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  1. Earlier
  2. As I cleared out of Med Bay, my still-in-place headset crackled to life with the voice of Major Hayes. "Control to Eden," Hayes called out. "Control, this is Eden," I replied. "Forgive me, but why are we still observing TACCOM protocols? The operation is concluded, with Alpha team safely back at our FBO." "Because you're not going to be out there alone for long. Short range sensors have picked up an incoming Capellan DropShip. They've apparently been hanging out in the planet's magnetosphere and have begun their descent. We estimate that they are going to be making planetfall at or near the wreck site. Any remnants of your team still on site need to get out of the wreck and off the planet immediately." "Understood," I replied. "I'll saddle up and take a lance in to pick up Dutch and Kai's team personally." "Not you, Eden. You’ll be meeting an Eagle fighter with a rumble seat ready for you outside the Tana. You're going to bring the package up to the Mendacius without further delay," Hayes answered. "But those are my people - " I protested. "That's an order, Eden. We're pulling you and the package out. No more delays. Meet the fighter outside in five minutes," the Major insisted. "Copy, Control," I sighed. "I'll see it done."
  3. Doctor Rosa Perez stared at Bishop waiting for him to talk. I didn't know where Dr. Shuriken was but Doctor Rosa Perez seemed like she had it under control. Meanwhile I looked at Captain Maxwell. "How bad is it Sir?" I said. "it's pretty bad" Said Captain Maxwell. "Bishop has been juicing and now he has a Addiction." I stared for long minutes at Captain Maxwell as I thought about what that meant. I had been a junkie for a While after I didn't have my job with the Gray Death Squad anymore but since then I had rehabbed and I was Clean. I had got my life back together and I was a Solaris Jock and a celebrity attorney, I knew that Bishop could do it too if he has the inner Strength. "Let me talk to him." I said. "Maybe I can make him believe that Its worth it to have a life." "Okay." Said captain Maxwell. 'You have 5 minutes. After that we have to get out of here so that the Professionals can do their thing." I nodded sternly to Captain Maxwell, then I went over to Bishop and looked at him. "Hey friend, I heard you were feeling bad."I said. Bishop looked at me with bloodshot eyes like someone who had been on a 3 day bender drinking brown listerine and smoking. But he made no speech. "I know we have been on this Mission a LONG time and we want to go home, it's hard out in space on such a timeless flight as this. But I think it's gonna be a Long Long time till touchdown brings us around again to find our people back in the places that we know and love. So we have to be Strong." Bishop looked at me. "Urgh, mmmfh, pain......" Said bishop. I nodded my head Knowingly. "I know Bishop, but we can get through this Together. I one time had an Addiction. It made it hard to do anything but juice. I used to juice all the time. Every Moment I lived I had to Juice to be able to do Things. But I finally got off the juice." "Arrgh, nuuuhhhghfff." Said Bishop. He was so sundered, he could barely talk. "You don't have to say anything right now, just think of these words from a Ancient spiritual that I used to know. If you wanna be somebodyI, f you wanna go somewhereY ou better wake up and pay attention Hey... So you think you've got the answers To all that lies ahead Well, in my mind I thought the same one time And I hear you spouting much talk 'Bout how you ain't being lead Ain't no one telling you what to do But attitude will catch up with you And keep you from your destiny If you wanna be somebody If you wanna go somewhere You better wake up and pay attention When the time is now or never To make your dreams come true You gotta wake up and pay attention I ain't buyin' no more lyin' 'Cause truth don't cost a thing Denyin' what's inside's too much to pay It's 'bout sweatin' without stressin' There ain't no other way You know you can't get much without much givin' Oh, expect from yourself and you'll respect yourself You control your destiny Time to wake up, everybody Time to wake up, children Wake up, everybody Ooh... If you wanna be somebody Go somewhere Wake up and pay attention When the time is now or never To make your dreams come true You gotta wake up and pay attention" Then I nodded and got up. "Here is my Business Card. You can call me if you need a Talk." I put my Business Card in a slot in Bishop's Armor. Then I walked over to the doctor. "I think he is going to be fine soon." I said.
  4. "I'd like to do some bloodwork," Doctor Rosa Perez said. "If he's overdosed on anything, that's the most immediate danger. Will the suit interpret a blood draw as a threat?" "Possibly," said one of the Unidentified Medics. "We were able to give him saline, but that was while he was conscious." "Hm. In that case - MediBot, give me the Narcan spray." MediBot produced the spray from its' storage cavity and played a series of rising beeps. Doctor Rosa Perez unwrapped the nasal spray applicator and carefully sprayed it into both sides of Patient Bishop Weyland's nose. "Go get a second dose, and bring it to me. And send a message to Dr. Shuriken - tell him that we'll need some non-standard sedatives that the suit won't mistake for a tranquilizer weapon, and any breath and circulation aids he knows of that don't conflict with other medications." MediBot trundled off to the storage closet. When MediBot returned, Patient Bishop Weyland was blinking slightly and making a soft growling sound. "Patient Bishop Weyland exhibits the symptom: snoring. Treatment with SnorAway Strips is recommended," MediBot chirped. "Shut. Up." Doctor Rosa Perez growled. She grabbed the second dose of Narcan from MediBot and administered it. Patient Bishop Weyland blinked. He began to sit up, then groaned and lay back down. MediBot moved closer and positioned it's camera probe over the patient's face. "Patient's eye color does not match the medical record of Patient Bishop Weyland," MediBot said. Doctor Rosa Perez sighed and turned to glare at the bot, but then said "Hm, you're right. I'll look into that later, but for now, assume that Bishop Weyland's medical history applies." Doctor Rosa Perez sat down next to the patient. "Are you with us, Bishop?" the doctor asked. "Awake," the patient grunted. "You in the medical bay on the Tana. I'm going to treat you, but first I need to see what medications that suit gave you. Is it going to attack me if I take a blood sample?" Something inside the suit whirred and clicked, and then the patient said, "no." Doctor Rosa Perez found an exposed part of the patient's wrist and drew a blood sample. Then she handed it to MediBot for analysis. "Blood: Human," MediBot said. "Type B positive. White blood cell count normal. Red blood cells non-anemic." "Just tell me what's not normal," Doctor Rosa Perez sighed. "Blood oxygen level 10% below baseline. Cortisol levels above normal range. Adrenaline levels above normal range. Testosterone levels above normal range. Opioid medication present. Warning: opioid medications present in near-lethal doses. Amphetamine medication present. Steroid medication present." "Thank you," Doctor Rosa Perez said. She pulled the oxygen cart closer to the patient and looped the breathing tube around the patient's helmet to keep the oxygen pointed into his nose. "Weyland, are you able to turn off the suit's defense and combat capabilities while keeping life support active?"
  5. Some time later... M.V. Tana Aegis Division staging area Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki February 7, 3029 ___________________________ The hatch to the medical bay crashed open, an oversized stretcher carrying a hulking, haggard-looking soldier enveloped in three-quarters of a suit of power armor. Flanking the stretcher were four medics, one of whom held an IV drip bag aloft with one hand while moving the stretcher with the other. Behind the gurney in close formation were Captain Maxwell - still wearing a full suit of MechWarrior combat armor, minus the helmet - Steve Jenkins, and a young man with a crew cut and a pair of sunglasses pushed above his forehead who I didn't recognize. "Clear the way!" Captain Maxwell called out, patients and orderlies stepping away from the oncoming stretcher as it quickly bypassed the waiting area and disappeared into the intensive care unit. A doctor, accompanied by MediBot, sprinted behind the group, shouting a series of instructions to the robot and the medics. I glanced toward the curtained-off area, listening to the bits and pieces of =conversation that I could make out among the commotion. "Bishop Weyland...he's Crayven Corporation's strategic operations manager. We thought he'd been KIA during combat maneuvers last week, but he turned up during our operation today. Seemed really out of it and looked like a bit like death warmed over. Disoriented. Almost catatonic at times. Right before we bugged out, one of our infantrymen on loan - Sergeant Miles - passed me this note. On our ride back to the Tana, Bishop fell out in the APC. We couldn't wake him." "'HE NEEDS TO GET MEDICAL... IT’S SLOWLY KILLING HIM. TIME IS SHORT.' Well, that cuts right to the chase. Captain Maxwell, do you know if he's been taking any medications?" "I don't, but - " "I can answer that question, doctor." "And you are?" "Nathan Schmidt. Yeah. That's like half the reason we had the medics wheel the entire suit of armor in here rather than try to get him out of it. The other half is that this thing is apparently keeping him alive, in addition to dosing him every ten minutes. Anyway, when I was uplinked into its system I saw that it's pumping him full of all kinds of stuff. ChemCourage and Rage. Adrenaline. A shit-ton of painkillers." "You didn't happen to get the specific dosages, did you?" "No...but I bet I can hack back into the suit and - " I jumped up from my chair and shoved my way into the ICU, catching a number of glares from the medical staff as I did so. "WAIT!" I exclaimed. Maxwell, Schmidt, Jenkins, and the physician all froze, their heads snapping toward me at the outburst. "Blackwood? You weren't invited back here," the doctor grumbled, a mixture of irritation and surprise in the question. "This area is off-limits to..." "Don't try to hack the suit," I interrupted. Captain Maxwell stared at me, eyes wide with confusion. "Alright, I'm listening," Charles answered, crossing his arms over his chest. Behind him, two medics frantically worked to connect a heart monitor to Weyland's upper torso, one of the few areas of flesh exposed beneath the thick, dark-toned armor. "If that thing is keeping him on life support, I guarantee you it's got defenses. At best, they're external only - meaning that if you're lucky, it'll just try to overload your hardware and maybe even maim the hacker driving it, in the process," I explained. "Oh, joy," Schmidt muttered, dropping his sunglasses down over his eyes and leaning jauntily on the side of the stretcher as he cracked a wad of chewing gum in his mouth. "At worst, it'll flip a dead-man switch and try to juice Weyland into a combat state, and if he's tripping balls on some combat drugs already, there's no telling what this infirmary will look like when he comes down off of that high. I expect we'd be looking for a new medical staff and a new unit commander, though - no offense, sir." I continued. "None taken. How exactly do you know all of this?" Charles asked. "I used to be a black market arms dealer, remember? I didn't exactly come by a lot of my merchandise legitimately," I quipped. "I'll consider you an authoritative source on the topic, then," Maxwell nodded. "Alright, so, what do we do?" "Can't you just shut the suit down?" I asked. "Cut over to life support systems in the medical bay?" "If I remember correctly, that's easier said than done," Charles answered, looking toward Nathan Schmidt, who nodded silently in response. "Yeah. It's got dogs," Nathan replied. "Dogs?" Steve Jenkins asked, a hint of laughter in his tone. "Watchdogs. Sub-programs to protect the operator. If I mess with any of them, the whole defense system could fire off," Nathan explained. "Well, you guys are missing the obvious!" Jenkins replied, with an over-the-top swagger. "Why don't you just ask Bishop to turn it off?" Captain Maxwell looked toward the doctor. "I'm going to defer to you on this one, doc. How bad is he? What do we need to do here?"
  6. Meanwhile... D.C.S. Takashima Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki February 7, 3029 ___________________________ “Nice work, everyone. Let's go home." Bishop’s body shook with pain and exhaustion. In a narcotic trans like state the massive Skinwalker slowly bent down to take a knee, using the wall to steady himself. He’s newly enhanced hearing picked up the Captains conversation, but a hint of confusion splashed through is mind. The Skinwalker was sure if had automatically tapped into the command channel or if he was actually hear the his words. He rocked softly as his pack mate Sergeant Miles moved round him, like an ant climbing a rock, checking various systems and servo motors on cursed suit. Sensing new movement from his left Bishop turreted his head slowly to see the Captain move to his side. Before he could speak, Miles showed the Captain a hand written note. The beast inside the massive Skinwalker recognized the sag in the Captain’s face and sorrow flash though his eyes. Captain Maxwell silent nodded then took a knee next to Bishop. “How are you doing friend?” Whispered Maxwell. After a long moment Bishop found the words deep in his mind. Slowly he spoke, like a child learning to speak. “Pain.... I feel lots of pain.” Nodding his head Captain Maxwell thought for a moment. “We are ready for extraction, think you can make it big guy?” “My mission...it is not complete... must secure the package... safely get back to the DropShip” the words moved out of Bishop slowly as he started to remember who he was now. Maxwell smiled, he saw a flash of Bishop returning. “We will my friend, we’ll get you out of the suit and into medical too” A strange feeling resonated in Skinwalker’s body..... fear....the fear an addict loosing there fix. Pushing the feelings down Bishop spoke. “The General.... he’s in trouble” “We not sure, but we need to find out” said Maxwell in a tired tone. Bishop felt the animal rage building. With great effort he stood, servo motor whined in protest. Bringing up his arm, Bishop pulled a thin wire from his right wrist. Before Captain Maxwell could react, Bishop plugged the wire into the mercenary’s datapad and started typing on the suit key pad built into forearm. After a few seconds the Skinwalker pulled the wire out and secured back into his wrist. He then picked up his helmet and snapped into place. His world now turning into thermal imaging. Slowly, half machine and half man moved close to Nathan who had just finished packing his gear. The man stopped, watching the Skinwalker, for a moment they both just stared at each other. Nathan’s face showed surprise when massive avatar produced a small, metal like disk from his clawed had. Reluctantly the double agent took the device and but it in pouch on his tactical vest. Then he was gone, Bishop dispersed into the void black shadows of the corridor. “Sergeant....?” Maxwell asked, obviously shocked. “Check your system sir.... it’s a gift” Miles chuckled. Seconds later.... “Blake....I’m tracking his movement....I.....can see what he sees. He’s, dropping markers?” Maxwell said confused. “Yes sir, he showing you the way out... and he’s clearing it.... he’s hunting” Miles whispered “So what did I get?” Asked Nathan. “You my friend, got a transponder.... so he knows where you are all the time.... welcome to his pack” quipped the Scout. “Yeah....I feel totally safe around him” the Agent said sarcastically “Eden this is Control..... we are seeing the same thing you are... he’s linked into use and the Republic. Donovan voice excitedly boomed over the tactical channel. “Damn.... look at him move” came Alyssa voice on the net. “Eden be advised... we see his vital signs. Medical team we’ll be on standby” Said Donovan with a hint of concern on his voice. After a few moments the assault team packed up and began moving out of the ship. As the team left the room a small note fell on the ground. On it read HE NEEDS TO GET MEDICAL... IT’S SLOWLY KILLING HIM. TIME IS SHORT.
  7. "Eden to Republic - come in, Republic." A long hiss of static met my reply. "Eden to Control - do you have eyes on Republic?" "Affirmative, Eden," Captain Donovan replied. "Stand by. We're running analysis on them now." A loud thunk caught my attention. I glanced to my left to see Nathan Schmidt rapidly depositing gear into a knapsack held open by Steve Jenkins. Behind the pair, Sergeant Miles checked on Bishop, who was slumped forward, held upright by the frame of his power armor. Looking toward our infantry escort, I was met with a sea of haggard faces. Our team had managed to hold it together long enough to retrieve the objective and overcome multiple unexpected contingencies, but after a week of unrelenting stress, battle, and situationally-induced paranoia, they were exhausted. I was looking forward to getting them home. "Control to Eden - we've been able to raise the Republic," Donovan's voice crackled, interrupting my train of thought. "They were rebooting their comm unit. Nice work. I'm patching you through now." A brief chirp signaled the attachment of the Republic's carrier frequency to the communications channel. "Republic to Eden - there's a whole mess of people up here who want to thank you and Mister Schmidt for your timely intervention," Major Hayes' voice announced, a smile evident in his tone. "Thank you, Major," I replied, "but I didn't have much of a hand in it. Your Lieutenant Weyland and Nathan Schmidt are due the credit." "Eden - did you say 'Lieutenant Weyland?'" Hayes asked, incredulously. "Affirmative. It would seem that reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated," I responded, paraphrasing an ancient Earth novelist, "although he's in pretty bad shape." "Considering what we saw on the BattleROMs, I'm not at all surprised," the Major answered. "Well, it would seem that he's reappeared just in time. The Mendacius received a cable that we've been meaning to relay to you." "Go ahead," I acknowledged. "It would seem that our CEO, William Kauffman, has gone missing. He failed to make a rendezvous with the Lyran representatives at Thorin. Search and rescue was unsuccessful at locating him. His belongings were still in his room. Surveillance videos showed him entering the Glendale Nature Preserve on a walk, and then an unidentified VTOL blazing out of the woods shortly thereafter. His scarf and a number of personal effects were found in a stream about a kilometer into the forest, indicating a struggle. Our working theory at this time is that he's been abducted," Hayes explained. I listened in stunned silence. "My condolences. I'm assuming that means we're out of time," I responded. "Provided that you've retrieved the objective, that would be preferable," the Major confirmed. "We have," I answered. "We're packing up now. Bravo team diverted to chase down some Nighthawk power armor that we'd gotten a lead on. We haven't heard from them recently, but the wreck might be interfering with our low-gain radios." "We'll see if the Mendacius can get them on the horn," Hayes acknowledged. "We'll let you know if there are any problems. Nice work on your part. I want you to get Alpha team out and back to the Tana. Our planetary drives are offline, so we can't land at the moment. We'll work on that issue. In the interim, once both teams are aboard, Tana will dust off and transport you and any assets that were left behind by our...unscheduled departure...to a rendezvous with the Mendacius to transfer the package. Following that, our convoy will transit to the system jump point, during which time, we'll bring you and your crew back aboard the Republic." "Sounds like a plan," I replied. "Oh, and Captain," Hayes added, "keep Nathan Schmidt away from the package. While I appreciate his tenacity and assistance in this matter, I'm not prepared to give him regular access to our compartmentalized data." "Understood. Eden out." Turning back toward the group, I found the team packed up and awaiting orders. "Nice work, everyone. Let's go home." ***
  8. Fortunately for me, and for all of us, there was no sign of the AI, and so I was pretty easily able to make the smash and grab system intrusion unopposed. With a few deft commands and well-timed scripts, I soon had admin access and had tunneled my way to the communications uplink. When I accessed it, I saw that the system was doing exactly what we'd been seeing aboard the Republic. A continuous comm link existed between the ground station and the orbiting DropShip, along which was carried a continuous stream of data that included, among other things, a payload for running the malware in any way the base station wanted, and a recursive algorithm that continuously checked admin rights and malware status on the remote host, reestablishing permissions and the infection if either of them went away. It was an ingenious setup. "Alright, Major, I'm ready to pull the trigger and shut this comm dish down for good. I'm gonna kill the connection, rm -r the system files, and then forkbomb it so that it crashes hard and forcibly reboots. When it does, in the absence of boot files, it'll just sit there and never be able to boot again." I looked to the Captain for validation. "Anything I should do before I move forward?" The Captain shook his head. "No. Do it." I nodded and carried out the commands. Shortly, the dish had been disconnected, the system files obliterated, and the transmitter rebooted. As expected, when it went down, I never saw it again. Quickly, I logged out of the main terminal as well. "It's done." I announced. "Just like that?" Maxwell asked incredulously. "How can we be sure it worked?" "Well, I suppose you could try calling the Republic." I shrugged. "Good idea." replied the Captain. "While you do that, with your permission, I'm gonna start packing this gear up. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to put some distance between us and this wreck. I'll be ready to ship out as soon as you are." "Sounds good." Maxwell said. "Give me a minute to make sure that we're back in touch with the mothership, and then we can go. Also, let's make sure that Bishop's brain wasn't fried by this escapade. If we have to carry him, I'd rather know that now."
  9. My fingers flew across the keyboard as I looked furiously back and forth between Bishop and their screen. The situation had turned insane. I was fighting in a three-way battle, and the stakes had never been higher. From what I could ascertain, the operating system of Bishop's suit - the system I was dependent on to breach the comm system - was itself a self-contained AI that was programmed with a singular focus of objective...to keep Bishop alive and literally fighting. Every time it detected a threat, it juiced him with psychoactive combat drugs and stimulants to artificially raise his vitals to approximately the same level as someone surrounded by an angry mob of homicidal maniacs might feel. That wouldn't have been too much of an issue on its own, seeing as how there weren't any threats in the computer room. But the situation wasn't that simple. As I'd dove through layer after layer of system security, hacking ports, bypassing firewalls, overloading proxies and analyzing process trees, file structures, and navigation paths, I'd become aware of an extremely efficient counter-incursion protocol that seemed to be able to evaluate decisions I'd made and respond to them like a ruthless chess master. Every maneuver I made was almost immediately met with a perfect countermeasure, at a speed far too fast to be human. Worse still, the responses from the system as it denied me access and attempted to strike back with its own malware were being registered by Bishop's suit AI as combat threats, and its response, in turn, was to give Bishop shocks, prods, and whatever else it deemed necessary to whip him into a fighting frenzy. I could actually predict the time interval between when I would fail a hack and when I'd see a violent physical outburst from Bishop, as though he was actually being injured in the battle between systems. It was...in a word...terrifying. So I had to choose my actions carefully, because it was becoming apparent to me that every time I botched something, Bishop paid for it, and because we didn't have the luxury of time for me to both figure out how to override Bishop's tormentor and hack the Takashima before it locked us out forever, that meant that all I could do was wade as carefully as I could through this mine field, and...I glanced apologetically at Bishop...hope I didn't fuck it up too badly. The trace tracker on my console started beeping loudly, and I stared at the screen for several long moments. "Is that an active trace?" Captain Maxwell asked. I looked at the mercenary with surprise. "Yeah, actually, it is." I said. "Don't look so shocked. I know a thing or two besides how to blow shit up." Maxwell joked. "How can I help you?" "Well, I need to set a proxy bypass and a shell trap." I said. "But I'm also worried that the AI - the evil one - sorry, the evil one not inside Bishop's suit - is going to find me before I get it all done. If that trace gets too close to us, we have to dump the connection. Can you help by watching the trace tracker and hit this kill switch over here if the trace gets to one node away from us?" "Can do." Maxwell nodded. I handed him one of the two keyboards connected to the workstation. "Thank you, sir." I said. "Meanwhile, I am gonna try to open a shell between us and the Takashima AI. It's going to be trapped with a forkbomb. My hope is that the AI will attack the shell, thinking that it traced and found us, and when that happens, BAM! If I can get it to do that, it might buy us enough time to get to the uplink, shut it down, and remove the system files so it can't come back up again." "Forkbomb?" the Captain asked. "Yeah. A forkbomb is a self replicating process whose only purpose is to grow. You can pull off a forkbomb in a terminal pretty easily. If left unchecked, a forkbomb will grow to the point that it takes up all system resources, forcing a reboot. I want to forkbomb the Takashima's AI, so that..." "...it's asleep while we try to break into its house." Maxwell finished. I nodded. "In addition, it should get Bishop some relief, since the system will stop attacking us - temporarily." I added. "I just realized that." "Brilliant." Maxwell replied. I furiously set up a shell session and put the appropriate commands into place. Meanwhile, Maxwell watched the trace tracker intensely. The beeping grew gradually faster and faster. The AI was closing in on us. I panicked as I realized we were nearly out of time. "Nathan, there's only a few segments left on the track." Captain Maxwell warned. "How close are we?" "Not close enough..." I muttered. My hands were pounding across the keyboard, and I clicked through the Iran software's UI as fast as I could, dragging and dropping the infrastructure I'd need onto the deployment package. The trace tracker's call continued to intensify. "Are we almost there?" Maxwell asked, anxiously. "Almost..." I said, moving the monitor bypass, proxy bypass, SQL memory corruption injector, webserver worm, and SSL Trojan packages into position. The trace tracker became a solid wail. "NATHAN! I'VE GOTTA DUMP IT NOW!" Maxwell exclaimed. "Go!" I replied, hitting the 'arm' function on the trap at the same exact time that Maxwell dumped the terminal connection. Bishop let out a tremendous, guttural scream, thrashing wildly, and then fell suddenly calm. Captain Maxwell ran over to check on the Lieutenant while I wiped sweat off my face. "He's fine." Captain Maxwell reported a minute later. "Did we get the AI?" "I think we did..." I said. "The trap detonated, which means that some process hit it. The only thing tracing us was the AI." "Alright, how much time do we have?" Maxwell asked. "I honestly don't know. I have no idea how fast the AI reboots. I'm not gonna waste any time, though. I'm deploying all the packages and slicing my way in now. Provided the AI isn't around, I should be able to get to the uplink and shut it down for good before we're detected."
  10. Black Eclipse Discovery Site Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki February 7, 3029 ___________________________ “Before the captain could answer, Bishop's head snapped toward me.” The boarder line lethal injection of combat stimulates smashed into the hulking Skinwalker’s central nervous system. On pure sheer will Bishop massive arms snapped out and grabbed ahold of the wall he was standing close to. Flexing is armored gauntlets the mercenary drove his claws into the a metal ledge. The sound of servo motors under strain echoed in the small room. A wave of rage and lust for slaughter washed over his mind and soul like an unstoppable tsunami washing over a city. It was everything he could do to control his hunger for blood shed. Like a caged and wounded animal, Bishop bared his teeth and growled an inhuman sound. The Skinwalker’s massive frame flexed and strained at the onslaught of the combat stimulate. Simultaneously the small group of men stepped back from the Lieutenant. Bishop’s mind drifted out of his body in a narcotic haze. He could see the Captain, Nathan and the Mech Warrior Steve Samsung next to him. He also saw his spirt looming over them, a thousand pound mass of rage, fury and hunger.... he saw Mother gift.... the curse of a demonic Werewolf standing amongst them. At of the corner of silver reflective eye he movement.... his pack mate and true blood warrior.... Sergeant Miles with is snarling mask. The warrior scout pushed passed the small group and stood next to Bishop. Bishop stood still, unable to move or speak... His mind shifted to his the unseen beast looming over them. The beast reared back and gave a long and booming howl, that only the Skinwalkers could feel in their soul. Smokey shadows appeared all around in Bishop’s mind. They were a mix of human and beast, changing and shifting like wet water colors on a canvas. Without warning the began its slaughter of the new enemy. Bishop felt it’s power and lust for blood. “Shit..... hold this” Bishop heard... it was the distinctive voice and sent of his brother Skinwalker. “Talk fast Sergeant” Came the distant voice of Captain Maxwell. “The suit’s AI is under attack from the ships AI... I think. It’s responding as if it was a under attack from a physical enemy.... Deathwalker....I mean Bishops minds and body are caught in the middle” Miles words were distant in Bishop’s raging mind. Bishops ears picked up the sound of rapid shuffling behind him. “What does that mean Sergeant” Nathan asked. “If don’t we do anything you’re about to have a thousand pound killing machine rip us apart and rip this ship to scraps....then he will die. The suit and Bishop are linked as one.... like two sprits....it’s a gift created by our Mother.... I can’t explain it right now” whispered Miles. “What do we need to do?” Bishop heard Maxwell’s voice. “What you are holding Captain, is a med kit, open it and get me the syringe with the blue liquid in... Nathen... keep doing you hack... don’t let the ship, or whatever it is win” Even with his eye closed Bishop watched as the savage beast moved with blinding speed... it slashed, bite and ripped apart ghost like constructs in the fog. He could feel blood rain down over his skin. Each time the beast was wounded Bishop felt on his own skin. Stabbing searing pain shot into his body with unseen weapons and assailants. Just then Skinwalker felt the Sergeant plunge the needle into his neck. Bishop snapped his head around baring his teeth. Fight the urge to rip open his brother. Seconds later, he felt an ocean of calm wash over him, still he wasted in is mind as the beast battles on. Slowly he gained some control over his rage. Nathan just a few feet away danced his fingers over the datapad.
  11. I took a deep Swig of Dragon Spirits and looked at the computer that Nate Schmidt was computering on. All kinds of Hacker data zoomed by and made bleeping and bloopings. I didn't know anything about hacking, but I was pretty sure that Nate had it under control. So I did a loud burp and let him do his Thing. All of the sudden, I saw a dark figure move off to my left. My martial arts dark mind zoomed in and locked on the Target. It was a Salvager in a black spandex suit and he was trying to creep through the shadows. "I see you trying to creep through the shadows!!" I screamed. "Captain Maxwell please hold this." I said and I Handed Captain Maxwell the bottle of Dragon Spirits. He said something about it burned his eyes but I didn't hear what it was, I was too busy running into full chaotic elemental mode, I let out a zen battle roar as I ran hard at the Salvager, the man turned to look at me totally confused as I ramped up over a computer rack and appeared in the air in slow-mo above him. "Haidakoryuken!!!" I screamed as I did the first part of the Path of the Pyre which was an ancient Archimedes yoga fire technique. The salvager screamed as my flying kick hit his Face, and he went down hard into the dirt. "BALOOOKICK!" I yelled, doing a maneuver sweep with my arms, which unlocked the second part of the Battle ritual. The Salvager got up and bashed me in the face with a pipe wrench! "AHHHORRRGGHH!" I yelled as I fell backwards with a huge bunch of saliva and blood flying out of my mouth. I landed down hard and bounced a bunch. I slowly tried to get up and then I saw the salvager coming right at me!! "OH NO YOU DON'T!" I Hollered and I let a huge uppercut fly and slammed my fist into the guy's jaw. His whole body flew up toward the roof and smashed into it, Then he fell down and hit the deck real hard. He tried to get up, and then I saw he had pulled out a pipe gun!! "OH NO YOU DON'T!!" I Retaliated. I went into a "fighting crane" stance and I pulled my arms back like a martial arts/extreme dancer and stared at the guy, then I shoved my arms forward and Shouted the final phrase: "SHOKYAKU SHU!!!!" A Huge rumbling happened behind the man and he turned around to look at it. Right then a gigantic Fireball exploded off the computers behind him. "AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" He screamed as he got threw through the air while he was on fire. His on fire body flew over my head and then slammed so hard into the wall that he exploded. As his guts slid down the wall and onto the floor I walked back over to Captain Maxwell. "What the hell was that Steve Jenkins??" "It was nothing." I said. "I Thought I saw a threat." Then I took back my Dragon's Breath and had a victory drink.
  12. "There definitely is someone, or something, in the system here with us." I agreed. "It keeps counter-hacking me. I open ports and they close. I interrupt the data stream and it resumes. I've got a port forcibly held open as a critical process right now, but if I don't move quick, we might lose it as well. And then I don't know if even your high-speed infiltration software can re-open that closed door." Captain Maxwell came to watch over my shoulder, joined by Steve Jenkins. As I hammered away at the keyboard, Bishop tensed suddenly. A bio alarm started wailing from the console. I looked, and Bishop's blood pressure and neural activity had skyrocketed. I had no idea why. There was no obvious indication of system activity. I glanced at the Lieutenant. "Hey, Bishop, you okay? Your vitals are going off the charts over here." Bishop glanced over at me with wild eyes that looked as though he was in another place. Simultaneously, I head a loud click as the suit's onboard systems dispensed something through a dermal injection. Squinting at the screen, I clicked through a couple of tabs to see what it had done. "ChemCourage and Rage? Bishop, why is your power armor giving you those right now? Is something wrong?" "Hey, I did Rage once!" Steve Jenkins exclaimed. "Uh oh. What can we expect from it?" Captain Maxwell asked. "I dunno. I mainly remember punching a bunch of holes in the walls of my apartment, then falling down the stairs and waking up in a puddle of my own puke the next morning." Steve lamented, scratching the side of his face as he recalled the memory. "Well, at least there aren't any stairs nearby." Maxwell deadpanned. "No usable ones, anyway." Abruptly, a system message appeared on the display. SHE DID NOT FIND THE GRIM IN FALLING APART. FOR EVERY TIME HE FOUND HIMSELF TO BE BROKEN, SHE KNEW SHE WAS BRUTALLY REMAKING HIM, COLLAPSING HIM TO BE REBORN LIKE A RIOTING STAR, HAUNTING THE DARK SKY. -- MOTHER I stared at Captain Maxwell. "Sir...what the hell do you make of this?" Before the captain could answer, Bishop's head snapped toward me.
  13. Atypical activity detected on port 54091. Port closed. Atypical activity detected on port 59224. Port closed. Atypical activity detected on port 63701. Port closed. Atypical activity detect, ed on port 52003. Port closed. Atypical activity detected on port 60921. Port closed. The data stream to the trespassers' ship was interrupted. Port 60921 reopened and was flagged as critical. The intruders resumed using it. The incoming data stream did not match any known user agent. There was a loose repeating pattern to the duration between packets - not random accidents of processing speed, but too imprecise to be an intentional part of an algorithm. Possibly analog input - a mechanical device or biological organism wired into the input method. A power surge was deployed through the hardware port the intruders were accessing.
  14. This hack was weird. I had never used someone's literal brain as a pass through for an infiltration before, nor had I used the high-end, slick looking Irian interface that now splashed across my screen before. No, I was used to command lines, green text on black backgrounds, wireframes, that sort of thing. This was a fully polished UI that even had some bullshit special visuals whenever you clicked buttons or moved a window around. This was paid hacking software. Legit, corporate espionage stuff. Which probably meant that it was going to rip through the Takashima's outer cyber defenses pretty easily. As I logged in, I noticed something weird. One of the windows contained a three dimensional, rotating neural scan of Bishop's brain, complete with EEG activity and vital signs. Another window showed a toxicology read, which was incredibly strange. And a third window was actually displaying a feed of Bishop's face in thermally view, with what almost looked like a topographical map overlaid on his image. "I'm gonna leave all of that be for now..." I muttered, pulling up the software payload. The tools had names that were decidedly corporate, but I could infer from their clinical, pseudo-ironic, focus-group sounding branding what they did. "OK, Bishop, here we go." I daid, deploying what called itself 'FIREHOSE' against the target at the end of /dev/sdd1, which was the firewall into the Takashima's mainframe. The man tensed suddenly, his blood pressure reading skyrocketing while a few alarms went off on the bio-monitor. "Bishop? You okay? What's happening there? Should I turn it off?" "No.....continue. I...function." the soldier replied. I nodded worriedly. It appeared that the tool had obliterated the firewall, though at what cost to his health, I couldn't tell. Soon, I deployed the tool marked as 'PORTHACK.' The utility cycled on, brute-forcing an attack on the server's communications ports. They fell easily, and I was able to SSH the rest of the way in. "Alright, bingo, I'm past the security...but there's no apparent subroutine running from this terminal that I can see to exploit.. Let me try to find the source on LAN activate the -" Suddenly, Bishop spoke up, in an unusual tone... "We are not alone. There's something else in the system with us..."
  15. Black Eclipse Discovery Site Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki February 7, 3029 ___________________________ Nathan’s words were like a distant echo in the Skinwalker’s wandering mind. He had to force himself to concentrate on the man’s words and under stand what he was saying. Slowly he turreted his mass head left and right taking in the sights, sounds and smells. All of which was now assaulting his hyper senses. The suits helmet had protected, controlled, organized and analyzed the influx of information coming into him... now it was is human... ish... sense had been forced to deal with the environment.... it was almost to much. He wanted to lash out.... but stopped. Snapping his helmet back on Bishop felt a comforting almost calming energy flow through is mind. “Do you have a datapad?” Bishop asked. “Yes.... yes I do” Schmidt responded. “There is a port at the back of my helmet.... plug it in” the Skinwalker ordered. After a few moments Bishop’s HUD flashed... WARNING....EXTERNAL DEVICE CONNECTED. ALLOW ACCESS? PASSWORD REQUIRED... In a wiper, Bishop spoke an ancient dialect, the words were of a Native American tong. His HUD flashed again... ACCESS GRANTED.... The Skinwalker spoke to his suit...”Run Infiltration diagnostics... strike package Alpha”. RUNNING DIAGNOSTICS.... STANDBY. The screen flashed. Bishop turned his snarling wolf helmet toward the spy “You now can control all my systems. You have full access....I have full override control....if warranted..... any attack on the suit is an attack on me.... your termination will be swift and violent” warned Bishop. Bishop watched as Nathan’s thermal image increased in heat, his blood pressure spiked. “Bishop.... we are in this together... just you and me.... just trust me” whispered Nathan.
  16. Bishop and Nathan busied themselves with the system infiltration, while I keyed open a channel to Bravo Team, the impromptu callsign we'd given to Dutch and Kai's expedition deeper into the wreck to retrieve the power armor units. "Eden to Bravo Team - the mission clock's not got much to left. How's it looking down there?" A quiet hiss of static met my reply. A feeling of dread began to build. "Eden to Control - are you in communication with Bravo Team?" I asked, switching my channel over to the Mendacius. "Negative, Eden," Captain Donovan replied, "they advised that they were moving into a shielded section of the wreck. Between that and the apparent depth at which it's buried, we lost VHF comms with them." "Understood," I replied. "We have the objective. We're just waiting for Bishop and Nathan to get that uplink offline. Once we've done so, we're going to be bugging out of here." I glanced over at Bishop, who appeared to be deeply engaged in the process of breaching the system, while Nathan observed. "Give us a heads up if you need us to make a detour to find Bravo Team on the way out. Otherwise, please have a transport ready to grab us in twenty minutes."
  17. Bishop stomped over to the computer station, and flipped his helmet back. I gasped at what I saw underneath. He didn't look anything like he'd appeared when I'd seen him on the feeds aboard the Half Moon. His hair was even shorter, if that was even possible, he was scarred all over, and his eyes looked dead, soulless, distant. The expression on his face was one of complete neutrality. No hint of emotion. I shuddered. It was the sort of stuff that you see in movies, but you never think could actually happen in real life. I immediately felt regret for the things I had put him through prior to him ending up in whatever state this was now. 'What do you need me to do." he said. It wasn't a question even. It was more of a statement. As if he was waiting for me to input a command, almost. "Well, uh..." I started to say. The cut on my face was itching. Felt like it was crawling with things. I brushed frantically at it, but didn't actually feel anything there. It was distracting. "So, I need you to tie into the computer terminal here. You've got some retractable cables in those gauntlets of yours, yes?" "Yes." said Bishop. In a single, broad motion, Bishop reached into one of his gauntlets, and pulled out two retractable cables. Then, he forcefully punch them into the port where the other cables had been burned out. Then, he turned to me. "Next step." said the man. "Well, you're going to need to run your software that you use for infiltration, only this time, I need you to bust down the security standing between us and the communications dish. I don't exactly know how to tell you to do that, because I can't see your software, so you're going to have to walk me through what you're seeing. You got a computer display or something on the inside of that helmet that you can reference while we're working together?"
  18. While Nathan consulted with Bishop about his infiltration tools, I climbed back over to the server rack where I'd left the transfer drive. As I did so, Sergeant Miles joined me. "How do you suppose we'll know if this thing is actually transferring any data?" Miles asked. "Well, last time the computer spoke to me," I admitted, "though this time, that doesn't seem to be the case. Hello? Is anyone there?" I asked the room, half-jokingly. "I admit, that's one thing we haven't tried much," the Sergeant chuckled. No sooner had the words escaped his mouth than I heard the sound of multiple server racks in the room cycling their fans in sequence. "Whoa," I quipped, "that's a bit of a departure from creepy voice clips." "No kidding," Miles answered. "I'm not sure what it meant." Glancing down at the server rack, I noticed that the bank of ports around the receptacle to which I'd attached the hard drive had engaged in an unusual flashing of their connection lights, despite the fact that there was nothing attached to the interfaces. In the midst of the flashing, the transfer drive's activity light began glowing solidly. "It's doing the same thing as what I saw on the bridge. I'm pretty sure that the transfer is underway, though I'm less sure of what we're getting," I observed. "You've been to the bridge? Then you must know the layout of the ship," a voice called out. Turning toward its source, I realized that the speaker was the captured salvager. "There's not a lot left of the bridge, Mister - what was your name?" I asked. "Hohiro," the man replied. "Can I ask, what did you see?" "There was a razor beast and bad architecture," I deadpanned. "I've seen a lot of things. Nothing I'd describe as a razor beast," Hohiro replied. "Ask Corporal Clemmons about that," Sergeant Miles retorted. "Clemmons, are you an animal lover?" "No, sir," Clemmons laughed. "Especially not after that incident." "Is there something else you're after?" Hohiro pressed, "or was the computer the objective all along?" "Our objective is our own. Just be glad that you're alive," I responded. "Yes, but if it's the suits you're after, I can show you where they are, in exchange for my freedom," the man continued. I raised an eyebrow toward Sergeant Miles. "Think he's telling the truth?" I asked. "I'd say it's less than a fifty-fifty chance. I'm gonna go with 30% truth, 70% 'hoping to lead us to a gruesome death.'" Miles answered. "That's kind of what I thought. Clemmons, see if you can get Hohiro here on the horn with Dutch and - what was his name - Kai, right? Let him share his information with them, but ask them to compare it to what we know of the wreck. If it seems to line up, we can consider a trade. Otherwise - Hohrio can continue to be our VIP guest through the remainder of this operation. "Aye, sir," Clemmons replied. I turned back to the server rack. As I did so, Sergeant Miles pointed at the hard drive. "Seems the computer wants to go with you," he observed. "You mind explaining to me how you knew that?" I asked, surprised. "I've been staring at those lights, and they follow a pattern," Miles explained. "Short blink, short blink, short blink, long blink, long blink, long blink, short blink, short blink, short blink, over and over. It's an ancient communication technique called 'Morse code.' It translates to 'SOS,' which I'm sure you know the meaning behind." "You just might earn your cut after all," I nodded, impressed. As I did so, the blink pattern changed again, this time, to a flurry of varying light pulses. "Uh - is it still talking?" I asked. Miles stared at the pattern for a moment, eventually nodding his head. "Yeah. I think it means 'NOW I AM HOME.' Not sure what that's referring to," Miles responded. Before I could speculate further, the sequencing lights and the transfer unit immediately shut off, replaced by single, solid green indicator on the console beside the hard drive cable. "I'm cautiously optimistic that it means we're nearly done here," I smiled. "Maxwell to Control - I believe we've secured the package. We're taking care of the secondary objective now."
  19. "Sounds good." I answered. The terminal looked like the average medium security rig I was used to busting, and with an Apple-Churchill kit, it represented no real challenge to me. I slid into position with the devices I would need...the noteputer loaded with slicing software, and the relevant accessories from the kit, and set about preparing my intrusion. As I was getting ready, I heard heavy breathing over my shoulder. I turned to look, and it was Steve Jenkins. "Oh hey, buddy." I said cautiously. "You okay after that epic fall?" "Yes. I used dragon spirits to zen away the pain." said Steve, doing a sudden muscle flex. "As long as you feel better, right? What's dragon spirits, anyway?" I asked. "It's this!" Steve said, holding up a bottle of 120-proof saké that literally said 'Dragon Spirits' on the label. "Holy shit! You're drinking hanazake in the desert? In here? That stuff has so much alcohol in it that it's literally flammable!" I clicked the last of the cables into the terminal and fired up the slicing software on my noteputer. Steve nodded his head excitedly. "Yeah, I know, sometimes, after I drink a big alcohol drink, I light my burps on fire, and-" A loud beeping from the terminal pulled my attention out of the conversation. I squinted at the screen, trying to be sure I was reading its message correctly. MEDICAL ALERT RECEIVED - COMMENCING TRIAGE "What? No, that's not what I was trying to do!" I exclaimed. Looking at my noteputer, I saw that the slicing software had hit a proxy, and whatever commands it was trying to throw at the terminal were going someplace else. I resterted the analysis on the firewall while I launched a bunch of shell sessions on the Churchill equipment to try to overwhelm the proxy. Meanwhile, I successfully brought down the SSH port on the terminal. Turning my attention back to the firewall analysis, I began to feed it a second round of commands. Unexpectedly, I felt a hard sting on my neck, and I reflexively reached up to swat hard at whatever had caused it. To my surprise, my hand connected with a small mass of metal and plastic, and I heard an audible crunch. I drew my hand back and looked at the object. It was a tiny, broken, copper-colored drone, with a small syringe. The vial was empty. "...the hell is this thing?" I wondered out loud. Before I could think on the matter further, though, a catastrophic, deafening blast of electrical surge cascaded from the ports of the computer terminal I was trying to hack, the sum total of the arcing electricity funneling its way into the Apple-Churchill kit and my noteputer. The current carried so much voltage that the setup literally burst into flames and melted into plastic slag all at the same time, sending a conflagration of fire and smoke billowing angrily toward the ceiling. I yelled and fell backward off the edge of the sideways terminal, crashing to the deck behind the server rack. "What the hell - Nathan, are you okay?" Captain Maxwell exclaimed, setting down the transfer drive he was working on and sprinting over to me. "Yeah...I'm fine....I think. But the hacking gear is totaled. Oddly, the ship's computer seemed to take real issue with me trying to slice it." "That's not the first kit we've lost to this ship." Maxwell answered. "Well, what are we supposed to do now?" I asked. "Can't we just shoot the computer to stop the signal, like they do in the movies?" Steve Jenkins asked, appearing out of nowhere. "No, all that will do is blow up the computer and stop us from turning off the transmitter. Then we'd be forced to find the transmitter itsrlf, and I'll be damned if we'd stand a chance of that given the size of this wreck." Maxwell responded. "Wait a minute." I said. "Hey, Bishop. Is it true that those Nighthawk suits have slicing gear? Between your armor and whatever high-end infiltration software you might have on voars, you might actually be able to bust the security on this terminal and shut down the process." Bishop looked toward me, as though he was giving it some consideration...
  20. "Yes sir, I do. But the radio direction finder doesn't get any more accurate than this room. So we need to figure out a more finite way to find the source. Do you have any ideas?" Nathan raised an eyebrow at me, arms crossed over his torso, head to one side. It was the expression of someone on the verge of indifference brought on by one bad situation after another. "Actually, I think I do. Today might be our lucky day," I replied. "That'd certainly be a first," Schmidt chuckled. "The dice haven't exactly been rolling in our favor so far." "You've gotta look at it from a glass-half-full perspective," I answered back. "You're no longer in a prison cell, right? That's a net gain in fortune. Now - back to the subject at hand - all we need to do is find the working terminal in this room - or whatever it is we're here to find. I would bet you that wherever - and whatever - it is, it's got some connection to the signal broadcast. And I think I know how to accomplish finding it." I glanced toward Bishop, who'd just finished assisting Steve Jenkins back to his feet after the MechWarrior had attempted a stupifying and near-fatal swan dive into the chamber from the roof. "Lieutenant Weyland," I began, as Jenkins saluted me haphazardly, "am I correct in thinking that you've got some high-end homing equipment in that suit?" "That is...correct," Bishop replied, vacantly. "Excellent. Do me a favor, see if you can get a bead on the source of this signal," I explained, passing the rangefinder to him for context. "The gear's not precise enough to narrow it down more granularly than this room." Weyland looked at the device for a moment. Then, wordlessly, he handed the unit back to me, and started walking, raising a pointed index finger as he did so. "There," the Lieutenant announced in a monotone. As I looked in the direction indicated by Bishop, I saw a series of faintly flashing server lights, blinking in perfect sequence, seemingly pointing me toward one of the racks along the back quarter of the room. "Nice work," I advised the Lieutenant. Moving slowly toward the endpoint indicated by the lights, I motioned for Nathan to follow. Climbing down a series of server row cabinets, we found ourselves before a single powered terminal, with a keyboard, trackball, and a slowly flashing data port receptacle in prominent sight. The computer itself was displaying a message in lime green font: COMM TERMINAL 57 - SYSTEM LOCKED - CONTACT YOUR ADMINISTRATOR FOR ASSISTANCE. The data port pulsed more quickly as we approached. "Alright, let's divide and conquer on this thing," I advised. "Nathan, since you know what's going on with that signal, I'll entrust you to breach the terminal. Here, take my Apple-Churchill kit for now. Meanwhile, I'm gonna plug into that data port and see if our anonymous benefactor actually has something in store for us. Sound good?"
  21. "OK CAPTAIN MAXWELL! I'M COMING DOWN!" I Yelled loudly. Then, I ramped up my Zen really high and jumped through the hole with my arms out at both sides doing a Kubudo Crane Dive. The air ripped past my skin and made whooshing noises that sounded like somebody had a loud TV turned up on the porno channel where they kind of scramble everything but not really. A million years went by as I fell down, down, down, down, down and right as the ground came up at me I cut loose with a huge Zen scream that was supposed to stop my fall, but it didn't! "Damn Blakists! Stupid Zoodle, I should...." Then the ground came up really fast and hit me in the gut and in the face, all kinds of dirt and rocks blasted me and got caught in my teeth and smashed me as they sundered my body, I flipped over and over and over and while I Rolled out of control I Thought I was going to die... " Oh shit Captain Maxwell, you gotta help me, I'm a sitting duck if I..." Suddenly I felt a Huge boot drop down on me and stop me from rolling. I looked up and Screamed in terror as a huge metal man reached down and picked me up.... "ANALYZING ANALYZING ANALYZING" it said. I kept screaming bloody murder, I had to let it know that I meant Business. "SUBJECT JENKINS, STEVEN T. KNOWN AS AEGIS DIVISION EMPLOYEE. IDENTIFIER 55433453367-BRAVO-GREEN-49 EXCEPTION WRITTEN TO TERMINATION MATRIX. DISENGAGE." Then the metal man put me down, I stopped screaming. Then I looked at Captain Maxwell. "Thanks Mister Bishop!" I said and looked at Captain Maxwell. "HI Captain Maxwell, I'm Here to serve!" Then I did a salute.
  22. Black Eclipse Discovery Site Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki February 7, 3029 ___________________________ The massive Skinwalkers silent watched and listen to the Captain and Nathan’s exchange of words. In the deep recesses of his mind memories stirred and moved like silent ghost. Just snap shots of events and places rolled through mind. Bishop’s mind and soul were in open war with each other. Each struggling for dominance for his body. One, wanted him to remember his humanity.... the other want to weaponizing him for death and destruction. “Captain.... that man is responsible for the innocent deaths of two crew members aboard the Half Moon”....the words falling out of Bishops mouth in a growl. The Skinwalker had no control over what he said or why he said it. The Beast inside of him was loosing its control over his mind. Silently it raged for having its claws slip. The suit adjusted by injecting a small amount of combat stimulates into his body. By sure force of will Bishop fought the urge to visit death upon the man stand next to him. Before the shocked Captain could respond Bishop slowly reached up and hoisted his nearly thousand pound body up on to the support frames he had ran on. Like is a aerial predator he squatted on the frame, perfectly balanced and unmoving. The only sound made in the room was the slow scraping of metal.... his claws flex and together.... something he had no metal control over. There he sat, observing his pack members below him, watching over them like a angle of death....waiting for threats.... while the his internal war still raged.
  23. Meanwhile... D.C.S. Takashima Black Eclipse discovery site Great Banded Desert, Nirasaki February 7, 3029 ___________________________ "I get the sense you and this guy know each other." said Maxwell as I regained my balance and pulled at the various parts of my jump suit to get them back into position following the impromptu makeover inflicted by Bishop. "You could say that." I answered. "We were both...on the Half Moon together." "Ah ha, Bishop did mention that." Maxwell commented. "He had quite a time keeping William and crew out of harm's way after your...creative exit, from what I hear." "I can only imagine that he did." I responded quietly. "Well, if you two are done getting reacquainted, we have a mission to complete. One that I guess by your presence has just taken an interesting turn." "Yes, sir." I answered. Then, I laid out everything that had transpired from the moment Major Hayes recruited me to break the encryption on the drive to the moment that I deployed back to the planet to stop the signal. Captain Maxwell took it all in. "And so you think that the source of that signal is in this room?" Captain Maxwell asked. "Yes sir, I do. But the radio direction finder doesn't get any more accurate than this room. So we need to figure out a more finite way to find the source. Do you have any ideas?" Maxwell considered the question carefully, while I eyed Bishop with caution...
  24. Combat Transport (Space) VTOL Mass: 60 tons Movement Type: VTOL Power Plant: 70 Fusion Cruising Speed: 54 kph Maximum Speed: 108 kph Armor: Ferro-Fibrous Prototype Armament: 4 Medium Laser 1 Machine Gun Manufacturer: Unknown Primary Factory: Unknown Communication System: Unknown Targeting & Tracking System: Unknown Introduction Year: 3029 Tech Rating/Availability: E/X-F-X-X Cost: 6,966,000 C-bills Type: Combat Transport (Space) Technology Base: Inner Sphere (Experimental) Movement Type: VTOL Tonnage: 60 Battle Value: 1,071 Equipment Mass Internal Structure 12 Engine 70 Fusion 3 Cruising MP: 5 Flank MP: 8(10) Heat Sinks: 12 2 Control Equipment: 3.0 Lift Equipment: 6.0 Power Amplifier: 0.0 Turret: 0.5 Armor Factor (Ferro Prototype)250 14 Internal Armor Structure Value Front 6 60 R/L Side 6/6 54/54 Rear 6 50 Turret 6 30 Rotor 6 2 Weapons and Ammo Location Tonnage 2 Medium Lasers Left 2.0 2 Medium Lasers Right 2.0 VTOL Jet Booster Body 0.5 Half Machine Gun Ammo (100) Turret 0.5 Machine Gun Turret 0.5 Infantry Body 4.0 Cargo Body 2.0 Combat Environmental Sealing Body 0.0
  25. DroST IVc Dropship Type: Military Aerodyne Mass: 2,500 tons Technology Base: Inner Sphere (Standard) Introduced: 3029 Mass: 2,500 Size: 60m long x 63m wide x 24m high Battle Value: 5,990 Tech Rating/Availability: D/X-E-D-D Cost: 289,022,400 C-bills Fuel: 100 tons (4,000) Safe Thrust: 7 Maximum Thrust: 11 Heat Sinks: 109 Structural Integrity: 16 Armor Nose: 350 Sides: 310/310 Aft: 238 Cargo Bay 1: Light Vehicle (2) 1 Door Bay 2: Cargo (285.0 tons) 2 Doors Bay 3: Heavy Vehicle (2) 2 Doors Bay 4: Infantry (Jump) (12) 2 Doors Ammunition: 90 rounds of AC/10 ammunition (9 tons), 36 rounds of LRM 20 ammunition (6 tons) Escape Pods: 18 Life Boats: 0 Crew: 2 officers, 3 enlisted/non-rated, 4 gunners, 68 bay personnel Notes: Mounts 71.5 tons of standard aerospace armor. Weapons: Capital Attack Values (Standard) Arc (Heat) Heat SRV MRV LRV ERV Class Nose (25 Heat) 1 AC/10 3 1(10) 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) AC AC/10 Ammo (300 shots) 2 Large Laser 16 2(16) 2(16) 0(0) 0(0) Laser 1 LRM 20 6 1(12) 1(12) 1(12) 0(0) LRM LRM 20 Ammo (72 shots) RW/LW (33 Heat) 1 AC/10 3 1(10) 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) AC AC/10 Ammo (300 shots) 2 Medium Laser 14 2(18) 1(8) 0(0) 0(0) Laser 1 Large Laser 1 LRM 20 6 1(12) 1(12) 1(12) 0(0) LRM LRM 20 Ammo (72 shots) 1 PPC 10 1(10) 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) PPC RW/LW Aft (6 Heat) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser Aft (6 Heat) 2 Medium Laser 6 1(10) 0(0) 0(0) 0(0) Laser
  26. Aboard Black OPs DMI DroST IVc-class Dropship Gorgon In orbit around GJ 3634c dwarf planet Pokhara System, Kurita space near Davion border February 11, 3029 ____________________________________ The retro thrusters fired sporadically and the cold blue glow of the idling planetary transit drives reflected off nearby debris as the dropship made its slow circle around the outer edges of a prominent debris field. Time had not been kind to whatever had been left after a fight in this system a couple hundred years ago, between solar radiation and gravity itself there wasn't much left that was identifiable, let alone salvageable. Had I been able to see outside I might have been able to appreciate the somewhat surreal beauty of the massive cloud of debris floating in space almost suspended between the dwarf planet and its tidally locked binary partner, a moon that was nearly 20% the mass of the dwarf planet itself. From our current position I would have been able to see the planet's second moon in orbit at twice the distance away reflecting the dull red glow of the Pokhara system's class M2V red dwarf star, as we searched seemingly futilely for something worthwhile to salvage. As we once again passed over the debris cloud, the dropship's thrusters adjusting our orbit with finely tuned precision, the bridge crew assumedly were performing various scans to see if there was anything of note amongst the twisted remains of what was once most likely a powerful warship of a bygone era. I was currently strapped into a jumpseat in one of the Gorgon's cargo holds, along with the rest of the DMI special forces platoon, as per the order by the captain roughly an hour ago. We had arrived at the planetary system some time before that but had been ordered to get strapped in as they moved the dropship into the outer edges of the debris field, now operating in zero-g with the main transit drive only idling it could be disasterous if sudden evasive maneouvers were required and someone wasn't properly anchored in the zero-g environment. A sudden shift in momentum within the cargo bay indicated one of those maneouvers was likely happening now, although the steady acceleration that followed indicated we might just be moving to a new location instead. Again if I could have seen outside, or known what was going on on the bridge, I would have been aware that they had detected a much larger piece of debris in a synchronous orbit with the moon on its far side and we were now on our way to investigate what was currently our best lead. As the Gorgon rounded the moon a large almost spherical silhouette emerged from behind the moon, currently cast in complete shadow by the planet, the dropship crew had to stop the ship short though as the density of the debris cloud surrounding what was potentially an intact vessel was too high to safely navigate with a large vessel. Instead they settled into a similar orbit in order to remain at the same location, relative to the wreck, while smaller craft was taken in to investigate the vessel closer. "So it looks like we actually found something," began Johnathan "JJ" Jaegar, "Captain said there's a derelict out there for us to investigate but it's not a Warship. It appears to be an old Pentagon-class Assault dropship, it's clearly taken some major damage but we are to board it, assess the damage and see what can be salvaged. The debris field surrounding the vessel is too dense to safely navigate unnecessarily with the Gorgon itself so instead we're taking the CT(S) VTOL in for a closer look and to board it. Everyone is going on the VTOL but only Rook squad will be boarding at first, they will assess the initial area for damage and if safe to do so we'll proceed from there. Castle and Archer squads will of course be prepped and ready to go should Rook require any assistance." "This is a derelict ship, and it's highly unlikely that anything on board will be working however we're still going to treat it as a standard boarding operation," continued Leena Sykora, Captain of the Grail Lords and in joint command with JJ on this operation, "That means Rook squad will breach the hull and establish a beachhead within the vessel before Archer squad will be deployed to secure it. Castle can deploy once a secure location is established and Rook will proceed towards engineering and any other targets of opportunity that might come up. The goal is to secure the entire vessel and begin salvage operations, if possible we want to bring the main reactors back online and restore power, that'll make it much easier to assess the overall state of the wreck and determine if we can actually recover the derelict or if we have to scrap it piece by piece. Once power, and hopefully life support, is restored we can bring in a full salvage crew and if needed the DMI has provided us access to a salvage ship waiting in a nearby system. As a side note, we are still instructed to test the 'Project Golem' combat exoskeleton in any of our missions." A slight pause as Captain Sykora looked over everyone assembled before locking eyes with me, "Guardian Orlex, that means you get to join Rook squad and assist with the breaching of the vessel and intial salvage attempts, as well as any other testing or situations we deem necessary to complete that aspect of our mission. Let's hope your training hasn't been wasted. Alright everyone, I want you suited up and on board the CT(S) in 10." With that the cargo hold exploded into activity as various deckhands as well as all the members of the Grail Lords moved to get ready within the zero-g environment of the hold. The CT(S), or its full title of Combat Transport (Space), was a superheavy VTOL that was environmentally sealed for operations in space, or any other hostile environment, and had somewhat uncommon fusion powered vectored thrusters as opposed to traditional rotors which allowed it to operate without an atmosphere. It carried an unusually large amount of armour for a VTOL and did not suffer the usual VTOL vulnerability, due to the lack of rotors, but was still susceptible to a critical hit taking out its engines with relative ease. The CT(S) carried 4 medium lasers mounted on the fixed portions of the left and right wings along with a large calibre machinegun on a turret under the body, it also had a 4 ton infantry bay in the back along with room for an additional 2 tons of cargo. All in all the CT(S) VTOL was a tough little transport perfect for delivering troops in any combat environment and safely extracting them once their mission was complete. 10 minutes later the Grail Lords were all suited up in various combat capable space suits and were strapped into the infantry bay of the CT(S) with all the various gear we would need securely stored. I myself was inside the combat exoskeleton suit, which everyone was starting to just refer to as The Golem, for better or worse, and strapped to the wall like cargo, with the magnetic clamps in the feet engaged as well. Nobody wanted the 400kg exoskeleton coming loose and smashing around inside the infantry bay even if it was zero-g, myself included. A few minutes later and the deckhands had finished the final checks to clear us for launch and everyone had vacated the vehicle bay to allow us to safely depressurize the hold and deploy into space. The klaxon warning sirens faded as the bay depressurized and a moment later the fusion engines of the VTOL lifted us from the deck and propelled us out into the void of space. The pilot had to be careful to not fly too fast as some of the debris surrounding the derelict was difficult to see at best and several last minute course corrections made me glad I was so securely tied down. The familiar electric hum of capacitors discharging and recharging somewhere in the hull indicated to me that the pilot was also using the lasers to clear a path when necessary even without looking into the cockpit to see it, a feat I would have trouble managing even if I wanted to due to limitations of the exoskeleton. The CT(S) weaved its way through the worst of the debris and the final approach towards the derelict vessel was relatively smooth. As the searchlights on the VTOL played across the ship the extent of damage came into clear view and the pilot let out a long low whistle as I heard JJ saying "Damn..." not quite under his breath. The entire port side of the Pentagon was gone, and I don't mean destroyed, it was gone completely. It looked like someone had just carved a chunk right out of the vessel, clearly the ship had taken some direct fire from Capital class weaponry, that was the only thing we could think of capable of that kind of damage. That meant that at least one side in this battle had a Warship though it didn't look like we would be finding enough of one to be meaningful at this point. The gouge carved into the Pentagon's side cut deep into the internals of the ship and the skeletal remains of the several decks could be seen as the CT(S)'s lights played over them, it was clear the ship would have explosively decompressed at this point and that would explain why the vessel was still as intact as it was and not blown into pieces, there was no surviving that hit. "How's that look over there?" asked JJ to someone in the cockpit. "Looks as good as any place to me," responded Leena. "Yes sir, ma'am, that should do nicely. There's nothing stable enough that I can see to land on, but we can get nice and close in that ... alcove let's call it, and limit the distance you'll have to traverse in open space. Also looks like I should be able to anchor this bird in the vicinity and we'll have some protection provided by the derelict's own superstructure," came the pilot's own assessment. The sound of boots on metal and a second later both Captains floated past me back towards the VTOL's cargo doors before landing smoothly at the front of the platoon. Keying their headsets to make sure that everyone could hear them they gave us a final brief before we launched into the salvage operation. "... but there's nothing stable enough to actually land on, so we've moved into the best position we can and we'll be deploying in complete zero-g. Orlex, since The Golem isn't exactly designed for zero-g maneouvers you'll be escorted by Bill and Vincent to assist you with reaching our entry point. You'll then be on point to breach the vessel and Rook squad will follow you in." With the cockpit sealed, the main hatch door slowly lowered after the infantry bay was depressured and the vast blackness of space was laid out before us. The spotlights on the CT(S) provided somewhat limited and localised light highlighting the damaged deck we were using to enter the derelict, the gaping maw of what should have been the inside of the vessel filled most of my view as I disengaged the magnetic foot clamps and pushed forward to drift into the void. On either side of the me were the two engineers currently assigned to Rook squad that had been designated to assist me with the crossing, their suits had built in retrojets to allow for zero-g movement, an ability the exoskeleton was decidely lacking. There supposedly was an external maneouver pack that was being worked on at NAIS but that did very little to help me here and now, thankfully the three of us made the crossing from the VTOL to the derelict without incident and I was glad to have the magnetic clamps on the suit's feet firmly attached to ferrosteel again. In the odd silence of space I made my way slowly along the section of deck we landed on until I was far enough into the ship's exposed internals to properly orientate myself with the derelict's position, realizing we were actually upside down at the moment I reached out and grabbed onto a steel bar jutting out from the wall and in one smooth motion disengaged the mangetic clamps, swung myself 180° in the passage way and re-engaged the clamps on what was the proper floor. Behind me the rest of Rook squad also re-orientated themselves as they got close enough to the derelict to actually be considered inside now. With the squad successfully inserted the CT(S) pulled back to a safe distance to wait for us to officially breach the vessel and establish our entry point. About 20 feet into the exposed hallway we found a badly damaged but still sealed bulkhead that must have closed shortly after the ship was fatally wounded. We had no way of knowing if the section on the other side was still pressurized and the blast door itself wouldn't have been operable even if the power was still on. As such, Rook squad secured themselves along one side of the hallway while I used the exoskeleton's large cutting torch to gently break the seal on the door and started prying the bulkhead open. There was no blast of air or any other indication that the blast door had actually been successful all those years ago when it activated as the laser torch melted through the thick slab of steel and within minutes I managed to cut open and pry one half of the bulkhead far enough open to easily pass through with the exoskeleton, and by extension the rest of Rook squad as well. I toggled the mounted spotlight in The Golem's left shoulder on as I stepped through into the inky blackness of the derelict Pentagon's proper interior, the light flooding down the corridor and showing ancient signs of severe damage consistent with explosive decompression, apparently the blast door had failed or was too late in its activation. Sections of the corridor seemed like it tried to collapse in on itself while others appeared to have almost blown out the walls, neither of which fully occured but ended up giving the corridor a weird undulating wave punctuated by destroyed panels and the occasional ceiling strut or floor panel sticking out at odd angles. I moved further into the wreck, the echo of the exoskeleton's heavy footfalls only audible to myself as I tread carefully amongst the debris covered floor. Toggling the comm I half joked, "Well this looks promising," to my squad. "Well at least it's enclosed," replied Ross, one of the squad's support weapon specialists. "What's the matter Ross, don't like the cold vacuum of space?" teased Melina, another support weapon specialist. "I think he's afraid of the dark now Melina," said Dave in what used to be a British accent, he was the squad's third and final support weapon specialist. Between the three of them they carried a semi-portable PPC and power pack for this mission, though why we thought we would need that kind of firepower I didn't know. "Oh F*ck off you two, for Blake's sake it's always the same with you guys," answered Ross in a somewhat jovial manner. "Alright, cut the chatter unless you have something useful to say," came the stern voice of Leftenant Isla over the comm before she toggled open the command channel as well, "Rook-1 to Castle, we're inside the vessel. She took some serious damage in here but so far it's intact. We're moving deeper into the ship, assuming these old maps we have of a Pentagon-class dropship are accurate we should be near an emergency power station. We'll see what kind of state it's in and report in then." "Orlex, you're on point. Take the next two lefts and then go right, let's see where we end up. Everyone, move out." As one the squad moved further into the wreck, we took the first left but that corridor ended abruptly at a dead end where it looked like the ceiling and floor had been pinched together. After two detours and three more collapsed or otherwise impassible corridors Leftenant Isla made the call to abandon getting to that emergency power station and instead had us make our way towards a nearby engineering station that was one deck down and a few corridors towards the ship's dorsal side. If the room was still intact and sealable the plan was to setup a temporary base there from which to explore the vessel from.
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