the entire building open to the air. As the procession approaches the building, another scarved figure appears in the top story and waves the procession off toward a small dwelling carved into the nearby hillside. The party is taken here and given some bread, a dish that looks something like spinach, water, and straw pallets covered with linen-like cloth.
An Edestekai remains with the party and attempts to communicate with them. After a short time, Sp'ock's polyvox begins translating the Edestekai speech. This individual would appear to be a priest! The priest will give the party brief instructions on proper conduct among the Edestekai. He explains that this is done for all strangers, so that they will not offend the gods or the Servant of the Gods.
Back at the Pirate Outpost on the southern shore of the Oil slicked lake, McKilin relieves Jag from his guard duty over the four prisoners. James checks that each of the pirates has his hands bound with rope behind their backs. Their bodies and ankles are also securely bound to chairs and the prisoners are positioned facing the corners of the room.
"I gotta pee!" Growls the one known as Kurt. James calls back to Jag to join him escorting Kurt with both guards to the next room. Kurt immediately switches to a different tone of voice and asks McKilin to loosen his bonds. McKilin smiles back at Kurt
"What kind of idiot do you take me for? That's the worst attempt at Hypnotism 101 I've ever heard! Shut the hell up!" He snaps as he fires his laser pistol at Kurt's foot (11 points).
"Did I ever tell you about the famous Human father of Doctors, Hypocraties?" James asks his Yazirian companion as he smiles again "I'm with Mawson, we should give 'em back to the Kurabanda."
Meanwhile, back at the Jetcopter landing site.
"Let me know when you want me to repay the favour, roller [Volturnus equivalent of calling a male human 'tiger')." Siu-Ling offers the one-man army corp. After thanking OMAC in the most flirtatious of ways, Siu-Ling stands up and feels the newly formed incisions near her wounds, wondering just how well they'll heal. She then wanders over to where Raid and the others are surveying the three sided pyramid and puts her hand to her brow to shield her eyes from the sun.
"So, Siu-Ling, how are you adjusting to the team?" Raid says, not looking at her directly, but continuing to watch for any movement around the nearby town. Although most human men would find the female sharpshooter attractive, Raid's current emotional condition is such that he is quite oblivious to the fact. He tries striking up a conversation to reduce pre assault anxiety.
"I hear that you've really become attached to the native Ul-Mor tribes people. I can understand that, the primitive cultures, as my mother used to tell me, seem to have retained something of the knowledge of life that we moderns can easily overlook." He pauses, still intently scanning the landscape below. "I've come to the conclusion though, that I am a native, a native of the Frontier. My tribe and roots will always be human, that can never change, but my horizons reach to the stars. Do you understand that? There is something I've been seeking my whole life that can't be found on any one planet or with any one people. It's difficult to explain."
"I hear you, brother," Siu-Ling responds to the male as she applies a recently whipped Volturnus mango cream on her legs and shaves a few minute hairs from her lower limbs. Siu-Ling looks at Raid and Sni'ktl and nods, making sure her laser pistols are loaded and patting the detonators in her vest pocket. "Wearing our patches then, right?" she confirms with the boss.
"You stay with the pickets for now Siu-Ling." Mr Mawson interjects "You and Raid. I don't want to commit all our combat assets with the first scout team"
"Beautiful structure," Siu-Ling comments, almost in a whisper, gazing down at the Crystal pyramid from her position on the last ridge overlooking both the Edestekai village and Slave City One. "The Edestekai built this? I've heard of similar architecture in early Human and Vrusk civilizations, but I wouldn't have guessed that such creatures could build something so intricate." She wonders how their morphologies, especially their limbs, allow them to manipulate tools in such a way as to actually build a pyramid like this one. "Hopefully, I won't have to destroy it with tornadium," she sighs, looking for smiles in her human compatriots, scattered on the reverse slope behind her.
Down in the village, surrounded by Edestekai.
"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear" mumbles Sni'ktl. "The best laid plans and all that." Sni'ktl had learned enough from Raid to realize that the crystalline materials are transparently of natural origin and any anthropology under grad would realize that the architecture is embedded in a religion old enough to predate the Star Devils by many generations. "Check it over if like guys but I don't think you'll spot any communications gear in there, unless you have a hotline to the gods."
As the scout team entered the Edestekai village, Sp'ock looked around at the villagers, noticing at once, a complete lack of children. "You know, smaller native units. This confirms my suspicion of the compound layout. I will take note of this." He mutters quietly to himself.
Over dinner, Sni'ktl begins to miss xZot's cooking. While the bread is fantastic, the green sludge is clearly some kind of algae that the Edestekai somehow find appetizing. The dining room is surprisingly large especially since Con had to remove a lot of his gear to fit through the doorway into what originally seemed like a low ceiling hut in the hillside. In addition to the excavation, it is clear from the number of Edestekai entering from internal doorways that the hut is but an entranceway to a network of underground tunnels and rooms.
"Its easy to see why the pirates are using this mob for their mining."
Seeing the Edestekai move around is a little disorienting. Although he had dissected one, Sni'ktl is still surprised at the graceful three way symmetry of these creatures in motion. However, their eating habits, squatting over food to feed through a mouth located at the junction of three legs, are a bit off-putting. While Edestekai language has some similarities with Vrusk clicks and whistles, the tones are significantly different and the use of gestures by Edestekai is a lot more than body language. Sni'ktl notes the strict roles inherent in the party's new hosts. Those serving the food are clearly of a different caste and appearance to those who originally met the party. There even seem to be medical differences. All in all Sni'ktl speculates that there are three types of Edestekai, each presumably a different sex!
"Geez you could make a killing setting up relationship counseling here".
The idols in the living area are as numerous and diverse as those in any museum. Seeing the various acts of deference and rituals for the simplest tasks Sni'ktl realizes he could spend a month studying the Edestekai and still only scratch the surface. He only hopes he uses the correct spoon for his algae soup since it would clearly be an act of heresy to do otherwise.
As the polyvox kicks in at last during the interview with the priest, Sni'ktl is pleased to be lectured on the basics of how to avoid completely insulting these peaceful folk. It is clear that the priest holds the party in low esteem and none of the Frontiersmen's behavior has registered as of any consequence so far. Sni'ktl is certain that every approach in the anthropological textbooks will lead down a blind ally with this aloof culture.
Drawing on as much religious fervor as she can gather X'anthe starts speaking,
"We come from the stars to rescue our gods children from slavery! She is one god and all gods and the mother of all races. She does not abide her children being enslaved and will always send them help. In this case we are that help! Will you aid us?" About now it starts becoming obvious that she actually believes this stuff.
The polyvox takes some time to re-tune to the new range of clicks and screeches. Sni'ktl observes the priest closely for his response and immediately realizes that the Edestekai are uncomfortable with X'anthe's single god concept. As to what the three way arm gestures mean Sni'ktl is completely flummoxed. Sni'ktl's empathy skill suggests that the priest is about to launch into the sermon of the many gods that eat the Earth Mother for breakfast while his innate comprehension suggests that the Edestekai beliefs are obviously more important than some offworlder's deeply held personal beliefs. Keen to see some more response Sni'ktl gives an "I'm not sure but what the heck" look indicating for X'anthe to lay it on some more when Sp'ock interrupts.
"Aah good the polyvox has sorted out the anal grunts and gesticulations of these creatures. I will make an appropriate gesture of intent, open hands." Sp'ock again mutters to himself then steps forward to introduce himself
"My name is Sp'ock, I am a Vrusk and formerly of the 2nd Corp 6th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, of the Zik-kit Space Marines. I am currently employed by the Truane's Star Government in the position of Security Officer. This means my job, my duty is to punish criminals of the T.S.G. I believe we have a common enemy?" The Edestekai priest regards Sp'ock and is about to respond when, still fired up by her initial plea, X'anthe cannot help but start preaching her view of her religion.
"The First Mother traveled all world taking on many guises and everywhere she visited she gave birth to intelligent life. This life is meant to live in harmony but the unnamed one corrupts so she taught her people to fight to protect and free themselves from his clutches. It is the duty of the Folk to free people from slavery and to fight the unnamed one in all his guises."
Sni'ktl is interested to see how the polytheistic priest responds to X'anthe's monotheistic Earth Mother. While the priest is clearly having some difficulties of the precept of one divine being rather than three that gave rise to many he is also clearly pleased to see an offworlder with some religious depth. He notices that the Edestekai priest is much more comfortable with the multifaceted side of X'anthe's philosophy and they quickly disregard the single deity aspect.
"It may also be of interest to yourselves that these felons who have abducted your children have also been conducting some kind of experiments on your people. They have been implanting some sort of receiver in peoples brains. Have you noticed any strange behaviour lately? Unexplained twitches, hearing voices, or music? This could be what they are doing to your kids." Looking hopefully at the alien. Are they getting this at all. "Sni'ktl if you would. You are better at this than me."
When Sni'ktl repeats the questions for the priest about the Star Devil, the priest explains that many of the priests in the village have had True Visions concerning the Star Devil, and have heard the voices of the gods ordering the Edestekai to serve the Star Devil and obey him and his followers. The priest adds that this is very puzzling to the Edestekai, for they are the chosen people, not the races who are with the Star Devil. Furthermore, the Star Devil is very cruel. He forces the Edestekai to perform hard labor removing worthless dirt from deep inside the earth. Many Edestekai have died from the bad treatment he gives them. Furthermore, the crops are failing as all those able to do hard labor are dragged off to the mines every day. The priests eventually concluded that the gods must be testing their chosen ones, and that some day this torment will end.
Sni'ktl takes the opportunity and although having trouble with specific aspects of the Edestekai religion, he is able to empathize with the priest and eventually convey the message to the Edestekai that they have been manipulated by the Pirates wearing the Star Devil patches inside the compound. Once the Vrusk Chief Medical Officer successfully reveals the Star Devil's plot to enslave the Edestekai, the priests denounce the pirates as blasphemers and devils, and sentence them to death.
"Well I think we just whipped this lot up into a religious war overnight! I thought the best we could hope for was to lay some seeds of doubt about the pirates so that we get a good response if we ever get our hands on their True Voice of the Gods transmitter!"
"My companions and I plan to attack the pirates who hold your children captive." Sp'ock scratches out a rough design of the camp. "We are going to destroy these two guard towers, and breach the wall here." He indicates the two towers at the front of the compound, "It should be possible, if you wish, for us to attempt to free your children. I must discuss this with our leader."
The priests offer to mobilize the village in an effort to destroy the pirates, if the party will lead the attack. Seeing that X'anthe has also developed a rapport with the priest, Sni'ktl suggests that she ask the priest to take the offered spears just in case the gods do bless her Earth Mother's attempts to help clear the land of the chaos that afflicts it. Armed with spears, provided by X'anthe as well as farming implements spear and pikes, 100 enraged Edestekai fertilizers prepare join the attack to exterminate the pirates.
"Note to self: Must cut down on those mushrooms. Woohoo!" Sp'ock exclaims excitedly
"OK folks time to perform the ritual of being somewhere else. We need to get back and rested if we're gonna be any use in the morning" says Sni'ktl as he gets the team heading back to camp. Hey X'anthe have you finished working out how many facets of the Earth Mother can be easily interpreted as godlings of small and petty things or should I get Con to drag you out of here? Only joking, that was good work, I'll be speaking highly of you in my report to Mr Mawson."
"Wow" whispers Siu-Ling to herself when she witnesses the column leaving the Edestekai village with the Scout team at the head of the column "Better wake the boss" she says to Raid as he drops down by her side. Raid just shakes his head at the sight below him before turning to head down the reverse slope of the ridge and wake the rest of the team know they have 100 three-legged aliens on their way into our camp!
Siu-Ling retreats during down time, and accesses her chronocom's personal journal progit. She presses a few of the miniscule buttons, and begins speaking.
"Weeks have passed since my departure from the Ul-Mor trade routes. I find myself in the company of brothers, many of whom wish to wander astray of the ways of our People. Having been born Human, and subsequently embraced the Truth of the Ul-Mor Oneness, the One, that is I, too, now find myself losing that which once made me Ul-Mor. We spent some time with another intelligent species: the Kurabanda. Although much more infantile than the Ul-Mor, and farther from self-realization, I found them to be quite likeable. They are, in their essence, very much like Humans, although their sense of humor far exceeds ours.
Having taken control of one of the Star Devil facilities, the Black Hand Gang has now come to the village of another intelligent species: the Edestekai. These tripartite zealots, apparently unaware of the One, worship the high council of the Star Devil operatives here on Volturnus. We have reason to suspect that mind-control technology is responsible, and are making efforts to emancipate them from the Human scourge. I say 'Human' despite the fact that some of the Star Devil agents are Dralasites, Vrusk, and Yazirian. I don't know, it seems to be a predominantly Human enterprise, this Star Devil.
We have had some change in personnel, as we have recovered the original brothers left behind at the Ul-Mor camps, and another female has joined the band. Her origins are nebulous at best, and I don't altogether trust her story. Her attitude, while a bit off-putting and catty, hardly seems a serious threat to the group, though some of the brothers and I are staying alert, should she be working for Star Devil.
OMAC and I have exchanged a glance or two from time to time, though I am beginning to think that he is homosexual. I have offered intimacy on more than one occasion, though I will have to shift my sexual attention elsewhere if he doesn't respond soon. I'm aching for some cock."
As xZot awaits the return of the advance party investigating the Edestekai village he turns his thoughts to the assault on Slave City One. After running his eyes over the rough sketches provided by Raid and augmented by Sp'ock, xZot seeks out his trusty first officer, Mr Mawson.
"We are going to need a distraction to draw the pirates attention as we attempt to enter the compound".
Indicating to Siu-Ling for her to join them, xZot continues "The pirates in those towers are going to cause us some grief I feel. What do you think of the idea of setting some charges at the base of the towers on the eastern side of the complex and trying to bring those towers down? This should create a distraction and also provide us with a couple of points of entry. If we are split into two groups we can enter the city through these breaches in the fence and push towards the radio facility."
"Will do, boss," Siu-Ling answered, readying her charges and detonators. "Anyone have any other explosives they'd like to donate?"
Pausing momentarily xZot continues
"From what I can see from our current equipment manifest we have five charge but only three detonators. I am thinking about using two timer based devices with two charges each, and maybe a grenade or two thrown in for good measure." xZot smiles devilishly "This will leave use with one charge and one detonator for later use if need be" Turning to Siu-Ling
"This is where I need your expertise, do you think you can assemble one device for each tower that will breach the fence with a high probability of also toppling the tower? If so, then we should assemble and set the devices and, using the holoscreen, slip down and put them in place. With sufficient time, we can get everyone into position and move in as soon as the blast clears the way."
"I'll give it the old weezer try!" she exclaims, using a Yazirian expression rather than a Human one to facilitate understanding. She prepares the charges before heading out, so as to decrease her probability of failing under the pressure of a threat to her life and team-mates. xZot turns back to Bruce
"I guess you and I will lead one assault team each and meet up at the radio facility. There will need to be a heavy emphasis on maintaining communication between the teams to ensure that we can still co-ordinate our attacks efficiently. We are probably going to be outnumbered and out gunned so we have little room for error. Two teams would seem to be the way to go, can you compile a list of the respective teams so that we can brief everyone after the return of Sp'ock, Sni'ktl and X'anthe from the Edestekai village?"
After the others have returned from the Edestekai village with the news of the local support, discussion again falls to the job at hand, the capture of Slave City One and transmission of our evacuation signal. It appears that, with the help of the hundred or so locals, we may stand a chance of taking control of this facility.
Once Mr Mawson outlines xZot's plan Sp'ock will whirr his approval.
"The plan is good. But, I would suggest a use for the remaining charge and detonator." He will scratch a quick diagram to illustrate. "Even with both towers on the east side destroyed we have the chance to come under fire from these two towers. If not before, then certainly once we enter the compound proper. If the last charge is used up high on the fence then the tower itself will be caught in the blast. Not enough to destroy the tower probably." Sp'ock gives a Vrusk shrug using shoulders and the front two legs. "Certainly enough damage will be done to take the tower out of commission." Sp'ock looks intently at Mr Mawson trying to gauge his reaction.
"We must also take into account our new allies, and their children. A serious attempt must be made to open the way out for the young." Another shrug followed by an apologetic scritch. "I would also suggest that we not give up the advantage of air cover. Two people in the jetcopter with a pack of grenades could create a lot of panic in the pirates." The painfully slow comprehension on Mawsons face is easily interpreted by the Vrusk security officer this time.
"I will defer to our Security Chief on all military matters." Mr Mawson says finally.
After hearing of the plan, Raid removes his beltpack along with the holoscreen unit and hands them over to Siu-Ling.
"Looks like you'll be needing these sister," his face shows some worry as he speaks. "Remember that this thing isn't foolproof, and they may have sensors down there that we don't know about. My opinion is that we should still insert part of the team with the jetcopter, but I guess xZot knows what he's doing."
Siu-Ling looks to xZot to see what his reaction is before answering the fellow Human. Re-considering the use of the jetcopter, xZot's mind works on another possible strategy.
"Well, how about we take the 'copter in with a small group onboard. We should be able to time it so that we drop them in, just as the charges go off and the rest of us move in. I would pull the 'copter out and back to pickup a bombardier, then returning to target the pirate defences and generally provide support from the air." Pausing, he continues
"The rest of the party would split into two groups, each leading about fifty Edestekai in through the breaches in the fence created by the charges Siu-Ling has placed. The Edestekai can pour into the main compound heading west to where we believe their children are held, using their numbers to advantage. The group that is dropped in by 'copter heads straight for the closest door on the building that we believe houses the subspace radio. The groups that come through the breaches in the fence should also make their way to this building from their respective positions. We need to secure the radio more that anything else at the moment. Once we get control of the radio, we should push on and try to take control of the whole compound and free the slaves with the help of the Edestekai. Once the need for air support has passed, Snik and I will land near the south-east fence breach and move to join the rest of you at your location at that time. The Holoscreen will be returned as soon as was practical." xZot informs Raid, nodding to Siu-Ling to take the screen.
Raid returns to his watch duty, lifting his sungoggles from his eyes as the sun sinks toward the western hills, and feeling for the handle of his machete. He says to himself in a low voice,
"I've got a bad feeling about this."
Noting Siu-Ling's hesitation at the thought of going down and setting the charges near the tower alone, xZot moves to reassure her on the eve of what will probably the biggest battle the group's faced so far
"I understand your concerns Siu-Ling but given that there is a fair expanse of cleared, open area around the compound, getting anyone close to the fence won't be easy. I think that only with the aid of the holoscreen and the failing light of the late afternoon will anyone be able to slip down without being detected and set the charges. This task is something that only a demolitionist undertake."
"Hey, Brother Boss, you've got no complaint from this popper!" she assures him. "I'll pop the top off this place!" she gloats, trying to psych herself up for the deed of destruction. With the tacit assumption that there are no women or children in the vicinity, and still quite ignorant about the sexual triparity of the Edestekai, the demolitionist grabs the last of her gear from the rock upon which her buttocks rest and stands up, facing xZot.
Focusing his complete attention on Siu-Ling to emphasis his point, xZot continues
"I know that you can do this, I see determination in your every move. You shouldn't doubt yourself. The fence is probably charged and there may be other surveillance in place but I trust you will complete your task efficiently."
"10-4," she poorly mimics a Military salute, never having actually been on a legitimate Military payroll. "Any extra SEU clips, for good luck?" she asks the alpha male, checking her own stash. With her two remaining laser pistols in their holsters, Siu-Ling d'Avignon, the Human extraordinaire, looks to see if the Yazirian has any grenades available. "I could use a little extra love," she winks, pointing at a grenade in his vest pocket if he has one.
"I think the boss has other plans for those" interrupts Mr Mawson "Set your timers for one hour from now, just after dusk. We attack in one hour people, get your shit wired tight!" the X-O addresses his command then turns back to Siu-Ling "Good luck, now move out" the X-O orders the female Demolitionist.
Dismissed by the leader of the Black Hand Gang, Siu-Ling approaches OMAC, the apparently indestructible one-man army corp.
"Come on, sugar!" she urges her conspecific to action in a hushed voice. "If you cover my ass here today, I'll let you give me a mohawk ride when the dust settles."
"Cover your own ass babe, you're the sharpshooter." OMAC retorts as he turns a cold shoulder and moves off to take up position in the tree line on xZot's orders. Raid, OMAC and the X-O all cover Siu-Ling as she heads off toward her targets.
Ten tense minutes pass as Siu-Ling switches on the Holoscreen and blurs out of view. Her shimmering form races quickly down the ridge to the Southwestern tower where she prepares the smallest of the three explosive charges. Her heart skips a beat when she closes to within 100 meters of the tower and realizes the sentry is a robot. Unable to identify the specific type of robot she continues her journey hoping that the Holoscreen and the coming dusk will camouflage her sufficiently.
Siu-Ling carefully places the 50-gram TD-19 charge and detonator hoping to inflict at least some damage on the robot in the tower with the blast radius of the explosion. The demolitionist then moves quickly along the fence line to the Southeastern tower where she places a 100 gram TD-19 charge and detonator and confirms there is another robot in this tower. Her heart still thumping in her chest, Siu-ling moves cautiously to the Northeast tower and places another 100-gram TD-19 charge and the underwater detonator.
Praying that all three charges have been placed correctly, Siu-Ling races back to the campsite, utterly breathless and still high from the adrenaline rush of the last ten minutes work.
xZot casts his eyes over the Jetcopter as he goes through his checks to makes sure everything is operational and all the equipment is secured.
"This might be a hairy ride!" he thinks after having satisfied himself that everything is in order. Returning to the main group xZot seeks out Borovski in an effort to secure additional grenades to supplement what he and Sni'ktl already have onboard.
"I notice that you have a couple of extra Borovski, can I take one Incendiary and two Frag from your collection? I'll need a bit of firepower to hit those remaining towers with." Knowing that getting Borovski to part with any weapons can be difficult, he pushes on "I'm going to ask Gloo for a Doze and a Frag as well. I think that'll give Snik a payload of five Doze, five Frag and one Incendiary grenade. Hopefully that'll be enough to deal with the towers and still cause some disruption to the pirates in the compound. What do you think?"
Boro surveys his array of grenades before agreeing to his commander and relinquishes the items as requested. At the same time he prepares for his attack on the Northeast tower together with other members of his attack party.
Sni'ktl scratches as he contemplates the Black Hand Gang's situation. Such brave fellows ready to risk bodily harm and death to get home and help free the enslaved Edestekai. Such a bold plan. Sni'ktl is confident that the military strategists have laid the best plans given the information available. But what about the things we don't know? Ah well, not enough time to worry about that. We've been dealing with the unexpected ever since getting here. Disappearing through the sand into the jaws of a sandworm to traversing caverns of lava. The relentless uncertainty is becoming normal.
Sni'ktl arranges signals with xZot so that when targets are selected the 'copter can swoop down and hover for a moment to give Sni'ktl one close range aimed shot or grenade drop before a maximum g pull out. He sets his laser pistol to 6, not expecting to get many shots he needs to make sure any hits really count.
Once xZot and Mawson have set the battle plan Sp'ock makes his own preparations. As these will involve a contemplation of the coming fight, and of course cleaning and checking the circuitry boards of the lasers, the two can be done together. A thought occurs while he is polishing his machete to a bright gleam.
"We sure could have used the combat robot?" He toggles his wristcom and pages xZot. "Commander, we will miss an obvious asset. May I suggest we remove the ID patches soon after landing, don't want to be mistaken by the Edestekai." This done Sp'ock will return to his chosen spot and wait out the insertion time.
"We could get very bloody on this one."
After Borovski so emphatically agrees and supplies Sni'ktl with explosive hardware, xZot seeks out Gloo with the request for his help. Gloo also relinquishes the required items and joins Mr Mawsons attack team. Assembling the troop just before everyone moves off and into position, xZot reminds the gang that the end is almost in sight.
"The time is rapidly approaching when we will be off this planet. This assault will secure the subspace radio and with it, our passage away from here. A co-ordinated attack will be successful, we have the numbers with our Edestekai friends, and we should be able to over run the immediate resistance. Once inside we'll show 'em what we're really capable of, they won't be able to sustain the intensity of our determination!" xZot pauses as he reflects on his rage and focuses it with rarely seen enthusiasm. "Let's move out!"
Raid congratulates Siu-Ling on her performance with the charge placements by silently giving her a thumbs up when she returns the holoscreen and beltpack. He then walks over to where Bruce is forming up the southeast assault group, checking the beltpack's power supply and snapping the screen unit back in place at his waist.
"Sure hope these locals are tougher than they look," he says upon seeing the gathered mob of Edestekai. "They seem to have courage though, and we can sure use the additional manpower." Raid proceeds to give a quick description of the ground he has already scouted out. At the command to move into position, he acts as guide, leading the southeast group along low ground and under cover until they can get no closer to their objective without being sighted by the sentry robots.
Siu-Ling sets both pistols to 3 SEUs and gets ready to rumble when Raid approaches, asking Siu-Ling about the blast radius of the set charges.
"Blast radius of one meter for any charge under 100 grams with this stuff" Siu-Ling replies "I set two 100 gram charges and one 50 gram charge" Raid then decides to approach the guard tower stealthily, using the Holoscreen, until he is only ten meters beyond the kaboomite's danger zone. Mr Mawson and Gloo take up positions with X'anthe, Raid and a group of 50 angry Edestekai Fertilizers approaching to within 100 meters of the fence line in the darkness and prepare themselves to charge at the Southeast tower.
Borovski, OMAC, Siu-Ling and Crisbel take up a similar position, ready to charge toward the Northeast tower with the other 50 Edestekai fertilizers bent on revenge and whipping themselves up into a religious fervor. With his sonic disruptor in two pods and laser pistol unclipped so it can be used after dispatching his last frag grenade, Boro also has his albedo screen plugged into his beltpack which will be switched on in exactly 59 minutes time!
"Lets blow these bastards sky high, yeah mushroom clouds for everyone." OMAC nods in silent agreement
Back at the landing site for the Jetcopter Sni'ktl watches as xZot goes through the ignition sequence and lifts off once more with a full compliment. Sp'ock, the Chief Security Officer in the seat beside him, GleepGlooup and Con in the rear passenger seat all armed and wearing Star Devil patches prominently on the tattered clothing. The Jetcopter rises into the air, xZot flicks the switch for the landing lights, banks the chopper around and heads in toward Slave City One for his first night landing. xZot feels the adrenaline rush and concentrates to keep his emotions in check
"It could be bad timing to break out into Battle rage right now!" he mutters to himself under the rumble of the Jetcopters engines. The 500 meter trip takes next to no time as he does a quick circuit over the town, assessing the best landing approach. He decides to come in from the north, giving the quickest escape route south to pick up Sni'ktl after dropping off the insertion team. Looking across to Sp'ock he gets the thumbs up signal indicating that they are good to go.
Twenty seconds before the detonators are set to go off, Raid activates his holoscreen, fading into a transparent blur on the dusky background. X'anthe watches resolutely as Raid fades away. He looks momentarily at Bruce, X'anthe, and Gloo, shifts his gaze to the guard tower, then takes a deep breath, exhaling slowly as the final seconds pass. X'anthe arms herself with the laser pistol set at 2 for the initial assault and ready to switch to her spear when the action gets close enough for hand to hand.
"Ok Brucie lets show these guys how to kick some pirate ass!"
Both attack teams watch as xZot brings the Jetcopter in to land.
"Go, go go!" yells the X-O into his chronocom and both assault teams, rise up and begin charging toward their assigned targets. Inside the pirate compound xZot skillfully touches down on the landing pad and Sp'ock, Con and GleepGlooup bail out their respective doorways and begin running toward the doors of the large building to their southwest.
Outside the compound Raid flinches even though he knew the explosion was coming (Southeast tower explosion 45 points of damage to tower and robot). The corner fence post and the base of the tower are now a twisted ruin and a badly damaged robot wielding a laser rifle is now struggling to upright itself. Raid breaks into a sprint toward the breach, relying on stealth and confusion he slips through the wrecked fence and into the town. Raid carries his machete in his right hand, his laser pistol on maximum power setting, in his left hand. Raid avoids the electrical fence, jumping or stepping over portions that are still lying around the breach.
OMAC, Borovski, Siu-Ling and Crisbel rise up from the ground with their 50 Edestekai followers and break in to a run toward the northeast tower. As they close on their target they see the flash of the explosion as the southeast tower is destroyed and more distant crump as the southwest charge explodes as well (36 points of damage to southwest tower and robot) then the realization suddenly hits them. The northeast tower is still standing, the charge didn't explode. OMAC lifts his wrist to his mouth as he glares at Siu-Ling
"We got a problem boss!" he reports between breaths "Northeast tower is still operational. Repeat, the northeast tower is still operational!"
When the charge starts X'anthe keeps to the front hoping to help inspire the Edestekai and to show her worthiness to the First Mother. As they are within medium range X'anthe concentrates her fire on what remains of the tower and the robot, firing a couple of wild shots as she rushes forward.
"Secure that shit!" The X-O yells almost in her ear "Wait 'til you can see their damn circuit boards" as he charges along beside the ebony skinned woman and his Dralasite companion struggling to keep up with the Edestekai pack now surging toward the hole on the fence line.
Then the first defensive fire lances out from the northeast tower and the wreckage of the southeast tower. Two Edestekai in the northern group are struck with laser fire but continue forward as does another fertilizer, similarly injured in the southern group..
Sp'ock exits the Jetcopter, ducking his head in primitive response to the closeness of the still turning rotors. The way is clear, he joins the rush for the building to the east.
"Here should be the majority of the resistance." Sp'ock thinks to himself as his hand drops to his holstered pistol. Sp'ock places his hand on the door handle in front of him and attempts to turn the handle, feeling some resistance he turns to Gleep and gives the door lock a significant look. Con turns to survey the open compound behind them as Gleep sets to work on the lock and Sp'ock also draws his pistol, scanning the area for sentries
"Death to all opposition." he whispers to himself as xZot lifts off in the Jetcopter, rising up above the level of the building rooftops.
"If there's any way to set off the charge with a laser blast, and I get a chance to do so, I'll try zapping it." Siu-Ling thinks to herself as OMAC continues to lead the advancing Edestekai toward the fence line. "Stay the hell away from the 1 meter blast radius" she warns as OMAC also draws his Autopistol with the obvious intention of trying to shoot the explosives when he is in close range. Crisbel, Borovski and the Edestekai continue their forward rush, as more laser beams reach out from the tower, wounding another Edestekai.
Safely inside the compound now, Raid attempts to avoid any pirates using the deep shadows, the holoscreen, and his stealth skill. Staying concealed his top priority. Resisting the temptation to finish off the struggling sentry robot, knowing that it would only slow him down. Raid ensures his chronocom's audio is turned off, and runs west to the first alley and turns northward up it without hesitating. The night air feels cool on his face as he moves swiftly along between the buildings. He passes the first two doors on his left noticing that both have locks, the same lock as the door to the prefab structure on his right.
"Gotta get in deep before these guys crawl out of bed," he thinks, his mind racing.
X'anthe sticks close to the Edestekai fertilizers having decided that the fate of their children is more important than her own. X'anthe stays with her new friends until the children are released. Mr Mawson and Gloo lead their column forward toward the breached fence line as one of the charging Edestekai is struck twice by laser beams and dies.
Inside the compound, Gleep unable to crack the lock on the eastern door, moves to the southern door and tries again to pick the lock, Sp'ock and Con both getting edgy waiting for the guards to come rushing out.
Borovski continues to lead the northern attack group toward the tower as OMAC and Siu-Ling stop to take shots at the demolition charge from 30 meters out, in the dark. Siu-Ling switches her pistol to minimum setting and takes a shot, missing and cursing. OMAC takes a two handed firing stance and squeezes the trigger three times, the first two shots striking to either side of the target, the third bullet finds it's mark resulting in another explosion (44 points damage to tower and robot) that tears an opening through the chain link fence. OMAC merely smiles to himself and races to catch up with Boro, Crisbel and the Edestekai, Siu-Ling at his side.
"If I can find a door opposite the side that xZot dropped off the jetcopter landing team, I can make my way in and meet them in the middle." Raid mutters. He stops at the third door on his left to see that this door is protected with a contact recognition lock. Suddenly the door to the building behind him opens and four pirates rush out into the alleyway and one heading in Raid's direction, the other three heading for the doors he just passed by. The northern door of the same building opens and another pirate exits heading north whilst the southern door opens and three more pirates race out, glancing in the direction of Mr Mawson's attack team before heading toward the garage.
Gloo, Bruce X'anthe and their Edestekai followers close on the breach, the robot still firing at the Edestekai
"X'anthe, help the Edestekai however you can" the X-O orders then indicating toward the robot with his blaster "Gloo, you keep that robot occupied and I'll try and de-activate it when we get up close and personal. Hmm looks like another Mark 4 Combot from here." Mr Mawson says as xZot roars overhead in the Jetcopter, heading for the landing spot where Sni'ktl waits anxiously.
"Hey Siu-Ling, did the setting on your weapon slip? The only time to use a 1, is when it makes 11!" Borovski chortles "OMAC, good shot man. Can you bring our novice up to speed on some of the finer points to the art"
"Way to go, champ!" Siu-Ling congratulates the Human marksman for his accuracy. "Hey, maybe later we can..." her proposition is interrupted by the laser fire near them, so she ducks and runs for cover, forgetting about the unfinished sentence. As the Edestekai continue charging toward the robot in the torn fence line OMAC squeezes off three shots at the robot, cursing under his breath as each shot misses. Siu-Ling races on behind the Edestekai as the robot slices one of the fertilizers in half with its laser rifle.
Boro doesn't exactly blend in amongst a horde of screaming 3-legged peanuts heading towards the tower, but his full intention is to arrive and then take a shot at destroying the robot with his sonic disruptor.
"Hey Crisbel, its your choice to stop and take a shot now or keep on running which is what I intend to do." Borovski, Crisbel and the Edestekai horde swarm through the hole in the fence line. Crisbel fires at the robot and misses then Borovski blasts the robot with his Sonic Disruptor at point blank range, (50 points) completely frying it's circuit boards before half a dozen Edestekai descend on the metal carcass stabbing wildly with their home made spears and pikes. The remaining Edestekai surge into the compound toward the stockade.
Sp'ock waits in the Vrusk fashion, gathering patience with each passing second. The door will yield in its time, the killing and the dying will continue at the pace the events dictate. There is nothing to be gained by getting jumpy of impatient. But, if that damn lock doesn't open soon. Then GleepGlooup is through the doorway and into a short passage beyond. Ah! At last.
Once the door is open Sp'ock leads the way in, both lasers out now and set to 5. He quickly spots a door to the south and another to the east with no sentries in the corridor. The Chief Security Officer orders his companions inside and quickly closes the door behind them realizing they may not yet have been spotted by internal security. Gleep looks again at the door to the east and points out to Sp'ock that this door has a contact recognition lock although the southern door has a regular lock.
Taking note of the approaching Yazirian, Raid quietly slips around the corner of the building two meters from the door and watches. He takes the calculated risk that the other nearby Vrusk pirate will continue moving north and breathes a sigh of relief when the pirate disappears through the southern door to the building in the north east corner of the compound.
"If my luck holds out just a little bit longer this guy might actually open that door for me," Raid thinks. His left hand holsters the laser pistol and pulls out a dose grenade as the pirate reaches the door. Waiting until the Yazirian has opened the door, Raid steps up behind him stealthily from the shadows.
In one smooth motion, the Yazirian swings around, slashing out at Crisbel with the invisible blade of a sonic knife. Crisbel yelps in pain as the pirate's blade makes contact with it's shimmering target, opening up a nasty wound in Crisbel's side (19 points). Crisbel tosses his dose grenade at his assailant "Here goes," Raid thinks, holding his breath. "I'm in for it now." As he watches the grenade hit it's mark and the audible pop as the sleep gas is released. The Yazirian pirate smiles back at Raid's shadowy form as he presses his thumb to the recognition pad by the doorway.
"Just like breath mints" he laughs at the bewildered Raid before disappearing through the door. Glancing south down the alley Raid notes that all the other pirates have disappeared from his view either inside the building or out the southern end of the alleyway.
As Mr Mawson leads his charging column closer to the fence line, X'anthe's lithe form has surged to the front of the Edestekai mob. Caught up in the primal, religious urges of the crowd X'anthe hurls herself, spear in hand, at the robot sentry. Her crude attack fails to damage the robot but her actions drive on the Edestekai fertilizers as they too attack the robot with their spears or surge past through the hole in the fence, pursuing the three pirates who exited the southern end of the alleyway. In the midst of the fighting Mr Mawson props when he hears X'anthe's scream, a blast from the robot caught the Environmentalist in the shoulder (18 points to X'anthe) as several Edestekai land blows on the robot. The X-O empties the remaining four charges from his laser pistol clip into the robot (22 points) but the sentry is still returning fire as Gloo leads the remaining Edestekai through the fence line.
Sni'ktl scritches and shriggs and his feet tap out a syncopated rhythm, a ricochet of his tangled nerves. The inflamed fury of the Edestekai, a swarm of anger borne on the hot dessert wind. Pyre's of tangled metal reach tendrils of smoke into the dawn sky of Volturnus. Laser light divides the scene in a moment, a moment when lives hang on the delicate threads of chance or destiny.
Sni'ktl can't make out his comrades at this range but he wants to be with them. Usually one to berate xZot's boy racer tendencies, he is relived by the turn of speed and quick maneuvering xZot uses to bring the 'copter swiftly back to the hill.
"This is ground force one to fly boy, come in fly boy? We are preparing to breach the perimeter and assert our presence towards what has been assumed their command post. Would appreciate not having to concern myself with threat of friendly fire, over and out" Borovski's voice comes over the teams chronocom's bringing a smile to the Commander's face as he takes off in the jetcopter once more, this time with Sni'ktl in the passenger seat beside him.
"Roger that ground force one!" answers Commander xZot "Looks like you got bogies incoming, those robots from the western towers are heading east along the fence line. Heads up people."
"Get that in to ya, ya overrated piece of popgun mecano." Borovski booms as he watches the Robot topple over "Mmmm gotta love this sonic shit" Boro chortles to ones self. "Crisbel my sonic brother, I reckon we use our polyvox's to hook up with a unit of Edestekai each and take out this northern room." Crisbel nods at Borovski as he finishes explaining his plan. "I'll take on the northern door as I head west along the north fence."
"Roger that!" Crisbel replies curtly
"The remaining three units of E's can continue West and distract or take out that robot heading our way" Boro checks his sonic disruptors power levels and draws a deep breath "Feeling like gettin' some of that action Crisbel or what?" Boro is confident in the result he'll get from Crisbel, proceeds through the perimeter. Crisbel watches Borovski take a group of Edestekai towards his chosen doorway then the Yazirian leads his squad of Edestekai south along the fence line to force the eastern door of the building.
Borovski and Crisbel force their way into the same warehouse from their respective entrances and the Edestekai with them quickly surge into the room looking for Star Devils. Boro and Crisbel both see large bins filled with raw ore lining the walls of the warehouse although there are no signs of guards or any other occupants
Siu-Ling crouches outside the fence line behind a pack of Edestekai squeezing through a human compatible hole in the fence. The combat robot in front of her having been neutralized, Siu-Ling now has the small luxury of reminiscing on her dear Nounouche for a split second, though she quickly returns to the moment at hand. The Human enters the compound behind the Edestekai, doing her best to leap over the prone remains of the downed robot. Spotting another robot of similar build and constitution, her heart skips a beat during the brief moment that she wonders whether or not it has been rendered inoperative
"Scheisse!" she curses as her reflexes jolt her body to the nearest wall in search for soft cover. "Crisbel!" she tries to whisper amidst the clatter of sprinting Edestekai. Hoping to catch the Yazirian's attention and point his eyes and nose in the second robot's direction, she readies her pistols and prepares to deliver lasers at the first sign of trouble from that robot. The leading pack of Edestekai from Siu-Lings' column surge toward the robot as it fires twice into the pack dropping one of it's attackers. The Edestekai surround the robot, thrusting st it with their spears. Unable to get a clear shot at the robot for fear of hitting one of her allies, Siu-Ling edges along to the corner of the northeastern building and peers around the corner across the shuttle landing pad in the middle of the compound.
OMAC enters the northern breach last watching carefully for any targets of opportunity as he makes his way south to check the alley between the two eastern buildings.
Inside the main headquarters building of Slave City One, Sp'ock remembers back to his days in basic training
"Left hand on the left wall and just keep walking" he mutters to himself then indicates the eastern door to Gleep "Try your luck" he says and steps aside for the Dralasite Tech to examine the high tech locking mechanism. Con steps over to the southern door and presses an ear to the prefab door as he fingers his Laser pistol then swears when Gleep touches the contact recognition lock and sets off an audible alarm.
"Well so much for stealth mode" exclaims Sp'ock as he levels both his blasters at the lock and fires simultaneously, burning a hole through the lock and the door. The Vrusk Security Officer kicks the door with his lower right leg and whistles when he sees the racks of weapons on the armory walls.
On the other side of the very same room, Raid leaps desperately for the door to try to prevent it from closing with the blade of his machete. Hoping to shove his tangler grenade inside the building. The door shuts inches from his outstretched blade, he pirates mocking laughter echoing from beyond the door. Wincing in pain with the sonic whine still ringing in his ears, Raid pulls out his laser pistol and steps up to the right side of the door. Pulling the trigger he delivers a powerful blast to the door's handle, making a hole large enough to shove his tangler grenade through.
"So much for stealth," he sighs. "Guess we'll have to do this the crude way."
From his vantage point on the other side of the armory, Sp'ock watches in stunned disbelief as Raid's tangler grenade appears through the hole blasted in the opposite door. Realizing what is about to happen Sp'ock cries out
"Noooooo!" as he dives back into the corridor with Gleep and Con. The tangler grenade explodes inside the armory effectively denying access to everything inside the room and blocking all three doorways into the armory.
Gloo waddles up to the southern door of the HQ building and pulls a Frag grenade off his bandolier as he watches X'anthe lead a pack of Edestekai into the center of the compound toward the stockade. Glancing back toward the fence line he sees his X-O moving around behind the Security robot as another group of Edestekai poke and prod it with their spears. Laser beams lance out from the robots weapons and another Edestekai crumples to the ground. Gloo tries the door, finding it locked he decides to try the next door in the alley way running north towards Raid.
Sni'ktl max's the volume on his chronocom output to compete with the roar of the Jetcopter.
"I see two skuzzballs heading for the door behind the gate. Swoop 'em as the first one opens the door xZot. I have a sticky present for them."
xZot banks sharply and accelerates as he brings the Jetcopter around again to better survey the enemy movements below. As the jetcopter requires almost all of his attention to keep aloft, xZot looks to Sni'ktl for directions so as to position themselves to be most effective with their payload.
"Snik, Borovski is right. We need to make sure that we don't bring our bombardment too close to our own positions. Is that doorway you're lining up clear? Maybe we should try to intercept those robots from the western towers before they reach our ground troops?".
"Good call boss. The doorway is clear for now. Lets block it up and then take out some 'bots" replies Sni'ktl
xZot works the controls of the jetcopter relentlessly as he maneuvers the machine around the compound. The young Yazirian's blood boils with rage against his enemy as he watches events unfurl below. He listens intently to his chronocom for updates from the assault teams on the ground, sporadically offering his own observations where he thinks they'll help. xZot's primary aims are still to disrupt the pirates with aerial bombardment and harassment, taking advantage of the enemies disorganization while it exists, and hopefully providing his teams time to take control of the building.
The jetcopter dives at the exposed pirates. The hot Volturnus air whips Sni'ktl's antennae. Poised to release the grenade time seems to take time out. Perched on the moment, surveying the carnage below Sni'ktl thinks
"By the egg, what have we released. What suffering, what pain." After what seems like an eternity he releases a frag grenade adding his own contribution to the mayhem and slaughter. Then his three stomachs switch places as xZot pulls the 'copter up.
Sni'ktl's first experiment with explosives may also become his last when the horror of his actions finally comes to bear on his civilized consciousness. The strange coincidences of mathematics and physics ensured that as Sni'ktl's lobbed grenade arrived at the target point between the two pirates at the gate the third enemy target, the security robot, conveniently arrived on the scene. Unfortunately a pack of Edestekai travelling along the fence line toward the stockade also entered the blast radius of Sni'ktl's grenade.
Both pirates, the robot and several Edestekai bore the brunt of the explosion and although none of the protagonists were killed, both pirates were only saved from death by their Military Skiensuits. The robot immediately fired on the Edestekai, killing one of the creatures wounded by the grenade blast as the other survivors milled around in panic or stabbed ineffectually at the robot with their pikes. Jumping away from the center of the blast radius both pirates reacted by firing several shots with their gyrojet pistols at the diving Jetcopter as it roared by overhead.
As xZot made this pass over the compound he noticed pirates beginning to spill out of the doorways from what Sp'ock had accurately predicted to be the barracks.
"Heads up folks! We got more company." the commander reported over the team chronocom channel
From his position inside the southern breach, Bruce Ridley Mawson III sums up the situation. The Edestekai have reduced the robot behind him to a pile a scrap metal and most of the remaining assault column has disappeared between the buildings inside the compound. Spotting Gloo moving into the alleyway nearby the X-O orders Gloo to cover the alleyway while he investigates the corner building. Mr Mawson checks that his polyvox is still operational before calling out to the Edestekai to follow him as he shoulders his way through the doorway, laser pistol in hand.
Pushing the through the unlocked doorway Bruce finds himself in a relatively comfortable bunkhouse, no double bunks, all single beds.
"Clear!" Bruce yells out when he scans the large room and sees no opposition. "Hmmm looks like Officer Country?" He wonders as he runs north through the building and heading for the eastern doorway, the spear wielding Edestekai close behind him. The human officer stops as he reaches for the door handle then quickly speaks into his chronocom.
"Gloo, friendlies coming out the eastern door!" He warns his sentry before opening the door out into the alley between both buildings"
"No problem boss" answers the Dralasite trooper from his covering position. "Which way now?" the Dralasite asks, indicates the doors on the HQ building side of the alleyway. As he turned to face Bruce, Gloo fails to see a Vrusk pirate emerge from the back door of the building east of the gate. The Vrusk was heading toward the southern door of the HQ building when he sees Gloo and fires two shots with a laser pistol. Gloo yells in pain when the first beam sears his side (32 points) then returns fire with his Sonic Stunner. Gloo misses the Vrusk who heads for the HQ doorway.
Hoping to have immobilized the sonic knife wielding pirate, Raid flicks his chronocom audio back on and leans forward to peer through the blast hole in the door for a damage assessment.
"Is anyone nearby carrying solvaway?" Raid asks as he surveys the web filled room. "I'm in the alley behind the main building and just locked down some sort of armory here with a tangler. All we need to do is dissolve the threads and help ourselves to the goods. We may have even taken our first prisoners." He then begins trying to force in the door. "I'm still Holoed, so I'll yell to the first person I recognize."
"How did you get here and what have you done now?" OMAC exclaims from behind a startled Raid. OMAC shoulders past the Holoscreened scout and peers through the hole Raid blasted in the door and examines the tangler filled armory and turns to say in a flat even tone to Raid
"You fuck wit! Is that one word or two? What are you doing here? Where's your team? And your bleeding you fuckin idiot" the large warrior yells at his fellow human as he pulls out a hypo spray and applies a dose of biocort (First Aid 10 points back for Raid)
"Now get with the fuckin' program. An attack like this has to a co-ordinated team effort. There's no room for hot-dogs! You'll get yourself killed."
"It will take to long to dissolve all this shit, there's a raging fire fight happening. Leave it as it is and then the pirates can't use
it either." OMAC draws both blasters and turns toward the southern door of the building to his north. The same door that another pirate used less than a minute earlier.
"I'll kick the door in and cover you, you jump through and clear the room."
Raid begins to mutter something about under education and a poor vocabulary then quickly decides that this is not the best moment to start an argument. "Alright, OMAC. Let's get to work." Raid goes along with OMAC's plan, holoscreen on and machete at the ready.
OMAC kicks the door, Raid Array power rolls into the room and comes up firing his blaster as OMAC steps through the doorway firing both his laser pistols. Raid empties his remaining 10 charges from his pistol into a surprised Vrusk pirate wearing a military skiensuit (49 points) who reels from the blast but returns fire in the general direction of the doorway with a gyrojet pistol. One of the jets hits OMAC's right shoulder (12 points, half to suit) putting off his right handed shots but not before he blasts a second pirate, this one a Yazirian, twice with his left hand weapon (46 points). The pirate survives the blasts but his return gyrojet fire is ineffectual.
Seeing that this storage space is empty of the enemy, Borovski calls over to Crisbel,
"Let's bug out, they gotta be somewhere!" The Dralasite warrior leads his charges toward the western doors of the building and out into the compound, Crisbel and the Edestekai fertilizers close behind. When they exit the building and spot the pirates across the compound the Edestekai immediately surge toward the hated heretics.
Suddenly there is a burst of noise and lights from the front line of Edestekai then Siu-Ling, Boro and Crisbel realize that the Edestekai have just come face to face with modern warfare. The front half a dozen pirates stop and fire a volley with laser and gyrojet pistols. The combat robot fires as well and another 2 Edestekai fertilizers die and 5 more are wounded. Crisbel, now confronted with the violence of combat and the slaughter of his allies, feels the blood lust rising up inside him. The Yazirian soldier roars an ancient war cry as he charges in to the melee with the pirates.
From her vantage point, Siu-Ling watches as the Edestekai are cut down only to be replaced by more as Borovski, Crisbel and their Edestekai command sweep across the landing pad towards the pirates. The swirling melee makes it almost impossible to pick out a target. It's then that the human sharpshooter notices the laser fire directed at the teams' jetcopter. It appears to be coming from the northwestern barracks though she can't see exactly where.
"Kikikikikikikikkiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikk......" Sni'ktl pounds on xZot's head with his front legs "Nooooooooo.... THEY WERN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE." Visions of Edestekai impaled on twisted fragments of metal flash like a strobe through Sni'ktl's consciousness. "No more, I can't do it anymore" he shrieks as he shakes xZot.
Adjusting his goggles following Sni'ktl's pounding, xZot moves around in the seat straining to get into a position with better visibility. Catching sight of the pirates as they pour our of the doorway, xZot banks the jetcopter around the buildings hoping Snik can target the pirates as the come out of the barracks.
"....ikikikikikikkiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikkiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikk...zzt...." Sni'ktl returns to the moment his brief vision of pounding xZot and the shriek is enough release for now. He tidily bottles the emotion, labels it and stores it on a shelf just behind his inner judge for future processing. "Woooah xZot... targets at eight o'clock sharp. Get me over the T-Junction just below us on our left"
"If we come around a little we will be some distance from our comrades, maybe you should drop a couple of those grenades at once?" xZot yells over the noise of the engines. "Before too long our troops will be too intermingled on the ground for us to be effective up here, we might as well take our opportunities while we've got 'em."
xZot maneuvers the jetcopter in a banking turn around to the south-west targeting the pirates as they leave the buildings. Sni'ktl drops a second frag grenade into the pack of pirates just north of the wooden stockade, and several pirates are injured by the blast but it becomes apparent that many of the pirates must be wearing civilian skiensuits as there are again no fatalities from the explosion.
Just as Sni'ktl releases the grenade the Jetcopter is rocked by what felt like an impact
"What was that?" Yelps the startled pilot, then Sni'ktl spots the two pirates on the roof of the northern barracks manning a Heavy Laser.
"Get us out of here!" Cries out Sni'ktl "They have Anti Air defence!"
"We've lost power." xZot calls over the roar of the engines as the Jetcopter noticeably decelerates. Commander xZot struggles with the controls, keeping the Jetcopter in the air but she is definitely damaged as shown by the flashing emergency lights on his drivers display. "Acceleration is down thirty percent!"
"Damn!" Sp'ock mutters as he bounces back up off the floor in a spasmodic flex of his rear four legs. Visions of Laser rifles, spare clips, and grenades being buried in tangler webs flashes through memory. A quickly suppressed desire to sob, back to business.
"Mr Anderson I suggest you don your gas mask. GleepGlooup provide rear cover for us." Sp'ock pulls his own gas mask into place. Pulling a doze grenade from his belt he looks to Con. "Mr Anderson if you would get the door I shall announce us."
Unaware of the flow of the combat outside in the compound Con Anderson follows suit with Sp'ock and puts on his gas mask then the towering human kicks open the door as Sp'ock hurls in his dose grenade blindly. Con makes out four pirates and four robots in the room before Sp'ock's grenade goes pop. The room itself appears very much like an office, there are two adjoining spaces connected by an open archway and several desks and computers are in evidence.
All the occupants of the room turn in the direction of the door when then dose grenade goes off but none of the pirates or robots are affected by the dose gas. Con swears to himself before throwing one of his own dose grenades at the pirates. This time the pirates aren't so lucky and two of their number succumb to the effects of the gas. Surprisingly it seems, the robots don't open fire on Con.
Captain Straub and his companion however do. The pirate commander fires his laser rifle from the hip and strikes Con squarely in the chest a six meters range and on maximum setting! The force of the blast almost burns completely through the chest plate of Con's Albedo suit (97 points! Suit has 3 points left!) and physically knocks him back through the doorway and to the floor in the corridor. The second pirates gyrojet's fly high and miss their mark. Astonished at seeing Con driven back into the corridor, GleepGlooup steps to the doorway and covers Con with his Gyrojet pistol, firing three poison loads at the pirate Captain, the second shot finding it's mark (5 points).
"Somebody kill that bastard!" Con grunts from the floor as he attempts to regain his feet.v Taking a quick moment to survey the carnage happening all around her, X'anthe realizes the children are probably safest for the time being locked in their stockade.
"We'll have to take care of these pirates first!", she screams to the Edestekai with her. "I hope they understand me' she thinks to herself. "Let's concentrate on taking out these pirates one at a time", with this statement she leads the group of Edestekai off towards the nearest pirate. Many of the Edestekai flow into the center of the compound but several gather behind X'anthe as the turns toward the melee at the front gate. Seeing an opportunity to hit a compact group of pirates X'anthe opts to throw her Frag grenade over the top of the combat robot and into the pirates at the back of the group. The grenade lands in the center of the group and five pirates plus the robot are caught in the blast radius of the grenade. Again none of the targets are eliminated but all of them are showing signs of damage as skiensuits and metal plating are again shredded by shrapnel. The pirates and robot get off a volley of fire, killing another Edestekai, before the enraged Edestekai close for hand to hand combat around the front gate of the compound.
Swearing, Gloo turns and calls out to his X-O
"Mr Mawson, down here!" The Dralasite trooper shouts then runs to follow his attacker. When he rounds the corner Gloo sees the southern door to the HQ closing. He rushes over and yanks on the door handle as Bruce arrives behind him. The door opens in Gloo's hand and three pirates inside fire a volley at the doorway. Gloo is slightly wounded by a gyrojet shell (7 points) and Bruce is shot in the leg with a laser blast before either can react. Bruce blazes away ineffectually with his blaster as Gloo lobs a dose grenade into the confines of the room beyond and is rewarded quickly by the distinct sound of bodies falling to the floor.
Recognizing that the Jetcopter is severely damaged and in need of repairs if it is to retain its flight worthiness, xZot surveys the area below him for a safe landing site.
"There is no point setting down in the compound Snik, we'll just be sitting ducks." xZot comments with a somewhat stressed tone in his voice, striving to be heard over the screaming engine and warning tones emanating from the jetcopter's dash "I think we should set down on the outside near the north-east tower and move into the compound on foot." xZot quickly relays his intentions to the rest of the group over the com link. Realizing that they were going to have to overfly the pirates with the heavy laser on the top of the north building in order to get to a safe landing site xZot indicates to his bombardier drop a number of grenades a once
"This will probably be our last aerial chance and we might as well make the most of it. We don't want a heavy laser bearing down on us when we are running around in the compound."
"OK Boss" replies Sni'ktl as he pulls three grenades out of the bag at random. "Just fly her straight along the ridge of that roof into the rising sun and I'll pepper 'em." With fast Vrusk hands Sni'ktl activates the six grenades left in his bag, awaits the right moment to empty the bag...and releases... "Ooh, they don't like the look of that" reports Snik as he sees the faces of the Heavy Laser gunners. The pirates fire a second blast at the Jetcopter before Sni'ktl's fan of death and doze gas emanates from the belly of the 'copter raining down on the gunners. As xZot brings 'copter in to land Sni'ktl observes the carnage in their wake.
One of the frag grenades and a dose grenade found their mark, wounding both laser crew men and rendering them unconscious with dose gas. The remaining grenades bounced in several directions and quite a distance, not surprising considering the speed and altitude of the vehicle and the skill of the subject. One frag grenade bounces off the roof and over the north fence, and a dose grenade bounces forward more than 20 meters, over the heads of the pirates and amongst the oncoming Edestekai knocking out two of the advancing Edestekai. The last dose grenade and the incendiary grenade fall into the rear group of pirates inflicting more casualties though no fatalities.
Siu-Ling watches, feeling helpless as the Jetcopter flies back over her position headed for an apparent landing behind her. She sees the flashes of explosions as Sni'ktl's barrage goes off and hears the battle cries of the Edestekai and now joined with Crisbel ululating war cry. The Yazirian charges the combat robot, machete flailing wildly over his head. The Edestekai and pirates are grappling viciously with each other as Crisbel delivers a savage blow to the combat robot, literally removing it's head and he whirls towards his next victim, the bloodlust unsatisfied. Borovski also tries to join the fray but his small stature and low speed prevent him from being able to get at any of the pirates. The Dralasite soldier looks around seeing the last group of Edestekai enter the landing pad area from the south to join the melee, then realizes that the Edestekai are not actually entering any of the buildings and that some pockets of pirates may indeed be left behind them. It's then that Borovski notices the north door to the garage is open and heads south across the landing pad toward the building. Siu-Ling, still scanning the battleground before her also notices the open door when she sees Borovski change direction and head toward the garage.
Chief Security Officer Sp'ock log.
Mission Date: Day 85, 19.10 hours.
Location: Slave City One Volturnus
Whilst engaged in a contact against diverse criminal, and treasonous individuals on the planet Volturnus trooper Anderson was killed by...He's still alive! "Gotta love Zik-kit Industries."
As Gleep interferes with Sp'ock's return fire zone by disobeying orders in the process. Giving Sp'ock ample time to reflect on the wisdom of sewing Star Devil patches onto their skiensuits.
"Wonder how long we have before the Pirates figure that one out? Long enough with luck." Sp'ock curses under his breath again even as his legs gather him for what they are being asked to do. Severe doubts are raised by the self-preservation circuits in his brain, ruthlessly silenced by the enhanced military and tactical parts, backed up by the ethical sub portions, and rousingly cheered on by the blatant death wish subsection. Where were we? Oh yeah!
"Gleep! Duck!" Sp'ock shouts as he launches himself over the Dralasites head, tucking his legs to avoid braining the unmoving Tech. Before the irreverent thought of the improbable chance of damaging such a small, well hidden object, occurred to him.
Sp'ock, intent on taking the pirate captain down as quickly as possible, uses Tai Quaing grappling techniques to immobilize his opponent. As the pirate officer sees Sp'ock closing with him he screams at the combat robots
"Kill them, kill them all!" The robots respond by scanning Sp'ock's insertion team once again but fail to discharge their weapons as Sp'ock lunges toward hi opponent. The pirate drops his rifle, side steps the oncoming Vrusk, then slashes out with a sonic melee weapon he draws from his belt but the Security Officer narrowly avoids the attack as both Con and Gleep open fire on the remaining pirate. Con's second blast strikes the other pirate (39 points and 10 SEU's used from 2 shots) as does Gleep's third shell (5 points), the pirate reels from the laser blow and starts coughing as Gleeps' poison begins to take effect. The Dralasite grins to himself when he notices that both his victims are now coughing from the gas then frowns when he sees that both pirates in the HQ are still standing.
Hoping that his blurred image may throw off the pirate's aim a little, Raid jumps into action with his machete and attempts to decapitate his nearest enemy with a powerful but ill-aimed stroke. He presses close, so the rocket propelled gyrojet's won't have room to fully accelerate. OMAC steps back around the corner firing again with both his blasters but missing everything. Both pirates fire again at the human trooper, silhouetted in the doorway. Several gyrojet shots strike the wall but two shells strike OMAC (26 points, half to Skiensuit) who grunts in pain as he steps back behind cover and ejects both empty clips from his blasters. During the exchange of fire, Raid takes advantage of the distraction and tries to maneuver behind the pirates using some fancy footwork and without disengaging.
Down by the front gate several Edestekai overwhelm and destroy the combat robot before it can fire again. Two of the pirates are also wounded with spear thrusts as the Edestekai suffer another round of fire from Gyrojet and Laser weapons. X'anthe watches as another Edestekai collapses from a fatal wound and begins to wonder about the outcome of the battle. X'anthe tries to block the negative thought as she engages the nearest foe with her spear, stabbing him through his skiensuit, in the side (16 points, half to suit) as more Edestekai swarm past her and into the confined fray.
Executive Officer Mawson signals to Gloo to enter the building and check on their fallen opponents. As Gloo enters the room, the third pirate, still conscious after the dose grenade, lunges toward Gloo with a copper coloured tube. The Dralasite trooper shoots the pirate in the chest with his sonic stunner, but the pirate is unaffected by the weapon. Gloo isn't so lucky. The pirate officer, Mister M, strikes Gloo with the metal tube and the stunstick discharges. Gloo convulses briefly from the effect of the stunstick and collapses to the floor (stunned for 68 combat rounds). Bruce swears when he sees Gloo go down then orders the Edestekai into the room via his polyvox. The Edestekai swarm past the injured X-O and into the room as Bruce begins a communication and location check of the rest of the teams.
"All sections! Status report!" he says over the teams chronocom frequency before adding for xZot and Sni'ktl's benefit "Gloo is down, I need a medic at the south end of the HQ. I think he's just stunned but he's out for the count!"
Siu-Ling hesitates a moment as she responds to the X-O's order over the chronocom before attempting to shoot at the pirates to the west. Frustrated at the lack of viable targets from her position and not seeing any suitable cover closer to the melee, Siu-Ling notices Borovski's change of direction and realizes he is heading for the garage. Resolving to taking as many of the pirates out as soon as possible and unable to add her firepower to support the Edestekai Siu-Ling observes that Crisbel is more than up to the task of demonstrating hand-to-hand techniques, so the warrior woman decides to support Borovski's move and quickly races across the shuttle landing pad to the doorway behind Borovski who has forced the door and entered the garage.
Inside the garage Borovski has hit pay dirt. A Jetcopter is parked in the north half of the garage and an Explorer is parked behind the southern double doors. Two pirates, one on each side of the jetcopter turn in Borovski's direction, hand guns drawn. As Borovski swings his Sonic Disruptor toward the Dralasite on his left, the pirate opens fire, the second beam from his laser pistol hits Boro's Albedo Screen and drains 5 charges from his power supply. Borovski returns fire, hitting the pirate at point blank range with the Sonic weapon. Unprotected from the blast, the pirate reels back (35 points) as his partner opens fire on Borovski with a gyrojet pistol. The first shot hits Borovski, destroying what remains of his skiensuit and causing a minor injury (9 points after suit) but the next two shots miss Boro when the pirate is distracted by Siu-ling appearing around the doorway.
"By the One!" she cries out for the first time in battle as her legs carry her forth. Click, click! She pops both clips into her twin pistols, fixes a corner of her breast that has gotten snagged on her skeinsuit, crouches, inhales, closes her eyes, opens them, and faces her attackers with both guns blazing. Two laser blasts strike the Yazirian pirate (39 points) who yelps in pain as he takes cover behind the Jetcopter.
Suddenly the robots in the main HQ office move into action. All four spin around and disappear, two through the eastern door and two through the south door.
"Nooooo" Captain Straub yells in despair as he sees the robots leaving then turns and snarls at Sp'ock who is ready to launch another attack on the pirate. Straub snarls at Sp'ock and steps in close, stabbing viciously into the lower, upright section of the Vrusks abdomen. Expecting the attack, in fact counting on it, Sp'ock actually steps into the blade (28 points) and silently absorbing the pain, uses his proximity to his enemy to apply a devastatingly simple nerve pinch to the pirate captain's neck. The snarl on Straub's face melts away as he collapses at Sp'ocks many feet, unconscious. The last remaining pirate standing in the HQ fires three more gyrojets in Gleep and Con's direction to no avail. Con returns fire, emptying his clip and Gleep squeezes off his last round, hitting the pirate with a second poison round (5 points plus 5 from poison last turn). Seeing his Captain down and the robots gone, the last pirate, a dralasite, drops his pistol and throws up his hands, still coughing from the poison gas.
"I wonder what's going on in the buildings?" thinks X'anthe. "Oh well the First Mother will take care of that lets just concentrate on the pirates we can see first and worry about cleaning out the buildings later." With this thought clearly in mind she rallies the Edestekai around her to concentrate on taking out the nearest pirate. Raising her spear, she stabs the nearest pirate again (16 points, half to skiensuit). Another Edestekai nearby also stabs the pirate who screams in pain and rage and fires three shots at X'anthe with his gyrojet pistol at point blank range. Unable to target effectively, he misses twice but the third rocket creases the dark woman's side (11 points). X'anthe tries to ignore the pain as she sees the Edestekai around her fighting and suffering alongside her. In the relatively confined area around the gate the Edestekai have lost the advantage of superior numbers it looks like the advanced weaponry of the pirates may determine this action although it does appear that most of the pirates are carrying some injury or other.
"You mother fuckers!" OMAC screams at the pirates from around the corner of the doorway. "They were warning shots!" he exclaims as he holsters both empty pistols and pulls his dose grenade from is belt. "Never holster an empty weapon!" OMAC curses himself realizing what he has just done. "Oh well, I'll fix that sooner" he mutters as he lobs the primed dose grenade through the doorway.
"Deal this up between you" he yells, then reaches for a sprayhypo of stimdose in anticipation of Raid joining the sleeping pirates. Looking up and then across in the direction of xZot's noisy, crippled chopper as it comes in to land on the eastern side of the compound.
"One egg beater going down! Good luck Humpty, adios Dumpty. Fuck I crack myself up!" OMAC laughs to himself.
Aiming for the neck again, Raid machetes the nearest pirate from the rear. Somehow sensing the attack, the Vrusk turns as Raid delivers his blow across the Vrusk's back (23 points, half to skiensuit). The pirate reels under the blow then, upon seeing OMAC's grenade and surmising his intent, Raid stops breathing and hopes for the best.
OMAC's grenade goes off with an audible pop and both injured pirates slump unconscious and bleeding to the floor, fortunately leaving his team mate Raid unaffected. Taking stock of their surroundings, Raid and OMAC quickly establish they are in some kind of shipping office, several desks and chairs are littered with paperwork regarding ore shipments.
"Yeah OMAC," Raid thinks. "Just rush in there and I'll cover you! Yeah right! Next time OMAC can go in first."
xZot manages to bring the damaged Jetcopter down for a safe landing at the appropriate location east of the compound and begins taking his X-O's report as Sni'ktl bails out of the seat beside him
"Are you OK boss? Good flying xZot." Seeing that his comrade is fine after the landing, Sni'ktl hurries towards the compound. He remembers seeing the distinctive flash of OMAC's mohawk in one of the alleys and he sets of to rendezvous with the field medic.
The Edestekai race past Mr Mawson and into the room containing Gloo's unconscious form. Almost as soon as the Edestekai enter the building, Bruce hears a volley of laser fire. The stench of burning chitin and screeches of the dying fertilizers, tell him something has gone terribly wrong. Risking a peek around the corner of the doorway, the X-O sees his loyal Edestekai troops being methodically exterminated by four laser rifle wielding Mark 4 combat robots. Accepting his responsibility for having ordered his troops into the ambush Mr Mawson flicks on his chronocom
"The Edestekai are being slaughtered by combats robots in the CP, I have to go in and try disabling the bots" Taking a deep breath, Mawson launches his bruised and battered body through the doorway. Four of the Edestekai are already dead inside the doorway, the remaining four are flailing away at the combat robots with their crude spears. The human X-O winces as he moves toward the nearest robot, the machine continues to be distracted by it's Edestekai opponent as Bruce locates the security panel and immediately goes to work with his electrodriver. Across the room, Mr M has spotted Bruce and realized that the intruder is wearing a Star Devil patch. Unseen by Bruce the pirate officer turns to his computer console, the main piece of furniture in the room, and begins tapping the keyboard furiously.
Borovski, somewhat surprised to see Siu-Ling over his shoulder but happy all the same, yells out to the human female
"Do you take dictation? Well we ain't got time for that shit, report in while I finish off these bastards." Borovski fires his Disruptor again at the Dralasite pirate as he considers the pros and cons of using a frag grenade in a room containing jet fuel. The pirate returns fire and wounds Boro (11 points) before being cut down by another blast from the sonic disruptor.
"What shit?" Siu-Ling asks, not expecting an answer in the heat of battle. The Human complies with the Dralasite's order, unsure of where he lies with respect to her on the chain of command then fires her blaster at the yazirian pirate when he pokes his head put from behind the chopper to take a shot. Her first shot sizzles past his head and the second drills him through the forehead before he even realizes he is under fire. As Siu-Ling is reporting their status on the chronocom she sees both cabin doors of the Explorer open and two more pirates emerge and head in her direction
"We got company" she says to Boro who nods having also seen the vehicle doors open
Inside the Command Center Sp'ock quickly asses the situation both inside and over the chronocom
"Con, you secure the room and prisoners. Gleep, follow those robots." He orders as he quickly begins striping the Albedo screen, powerpack and laser rifle from the pirate commander. Con shoves the conscious pirate prisoner against a wall, covering him and the stunned pirates with his laser pistol as Gleep holsters his empty gyrojet pistol, unslings his laser rifle and heads south through the doorway in the direction taken by the robots.
Down by the front gate things have taken a turn for the worse. The pirate officers have rallied some of their men and several are now throwing dose grenades into the throng around X'anthe. Desperate to help her new friends the tall human warrior female stabs her opponent again with her spear (14 points, half to suit), as does another of the Edestekai. Then darkness descends as several dose grenades land around X'anthe and explode. She and several of the Edestekai slump unconscious to the ground but more Edestekai surge into the gaps left by their fallen friends preventing the pirates from further harming X'anthe and the stunned beings.
Outside the door to the shipping office OMAC calls out to Raid whilst reloading
"You still standing Raid?" Then looking down at himself and seeing his own wounds says "Fuck! I'm hit!" He loads up a sprayhypo of the precious biocort and applies first aid to himself. With the dose gas rapidly dissipating, Raid exhales slowly through his nose and sighs with relief. He fights back against a residual dizziness that washes over his head, but quickly regains his control and composure.
"We'll have time to check out these files later," he says as he pulls a ten meter synthetic rope from his pack and begins tying up the unconscious pirates, back to back. "I can't risk giving these guys the chance to wake up and cause some mischief, better to bind them now." He grunts as he pulls the cords tight, not overly concerned with the pirate's circulation at the moment. They may bleed to death, Raid realizes, but that is probably a better fate than what the angry Edestekai will have in store for any live prisoners.
Having tied up the pirates, Raid collects their weapons and ammunition, making sure a full clip is in each gyrojet pistol and tucking a stun stick in his belt. After watching Raid go through the process of tying up the prisoners OMAC, still seething at having actually missed targets for the first time he slowly and deliberately draws both blasters.
"No fuckin' way am I leaving these guys behind" OMAC says as he walks over to the prisoners and shoots both in the temple at point blank range (5 SEU's each). "That ought to hold 'em" he says as he turns toward the door. "Don't forget your rope." he chuckles as he heads off to the sound of the guns.
Sni'ktl hurries as fast as his six legs will carry him into the mayhem of Slave City One. As the sounds of screams and laser fire draw nearer, Sni'ktl hopes to join up with OMAC and the others before he meets any pirates. He responds to Bruce's call for positions.
"I'm heading into the compound now, from the East. I'm looking out for OMAC en route to your location." Rounding the corner of the Ore storage building Sni'ktl spots OMAC and Raid exiting the office. "Are we winning yet?." he asks no one in particular as he hurries along behind the pair.
After leaping from the damaged Jetcopter, xZot reaches back to retrieve his kit and weapons. He grabs his pistol, quickly flicking the setting to 4, and activates the Albedo screen as he turns and heads back into the compound following Sni'ktl. Listening to the Com traffic, xZot races into the center of the compound. As he reaches the shuttle landing pad xZot can barely make out Crisbel, in a frightening battle rage, hack into a pirate with his machete. The pirate shoots Crisbel, wounding him in the side with a gyrojet shell (16 points, half to skiensuit) as an Edestekai drives a spear into the pirates back. All across the northern side of the compound xZot can see the Edestekai are pushing back the pirate attempt at a counter attack. Spoiling for a fight xZot attempts to stir up a Battle Rage as he looks around briefly at the carnage. With a quick call on his Com to advise his intentions he moves in and assists Borovski and Siu-Ling. Not happy at having his first Jetcopter shot down xZot focuses on making the pirates pay for their actions in blood.
Racing against time, Bruce Ridley Mawson the Third removes the security plate covering the master override for the Mark Four Combot. He deactivates the robot as three more of the Edestekai are cut down by laser fire. Gleep arrives in the hallway behind the robots and cranking the power up to maximum output, fires at the nearest robot. The first beam misses completely, blasting a hole through the outer wall of the building. The second blast, tears a 6 inch hole through the robots chest plate (104 points) completely destroying it. The pirate officer Mr M, swears as he sees two of his robots disabled but continues working at the keyboard, his pistol on the console in front of him.
OMAC leads, Raid and Sni'ktl down the alley way toward the sound of the laser fire. Turning right at the southern end of the alley, OMAC sees Gloo's lower pseudopods protruding from the doorway and ducks when a sizeable hole is blown through the wall by a powerful laser blast from inside the building. Turning back to Raid, he indicates for him to enter the room via the side door under cover of the Holoscreen. Preparing to power roll into the room OMAC looks at Sni'ktl, then nods in the direction of Gloo's still form. Sni'ktl already has a stimdose load in his sprayhypo, ready to revive the fallen trooper.
Inside the garage, Borovski steps around the back of the Jetcopter and fires his disruptor at a Dralasite pirate. The beam misses it's target then the pirate swears when he shoots Boro with a laser pistol and sees that he is protected by an Albedo screen (5 charges from powerpack). Siu-Ling takes a minor hit from a gyrojet shell (7 points) before she drains the last four charges from her right hand pistol, in a well-aimed shot at the pirate officer who just shot her. The officer yelps as he takes the beam in his right arm (37 points!, not bad for 4d10)
Confusion on the battlefield reigns supreme as the fortunes of both sides ebb and flow in just a few short seconds. xZot arrives still panting hard at Siu-Ling's position while Crisbel takes a hit from one of the pirates (14 points, half to skiensuit) destroying the remnants of his defensive suit. At the front gate X'anthe is now oblivious to the battle raging literally over her head.
At almost the exact moment in time that the X-O spots Mr M at the computer console, Raid shoulders his way through the eastern door of the computer room. OMAC power rolls in through the south doorway, both laser pistols firing as both combat robots switch their targets and GleepGlooup fires again through the north doorway behind them. Raid's invisible form crashes into the Mr M, who swings around, puzzled not to see his attacker and then yelling in pain as Raid slashes him with his trusty machete (24 points, half to skiensuit). Gleep groans as he drains his last few charges from the power belt pack in a wild shot and OMAC blazes away at the robots as well, two of his four shots damaging one of the robots (61 points) but it's all too late for the X-O.
As one of the robots dispatches the last of the Edestekai fertilizers the second robot fires at Bruce. The blast from the laser rifle takes him square in the chest and Bruce Ridley Mawson III expires just as he realizes the battle is won. Through the doorway behind Gloo the last thing Bruce ever sees, is the subspace radio as his lifeless body crashes to the floor beside the dead and dying Edestekai.
Unaware of the loss of his second in command, xZot joins the fray inside the garage. Borovski keeps his opponent occupied, emptying his disruptor clip, while xZot and Siu-Ling trade shots with the pirate officer on the other side of the Jetcopter. xZot keeps the pirates head down with a couple of shots which the officer replies to equally badly then Siu-Ling once again shows her prodigious talent with beam weaponry, having swapped over her pistols the markswoman squeezes off two quick shots when the pirate shows his head. Both blasts strike home (48 points) and Rummie Bill drops dead beside the Jetcopter. Seeing his officer dead and being out numbered and outflanked, Borovski's opponent drops his weapon and pleads for mercy.
In the computer room, time almost seems to stand still. Raid chops viciously into the pirate officer again with his machete (25 points, half to suit) as Mr M lashes out with his stunstick, in the general direction of his attacker. OMAC continues firing at the damaged robot, hitting once more (35 points) before both his pistols are emptied. His laser rifle empty, Gleep draws his laser pistol and fires, finishing off OMAC's target as the last robot swivels toward Gleep's direction. Before the robot can fire, Sp'ock comes through the opposite doorway of the radio room, racing toward the battle. He sees the last robot, stops and fires his newly acquired laser rifle, still on it's maximum setting. The laser blast vaporizes the robots head (110 points) and the last combat robot topples over.
Panicked and confused, Mr M lashes out again with his stunstick and meeting only fresh air. Gleep blasts the pirate with his pistol (32 points) one last time before Raid cuts him down with a final blow from the machete.
The warm flush of laser exhaust washes over Sp'ock as he stares through the blurred air in front of him. The robot's head dissolves in a most satisfactory way.
"Are we clear?" Sp'ock shouts. The affirmative answer has Sp'ock spinning to face GleepGlooup. "Make sure this works. Make sure it stays in working order.!" He gestures towards the subspace radio against the far wall. Striding into the battle zone Sp'ock is saddened by the sight of Lieutenant Commander Mawson's corpse. He rakes his gaze over the troops. Morale looks good, despite the loss, OMAC looks mean, good!
"OMAC, check the front gate please X'anthe has gone silent. Raid if you would provide support." OMAC, having procured several cigars from one of the fallen pirates, jams a cigar into his mouth and speaking around the unlit stoogie.
"Aye aye! Damn, deja vu!" OMAC exclaims as he has a sudden flash back to his long forgotten past Then he sweeps up one of the robots fallen laser rifles, struggles into a power backpack and heads off toward the front gate.
Taking orders from Sp'ock, Raid chokes back his human emotion at the sight of their fallen X-O and follows OMAC toward the scene of the fighting. He makes a mental note of the computer console in the room before leaving.
"They were using that keypad during the fight, so I'll bet that the security program is already turned off," he thinks. "I'll have to check it out later." Still holoscreened, Raid readies his machete and a fully loaded gyrojet pistol.
"Sni'ktl we need Gloo upright now if you please." Sni'ktl scritches for a second in the doorway assessing the mess of toasted flesh and bone that was Lieutenant Commander Mawson. Chirping deep concern (for a Vrusk) Sni'ktl laments,
"It is always saddening to loose such an efficient node in one's immediate network. Time now to tend the living." With typical Vrusk efficiency Sni'ktl applies a dose of stimdose to revive the Dralasite who's stunned form is slowly oozing to block the doorway. "Pull yourself together Gloo, here this should help" says Sni'ktl as he applies biocort to aid Gloo in reforming. Noting that Gloo is still a bit short on pseudopods Sni'ktl suggests minor surgery to the recovering trooper.
"OMAC, please relieve me of these" says Sni'ktl, giving away his remaining grenades "and I'll need a couple of doses of biocort if you please, before you tend to X'anthe." As the troops depart to mop up the remaining pirates Sni'ktl chitters a final note of advice to anyone who cares to listen...
"Hey, lets be cheerful out there" his polyvox (mis)interprets.
Sp'ock pauses only long enough to see if any will question his orders before toggling his wristcom.
"Mr Anderson, I require you to assist Commander xZot in the compound with all due haste. Secure your prisoner now or kill him, now." This done Sp'ock rushes to join OMAC and Raid. "May the Hive mind be with us."
Con Anderson realizes that he can't bind his Dralasite prisoner with rope so pulling his gas mask back into place, he pulls the pin on a doze grenade and drops it at the pirates feet. He waits until the pirate falls unconscious before heading off toward the garage.
"Now THAT'S what I'M talkin' about," Siu-Ling smirks as the laser bores through the Yazirian's forehead. Seeking cover inside the jetcopter, Siu-Ling rubs her gyrojet-inflicted wound and resolves to take out as many of the remaining pirates as she was trained to, in sniper mode. She keeps an eye out for any charging pirates as she crawls into the cabin and reloads her pistols. She notes that the passenger side window has been cracked, giving her ample room to aim at the Star Devil operatives. Setting both weapons to 5 SEU, she clutches the handle of her pistol with both hands.
xZot listens to the Com traffic and breathes a sigh of relief when he hears that the subspace radio has been taken and is secured. Unfortunately, from the little bit of info he had gleaned, things don't look good for his X-O. This only deepens his resolve to crush the pirates absolutely. Leaving Borovski to deal with his captive, xZot glances over the Jetcopter and Explorer as he moves toward the main garage doors, grabbing up doze grenades and pistols from where they lay. Holstering one of the pistols he removes the SEU clip from the other and flicks it to Siu-Ling.
"You must be getting low after that fancy shooting and this is not a time to be out of ammo."
"You said it, brother," she smiles. "I'd switched to five SEUs when I hopped in the bird," she admits as she switches her pistol settings back to 3 SEUs. She exits the jetcopter with a brisk hop, landing on her lightly padded, Human feet. "I'd kill for a bath and some new duds right about now," she then exclaims, realizing that she just killed a good number of well skein suited pirates. "This guy looks about my size." she observes a downed Human pirate, admiring his defensive suit as she exits the garage and prepares for more action on the front line. As he approaches the main doors the sounds of battle outside are evident. "I haven't heard anything from X'anthe in a while, we had better check on her status." Opening one half of the door slightly to peer outside, xZot assesses the situation, then lobs one of his newly acquired grenades into the fray.
Minutes later the battle for Slave City One is over. xZot's force, OMAC's squad and the remaining Edestekai quickly overrun the pirate force around the front gate. X'anthe's unconscious form is recovered and after a shot of stimdose, feeling much better. Gloo is also back on his feet after similar treatment and some First Aid however Sni'ktl's attempt at surgery on Gloo was unsuccessful and the Medical Officer is obviously becoming quite concerned about the levels of biocort remaining in the teams medkits.
Crisbel arrives at the gathering around the gate sporting several new wounds and reports that the Edestekai have killed or captured all the remaining pirates and freed their brethren from the stockade. There are ten other prisoners from the stockade of Frontier races, two Dralasites, two Vrusks, a Yazirian and five humans, all are male and crew members from either the "Serena Dawn" or the previous mission. The prisoners are all suffering from malnutrition and are very weak.
As you stand amid the ruins of Slave City One, you see in the distant desert a solitary figure surveying the wreckage of the pirate town. This creature is a tall fur covered animal with a large tail, large hind legs and small forelimbs or arms. The creature has a long slender neck and small head with large eyes. In its arms, the creature is carrying the unconscious Lieutenant Colonel Louis V. Jameson.
Still in combat mode, Sp'ock orders a sweep of the compound by all security personnel to secure any remaining prisoners and weapons while the rest of the team disperse to their various duties. Siu-Ling spies the laser rifle used by the combat robot at the front gate and adds it and a power backpack to her arsenal, scooping up several dose grenades during the security sweep. Borovski heads for the Armory to begin a complete inventory of the pirate weaponry.
Raid makes a beeline for the computer center where he spends the remainder of the day struggling to come to terms with the complex machine and his own limited ability. After confirming the working order of the vehicles in the garage xZot heads back to the HQ wondering what course of action to take with the damaged Jetcopter parked outside the perimeter. When he sees the look of concentration on Raid's face, xZot decides to join him in front of the computer monitor as both Techs try to get a handle on the operating system the pirates have been using.
"You ever see anything like it?" Raid asks
"Nope." His commander shrugs "Obviously a custom job." he observes as they while away the hours into the early morning and finally giving up in frustration.
GleepGlooup has his eyespots glued to the manual for the subspace radio as he gives himself a crash course in operating subspace communication. During his search of the radio rooms cupboards Gleep finds the logbook containing records of numerous conversations with the Star Devil who is currently on board a spaceship somewhere near Volturnus. There are also conversations with several government agents on Truane's Star. These same officials are mentioned in the documents X'anthe cross-referenced from the mining records office. The Star Devil apparently has contacts within the mining bureaucracy on Truane's Star and has been shipping ore to their contacts and the Pan Galactic Corporation.
Overjoyed when the sick bay is discovered inside the HQ building, Sni'ktl quickly has Mr Mawson's body moved to one of the hospital beds while the formalities are arranged then prioritizes the treatment of his remaining team members.
During their sweep the security team discovers quarters obviously belonging to the Star Devil himself. There is even a shield with the Star Devils insignia mounted over the bed along with some rather expensive furniture and art works. A Lab is also discovered inside the HQ so X'anthe is left in the Lab to study the mineral samples the pirates had been using, discovering both Vibrillium and Tomarillium in the ore. After comparing the information with the data from the mining records office, X'anthe later discovers the value of the current ore shipment is 250,000 credits! Inside several small punishment cells the security team finds the body of a Dralasite whom, after an autopsy, Sni'ktl is later able to confirm was Grod, from the original exploration team. Another scrap of clothing found in the cells has the name tag "JAMESON" on it. After completing the sweep Sp'ock sends Gloo to the power generator with orders to begin recharging all the power back packs and beltpacks. While OMAC, Siu-Ling, Crisbel and Con gather up the weapons and strip skiensuits from the fallen pirates and deliver to Borovski at the armory who has now removed the tangler threads. Sp'ock heads off to the Robot Maintenance room to see what can be salvaged from the robot Mr Mawson deactivated in his last minutes.
After tending to their wounded and dead, involving some rather protracted and ritualistic ceremonies, the Edestekai inform the Black Hand Gang that the creature seen with Lieutenant Colonel Jameson is a "Messenger of the Gods". The "Messengers of the Gods" are very mysterious; they come and go rapidly and secretly and are rarely seen. They are known to live beneath the Ruined City, somewhere near the Pool of Pure Water. The Edestekai are also insistent on claiming all the pirate prisoners who are fated to be executed in the traditional fashion reserved for blasphemers. Considering the awful losses suffered in the attack and the pirates previous treatment of the Edestekai none of the Black Hand Gang show any objection to the Edestekai actions, particularly after the loss of Mr Mawson during the battle.
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