Detachment 2551 : A Star Frontiers Adventure

June Story

Charon Tavis Station - Water Treatment Plant - 1200 hours - stardate fy1110938
http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna/det2551/sot e_8.ram

The station warning broadcasted over Freya's chronocom causes Cymon to reflexively snarl. The battle for Charon Tavis had begun and every advantage was the enemy's. Cymon is surprised to notice his fellow Yazirian so subdued in the face of losing his fellow crew mates and with them the cause Chamra was pledged to. His fingers go to his own communicator.

"Come in, OTTO! Report the status of the ship and the level. Provide numbers of attackers. Where on your level they entered, how armed, and descriptions.... ARE THESE DOGHAN WARRIORS? And how is the attack progressing? Are the defenders holding their own? What are other vessels in dock doing?

The tinny sound of OTTO's voice is piped over the chronocom speaker. "Vessel is secured and security systems armed. Elevated activity on deck three - personnel running about are visible on my monitors. Sensors indicate powerplants are warming up on six of the ships nearby. No reports on status of Chamra or his faction. Security computer confirms intruders on decks two and three. No word on casualties. I'm experiencing difficulty communicating with the main computer - my only theory is that multiple users are attempting to gain or keep control. Video feed is scant as cameras are going offline - I'm feeding you the little remaining video footage near the action."

The screen on Cymon's chronocom comes to life with images of Yazirians dressed in motely pirate garb fighting furiously to repel attackers off-screen. Bright bolts of energy are traded in quick succession, leaving the hallways scorched with burn-marks. The pirates can be seen slowly backing away, retreating to more defensible positions around a distant corner. Soon crouched figures lope into the screen, three at first, laying down a wave of suppressing gunfire. One of them blasts an overhead lighting console, sending them into darkness. In the gloom tiny twin orbs of light can be seen floating about where their eyes should be. One of the pairs turns to the camera, a flash of light erupts, and the feed goes dead.

"Grachaak!!", Cymon yells, sending echoes ringing off the metal walls of the water treatment plant where Cymon and Freya have found a makeshift airlock where none should be. Information. It is the lifeblood for a scientist. And they were hemorraging information. It would slip away if they didn't act quickly. Seeing the images from OTTO, it only takes Cymon a moment to realize that heading to the third level is going to be difficult... perhaps impossible.

"Honored Freya, the Doghan are not attacking Charon Tavis to stop Chamra. They are attacking Charon Tavis to stop us. If they are on the third level, then they will be seeking the Vercingetorix, as well as its crew. Our return to that level may well be suicide."

"If you are correct, then the task force assigned to us by Chamra may also be in jeopardy. Depressurizing the entire launch bay area may greatly hinder the Doghan attack."

Cymon turns back to his chronocom. "OTTO, analyze the attack patterns of the Doghan. Where does the attack appear to be originating from? Upon what vital functions is the Doghan force directing its assaults? What are likely targets on the third and second levels, were such an assault continue? At the current rate of attack, please predict how long before the station is under Doghan control."

"Attacks seem concentrated on decks two and three. Heavy fighting around guard station on deck two as well as the tunnels leading to the flight control room on deck three. No theories on source of incursion - there are no unsecured corridors around these areas, yet they are being invaded without warning. Tactical assessment suggests invasion force hopes to secure main computer and flight computer. This reflects standard containment measures. Attrition objective would be to destroy reactors on deck four. Intelligence objective would be to secure radio rooms on deck one. Since neither of these targets are in current danger, enemy may be trying to capture station for their own purposes. No information on numbers or casualties. All elevators are out of commission. Update coming in…heavy fighting near the portside solid fuel depot. Robots seen working with invaders."

The discovery of a launch tube, an unauthorized launch, and the body of Freya's one-time assistant have left them in shock, even before the news of the attack. "We must hurry. Our best clues are the ones before us." Cymon feels the awkwardness of the moment, but proceeds as his profession dictates, producing his medical c.a.s. and gently inspecting the body for clues as to the cause of death. While waiting for Cymon's diagnosis, Freya orders the SpyEye to monitor the passages leading to their current location.

<<>>

The c.a.s. blinks slowly as it is passed over the body until the readout goes green. Cymon is not at all happy to see the results. "It is as I feared. The unfortunate is infected with the Moon G virus. Late stages, and perhaps the Delta or Epsilon varieties. Our Rubadel is likewise afflicted, yet somehow survives."

"How long ago?", Freya asks.

"Within the last several hours. Certainly more recently than the time of his last transmission. The virus is related to the Doghan transformation somehow, and this makes this one believe that the Doghan on this station were being created here. The attack comes too swiftly and in great surprise. Not from without, but from within. The station is soon to be lost."

Cymon proceeds with the grim task of searching the body for useful items. Cymon finds: toolbelt with all the tools from a standard Techkit Mechanical-C.A.S. i.d. card Crimson Pirate patch 46 credits vibroknife without clip (hidden in boot) deck of marked Yazirian playing cards holovid chip 3 packs of condensed Burlu, a Yazirian spice purported to be a strong Aphrodisiac

The toolbelt and mechanical c.a.s. are passed to Freya, who adds them to his equipment harness without a word.

"Perhaps there is some evidence as to what your fellow was examining. His c.a.s. may have a memory or log of his activities." As Freya activates the c.a.s., Cymon comes across a deck of Yazirian playing cards and a holovid chip. Cymon plugs the chip into his computer-access computer, hoping to get a rough idea of what the chip contains by viewing its data on the tiny screen. His fingers flip through the cards, hoping to gleen more clues. He smiles.

"I am not much of a card player, but it seems your friend was a cheat." Cymon holds up a face card, clearly marked with an 'X' on one corner. Cymon continues, flipping through the entire deck until one catches his attention. Cymon holds it up for Freya to see. "Any idea what THESE mean?"

Freya takes the card. Ten little marks are drawn across the top in counting style followed by clumsy Gnarsh characters spelling out 'Ardua', a common Yazirian name. At the bottom of the card is written '294701083274'.

"I don't know about the writing, but this number is the correct protocol for an access code here on the station. I can't be sure what the code activates, however."

Cymon is about to speak when sounds from his c.a.c. get his attention. "Perhaps the chip will give us an idea…a recorded message, perhaps." Looking down at the tiny screen, he sees images of naked, nubile Yazirian girls frolicking to the sounds of moaning, giggling, and terrible Yazirian lounge music. "Well, your friend had a healthy libido, as well!"

Freya lays a hand on the body, not so much a gesture of respect as detached curiosity. "Odd, how a body once considered a 'who' is now considered a 'what' when the vital energies running it are depleted" The engineer notes the loss of the technician without remorse...at least not in the true sense of the word. Unless the station was held, finding and training a replacement would hardly be an issue.

Cymon points at the floor, indicating skid marks that run from the door to the launch. "It is clear that Slov was dragged here. Why is unclear, however. For the moment, let us refrain from contacting Vega. If he is on the station, he will have to return here soon, since this one doubts he has an agreement with the Doghan. They work at cross purposes."

Freya interjects, "The reality of Slov's infection and current location creates physical link between the bounty hunter and the Doghan. However, that hypothesis contradicts our earlier assertion. This suggests that the situation is more complex than we imagined." After a pause he adds in a mutter, "At least Slov wasn't a traitor." He glances at the improvised airlock, suppressing a strange sense that he had been personally violated.

Cymon plays back the information on Vega, cooly regarding the information. Streaming in through the newly tweaked electronics of his advanced chronocom and helm-link, the information arrives in a manner mimicking actual thought or memory. "It seems our Mr. Vega has acted within the bounds of his profession, being a registered bounty hunter with the GTF. He is also an worthy foe. Still, this one hopes that we can put one black mark on his otherwise impressive record." he says.

Turning to Freya, he inquires "How long ago was this launch engaged? Do you have any indication of where the hatch to the exterior of the station may be? Try calling up the i.d. for the launch to get OTTO to trace it."

Freya hops into the open cockpit and begins examining the command console. His fingers fly like a flash, calling up information. "I'm showing a registration file….patching in with OTTO and feeding him the information." A cursory examination yields the answers he sought. "Based on current thruster temperatures and simplified thermal dissipation, the launch was operated within the past eight hours. A more precise estimate would require detailed analysis of the control system. The answer to your second query can be found here..." Freya hands Cymon his c.a.s. Charon Tavis is displayed on the screen, the improvised dock and projected exit point are outlined in rapidly blinking red. "Quite simply, this 'tube' is the bay they used to dock and pressurize. It must have been spot-welded into place after the hull was breached. The door at the end of the tube leads to deep space."

OTTO's voice once again rings off the metal walls of the launch tube. "Launch registration numbers place it in the ownership of one Victor de la Vega and attached to the FCS Tiamat. It is overdue for a thruster replacement according to manufacturer records, but it is conceivable that modifications may have been made without notification to the UPF Flight Bureau."

Cymon continues, "Can this launch indicate the manifest from its last foray? Perhaps there is a log of its shuttle flight indicating where it went and a videolog of its contents."

Freya nods, acknowledging the simple wisdom of Cymon's request. The mental power expended in analyzing vast quantities of data, combined with the heightened readiness required for combat were taxing his system to the limit. "I'll attempt a direct query and explore the...'backdoors' if that fails. Although exact details may be vague, I can approximate the number of lifeforms aboard by analyzing life support load conditions and thruster propellant usage. Your help in projecting the atmospheric needs of organics will be vital to my analysis."

A quick check shows no traps or modifications an unauthorized user would want to be aware of. Freya taps away at the launch's computer. "The flight recorder indicates six trips back and forth from the Tiamat, but no records of any cargo or personnel."

"Yes, and I can tell from this oxygen report that the shuttle made its first trip with a full complement, ten life forms. Every trip after that has only had one life form, except for the last one, which had three aboard."

Cymon's mind works furiously over their options. "We may need to have OTTO take the ship out of dock. Amid the confusion, it may get away. He was certainly able to maneuver the ship on Exib, and under considerable stress. We can reconnoiter via this launch...and hope that we can find our companions..." Only now does Cymon realize he is speaking through bared fangs.

Seemingly oblivious to the Cymon's fierce countenance, several seconds pass as Freya stands silent, motionless. Abruptly he begins speaking, "OTTO is fully capable of independent flight, within limited parameters. However, the airlock and outer doors are controlled from the station's bridge. We must regain control of the station's main computer, or at least the flight computer on deck 3."

"Also, there are several elements you should consider. Vessels of this class have extremely limited thruster capacity and are not designed for extended maneuvering. Further, this particular launch is employed by a bounty hunter, it may be 'booby-trapped'. Once outside, we would be in an extremely vulnerable position, at risk from hostile ships and possibly the station's own defenses. A rapid rendezvous with OTTO would be imperative. Another consideration should be mentioned: Vega is still aboard the station, several of your companions may also be."

"Freya, at the very least, would it not be a good idea to likewise warm up OTTO's engines? Others are doing so, and if a flight is needed, better to be ready. As for complex piloting, can you not do that remotely with your CAS? Forgive this one, but piloting is not a skill this one possesses, and your abilities lean much more in that arena."

"I will have OTTO initiate the pre-flight warm-up."

"It seems, honored Freya, that our bounty hunters are quite adept at entering one of the most closely guarded stations in the Frontier."

Freya nods, "Indeed. There is little doubt that they had...I believe the phrase is 'inside help'". This shuttle may also be equipped with some form of stealth technology.

"Freya," Cymon drops the pretense of formality, "is it safe to transmit this information to Chamra?"

"If the Doghan are storming the upper levels the subspace radio room can't be too far out of reach. However, in all the confusion they may not notice. There is no way of knowing for sure."

"Even our own communicades have been compromised. OTTO, has the human designated as Vega attempted to use any of the crew's chronocoms to access any other channels? Can you trace his current location from that information? Can you determine where he was communicating?"

"There are no records of illegal or unidentified communications over the secure channels you prescribed earlier. All activity of late has been limited to communications between this unit and yourself, Freya Grraf'Tzak, and the station computer as requested. New secured channel is in place. I have traced Vega's transmissions to Mr. Patrou's chronocom, located in the storage area known as the 'Junkyard' on deck 7. His location is indicated on your chronocom."

(OOC: check the map for deck 7 - it is the room with the yellow dot in it)

Freya looks up from the launch's console to train his goggled eyes on Cymon. "Our decision must be swift: do we continue searching for your companions, fight to defend the station, or utilize the shuttle to escape?" Freya pauses a moment, then adds "I can provide pertinent analysis if you wish..."

Cymon wipes a dribble of slobber from his lips. It is a yazirian characteristic when excited, one that humans seem to somehow find distasteful. Thankfully there were just the two Yazirians present to witness the event, and he again addresses his companion.

"We may be able to use its computer to hack the Tiamat, and learn from it whether our comrades are already aboard. It seems apparent that our comrades, or at least some of them, are there. Thus getting them back here would involve TWO trips for the launch. We will have to get them from the Tiamat, or take the vessel ourselves. This may be the best of possible outcomes. The Tiamat may be the way to penetrate Scree Fron unnoticed. A bounty hunter in the employ of their enemies... he would have clearances and perhaps travel unchallenged.""

Freya pauses in his work turning to Cymon and favoring him with another silent nod. Again the healer had parted the mists and revealed what should have been obvious. The pirate adds, "Perhaps giving this bounty hunter your true story would also be helpful. His record indicates a disposition toward justice and it is possible that he is unaffiliated with the enemy we now face. However, you are a far better judge in that arena than I."

"I will attempt to do as you ask, but the odds of success will be limited...unless I...meditate. In that state I may be able to bypass the ship's security systems, but at a cost. The effects would deprive me of effective combat skills for several minutes. The SpyEye and robots will be placed under your control. In an emergency, I will end the effort if you speak the name of your ship."

"Please begin your attempt, and this one will do the best to keep you safe while you are indisposed", Cymon replies, feeling a little unsettled at the request.

Freya hunches over the launch's computer console, strangely avoiding the chair and leaning over so he is not visible from outside the launch. Kneeling before the console, his hands fly across the system's input devices, preparing for the coming effort. Seconds later, Freya's swift motions subside and he looks toward Cymon. "Our lives are in your hands." With that simple statement the pirate's gaze drops and his body becomes rigid, his attention turning away from all outer distractions.


Storage Room - Exact Location Unknown - Time Unknown

http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna/det2551/mw 2_4.ram

The dim green overhead light is little comfort to the three prisoners sweating out their sentences in the wooden crates they've found themselves in. Ruby is beside himself with anticipation at their release. The only problem is devising it.

"So, Mrylinax, Marcus, do you two have any ideas on how we can get out of these smeggin' boxes? The only thing I can think of is for one of us to force the box off the edge and down the seventy meters. Just one tiny problem, it would likely kill the person who goes off the edge. I don't suppose a place like this would have any saftey mechanisms to prevent the extreme damage, but would still allow the box to be cracked open? I am thinking that this StaPut drug which is preventing me from stretching, should be running loosing its effectivness soon. I think I'm just going to sit quiet for awhile and concentrate on growing another limb, unless you guys have any ideas. The smeghead who put me here is going to pay!"

"Listen you guys," Marcus says in all seriousness. "If we ever run into Berdax, Myrlinax can have him. And Ruby, if you ever find someone with whom you need to settle a personal score, I won't get in the way. But this Victor de la Vega is mine."

Mrylinax snorts in approval. "Sounds fine to me . . .but let's meet him on OUR terms. . ."

Marcus grits his teeth in silent rage, thinking about the pompous bounty hunter and his veiled threats. The only thing they had to their advantage was that Vega presumably wanted to fight with him. That was fortunate, since he would be freed eventually and his sword returned to him. At that point, it would only be a matter of defeating Vega in personal combat after which he could free his comrades. But he preferred to meet Vega on his feet, rather than waiting for the bounty hunter to free him. Perhaps it was a matter of pride. In any case, he wasn't about to take the chance that the bounty hunter might not return.

As if in answer to the futility of the situation, Marcus continues to slam against the side of the box in which he is confined. With every impact, the crate inches closer and closer to the edge of its precipice, a sheer drop of seventy feet.

Mrylinax starts getting nervous watching Marcus moving his box. "Taking one of these babies off the edge and into the floor below doesn't sound like a good solution ta me. Hey, Ruby . . cantcha squeeze outa the box? From the outside, these shouldn't be too hard to crack open. We'll figure out how to get down later. . ."

Ruby sighs. "That Staput drug seems to eliminate any elastic properties a Dralasite body normally possesses. I merely feel sluggish and heavy."

Without anything else to do, Mrylinax likewise begins pounding on the boards of the crate again, trying not to think about the consequences of shifting the box too much. The regular rhythm of the blows soon begins to overwhelm all other sounds in the room.

Meanwhile, Ruby sits quietly in his box, trying hard to meditate, turning ids attention inward in an attempt to regain control over ids body's composition. Id can feel the Staput drug still at work within id. Id's limbs feel thick, id's form feels sluggish. 'How horrible to be stuck in such a static shape', Ruby thinks to idself, 'how do the other races tolerate this feeling?' The exercise makes id acutely aware of the background noise of the voices in ids head, as well as the frustration id is feeling at being imprisoned. Before long Ruby has inadvertantly shut out all outside sensory information. How id does this id isn't sure, but id is alone now. Alone inside ids head with the voices.

"Rubyself. Rubyself. Rubyself." The voices grow from a faint whisper to a steady, chanting chorus of voices, all speaking the same words in unison. The chorus is made up of a thousand different voices, all speaking with different accents and represented by all the major races of the Frontier, but Dralasite primary among them. If Ruby concentrates, id can pick out individual voices that are familiar to id, voices of all the people id had met over the years. A shudder runs through Ruby as id thinks of faces long gone, friends past and present, all talking to id now without making sense.

"Rubyself..."

"Yeah, I'm here. Whaddya want anyways?"

"The Rubyself is altered. The Rubyself must deliver the WE to its destiny. The whole must be joined together in the home of the WE."

"I don't know what the frag you're talking about! You've been blathering on about the 'whole' and your home since you started speaking to me. What's going on? Who are you? How in Morgaine's Rings am I going to get free of you? Am I insane?"

"Rubyself mind is whole. Rubyself body is tainted. Rubyself body is the vessel for the WE for the return and for the battle."

"I KNOW my body's tainted - first a virus and then a paralytic. Great. Now I'm some sort of public transportation for a pack of voices. What war are you talking about?"

"The WE was the IX. The IX was the WE. The Ix is the THEM. The THEM must become the IX again. The WE must become the IX again."

"The IX? I don't understand."

"It is time, Rubyself. It is time to prepare for the war."

"WHAT WAR?!"

http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna/det2551/stg en_10-1.ram

"It is time to enlist the soldiers of the WE. Rubyself is the vessel. Rubyself is the Golahn....NOW!"

Ruby feels a strange burning sensation throughout ids body. Ids tissues grow warmer and warmer until as if on fire. The voices are silent now, but the sounds are replaced with a low and ominous hum that grows steadily to a roar like a hurricane within ids mind. Ruby can't help but feel terrified by the experience, but there is no denying it.

"Rrrrrrrrgglllglgghglhglg...."

Marcus breaks off his conversation with Mrylinax as he hears a strange noise coming from Ruby's crate. "What the hell....Ruby! What's going on over there? Do you hear that noise?"

There is no response. Mrylinax shuffles his feet nervously at the silence. "Friend Marcus, we have been told there are strange beasts lurking in the depths of this station. Perhaps these crates will serve as a refuge as well as a prison."

"RRRRRRRGHGHGHGHGH!!!" The sound resumes even louder now with a deeper timber. It fills the vastness of the warehouse space, echoing off the far-reaching walls. It builds to the sound of a tempest, climbing to a screech, then plummeting to a windy roar. If Marcus or Mrylinax could get their hands free they'd be covering their ears for the noise. Over it all can be heard the bone-rattling blows of something striking what sounds like wood.

WAM! WAM! WAM! (critch!)

Marcus and Mrylinax stare through the cracks in the boards to see Ruby's crate being shook to its seams. Each one stares incredulously as they see a faint light emanating from the box, a deep red glow like the embers of a dying fire. All of a sudden, one side of the box erupts in a shower of splinters. One of Ruby's pseudopods, swollen like a balloon, can be seen thrusted out of the whole left behind. Seconds later id's head stretches and peers out, ids eyespots burning dark red. Whatever id is, for the moment id is not Ruby.

"By the den!", Mrylinax whispers as he watches the malformed shape of Ruby slither out of the box. The Dralasite seems to quiver for a second, a visible ripple travelling through ids pulsing, unstable figure. After a moment's pause, id turns ids eyespots in their direction and begins to approach.

Marcus is the first to react. "RUBY! Ruby, can you hear me? This is Marcus! Talk to me - what's going on inside you?"

"Cripes! He's coming right at us! What the hell do you think he wants!?"

Ruby doesn't answer. Instead, id marches right up to Marcus' box and raises a single pseudopod. Like some nightmarish vision, id's fingers stretch out in a wide arc until they form one huge claw. The claw closes on the side of the box, sending fingers into the box from every side, then in one motion wrenches the side off with ease.

Marcus staggers out of the box, staring suspiciously at the Dral, waiting to see ids intentions. Wordlessly, Ruby proceeds to the other box and does the same thing, extending another huge claw and tearing off a side of the box as if it were rice paper. Mrylinax shuffles out of the box, his feet still bound. He is overjoyed and horrified all at once.

"Um....Ruby? Is that you? What're you going to do with us now?"

Again, the form of Ruby doesn't answer. Id looks one way, then the other, inspecting ids comrades like id was a machine. The long, scythe-like fingers whip out in a flash and the bonds holding the Human and the Humma fall to the floor. In an instant ids fingers retract to normal size. Ruby collapses to the floor. Marcus and Mrylinax rush to ids side.

"Mryli, check around to see if there's someone guarding us... look for our gear or any way to contact the others. I'll check Ruby."

Mrylinax disappears into the darkness, leaving Marcus to tend to the fallen Dralasite. Ruby raises ids head to reveal that ids eyes are now back to normal.

"Ruby? You okay, friend? Talk to me - you aren't acting normal.", Marcus presses.

Ruby's voice falters. "I...I don't know. I think we got company."


Aboard the FCS Tiamat - 1200 hours

http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna/det2551/mw 2_7.ram

Pulsing red light washes over the four figures crowded into the cluttered machine shop of the Tiamat's lower deck. At the front of the party, Groo strains his eyes to make out the details of the otherwise gloomy surroundings. Behind him their female prisoner, still tangled and strapped to V'Sndyk's back, looks on in contempt. Ty, on the other hand, is a study in pent-up excitement. His time in the detention area has him itching to move. V'Sndyk is his same, reluctant self. Nothing here except the diagnostics computer terminal was remotely familiar to him, so his eyes never leave the screen that currently blinks 'Abandon Ship' over and over.

Turning to his long time partner and friend, Groo says, "Ty, get on the dropship and prep it for immediate launch." Without delay the human moves to the door marked 'Shuttle Bay', punches the door release, and disappears behind the humming, sliding pressure door.

Groo checks the countdown sequence on the nearby diagnostics terminal: 00:05:00. "Five minutes left. Damn!" Then, to his Vruskan teammate, "Okay, V'Sndyk, grab the computer terminal and get to work fast. We need to know if this bucket of bolts is _really_ going to self-destruct and if it is try to disarm it. While your at it, make sure that when we leave the Tiamat that the Tiamat's outer hatch is locked in the open position. That way if she doesn't blow, we can re-board her and think about taking control. Oh, and one more thing, see if you can find the location of the Tiamat's other crew members. It may tell us where the rest of our crewmates are if the pilot is correct in saying that her partner already has them."

With his teammates heading off to do their respective tasks Groo moves on with his own, first helping their prisoner off of V'Sndyk's back and onto her own two feet. "Alright Miss pilot, what kind of vehicles have we got to work with here?"

The woman looks as if she could care less. "You've got the hullsize two dropship or shuttle off to your left, the launch straight ahead which will carry ten people, and the workpod next door. If you're planning on trying to get back to Charon Tavis, any of them will work."

Groo studies her for a moment. Her only response is a wide-eyed look as if saying 'what!?'. He merely grins and takes her by the arm, leading her to the drop ship. "Now why, oh, WHY do I feel like you're holding out on me?" The door to the left leads them directly to the boarding platform to the dropship. Inside is a plush, comfortable passenger area containing eight low-impact chairs and a holovid player. Beyond this, at the front of the shuttle, is the door leading to the control cabin where Ty can be seen fiddling with the controls. Groo unceremoniously dumps the girl into one of the chairs. "I shouldn't have to say it, but don't move. I've never smacked a human female before, but I'm always willing to start new bad habits." The girl sears the back of his head with a glare as he turns to go.

Groo heads back into the repair room and grabs as many spacesuits as he can from the locker next to the launch bay's door. Next, he rummages through the machine shop itself to try and find anything useful. After a cursory investigation, he finds: toxy-rad guage laser power torch with full tank 3 stik-kits spinner tool assorted heavy wrenches and pipes robcomkit techkit engineer's toolkit pieces of nonfunctional robots and computers calc-boost progit

After rounding up what looks useful, he heads back to the shuttle.

<<>>

"Flixzhit!!!", V'Sndyk cries as he brings a fist down onto the workbench.

Groo turns from his scavenging mission to address the new problem. "What is it?"

"I can't get into this terminal! The alarm is shutting out almost every operations call made to the unit! I can't get anywhere from here!"

"Well, try the next room - they might have one there."

V'Sndyk mutters in disgust and turns to go. "If I only had more time and less of these confounded alarms going off in my head…" In the next room he sees another diagnostics terminal near the door to the workpod. In no time he is on it and working like mad on the keyboard.

<<>>

"Ah! I'm in!", he says as the alert screen fades to the background. A quick check shows him the security he's up against. His eyes re- check the countdown clock, confirming what he already knows. "No way I'm going to crack this system in less than an hour. Groo, did you see a…" Groo hurries over and plops the robcomkit from the next room down on the bench next to him.

"Running a smuggler's ship for a few years teaches you the tools for the job."

"Many thanks", replies the eager Vrusk as he grabs a trusty tool and begins ripping open the terminal's access panel. "Now if I can only isolate…"

<<>>

http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna/det2551/stg en_8.ram

"YES!!! I'm in!" V'Sndyk manages to pull the correct little chip from a row of chips in the main console and flips the switches on it to a more friendly setting. From there his digital solder re-aligns the circuit paths to a crude but straight-forward pattern he knows is more accessible. Within seconds the computer is eating out of his hand. The countdown reads 00:03:12

Elsewhere, Ty jumps into the pilot's seat of the dropship. Immediately the tension eases just a bit from his face. For even in this strange ship he felt more at home in the pilot's chair than anywhere else. Instinctively he begins flipping switches, eliciting a chorus of hums as the flight systems come online. "Hey this has the new omni-directional pilot's chair I read about last month - might have to attatch this baby to the 'getorix if I get the chance", he yells back to Groo in an attempt to lighten the mood. Groo, lugging equipment aboard, merely shakes his head and grins.

Ty returns to the control panel and scans the controls until he finds the switch for locking the bay doors open. Another look verifies the main engine throttling up to full power. He thinks about all the pre- flight checks he'd like to go over in a new ship, then sees the countdown clock and decides to re-write the manual.

"Hmm I wonder if this ships computer has a voice activated interface?", Ty thinks, then says, "Computer, identify yourself, this vessel, and its capabilities"

A soothing female voice purrs from one of the intercoms. "This is the Selena 101 onboard system for the FCS Tiamat dropship Diablo, equipped with a single Type A chemical engine. We can be ready for takeoff in as little as 60 seconds, but UPF Flight Bureau statistics would advise you to engage in the minimum 4 minutes pre-flight checkover. Thank you."

From the entrance to the shuttle, Groo stands lookout for their straggler. "V'Sndyk! What's the word? We've gotta boogie!"

"Okay, let's see if THIS works!" V'Sndyk seems oblivious to Groo's warnings, his compound eyes zipping across streams of data that fill the screen. His uncanny ability with computer logic allows him to eliminate scores of useless leads to train in on the information he is so desperately looking for.

<<>>

The countdown clock reaches 00:00:45 when V'Sndyk feels the insistent tug of Groo's hand on his arm.

"COME ON! WE'VE GOTTA HAUL ASS!"

There is no room for argument. V'Sndyk stares disgusted at the screen, the clues only a few keystrokes away, he is sure. But time has run out and there could be no taking chances. His pride in his work is no match for his sense of self-preservation. With a furious kick he knocks over the robcomkit and runs for the shuttle door. "FLIXZHIT!!!"

Groo and V'Sndyk lunge into the passenger area of the shuttle just as Ty, looking over his shoulder, mashes the release to the docking clamps. "Hang on, boys...we're on an express elevator to HELL!" The door snaps shut, the floor buckles as the ship goes into immediate free-fall, then the thrusters kick in. A deafening roar fills the cabin as Ty punches the engines, sending the shuttle in a neck-breaking arc away from the ship. Through the forward ports the stars can be seen swirling in mad circles. The Vrusk and Yazirian barely have time to grab hand-holds as the incredible G-forces threaten to flail them about in spite of the artificial gravity. The female prisoner spills out onto the deck, a helpless plaything in the grip of the acceleration.

Ty's voice can be heard over the booming thrusters, "Thank you for flying Trans-Explosion Spaceways - welcome aboard - the captain instucts that if you check the portside of the ship upon departure, you just may see a beautiful self-destruct sequence - please make sure your seat-backs are in their locked and upright positions."

After several seconds of steep burn, the engines level out and Groo can finally hear himself breathing hard. He peers over at the still- shaking Vrusk whose grip on his safety restraint would shame a dead man's. "Everyone okay? Sit tight while I raise the friendlies on the radio." Groo rises and on wobbly legs moves to the forward cabin where he activates the subspace radio.

<<>>

Groo's fingers play with the modulator half out of reflex, half out of desperation. He quickly calls up the old secure frequency for OTTO used days ago, hoping the computer was still listening.

"This is Groogash Karchudka of Detachment 2551 calling OTTO of the FCS Vercingetorix or any other party members listening...come in, OTTO. We are aboard the shuttle of the FCS Tiamat somewhere in Belnafaer space and in immediate danger. We require assistance and coordinates for rendezvous. Repeat, we are aboard the shuttle of the FCS Tiamat somewhere in Belnafaer space and in immediate danger. We require assistance and coordinates for rendezvous. Do you copy?!"

Tense seconds tick by as Ty and Groo exchange pensive glances. As if an answer from some far-off benevolent silicon deity, the familiar tinny voice of their computer sounds over the intercom.

"Greetings, Mr. Karchudka. It is good to hear from you again. I have a fix on your position and am relaying this call to the other active members of the team. You are currently 500,000 kilometers, twenty-five degrees clockwise from our orbit around Belnafaer in the oort belt. Detachment 2551 is in immediate danger as well. Station under attack. Only Mr. Ak-Barruda remains. If you can, home in on my signal and await further instructions."

Ty and Groo cheer loudly when they hear the voice of OTTO. The state of the team calms their enthusiasm, however, and reminds them of their dire situation. Ty grabs the mic. "Acknowledged, OTTO, we have your transponder signal. Locking on."

"Wait, Ty. Bring us around, first. I want to see the Tiamat and make sure she went up." Ty fingers a control and once again the stars roll, this time softly, as the ship turns. After a few seconds the image of the Tiamat comes into view, her hull still intact and reflecting the light of the stars as if brand new.

"Dammit, I knew it had to be a bluff!", Ty growls. Groo bares a fang and turns to face their prisoner who is splayed out on the floor behind them.

"Nice try, but we'll be taking your ship now", Groo grouses at her. She seems unfazed at the comment. Her eyes lock onto Groo's intensely, her hatred burning brightly in them. The expression catches the Yazirian off-guard. Surely she had nothing to gain by being stubborn. Perhaps it was pride. Groo puzzles over her expression for a long moment, until he suddenly realizes her eyes rolling back into her head.

"What the...!" Groo races over to investigate, suspecting a black-out from the acceleration or perhaps a trick. His fingers are on her throat feeling for a pulse when he catches sight of V'Sndyk also on the floor, unconscious. Then the smell of tainted pure oxygen hits his nose. "Grachaak!" The floor comes out of nowhere, smacking what little daylights he had left right out of him.

<<>> V'Sndyk: 40; rolled 77 Tiberius: 70; rolled 17 Groogash: 55; rolled 82

The sound of Groo hitting the floor brings Ty around in his seat and clears the cobwebs threatening to engulf his mind. Staring wide- eyed at his companions on the floor, his mind races for what to do. Ty scrambles to get to the spacesuit locker and retrieve a breathing unit. His legs threaten to buckle under him the whole way, his hand lashing out at the locker handle while his lungs ache for clean air and his head swims from the fumes filling the cabin. 'Almost there!', he thinks to himself as he leans against the adjoining wall. Just as he manages to get the door open and a breathing unit separated from its suit, however, his nose catches a wiff of the gas. That's all it takes. The world goes black and he tumbles to the floor.

"Damn...."

<<>> roll : 98 minus Ty's reaction speed of 45 = 53 (rounded down) = 5 Stamina checks vs. Stamina of 70 to get to safety: rolled 66, 04, 36, 83...


Charon Tavis Station - Water Treatment Plant - 1230 hours - stardate fy1110938

http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna/det2551/stg en_7.ram

Cymon shuffles nervously in the silence of the launch docking tube. His eyes have been watching the small hatch adjoining the makeshift tube to the station for the last several minutes. Still no response from Freya, who remains hunched over the launch's control console in a state of apparent meditation. An odd behavior, even for one so enigmatic as this bandaged stranger. Cymon can't help but wonder what good this meditation will do.

Suddenly Cymon's chroncom bleeps, shattering the silence. "de la Vega to Vercingetorix. You are late. Are you receiving this? Piece of Techtron crap -- one little explosion and they give up the ghost."

Cymon mutes his chronocom, then contacts OTTO.

"OTTO, trace that transmission. Are there any recent explosions that can be linked to the 'explosion' De La Vega mentioned? Any near his location? Finally, is the transmission coming directly from a chronocom or is it coming from a repeater?"

OTTO fires back a series of answers. "Explosions are occurring on decks 2 and 3 too quickly to correlate data. Transmission is coming from chronocom matching that of Mr. Patrou's and is originating from area on deck 7 designated the "junkyard" as indicated on your chronocom."

(see web site map of deck 7 - it's the yellow dot)

Cymon thinks for a moment, then responds, "OTTO, please take the following message, voice only, then, randomly intersperse static through 20% of the message as if being jammed, then re-transmit to the one calling himself 'Victor De La Vega' and using Myrlinax's chronocom."

"This is Vercingetorix. Under attack. Unable to meet you at requested location. May have to abandon Charon Tavis. Can you rendezvous from your vessel? REPEAT....This is Vercingetorix. Under attack. Unable to meet you at requested location. May have to abandon Charon Tavis. Can you rendezvous from your vessel?...OVER"

"Acknowledged. Patching through.", the computer replies, then is silent.

Cymon, moving quickly, scans the containment where the launch is at rest. He examines the communications console, and attempts to monitor any traffic on the launch to ship frequencies. Nothing appears out of the ordinary, which is only a slight comfort to him.

"OTTO, monitor that traffic on the designated frequencies, scanning for voice communications by De La Vega to his ship and to pipe those communications to my helmet."

"Acknowledged."

'So much to do', he thinks to himself. His first move is to fortify Freya's position. Drawing a hypo-spray out, with a stimdose, he lays it next to Freya. Perhaps the newfound friend could make use of it in case of a attack where Cymon is indisposed. A quick search of the Yazirian's grenade belt produces - Foam [Acid, Solid] (2*0.25=0.50Kg) - Gas [Nightfall, Incendiary, Infra] (3*0.25=0.75Kg) - Sonic [1 Polyhedron, 2 Boomer] (3*0.25=0.75Kg) - Tangler (0.25Kg) which Cymon pockets. Next he positions Freya's maser pistol, electric sword, and a doze grenade by Freya's position. Once the equipment is in order he checks to make sure the launch looks the same as when they found it, Slov's body in its original position. As he leans over the console at one point, Cymon can't help but notice several cables running from underneath Freya's coat and running into the launch's command console. Freya's hands, instead of resting on the computer keyboard, are also tucked underneath his cloak, their exact actions at the moment indiscernible. If Freya really was the hot-shot technician that Chamra purported, Azran only knew what kind of hi-tech hacking devices he employed or how they worked.

The thought distracts the healer only for a moment. There were more important matters at hand. Cymon turns to the two hullbots and the spy eye Freya brought along and clears his throat as he prepares to do his best amateur job of verbally programming them.

"You", he says, indicating one of the hullbots. "You are now designated 'robot one'. Engage in standard maintainence routine one level above our current position. Observe any other robots or creatures. Report their whereabouts. Take this device", he says as he hands him a tangler grenade. "If I or OTTO signal 'emergency robot one', return to this location and approach any creature not Freya or myself, and operate the device within one meter of them. Then, use your magnetic grapple to attach any ferrous device they wear and immediately pull them out of this chamber. You are to then immediately begin dismantling their devices using your laser power torch. Do not worry about injuring them, for they are protected from laser fire. Upon hearing the command 'repair', you are to begin drastic emergency repairs of all security robots and cybernetic organisms, beginning with disabling all major control functions using the power torch and magnetic grapples if neccessary. UNDERSTOOD?"

The hullbot peers at Cymon through its bubbled helmet for several seconds. "Acknowledged", it finally replies. Cymon repeats the orders to the other hullbot, with the exception that he stay with him. He then repeats these orders to the spy eye.

"Well? Any questions?"

For several seconds none of the robots move. Cymon begins to grow a little nervous, wondering what he did wrong. He is just about to start over when hullbot 'one' finally floats out of the airlock and disappears into the outer chamber. The other two take their positions nearby. Cymon feels a tangible sense of relief. His defenses were in place. Now all there was to do was wait.

"(ssssfsfssssffffss) This is Groogash Karchudka of Detachment 2551 calling OTTO of the FCS Vercingetorix or any other party members listening...come in, OTTO. We are aboard the shuttle of the FCS Tiamat somewhere in Belnafaer space and in immediate danger. We require assistance and coordinates for rendezvous. Repeat, we are aboard the shuttle of the FCS Tiamat somewhere in Belnafaer space and in immediate danger. We require assistance and coordinates for rendezvous. Do you copy?!"

Cymon starts at the sound of Groo's voice over his radio and is about to reply when OTTO cuts in.

"Message received twenty minutes ago, Mr. Ak-Barruda. No contact since that time. Sensors show the message originating from the FCS dropship Diablo, also assigned to the Tiamat. It was last detected hovering 450,000 kilometers from the station, moving on a return course to the Tiamat. Since that time the short-range sensors on deck one of the station have been inaccessible to me."

Cymon's fleeting smile disappears altogether as he hears the news. He sinks to the floor and stares in dismay. 'So close', he thinks to himself, 'they must have been hijacked or incapacitated.' Long minutes pass as he sits there, listening to the silence all around him, the only sounds the sundry pumps and mechanisms of the water treatment plant and the whirring of servos inside his two automatonic companions. Vega was out there and he was winning. No one was left now except himself and Freya. Now they were bottled up in a corner, Freya doing Azran-knows-what, and their last bit of luck gone bad. He silently wishes he'd never even heard the transmission.

An eternity passes with nothing happening until, unexpectedly, Freya stirs. Without warning he rises from his bowing posture and sits erect, taking a long breath as if fatigued. Cymon leaps to his feet, glad to have a partner in his vigil.

"What is it, honorable Freya? Were you able to get something out of the launch's systems?"

Freya looks up and the suggestion of a smile moves across the bandages. "Better than that, I'm happy to report."

As if in reply a dull thud sounds from the other end of the tube. The c.a.s. panel next to that airlock goes blue, suggesting a connection with another source of breathable atmosphere. The implication of this sign hits Cymon, but he is too skeptical now to take it for granted. He looks incredulously at Freya.

"Our foes are many and powerful", the beleagured Yazirian whispers, "but I was fortunate to stumble upon our friends aboard the shuttle craft and take advantage of the weak link there. Otherwise I don't think I could have made it through."

"You... you were able to bring her in?!? That's the Diablo?!"

Freya nods, then slumps over as if to rest. Cymon lays a hand on his friend's shoulder and yips a feverish Yazirian laugh of relief and joy.

"Azran be praised! Freya, my friend, this just may be the turning of the proverbial tide!"


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