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  1. "We tried," I told Captain Maxwell over the radio, "it can't be fixed from here. Curie and the techs in the command van did some troubleshooting, but the gear on their end needs a - what did you say it was called Curie?" "Sensor resynchronization," Curie finished for me. "That," I said. "The guys in the van don't know how to do it, only Curie does." "So she's walking them through it?" Maxwell asked. "Well, that's what we just tried, but too much is lost in translation. We have an idea for how to fix it, only I don't think you'll like it." "It doesn't matter much what I like. What's your idea?" I hesitated. The low hum of dead air on the radio seemed pricklier than usual. I looked at Curie, and Curie looked at me. And then she saved me from having to be the one to say it. "I fix it myself. At the van." "You're right, I don't like it." Maxwell sighed. "But we need that data." "The Pandora wouldn't make it up the hill, but I can take her there on one of the snowmobiles," I said. "There will still be another left, in case anybody ejects and has to be rescued or anything else crazy happens." Or in case we got stuck or lost, but I sure wasn't going to mention that. "I wish there were a safer option, but that sounds like the best we can do under the circumstances. Suit up, bring a sidearm, and try not to be noticed." "Will do, Captian," I said. So then we got into our snow gear. Curie had taken hers completely off when she got to the Pandora, saying it was too bulky to work in, and once I started putting mine on I didn't blame her. I felt like a microwave burrito after you microwave it a second time to get rid of the cold spots and the whole thing turns to lava. Once I was done I helped her get her suit zippered and velcroed up, which was difficult even without having put my gloves on yet. I said over the local comms that Mallory was in charge, and Antonio was second-in-command for if any tech stuff happened, and then we went out to the aft cargo area that was turned into a vehicle bay for the snowmobiles. The vehicle bay was already a bit chillier than the main BRV cab, which helped us stop feeling as much like we were getting cooked. Curie looked a little bewildered, so I helped her into the back seat and showed her how the safety harnesses go on before I climbed in front and started the engine up. "Loud!" Curie shouted over the engine. "Just hang on a minute, it'll be better when we're out in the open," I shouted back. I pressed the remote button to open the cargo door and caterpillared the snowmobile out through it. Then we went whizzing out over the snow.
    4 points
  2. MEANWHILE...... CDR Orlex and CPT Maxwell were talking about Strategies and how bad we had got Screwed by the weather and how we were going to go down into some warehouse in the ground, I had tried to tell them that we had already went down there and all we had saw was a Ruin full of Chacnas and Comstar porn, but I guess Nick had found something with his computer Things. So I went off and sat down and got out a pack of laserbeef jerky, Jingles had gave it to me way back when me and Guts were room mates on the moon Op. I peeled the package open and the meat blorped out. "OH shit I dont think Jerky is supposed to look like that" I said, then I squeezed the package and it blorped and toothpasted out, some meat went over the side of my hand and then it fell on the floor and went splat. "Huh maybe its the space jerky version" I said, then I opened my mouth and started to bring the Laserbeef in, SPLAT went the blorps, the floor had more food on it than me so I opened my mouth super wide and stuck my tounge out, I squeezed it again and BLAMMO, the laserbeef sprayed out and fooded all over the inside of my mouth and the taste was like roadkill and expired sewage mixed with citrus. "BLARRRGHHH!!!" I Screamed and I sprayed it out of my Mouth, chunks of ruined laserbeef paste went all over a really old computer screen that said ENTER PASSWORD and made sparks and Firecracker noises come blowing out of it, a bunch of the letters burned out and then it said ENTER ASS instead. "Oh god why did I eat that???" I hollered, then I grabbed my canteen of Wood Alcohol and chugged down half of it before spiting the rest out on the computer screen, the Wood alcohol lit on fire and the flames ate the screen which made the inside of it deplode, a bunch of dead spirits flew out of the inside screaming "WOOOOAAARRRGHHH" and Disintegrated up in the ceiling. "WHAT THE HELL???" I Yelled, then I jammed the rest of the Laserbeef inside the disk drive so that the Next person wouldnt eat it on accident, Jingles had a weird sense of humor and I wasnt going to put it past him to Juice up that jerky with a little something extra just to mess with me. Like Turbo Lax or Vroom or worse… Meanwhile Idris was stomping around the Command Center in his Power Armor looking for technicals to try to fix and doing patrols, I looked around and I didnt see Wicked at first which made me worried, "WICKED!!" I Hollered, then I heard the tinkle tinkle sound of someone peeing in a corner, I looked over and it was him, he was taking a firehose whiz on an Antique mural that was super old and had a picture of Jerome Blake posing on a Throne with a bunch of ladies waving tech at him, "Oh thats where you are Wicked" I said, "Wait WHAT THE HELL?? Why are you bathrooming in here???" Then Jack finished making waterfall noises and zipped up and turned around and he hollered "BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO GET PEE FROZEN TO MY JUNK WHEN I GO BACK OUTSIDE!!!" Then I said "WELL yeha that makes sense BUT you might get electrocuted if you Pee on the wrong thing inside here." Wicked laughed at me and then he spit on the mural, "Nah I got Steel Junk" he said carelessly and then he walked out. I made a Confusion face and I looked at the mural, i looked at the ladies waving tech and it reminded me of the Metal Wars that had happened back on Kuzuu… *** BEGIN FLASHBACK *** BZZZZZAMP "OWWWWW! MY PENIS!" my brother Mikey hollered, it was 8 years ago on Kuzuu and me and Mikey and Robbie Panshovel were doing the Pee on the Electric Fence challenge, it was Friday night and we had got drunk on the Special Reserve Kuzu Moonshine that Aunt Baolim had hidden in her hideyhole behind the Stove. Then we had went out to the edge of Feng Lao’s farm to pee on the fence that was charged for his prize Frumptards, (a bird like animal from Kuzuu that tasted like Chicken but smelled like butt). "Mikey you idiot, that’s 100,000 Volts, if you get too close its gonna arc up your stream and fry your Junk" I warned him as he hopped around holding himself. "My turn!!" Robbie yelled, he had drunk more than we had so he teetered up to the fence and hiked up his pants and just as he was about to pee, Feng Lao came out with his shotgun "WHAT THE HELL YOU KIDS DOIN?" He screamed in rage, well that made Robbie fear pee, SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS BZZZZZZAMMPP went the fence, Robbie flew back and landed in a heap with a singed spot on his pants. "YOU’RE DEAD BOYS!" Feng yelled as he cocked his shotgun, we all took off like a Centipede with FIRE ants in it’s shorts. We ran and jumped into Robbie’s 2983 Montezuma Machismo, it was an old 4-door banger with 4 on the floor and more rust than paint but it had a 350 in it with nitrous. "HURRY Robbie, HURRY! Feng’s gonna shellac our asses up!" I yelled, "I CAN’T DRIVE I BURNED MY JUNK!!!" Robbie yelled, so I ended up driving, I wasnt good at shifting and the transmission made all kinds of groin grabbing noises, but we Blasted down the backroad at 1200 kph in a 50 zone and got away. "WHOOO that was close!!" I yelled, then me and Robbie high-fived, I think I heard Mikey barfing into the back seat pocket but I couldnt be sure. Later on we were up at the top of a Construction site drinking cans of Brain Buster and doing Outhouse Tipping, it was Robbie Panshovel’s turn and the outhouse he had picked was FULL, you could hear all of the Things sloshing as he pushed it. "HARDER!!" I yelled. "I’m trying" Robbie said, then BOOOOOOOMMMMMM! The outhouse was Bouncing and wrecking down the hill, there were like 5 Outhouses at the top of the hill on account of a Construction was going on and we were trying to see how far we could make them flip and how much Filth Water and other things would come blowing out. "RULLLLLLLLL!" Mikey yelled as the one he pushed went up against the barbed wire fence at the end of the ravine, the roof flew off and a whole tidal wave of dook went all over a rotovator and the cow stand next to it. "THAT WAS THE FARTHEST ONE SO FAR!!" Robbie hollered, then he went over to the Next one and he said "OK Steve, your turn!" I was excited, I had been thinking about how to make mine go even farther and spray more Boom Juice everywhere. So I had went with Mikey and got a small engine block out of the junkyard next door, now it was my turn and so I looked at Mikey and I said "OK Mikey let’s load this thing up!" Then we did, we took the engine block and we shoved it into the hole in the outhouse, then Mikey wedged it with some Beer bottles, construction protest signs, and a bunch of toilet paper and then we sealed the Hatch. "Alrighty boys" I said "this one’s gonna be a doozy" and I shoved it HARD over the edge of the ravine… BOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!!! SPLOSH SPLAT THUMPA THUMPA THUMPA The outhouse was tumbling and flipping all over the place, spraying the stuff Everywhere, it was going everywhere, onto a tree, the comm tower, a tractor, even some hit a truck parked 300 feet away! "SCOOOOOOOOORE!" Mikey yelled, but then the most unbelievable thing happened, there must of still been some Gas inside the old engine on account of a huge explosion happened the moment it hit the Bottom of the ravine, and stuff came shooting out of that dook hut like a depth charge had gone off in it. It was pretty awesome for a second but then the Dook water lit on fire and the outhouse SMASHED through the fence and went straight at Old Man Clarkson’s farmhouse, well that did it, he came running out of his house with a shotgun yelling "GET OFF MY LAWN YOU DAMN DIRTY KIDS" but the and that was our cue to split! But then as we got inside Robbie’s car, we saw head lights coming from the OTHER direction and we realized we might have a HUE problem. "ROBBIE THAT’S RED HEADLIGHTS, ITS THE METAL REAVERS!!!" I Screamed, ever since the Metal Wars had started it was dangerous to be out after dark with a running engine, because the Metal Reavers prowled the streets looking for easy Prey "I know I know!!!!" Robbie said as he hit the accelerator and we burned rubber right towards the edge of the Ravine and Old Man Clarkson’s farmhouse, we ramped up in the air and went crashing down along the same trail of Dook the outhouse laid down, the next thing I knew… WHAM we wrecked through the outhouse ruins and then there was dook and filth water all over Robbie’s car and we were swerving past Old Man Clarkson who looked really Confused on account of the Reavers were still behind us and all he saw was a car covered in Dook and fire and two idiots yelling take it up to 888 or something like that Right as we got to the end of his farm I heard the shotgun BLASTING and for a second I thought he was shooting at us but nope he was shooting at the Reavers!! "YEAH!!" I yelled sticking my middle finger out the window "EAT IT RED HEADLIGHTS!!!" Then I heard Mikey projectile vomiting into Robbie’s speakers, he was getting Carsick again and… *END FLASHBACK* "STEVE FOCUS" CDR Orlex snapped at me, and I blinked. I was back in the HPG station with a laser rifle getting put in my hands. "ITS TIME TO RAID THE BASEMENT" He intoned. "SIR YES SIR!" I sounded off like I had a pair, "I hope we don’t run into any more monkeys though." "I DONT know what that Means" said CDR Orlex "But you better be good with that rifle on account of you gotta be ready."
    4 points
  3. Recaptured HPG Complex, Northern Arctic Tundra North of Bascombe, Concord II Concord system - Free Worlds League May 27, 3031 (Friday) ______________________________________________ "Alright," I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose as a near-solid wall of white overwhelmed my King Crab's cockpit canopy. "Let me read back our sitrep to make sure we're really spinning our wheels as hard as it seems we are." "Go," Commander Jaeger acknowledged, an eerie, static-laden whine intermingling with his voice in my ears. It was a harsh reminder of the brutal blizzard that raged outside, hammering our trancievers with electromagnetic fury. "First," I began, my eyes tracing across the cursory notes I'd scribbled on my electronic notepad, "you and Rebus cleared the main level and secured the control room. Junaid, Dionysus, and Wicked swept the lower levels, and, setting aside whatever ‘Chacma baboons’ may or may not have been roaming around down there, no survivors so far. Just a lot of bodies. Am I tracking you?" "Affirmative," Orlex responded tersely, an unspoken tension clearly coloring his tone. "Exclusively ComStar fatalities, some of whom appear to have been executed. All known staff are accounted for. 100% casualty rate. As for the building, we're still assessing damages, but it's safe to say the Vagabonds didn't care much for preserving ComStar property." I frowned, my gaze casting over the controls, feeling a flash of anger and disgust at the thought of the senseless slaughter. "Second," I continued, "Rebus has managed to break into the station's mainframe, but we haven’t come across any conveniently-placed logs or updates that might tell us what in the hell happened. The only lead we've got, if we can call it that, is a warehouse with an encrypted manifest and an entrance that was somehow overlooked by Team 2." "That about sums it up, sir," Orlex confirmed, "though, in looking at this diagran, I can see how they missed it. Hell, we all might have missed it, with the possible exception of Radar. And that's only because she's been inside one of these places before. If I'm interpreting things correctly, the stairs down to the warehouse are hidden under the floor of an entirely mundane corridor flanked by storage rooms. Team 2 actually cleared that section, no doubt walking right over the access hatch without a clue." "Understandable," I admitted, scribbling a note to myself on the electronic pad. "Alright, moving on. Three: we're slam-bang in the center of a bomb cyclone that's grounded the NapFind drones, reduced visibility to zero, and is kicking up enough EMF that we can't tell sensor ghosts from actual threats. Meanwhile, our weather radar chose this moment to shit the bed, leaving us unable to forecast the duration of this storm. In summary, we are blind, deaf, and trapped inside a mass grave with only a basement mystery box for company." "Yeah," Jaeger responded dryly, "when you put it like that, it sounds like we're having the time of our lives." My head fell back against the padded chair, my neurohelmet protesting with a loud clunk. "It's a veritable vacation, isn't it?" "Should we check that basement, sir?" Orlex prompted. I spared a glance at the glowing indicators and monitors surrounding me, then turned my attention back to the conversation. "Well, far be it from us not to explore every nook and cranny," I sighed, weighing the risks against our dire need for any form of actionable intelligence. "Alright, Bastion, I want you to take Defiance team and see if you can’t find out what that hatch is hiding. Just...be careful. We have no idea what could be down there." "Aye, sir," Orlex affirmed, his tone even despite the tenuous nature of our situation. "Captain, since we've got a solid garrison around the station, do you think you could spare Radar to join us? Her background with this tech would be invaluable." The idea of sending Alyssa into the HPG station made my neck hairs stand on end. Though we had no evidence that any of ComStar's Adepts had survived the brutal attack by Trinity's Onyx Vagabonds, the thought of risking my wife's life in a facility run by people bent on her destruction turned my stomach. However, I couldn't deny that the commander was right. Her expertise could unlock doors, both literal and metaphorical, that might give us an edge and help us survive this mess. I thought for a moment before speaking again. "Radar, you direct on this traffic?" "Affirmative, Rebus," Alyssa's voice crackled over the channel. Her tone was light, but I could hear the undertone of anticipation. "You want me to play show-and-tell with the ComStar tech?" "That's the general idea," I sighed, "but I need a risk assessment as concerns the ECM shutdown we'll have to do while you're inside. And how sure you are your old bosses won't come calling if some random piece of tech detects you're there." Alyssa's response was quick and composed, but there was a hint of worry underscoring her words. "Understood. The storm's doing a pretty good job jamming our sensors, throwing ghosts all over the place, and making visual targeting damn near impossible. If we're struggling, I can only presume the Vagabonds are as well." "And the other half of that answer?" I pressed, the unease in my reply echoing in my ears. After a brief silence, she responded, "Well, you know I've been off their grid for years now. If they manage to somehow tag me today and decide to attack their own rescuers just to get to me, that'd be another level of crazy I'm not sure even they'd stoop to." "Alright," I agreed, my unease only slightly assuaged. "But the second you sense something’s off, you raise the alarm. No heroics, you hear? Let Bastion and Juniad take point." Suddenly, the unmistakable baritone of Jack Whitley resounded across the comm, gravelly and cold as the storm outside. "Don't worry, Eden. It'll be my sincere pleasure to watch her six." The brazen nature of Whitley's lecherous comment had me biting back a retort. "No," I finally shot back, "once she gears up, you're coming back to the garrison. With Radar inside, we're down a ‘Mech." "What?" Jack sneered, his voice drowning in disbelief. "I'm not gonna play nursemaid while there's real work to be done." "I don't remember asking for your opinion," I growled, my patience wearing thin. "And if you have a problem with it, you know how to find the door." A protracted silence followed, punctuated only occasionally by the sound of muffled wind battering the fortified exterior of the station. Whitley, a man who seemed to relish in the opportunity to cause friction, held his tongue for once. Maybe he did know when to pick his battles after all. "Alright then," I continued, "let's get this shown on the road. Radar, get suited up and rendezvous with Bastion, Juniad, Rebus, and Dionysus in the station's main foyer. Wicked, once Radar's on site, pull back to the garrison line and saddle up." One by one, the responses crackled in. I cut the comm connection, allowing the silence of the cockpit to settle in around me. The beeps and hums of Ares' systems filled the void, betraying no signs of affliction by the storm raging outside. "Meanwhile," I muttered to myself, "I'm gonna find out why Levi and Curie haven't got that Blake-damned radar back up yet."
    4 points
  4. Recaptured HPG Complex, northern Artic Tundra North of Bascombe, Concord II Concord system - Free Worlds League May 27, 3031 (Friday) ______________________________________________ I swept my flashlight across the dimly lit hall, the powerful beam feeling almost futile as it penetrated but a handful of meters into the darkness beyond the dim automatic lights, once again, or rather still, the hallway was complete devoid of life or anything for that matter. Despite the logical part of my brain rallying against it I couldn't help but feel like we were in some kind of hi-tech, overtly religious, tomb, a surprisingly fitting comparison given ComStar's reputation and what we suspected had happened here when the Vagabonds took over. Swinging back into the room again I took in the entire scene again, there were obvious signs of battle damage literally everywhere you looked, damaged consoles, bullet holes in the walls, broken panels on the large observation windows and even a few corpses that were slowly being covered in snow. This was the first place we actually found bodies, but there wasn't nearly enough of them, not for what we had been told was the approximate complement of the HPG station. Typical ComStar wouldn't give us an exact count, stating that their staffing numbers varied as Acolytes were rotated in and out of duty and the isolated nature of this particular station meant that they had different needs and thus may have more or less attendants than the standard complement would assume. Either way, the dozen or so bodies Nick and I had discovered more than half buried in snow inside the destroyed command center didn't even make up a third of staffing level the place was designed for. This meant one of two things, either this place had been running on a skeletal crew long before the Vagabonds showed up or else there were a lot more bodies to be found; some small part of me held out that there might be survivors but I wasn't holding my breath at this point. "Frakking great!" came Schuster's voice from where he was working on a salvaged terminal. "What is it Rebus?" I called as I rounded the corner of a bank of damaged central consoles, still using codenames despite not using the radio, it didn't hurt to be careful. "Mainframe's a mess, I can't tell if it was Comstar themselves or if the Vagabonds did it but this system is basically shot," offered Nick with an exasperated sigh and shrug of his shoulders. "Is there anything you can pull, logs or something, that could give us an idea what happened?" I asked, already suspecting the answer. "Hard to say Commander," replied Nick with a shake of his head before he suddenly seemed to concentrate more on the screen, "Hang on a second." Some frantic typing later, along with a couple of curious grunts and at least one long 'hmmmmmm', and Nick tossed his hands up in the air though I couldn't tell initially if it was in victory or defeat. "Gotcha!" exclaimed Schuster a second later, "Seems the Vagabonds did get into the system but their tech really didn't know what they were doing. They basically ham-fisted their way around doing little more than brute force their way into every subsystem they could and then left without ever realizing they never actually got into the system." Not quite sure what Nick was on about I gave him a quizzical look and asked him to clarify, "And that means? What exactly, they got into the system but didn't get into the system? You've lost me." "Ummm," Nick offered as he looked up towards the ceiling for a moment, "Think of it this way, the system is a fortress, the real important bits are in the keep in the center, then some other high up stuff is in the courtyard surrounding the keep and protected by the outer walls. This particular fortress has a keep, some inner walls, the outer walls, plus a moat and a palisade wall. The Vagabonds busted through the palisade wall, crossed the moat, and did some damage to the outer walls, made a real mess of the less important stuff outside the main walls but didn't actually breach anything that mattered." "I see," I replied, Nick's explanation obviously simplifying things but making logical sense, "So are you able to get past those main walls? Or do you have to try and brute force it like the Vagabonds failed to do?" "I could brute force it, go toe to toe with system security, Locura would likely be able to manage that, but I don't want to sit here all night. However, even the most technologically advanced group/cult in the Inner Sphere can be hacked when its fanatical members use predictable passwords," Nick said with a triumphant smile and pointed me to his noteputer's screen. It seemed he had managed to connect directly to the terminal and then used a program to try repeated login attempts with various credentials, or something along those lines, until one of them worked. Effectively it was still a brute force tactic but it was more targeted, especially considering the password flashing on the screen was some variation of HoLyBlAkE with a series of numbers and symbols after it. Once finding an appropriate login it was just a matter of time before Schuster had been able to penetrate security from within and gain access to most of the important systems. "Alright, you see what you can dig up in there, I'm going to scout out the hallway a little more, I'm still hopeful we might find the rest of the facilities crew," I said. With a nod Nick set back to work and I moved out into the hallway and the uncomfortable darkness that seemed to follow you everywhere and served only to remind one that they were standing alone in an unknown facility with the potential for anything to be around the next corner. An involuntary shudder rolled down my spine as I shoved the creepy thoughts from my mind and pushed forward, flashlight in one hand, laser pistol raised at the ready in the other. A few steps further into the unknown section of the hallway, just past where the darkness had been encroaching on the automatic lights when standing in the control room doorway, I spotted another streak of what was most likely old blood. This one started out like the others, a smeared pool with evidence of somebody or something being dragged through it, but instead of the streaks fading out like the others this one had tracks that seemed to get thicker and was soon joined by multiple other streaks that almost seemed to branch in from elsewhere, although there was nowhere they could have come from but the hallway itself. As I traced the lines of blood with my flashlight, once again out into the darkness beyond the struggling automated lighting, I became keenly aware that this trail could only have been created by dragging a large number of bodies down this hallway in some manner. In short order an ominous doorway loomed darkly along the side of the corridor, the self-activating lights that typically flanked each doorway had failed to engage and left a shadow in what had thus far been a dim, but constant bubble of light surrounding me. The fact that the blood trail turned and went through the gaping maw of that darkened archway did little to bolster my spirits as I examined the door and failed lights with my meager flashlight. The door itself was just a generic hinged wooden door that wouldn't have been out of place in virtually any other environment, but here it seemed to stand out in its normalcy or else that was just my mind playing tricks on me as I anticipated what was likely behind it. Bracing myself I pulled open the door, using my flashlight toting hand to give the mundane portal a solid tug, and then suppressed a yell as my light splashed across the scene within, at least until the smell reached my nostrils and my gag reflex took over leaving me fighting to not vomit instead. After the initial shock washed over me, and I forced myself to become inoculated against the stench, or rather more accurately the overwhelming aroma deadened my sense of smell enough that I wasn't actively fighting the urge to retch currently, I surveyed the gruesome scene before me. There was no need to search any further in the facility, the sheer volume of bodies within the room before spoke of the terror the Onyx Vagabonds had visited upon the previously placid HPG station. A more thorough examination revealed that most of these individuals had not died during the initial attack on the station, but rather had been executed, likely one or two at a time, by Trinity and her gang of barbarians while they occupied the facility. Originally I had felt some empathy for the group of mercenaries, though I now loathed to refer to them as such, as they had been stranded by their employer and left to rot in enemy territory with no means of escape or even communicating off world. Initially I had understood their attempts to capture the spaceport and then more recently the capture of the HPG as they were simply trying to get home, but now, after seeing this horrid and grisly display of their true colours, of how far they were willing to go, I knew they weren't worth sympathizing with. Swinging the door back closed I noted where it was located and marked it on my noteputer as requiring a full decon and appropriate follow up for when we returned the facility to ComStar and took a deep breath to steady myself. Steeling myself I spun about and marched back towards the command center, radioing in to Charles to report my findings on the way. "... accounts for all the staff we have on record by my reckoning," I reported as I re-entered the command center a few minutes later, "Rebus is working on collecting any useful data from the network, we'll report anything we find. How are things out there? Any luck with the Command Van and the weather radar?" "Alright, keep me informed," replied Charles solemnly, the news about the station's staff did not sit well with him, as expected and understandably so, "As for the Command Van, our uplink to it is still down but Pandora and Archangel are working on it. The storm seems to be letting up for the moment, but I suspect that is just the eye of the storm reaching us." "Copy that, Bastion Out," I said before coming up alongside Nick, "Rebus, how are we making out?" Looking up from the salvaged terminal Nick offered me a shrug, "I'm not finding much, there's the typical maintenance logs and a couple of standard service logs related to messages sent weeks ago prior to the attack, but nothing recent. I also can't gain access to the HPG itself, that it seems is locked behind yet another layer of security that has foiled any attempt to get past it so far. Although I haven't pushed too hard since I didn't want it locking me out of everything if it failed. I do have access to some rudimentary systems, and I think I can even get all the lights turned on, instead of just the creepy motion activated ones." "Do it, some proper lighting would do wonders to cut through this oppressive atmosphere in here," I ordered with a nod, "Don't worry about the HPG, grab whatever logs and notes you can but we didn't come here to gain access to the HPG itself, although I'm sure that could prove useful. Can you make sure the Vagabonds didn't leave any surprises in there when they were bashing their way around?" "I don't expect that they would have, not given their apparent level of expertise, or lack thereof, but I'll have a look," answered Nick, once again refocusing on the computer terminal. A minute or so later the steady stomp of Idris' armoured exoskeleton began to echo from the hallway and soon the other three had regrouped with us in the command center, the others looking like they had seen some unexpected action in the lower levels. "We're here," reported Jack, absently wiping at his fatigues and whatever remnants still seemed to be clinging to them. "So anyone else hungry?" added Steve, a look of confusion washing across my face at his non sequitur. "What?" I began shaking my head, "What did you guys find? And what is that smell?" "Nothing of concern," offered Idris, before adding, "Chacma. They were bad monkeys." "I don't even..." I replied with a shrug and another shake of my head. "Commander," called Nick, thankfully pulling my attention away from whatever bizarre tale I might have extracted from the others, "I found something interesting here. It appears to be a layout of the station, and there seems to be a warehouse or storage facility of some sort on one of the lower levels. If I'm reading it right, it's actually below the HPG itself and built into the rock bordering the ravine this facility is established on." "Interesting," I said, looking at the digital framework Nick had pulled up on the screen, "Any idea what is stored in this warehouse? Would it be worth investigating?" "Could be, only info I can pull up is a bunch of serial numbers or barcodes. I'm assuming it is a list of items but its just random characters with no key or identifier for what they are," replied Schuster with a shake of his head. DHxlNBkbjLHnVjIEWf7wlbdwPedQUpvZ JGXHbofbwv0NfKwzBM1amKkr8Vhw2ou8 XlcOXIeoPk1YsPhGfyI2Za2DJuQ9FiOW IDrlsyyKJ6EMPxdB8iBmkoYGBTPbU8Bx fJl9bwr3KvmKDmPF5MoxQTl7BNWPzAAh a3zWEfrr7M82qpP2LB0MbzwOm7C40Qif ndeUTZrzWGbtM1nE0Vj7SP3ZbqMuxA2p gt2wcNuU6aoWjQPl7GXuOAzrzaJx31Wx YUEvMStv3xpBSFjFBkpUNgVwAdShqu3g lVrEE6rxr8TcjL0o6kkuMPlbWAOOaQsb "What are those ones in red?" I asked, pointing at the list now scrolling through the screen. "I think those ones are missing, but I can't be certain sir," shrugged Nick.
    4 points
  5. MEANWHILE… While Nick and CDR Orlex had went to look for dead survivors upstairs me and Idris and Jack went down in the basement to look for Living ones. We went downa Bunch of stairs that looked like a Dungeon except on account of all the Neon lights it was more like a Sex Dungeon. The lights were all flickery and shot up on account of the War that had went on before we had went there. Idris was in front on account of he was inside his Power Armor and it went VRUUU VRUUU VRUU every time he took a step, I was in the middle with my Saturday Night Special ready to shoot at anything that moved unless it was a hot lady and Jack was behind me probably so he could Shoot me in the back I think but I did not need to look at his Ugly mug. We turned a corner and saw some doors with Neon signs above that said "RELICS OF JENSEN" and "PRIMA FACIE HOSPES." I guessed they were Storage rooms or something. Jack went up to the first door and kicked it down and it FLEW off the Hinges and I heard it doing a lot of smashing and breaking Noises but nothing came out but some dust so we went to the next one. Jack was about to Kick it down but I said "I Think its unlocked" but then Jack said "IT DOESN’T MATTER I’M GONNA KICK IT DOWN ANYWAY!!" and then he kicked it so hard it went off the wall and flew back at us and wrecked into Idris’s Power Armor and he almost fell down AND I think I peed my pants a little bit. Anyways we didnt find anything except a bunch of weird old mannequins, you know the kind you see at the store where one arm is always put on the wrong way and the head is turned TOO far back, then you go over and you try to move the arm because it looks Weird but then it comes out of the hole and bangs onto the floor and then your Mom hollers at you to put it back but it won’t go in right so then the Manager comes over and Yells at you in a Foreign language and your face gets red with Dishonor? Well it was like that except a Hundred times worse because there was like a HUNDRED of them all posed doing lewd Things and one had a full latex bondage suit on and another one had a Ball gag, I swear to ARC LORD KERENKLAVEN who ran the Sledge House back on Kuuzu I’m not making THAT part up, I was about to Barf but then I smelled the worst thing I have ever smelled, it was like somebody was Farting beef stew and MONTH OLD fish Guts at me and at first I thought Jack had just crop dusted me, "What the FUCK Jack?" I said but then I saw his face was red and I could see the Veins in his neck bulge and that look on his face like he just ate a whole thing of rancid yak Butter on account of trying not to barf too. Then Idris intoned from his Power armor "I am inside my Helmet and I cannot smell it, but we do not have time to argue about Farts" Then I wondered how Idris knew it was a Fart on account of he couldnt smell and I didnt say what it was so then I started to think Idris had delt it, then I noticed it wasnt going away and so I thought maybe he crapped his pants or something which would have been a really funny but also really Terrible thing to happen inside power armor, anyway I didnt see any sparks coming out of his suit so it couldnt of been that. We kept walking down the hallway and we followed the smell to a door with no markings on it. Well jack was about to kick down the door when Idris said "Wait I’LL TRY IT THIS TIME" and he took this big Wrench thing and boom it was open, but this time I kind of wish he had not kicked it down on account of oh my the Smell and also the most TERRIBLE thing I ever saw was behind that door and it wasnt even at the Sledge House on Kuzuu. Inside the room in the dark were A TON of attack monkeys but they were all naked as the day they were born, and covered in blood and gore, some of it looked like Jelly donut goo, They were all Jumping and screeching and Throwing their Poop and I yelled "Chacma baboons!!!" THEN Jack went "HOLD ON GUYS I GOT THIS" and he went busting into the room like some kind of dude from one of those dumb Movies where everyone is shirtless and is named things like BUFF McMACHO and as soon as he did of course they all attacked him, one was right on his face and another went for his leg, there was a 3rd monkey off in the corner taking a dump in its hand that looked like Soft Serve, that one looked at me and I Saw its eyes and I knew it was not a Monkey anymore, a crazed animal like that One in my GRAY DEATH LEGION unit who went insane after doing too many go-pills and ate his own arm he was STILL ALIVE, so I knew what I Had to do. Idris started shouting something and I Knew he was right we had to kill all of them. I pulled my Saturday Night Special and started putting bullets in any monkey I could see but they were so fast and I saw one jump at Idris who just used his Wrench like a goddamn Sledge and POW, that monkey was done for, but there was more and more coming from I didnt even know they could fit through. It was like a Monkey Explosion and Jack was doing a womanly scream and kicking and hollering, I couldnt blame him, then he kicked the monkey off his face just as it bit him, there was blood but I didnt look too close on account of I was busy filling THAT monkey with bullets and then it was just done. Jack was looking at me like I had Wronged him somehow, but that was the least of our problems because there was more monkeys, of COURSE there were. Idris yelled something else and THREW me a fire extinguisher so I caught it and started Spraying the room while we ran back out the door, then Idris turned around and threw a grenade into the monkey room, there was a HUGE explosion and monkey parts came flying out of the room, a leg and part of a butt went by on fire and I swear I saw a tail on fire, but I was just trying not to puke on account of being sprayed with Monkey bits. Jack was cursing up a storm about his pretty uniform now having monkey guts on it, Idris was out of breath and said "What in the hell Just happened?" Then I said something about monkey Business and tried to get the smell of on fire monkey and Heavy Turd out of my nose for the rest of my natural life which I hoped would be a VERY LONG TIME now that the monkeys were Dead. Idris just looked at me funny and Jack said "Not the time for jokes Jenkins." I didnt care, Idris thought it was funny and I could see him trying not to laugh. We called it in on the radio and told CDR Orlex we secured the room but didnt mention the Monkeys, I dont think he would Believe us about the monkeys, no one would, but we Knew what we saw. Those Monkeys are NOT getting back up from THAT comfortable dirt nap they took. SO after we had did that we looked around for more survivors but all we found were more shot up rooms full of weird crap, it was a Grim Tomb that would of been a good episode of Tragedy Tales except it didnt really fit the Format, usually it was episodes like a dude comes in and meets a hot chick named Lust or Greed and then things go bad, but this was just a bunch of dead Monkeys, so no Tales about crazy Aunt Agnes and her electric turkey knife in this place. After like 2 hours of finding nothing except for some REALLY strange Porn magazines we gave up and called CDR Orlex again, "What’s the situation?" Orlex asked. Idris said Sternly, "SIR I think the ComStars got attacked" which was a really weird thing to say but his English is weird sometimes, anyway Orlex said "Alright look for any survivors and if you find a working HPG uplink let me know." Click dead silence on the radio. So we went up to the HPG room on the top floor of the Outpost and Nick was there with CDR Orlex with a bunch of wires pulled out all over the place and his hacking computer doing hacking things to one of the ComStar computers. CDR Orlex looked at us and then Jack said "We’re here" and Orlex scrunched up his face like was confused, then I said "So anyone else hungry?" Then Orlex just looked at me funny again like I was nuts and made his mouth start to move like words were going to come out……
    4 points
  6. Recaptured HPG Complex, Northern Arctic Tundra North of Bascombe, Concord II Concord system - Free Worlds League May 27, 3031 (Friday) ______________________________________________ I held firmly to Levi's waist and squinted my eyes as the snowmobile bounced and skidded through the ice and snow. What used to look like a frozen battlefield now was only a panorama of white whorls spinning out into infinite space, a space that was at once pressing close and yawing wide. Somewhere in my memories, I knew I'd seen snow like this before - but nothing my threefold identity could grasp felt quite as desolate as this. And nothing in the countless weather simulations I had run aboard the Strumfänger could have prepared me for the sight of the brutal, untamed fury of raw nature at its most merciless. The unending white expanse that whipped past outside my helmet was a harsh reminder of the insignificance of human life in the face of the universe's indifferent vastness. "Curie, are you doing okay back there?" Levi's voice was muffled by the roar of the snowmobile's engine and the howling, biting wind, but I could hear the concern in his words as he stared straight ahead. "Yes." I replied, my own tone less firm than I expected. "We proceed." "Alright, hold on!" Levi answered. "Got some wreckage up ahead we've gotta get around. Looks like one of the OpFor that came out on the losing end of an argument." I tightened my grip as Levi began to maneuver the snowmobile around the giant hulk of twisted metal and scorched composite armour that was once a BattleMech. This close, even through the accumulated snow, I could see the evidence of a brutal fight in the form of deep gouges and scorch marks on its hull. One of the machine's arms lay several meters away, half-buried in the snow. The cockpit was a burned-out husk, its canopy blown open, revealing a grotesque morass of melted metal and glass, possibly all that remained of the MechWarrior who once piloted this ‘Mech. We continued on, mechanically skirting the edges of ashen craters and weaving through a labyrinth of snow-covered debris. As we neared the steep tableau where the Command Van sat, a blast of icy wind buffeted us, momentarily causing the snowmobile to skid off-course. "Careful…" I murmured, my voice rising in pitch as I involuntarily squeezed Levi tighter. "Got it, Curie!" he shouted back, expertly righting our course and continuing the approach. Just then, a bolt of lightning arced overhead, a deafening boom reverberating through the air, momentarily illuminating the frozen, nightmarish landscape in shades of purple. "Thundersnow!" I exclaimed. The inside of my helmet was fogging up, and so I flipped the visor open to clear it. As soon as I did so, I was assailed by the sharp, unkind cold. The snowflakes that hit my face melted almost immediately, leaving my skin feeling raw and chilled. My eyebrows began to frost over, and frozen tears stung at my face as I quickly wiped the visor clean. "Hang on back there!" Levi shouted, his voice tinny in my helmet's speakers. I quickly wiped my nose with the back of a gloved hand and then snapped the visor shut. A moment later, Levi performed a lateral skid just in time to avoid a massive, jagged piece of tank debris that loomed out of the frozen tundra. The snowmobile tilted dangerously, but Levi's skillful driving kept us from flipping. "Good…" I stuttered as my heart leaped into my throat, "...driving." Levi just nodded, focused on the task at hand. "Hw much longer?" I added as another bolt of lightning arced across the sky. "Almost there! See the blink?" Levi pointed to a dimly lit, slowly pulsating red light atop a dark silhouette that was our target - the Command Van. As we ascended the plateau, the snow, wind, and storm grew more intense. The dim glow of the van's exterior lamps struggled to break through the blizzard, acting as a faint guiding light in the midst of the chaotic conditions. I nodded, and a moment later, the snowmobile sputtered to a halt outside the compact field office. Levi assisted me off of the snowmobile, and after finding my footing, I pulled my helmet off and took in my surroundings. The van was perched at the very top of a steep, rocky incline overlooking the battlefield. Quadruple stabilizing legs extended from its chassis, anchoring the vehicle to the frozen ground. An ancient-looking Doppler radar unit hummed softly on the roof, its dish whirling slowly as it dispatched pulses to capture the storm's movements. As I walked towards the van's entrance, the howling wind whipped at my coat, threatening to send me sprawling back down the incline. Levi followed closely behind, using his body to provide some sort of windbreak for me as we made our approach. Levi spoke first, raising his voice to be heard over the gale. "I'll get the door!" He rushed ahead, leaning into the wind, and pulled on the van's heavy metal hatch. With a hiss, it thunked open. Levi stepped inside first and I followed, gripping tightly onto his arm as he led me inside. The interior of the vehicle was a cramped and stuffy space, causing me to quickly strip off my parka and gloves in search of relief. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the warm, artificial lighting before I could make out my new environment. The walls of the van were covered with an array of displays, switches, and blinking lights, most serving purposes that I could only guess at. In the center of it all was the weather interpretation and relay console, along with its telescopic tower that currently rose up into the maelstrom. It was strapped down securely to withstand the fierce winds outside, and it's soft buzzing noise filled the cabin, accompanied by the faint glow of its digital shortwave radio display. As I studied it intently, two technicians from Aegis Division entered through the cab door, holding mugs of steaming liquid in their hands. They both appeared surprised to see us. "Boss Man; Specialist Franklin, you actually risked a ride through that crap to come troubleshoot in person?" asked one of them, a burly man with a thick Minnesotan accent. His counterpart, a wiry lady with fiery red hair, said nothing, but raised an eyebrow at us. "We really need this system up and running," Levi replied breathlessly. I nodded in agreement as I pushed my fingers through my hair to get it out of my eyes, the static in the air causing it to dance slightly around my fingers. I moved over to the console, inclining my head towards Levi as a subtle hint for him to look at what was laid out before us. "Any signs of damage or malfunction?" I asked the room, a bit uncomfortable with all their eyes watching me intently. "No physical damage, Specialist," the burly man replied, rubbing his square jaw thoughtfully. "We've been scratching our heads over it for two hours now. As for malfunction, well, one minute everything was working fine, and the next, it wasn't. It's still receiving, but it's not transmitting. Don't tell me you two know how to fix this thing?" The female technicaian chuckled, stirring her drink as she watched me. "It's a setup for a good joke. A Med Tech and a ‘Mech Tech walk into a bar…" "We can try," I interrupted, my words clipped and terse. I could see the techs exchange a glance of what I understood to be skepticism, which I chose to ignore. "Alright, Curie, let's lobotomize this thing, then start hooking stuff back up until we find the failure point," Levi instructed. And so, we got to work.
    3 points
  7. Recaptured HPG Complex, northern Artic Tundra North of Bascombe, Concord II Concord system - Free Worlds League May 27, 3031 (Friday) ______________________________________________ The heavy footsteps of Idris’ power armor and the chatter of Steve and Jack faded off into the lower levels of the station as we split up to search the creepy facility, which looked like an LED-bedecked Count Dracula’s castle meets an old movie called "Blade Runner," minus the wacky lights. If you added those back in, of course. Flickering faux-candle lamps cast an ominous glow over every room we passed, while motion sensors surveilled everywhere us from the gloom, switching on and then back off old area lights that followed us along our path. Try as I might, I couldn't shake the feeling that we weren't alone. But then again, maybe it was just the overall aesthetic getting to me, one that felt it had to have been inspired by a really unfortunate era in ancient Terra’s décor. Although, the blood on the walls definitely wasn’t doing much to instill confidence that a fresh coat of paint was the only thing we needed to worry about. "Man, I really hope we find some survivors." Orlex muttered, mirroring my own reservations. "I don't think I can stomach another massacre." "Amen to that, Commander." I replied, my voice bouncing off the cold, weirdly bland walls. I’d only ever been in the customer areas of HPG stations, and those tended to be laid out like cathedrals to technology, all gleaming chrome and holograpic projections. By contrast, every inch of this place was a dark, gothic nightmare covered in entrails. Suddenly, our comm units blistered to life in tandem, causing me to whip my laser rifle to the ready and simultaneously grunt in pain as the motion caused my sore ribs to remind me why I should probably limit my movement, if only slightly. Fortunately, the traffic turned out to be a fairly routine conversation between Captain Maxwell and Levi. Unfortunately, Levi was calling the Captain to notify him that the uplink between the Command Van and Curie’s terminal in the Pandora had shit the bed. Our weather radar was no more. "Well, that's just frakking perfect." I growled, banging a gloved fist against a nearby bulkhead as we rounded another dark corner. "Without that system, we're basically blind out here. We won’t be able to see anything coming at us until it’s practically on top of us." "Blake damn it, calm down." Orlex swore, the expletive sounding out of place coming from his usually stoic mouth. "Let’s focus on what we can do. If we can’t gather much intel out there, it’s all the more reason to figure out what happened in here. We need to find a working terminal so you can patch into the local net." I raised an eyebrow. "You want me to hack ComStar stuff. With a only a noteputer and a pile of scripts?" Commander Jaeger shot me a side-eye and I immediately regretted my words. "Want isn’t it," he growled as he led the way through a doorway labeled "Most High Holy Command Center," clearing the room quickly with the flashlight slung under the barrel of his rifle. I expected eyes to be looking back at us, but all "We need." he continued. "Besides, you’ve hacked all kinds of next-level stuff in the past. Including the Crayven Corporation. You’re our best shot at figuring out what happened here before either Trinity's Onyx Vagabonds or ComStar themselves try to reclaim this place." He had a point. We were bound to get hit by something. It would be bad if it was the Vagabonds. But it would be far worse if it turned out to be ComStar. No matter what the case, we needed to know what we might be up against. As I followed the Commander into the dimly lit room, I spotted multiple terminals of all types and configurations spread out before us. The automated lights built into the ceiling and walls slowly glowed to life, revealing an awful scene. Out of every room we’d been in so far, the Command Center had clearly been hit the hardest by the Vagabonds. Consoles and system terminals were smashed, monitors cracked, and a sickeningly sweet smell hung in the air that of coagulated blood. The giant glass dome looking up at the HPG dish itself was shot full of holes through which snow billowed in, slowly covering the carnage in a white shroud. "Gods." I muttered, my stomach twisting at the sight. "It looks like ComStar made their stand here." "Yeah." Orlex answered, his voice grim. "And here I thought busting security was gonna be the hardest thing we’d have to do. Finding a working piece of machinery to do it on is looking to be a bitch and a half." "I can rewire something if I have to." I offered, mentally girding myself for what was sure to be a difficult if not impossible task. "Worked on worse." "I know you can." Commander Jaeger said, patting my shoulder. "Just be quick. I’ll cover the door while you get to work." I nodded and slung my rifle over my shoulder, walking carefully through the room and making a visual scan of the damaged systems. As I suspected, most of them had taken kinetic or energy weapon hits. To my surprise, however, a few of the more intact consoles looked to have been deliberately smashed by hand. That might have been the work of the ComStar Adepts as they attempted, in futility, to stop the station from being captured. "Commander." I called out, kneeling down next to an overturned monitor that still emitted a faint glow. "I think I found a survivor." Orlex was at my side in a blink. "Hang on." he ordered, kneeling down beside me and checking for traps. "Clear." he added as he carefully turned the computer over. "Great, so first litmus test passed." I nodded as I helped heft the computer on top of a debris-strewn desk. "We didn’t blow up. Now for the hard part. Time to see if I remember my ComStar." I retrieved my noteputer from my rucksack and connected it to an available data port on the salvaged terminal. Double-checking to make sure that the ComStar computer was physically connected to what I assumed was the local network, I hit its power button to bring it out of standby. "Here goes nothing." I muttered. Predictably, the computer booted to a lock screen that read, "THE MOST HOLY BLAKE REQUIRES YOUR CREDENTIALS." "Alright, you fanatics." I snorted, firing up a standard porthack routine that I hoped would connect my noteputer directly to the terminal. "Let’s see what you’ve got."
    3 points
  8. Recaptured HPG Complex, northern Artic Tundra North of Bascombe, Concord II Concord system - Free Worlds League May 27, 3031 (Friday) ______________________________________________ The snowfall billowed past my viewport glass, the howling winds buffeting Ares’ armored hull as the winds of Concord's harsh tundra whipped the flakes into vicious swirling patterns. The storm that Curie had been tracking throughout the morning was now fully upon us; an aggressive bomb cyclone that was quickly reducing our operating conditions to zero-zero. Even with our sensors tweaked to their fullest to ensure that nothing made it past us undetected, we barely had a consistent range of 15 meters. "Alright everyone, for those that don't watch horror movies, this is where we fatefully decide to split up into smaller groups so the supernatural killer can off us one by one," Orlex’s voice hissed over the comm channel from deep within the station. "Your guys call, we can stick together and clear the place slowly, hoping that the storm outside doesn't bury us completely and leave us stranded by the time we're done or we can split up and try to clear what appears to be a completely abandoned, and only slightly creepy, place a little quicker." "Yeah, well, if it weren’t for the blood and bullet holes everywhere, I’d be a little less convinced that there were malevolent spirits out to get us," I heard Steve retort, the echo of his voice against the seemingly empty station’s walls drifting through the link. "I mean, this place looks like it belongs to a vampire with a hardcore neon fetish. But what do I know? Splitting up sounds like the better of two shitty options." "Well, whatever you do," Mallory suddenly interjected in the channel, "make it quick, or you’re going to be setting up camp in there. Curie’s got the latest weather report, and it looks like we’re going to be burrowing in here for a while until this blizzard blows over. Be happy the ‘Mech Techs managed to shut those blast doors." "Copy," Orlex acknowledged. "I’m thinking we’re gonna get this building cleared a lot faster as two teams. Won’t be able to communicate once we're far enough apart, though. Idris, Jenkins, and Whitley, take the lower level. Schuster, you’re with me on the main floor; let’s see if we can get any of these terminals accessible and figure out what happened here. First sign of trouble, we all meet up back at the blast door." A series of affirmatives filtered back through the radio, along with the sounds of sidearms being drawn. "Eden to Defiance team - stay sharp in there. The last thing we need is another seemingly empty objective turning into a kill box without warning," I advised. "Couldn’t agree more," Jaeger responded, his voice crisp and authoritative. "Let’s move out." The channel went quiet as the two teams split up, leaving the garrison team and me to maintain the protective cordon outside while the others went to work. However, no sooner had the silence enveloped us than a new transmission, this time from Levi Wright, filled our ears. "Pandora to Eden, come in, please," his voice breathless. "This is Eden," I answered, suddenly very concerned. "What's wrong?" "Uh, well...you know how I said we were having a little bit of sputtering in the radar uplink earlier?" he asked hesitantly. "Yes," I replied cautiously, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. "Well, Curie’s advising that the link from the Pandora to the Command Van just went down completely. There’s no weather telemetry coming in at all. We’re blind out here, boss." "Blake damn it," I swore. "Any idea what’s wrong? And if so, can you fix it?" "I’m sorry, Captain, but I don't know yet. Diagnostics say we’re receiving and that the problem is on the Command Van’s end. But the techs we have posted up there haven’t worked with weather sensors before, especially none as old as what we used for that retrofit. I’m gonna have to do some digging. I think we have a serious problem that’s probably going to require a physical inspection, which is going to suck in these conditions. Unless you have any ideas." I bit back another curse. "This is normally where I’d ask Radar or Rebus to weigh in, but I don’t want to pull either of them off post at the moment. Have Curie work with you on that. In the mean time, we’ll have to make do without our eyes." "Understood, sir. I’ll keep you apprised."
    1 point
  9. Recaptured HPG Complex, northern Artic Tundra North of Bascombe, Concord II Concord system - Free Worlds League May 27, 3031 (Friday) ______________________________________________ The heavy metal doors creaked open loudly on what seemed to be unstable hinges, the hallway within faded away into darkness despite the sufficient ambient light outside now spilling in. The storm without, with its howling winds and newly added bursts of lightning, seemed to be swallowed up by the apparent emptiness of the facility; a wall of muffled silence engulfed all who passed through the ponderous archway and even the heavy snowfall that even now was already filling the entrance was silent compared to the fury outside. Stepping inside, to the edge of the limited light pouring in through the storm outside, one could note a warmth in the air the moment they crossed the threshold, somehow it didn't feel like a welcoming warmth though, not like the kind you might feel beside a campfire or hearth, instead it was almost cloying, like the air was thick with some unwelcome scent. Clicking on his tactical flashlight he splashed the powerful beam of light around the entryway, penetrating the clinging darkness in small concentrated portions as the light revealed little more than aging ceramic tiles and spartan walls with nary a visible light fixture or any other feature for that matter. The ceiling was equally barren with uniform tiles in a repeating pattern as far as the light could reach. "We're inside Eden, place looks abandoned so far, and not the least bit creepy as all hell," I radioed to Charles, sarcasm coating the last part of my report. "Copy that Bastion, proceed into the facility and maintain radio contact, see if you can find anything of note. We need to make sure the Vagabonds didn't leave any surprises and maybe we'll get lucky and they left the hostages behind in their rush to escape," replied Charles, the optimism seemed forced but I wasn't about to call him on it. "Wilco, we are moving deeper into the facility," I replied, keeping the comm live, but not active, as I turned to the others. "Looks like we get to be ghost hunters," I said with a shrug, hoping to be funny though I felt like the joke didn't land as I had hoped. Upon our arrival at the HPG station, amidst what felt like the storm of the century to us but was apparently just a typically Friday for Concord II, we had split into two teams to secure the facility. The first group, consisting of Captain Maxwell, Lieutenant Lennox, Lieutenant Blackwood, and First Lieutenant Maxwell were securing the perimeter in their 'mechs. Charles and Marius, in the King Crab and Marauder respectively, had two of the biggest 'mechs and both were excellent brawlers, 'mech and MechWarrior alike, so they would hold the perimeter should anything untoward happen while the rest of us were securing the station itself. Alexander's Catapult could provide them support while Alyssa's Raven could both find and locate any enemy units despite the storms best efforts while also giving us the ability stay hidden away beneath the cover of her powerful ECM suite. The second group meanwhile consisted of myself, Sergeant Jenkins, Corporal Schuster, Technician Nasir, and Private Whitley, and we had the fun of exploring the depths of the HPG station's various facilities and buildings to ascertain whether the enemy mercenaries, Trinity's Onyx Vagabonds, had well and truly abandoned the place and we could claim it as being recaptured or not. We also had the not so pleasant task of finding out what happened to the Vagabonds hostages that had supposedly been held somewhere on the grounds, a situation that likely did not bode well considering what we knew of the Vagabonds and their actions thus far. Finally our supplemental forces, mainly the support teams aboard the Pandora BRV as well as their security teams, Aces Wild and the Bridgeburners, were rendezvousing with our first group at the HPG entrance and would soon be splitting up to attend to whatever task was needed, including accompanying us into the facility. Having originally planned for the Bridgeburners to clear the facility if required I didn't bring my full infantry kit with me when we hot dropped from the Sturmfänger, instead I had a basic survival kit that always rode in my 'mech along with a simple set of concealed ablative/flak BDU fatigues that I could easily pull over my standard MechWarrior outfit, or lack thereof, that had limited but still effective armour panels sewn into the fabric to provide a modicum of protection. The fatigues themselves consisted of the usual modified pair of pants that allowed me quick access to the storage unit in my prosthetic right leg and a basic vest that protected my vitals while not impeding any use of my prosthetic left arm. For armaments I had my signature Serrek 7875D auto-pistol and my more newly acquired AWA Wiliby MK4 Laser Pistol, a sidearm that I was quickly coming to appreciate and was seriously considering as a full time replacement for the Serrek. To say I felt underarmed and underprotected, compared to my usual fare, was an understatement of near epic proportions at this moment, however, with the Bridgeburners transport getting stuck in the snow and the worsening storm preventing us from delaying things until their arrival we needed to clear this facility now. At the same time, the Bridgeburners gear would allow them to operate outside in the storm with little impact meaning they could likely be more beneficial to keep on perimeter duty anyways. Checking that the power pack was fully inserted into the MK4, and that its charge was full, I motioned our team further into the dark facility, flashlight and firearm at the ready. As we crossed the transient threshold between the light from outside and the darkness engulfing the hallway before us I heard the click of a switch followed by the dull hum of electrical equipment firing up. Signaling a halt almost immediately everyone seemed to tense as we waited to see what was happening, a collective sigh of relief seeming to be released as what appeared to be very old incandescent lighting slowly flickered to life along the top border of the wall tiles. The lighting was insufficient by anyone's standards but it did disperse the oppressive darkness, to some small degree, for about 20 feet ahead of us and as we started moving again some sort of sensor kept the lights moving forward as we progressed. The dull yellow glow shutting off about 20 feet behind us once we were far enough into the facility to notice, creating an effect as though we were being slowly swallowed up by the HPG station. Moving cautiously down the hall we kept our flashlights on to supplement the poor facility lighting, noting how old the structure appeared to be even though it was in constant use by ComStar up until a couple weeks ago. The odd sign hanging from the ceiling, written in a language I didn't immediately recognize, was the only thing to break up the monotonous hallway for the first 100m or so and it was disconcerting that there were no windows, doorways, or even other hallways that branched off from this main one yet. About halfway down the hall Idris noted what appeared to be a large blood stain on the floor, a slight smearing in our direction of travel indicating someone, or something was dragged through it before it had dried. His armoured exoskeleton, which actually fit easily within the large hallway, provided him access to thermal imaging gear which he used to verify there was no one else within range in the long corridor, yet another feature I was missing since my combat helmet was tucked away with the rest of my infantry gear aboard the Pandora. The powerful spotlight on the ICE-S's shoulder pauldron provided excellent directional light, although it also made it harder to see elsewhere as the stark contrast between it and the dim facility lighting meant our eyes had to keep adjusting. Spotting two more similar blood stains on the floor we finally reached the end of the hallway, the corridor opening up through a large, door-less threshold into what appeared to be an open cavern in the poor lighting. As we entered dim cathedral style lighting hanging down from the unseen ceiling flickered into existence, their orange and yellow glow offset by an electric purplish-blue that seemed to blaze along the perimeter like electric fire. Shining our flashlight upwards we could see the ceiling, some 4m (13 feet) above us, painted an obsidian black as though to purposefully hide its presence and give the false feeling of being in a much larger room. The purple-blue lights ringing the room were of a more modern LED design but were inset into equally ancient looking sconces along the wall while the cathedral style chandeliers appeared as though meant to mimic a candelabra or similar ancient lighting technology. We spread out slightly and whatever sensors had been tracking our progress continued to do so, lighting the appropriate fixtures for each individual in whatever direction we chose to move in, so at least it would appear the facility was still functional, however the "mood lighting" as it were did little to instill confidence and instead seemed to purposefully maintain a sense of awe or even dread about what may lie just beyond the limited lighting. Along one side of the wall we entered on a series of terminals were found, not powered up but otherwise appearing intact, these screen and keyboards appeared as equally ancient as the rest of the facility with a general design and aesthetic meant to come across as both ancient and high-tech at the same time, a fitting choice given the mystique and generally reclusive nature of many of Comstar's more devoted followers. "Alright everyone, for those that don't watch horror movies, this is where we fatefully decide to split up into smaller groups so the supernatural killer can off us one by one," I said with a half chuckle, getting little response other than an eye roll from Whitley I continued, "Your guys call, we can stick together and clear the place slowly, hoping that the storm outside doesn't bury us completely and leave us stranded by the time we're done or we can split up and try to clear what appears to be a completely abandoned, and only slightly creepy, place a little quicker."
    1 point
  10. North of Bascombe, Concord II Concord system - Free Worlds League May 27, 3031 (Friday) ______________________________________________ The radio crackled to life. “Eden to Rebus. Need a hand?” Snow drifts went blasting up the windshield of the BRV as its' plow plowed through them. Real snow really did look kinda like those Scene TV snow graphics, and the staticky radio completed the effect. There was a fluctuation on the line that sounded sorta like breathing. I really hoped Nick's comms were just broken, and nothing worse had happened. "Rebus, do you copy?" the captain said over the radio. I looked in one of the mirrors for seeing what was going on in the BRV and helping people not bump into each other and stuff; Mallory was poking at a terminal looking really tense, which didn't make me feel better at all. "Is he alright?" I asked. "Your other half's seems to have found himself a dancing partner and now they're doing the tango, but he can handle himself. All you have to worry about is keeping us on the road." I watched the whole top half of another snowdrift blast up the windshield and white us out for a couple seconds. "Uh, yeah, bad news about that - GPS got weird and I can't tell if we're messing up the left shoulder or the right shoulder in all this snow." Mallory laughed. "At least the road crews will have job security when this blows ov-" "Tango down," Idris said over the comms, barely hearable through all the static. "Enforcer eliminated." And then there was Nick's voice: "Thank you, Juniad. That was something else." He sounded exhausted and kinda fucked up, but he'd made it. I breathed, "ohthankgoodness," and relaxed for about half a second, but then the BRV tanked over something that went crunch and I had to focus on the maps and trying to find the road, or at least making sure we didn't run off a cliff. "Easy now," Mallory said." Nick pulled through. Imagine his disappointment if you pulled up to the HPG station dead." I did a nervous laugh. A few more crunches happened, but they weren't as loud, so maybe that was less bad? "Hey, wait a minute," I said. "How can I pull up anywhere if I'm dead? I mean somebody else could drive, but then they'd be the one pulling up." "Somehow, I don't think that would lessen his grief." Then there was another crunch, and a reflective yellow road sign went flying up the windshield, and there was a thing on it, and I yelled "WHAAAAA" and accidentally swerved the BRV. "What's going on up there?" one of the techs yelled. "I FOUND THE ROAD!" I hollared back. I swerved the BRV some more, because now I knew where the road was supposed to be, to the left of the sign. The BRV didn't drive any different, but at least it was probably doing less property damage now. "Hey," I said, "does anyone know what a road sign with a walrus-thing with a shell and drooly bits is supposed to be?" Somebody who'd walked right behind me, I think Antonio, said "I think the 'drooly bits' are tentacles." Mallory added, "a mammal with tentacles, that's a first." There'd been a whole bunch of radio traffic between Idris and the captain that I hadn't paid a ton of attention to, since I could barely make out the words anyway, but then one caught my ear - "Eden to Rebus." "We don't know it's a mammal," Antonio argued, "it could be convergent evol-" "Ssh!" I said. I was pretty sure Nick had been on the comms but I hadn't been able to hear at all. The radio said "bzzz bzzzzz direct on bzzt?" and then, "Robzzzt Eden, bzzzz when you are." Of course it wasn't possible to tell how he was doing just from a radio transmission where I couldn't even make out all the words, but I had this really, really bad feeling. It was too similar to how he'd sounded in between puking his guts out at the circus, except it definitely wasn't an alcohol problem this time. "Excellent," said the next transmission. "Bzzzzt speed and be ready-" and then it collapsed into static. "Think about it," Antonio droned on, "about half the planets with complex vertibrates and moderate tempuratures have something like a cow, and wherever crabs are studied they usually find at least three completely unrelated kinds, sometimes as many as fourteen, and-" The BRV lurched backward without actually moving backward - we just sorta lost forward momentum for half a second. "Hey Antonio," I half-yelled over the radio static, "what's ahead on the topo map? Does it get any steeper?" There was some mumbling and shuffling, and then Antonio called back, "not much, we're almost over the ridge - getting back up it when we leave could be interesting, though." I pumped the gas, hoping that'd get a little more traction to the treads like the opposite of an anti-lock break. "Thanks - we'll save the shrapnel for later then, we might need it. Hopefully we won't have to retreat in a hurry or anything." As we reached the top of the ridge, the radio static started to make words again. "Excellent. Match my speed and be ready to receive Junaid and Archangel." "Archangel?" I asked. "Isn't that-" "Curie," Mallory finished. For a few minutes after that it was like the BRV got too cold for speech bubbles. Antonio finally broke the silence. "How can she switch mechs when the mechs are moving? I mean, with the hatch positions on a King Crab and an Orion, docking them wouldn't work at all." Antonio made a weird gesture with his fingers, probably meaning for each hand to be a mech, but it made no sense at all. "Holy shit, I think he's gonna use the jetpack. That's awesome," I said without thinking. "I mean, other than being wildly dangerous, I can't believe they got Maxwell on board with that plan, it'd have to be-" I caught Mallory's eyes in the mirror, and the cab got even colder. "oh. oh crap." "Yeah," Mallory said softly. The BRV's treads ground on a snowdrift, then finally cut through, spraying the windshield with white. "Let's hope Idris knows what he's doing, and the weather holds." I did my best to keep the BRV on the road as it lurched and skidded down the slope, and we all listened to the radio. “The package is ready. Are you?” "I am ready." A gust of wind picked up, throwing snow sideways across the windshield and whiting out all the windows on the left side. "Very well. Rebus, I need bzzzzbzzzbzzzt maneuvers, aff? Let’s give Junaid the most stable platforms we can.” “I’m on it.” Nick sounded like he'd just gone three rounds with a rabid dog and been told a tiger was up next, which I guessed made sense, if his blood was filling up with pointy little robots again. “Alright, sir. I’m there. Ready for launch.” "We’re readzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt, too. Juniad, you can bzzzzzzzz soon bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt-” "Come on come on, not now," I hissed at the radio's speaker. "Weather window's closing," Mallory said, almost monotone. "Can you give her more gas?" "I'm trying, but Nick's probably dying or something and Curie and Idris might get splatted like windshield bugs, it's really distracting!" "Focus on what you can do," Mallory said. "Get us to the rendezvous point, and trust them to handle the rest. Your boyfriend, Idris and Curie are all tough cookies." Mallory's face was uncharacteristically blank in the BRV's mirror. I drove.
    1 point
  11. Sheratan Militia staff photo, circa 3029 Sheratan Militia staff photo, January 3031 Subject: Kathryn Nicole Franklin Rank: Nurse, Sheratan Militia Age: 32 (as of 3031) Dates of service: Enlisted: April 4, 3013 End of watch: March 22, 3031 Date of birth: March 15, 2999 Date of death: March 22, 3031 Place of birth: Sochalladan, Elgin, Tikonov Free Republic Citizen ID #: 783-264-9561 Height: 1.65 meters (5'5") Weight: 56 kg (124 lbs) Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond BIOGRAPHY Kathryn Franklin, born on the 15th of March, 2991, in the heart of what is now the Tikonov Free Republic, has led a life defined by unwavering compassion and an unyielding commitment to public service. From a young age, Kathryn exhibited a natural inclination for caregiving. Growing up on a farm, she often found herself tending to animals or going on long walks with her friends across her family's acreage, consoling them during times of distress. Her parents, deeply invested in agriculture and staunch supporters of Elgin's independence, encouraged her to develop her innate skills, instilling in her a strong sense of duty. As she matured, Kathryn's calling to serve society became increasingly evident. After completing her primary education with honors, she enrolled in the Elgin Institute of Medical Sciences, where she embarked on a journey that would shape her into the dedicated nurse she is today. Her academic prowess and empathetic nature earned her a scholarship, which she gladly accepted, as it allowed her to focus on her studies without adding to her family's financial burden. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, Kathryn joined what is now known as the Tikonov Free Republic Army as a Medical Corps nurse, attached to the Sheratan Militia. Her desire to make a positive difference in the ongoing conflicts of the Inner Sphere drove her to this career choice. Kathryn's service began in the military's hospitals. Despite the chaos of war, she maintained a calm and composed demeanor, providing critical medical care to soldiers wounded in battle. Her aptitude for the work quickly earned her a promotion to the rank of Senior Nurse and given the responsibility of overseeing medical operations aboard JumpShips destined for various campaign theatres. Throughout her career, Kathryn served in various conflict zones, including the contentious border skirmishes with neighboring factions. Her dedication and selflessness earned her numerous commendations and the respect of her peers. Kathryn's colleagues describe her as a tireless healer, always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to save lives. On February 3, 3031, while volunteering with the Aegis Division mercenary unit on Eleos, the 16th moon of Epsilon Eridani VII, Kathryn Franklin was critically wounded by enemy small-arms fire. After a lengthy hospitalization, she succumbed to her injuries on March 22, 3031. avtp_wan:\>sudo -i && bash omegadawn.sh CRAYVEN CORPORATION SECURITY MANIFEST OVERRIDE v3.27a (Schuster Edition) Welcome, Administrator. What would you like to do? shell:\>wget avtps://cdn.sheratan.gov/mil/navy/staff/dossiers/deceased/7832649561.psr WORKING... Download complete. What would you like to do? shell:\>nano 7832649561.psr File opened for editing. Aegis Division staff photo, March 3031 Subject: Curie Emily Franklin Rank: Specialist (Medical aide and science advisor), Aegis Division Biological age: 32 (as of 3031) Date of integration: March 22, 3031 Enlisted: April 14, 3031 Date of birth: March 15, 2999 Place of birth: Gellen's Heights, Sheratan V, Tikonov Free Republic Citizen ID #: 232-791-4703 Height: 1.65 meters (5'5") Weight: 56 kg (124 lbs) Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond Callsign: 'Archangel' BIOGRAPHY On January 29, 3031, while assigned to the JumpShip Sagittarius, as its acting Chief Medical Officer, Kathryn Franklin and the vessel's crew unexpectedly found themselves in an emergency situation after the Sagittarius, while attempting a pirate jump in support of Aegis Division's Operation: Stormgate, found itself being pulled into the gravity well of Epsilon Eridani VII. The Sagittarius' captain ordered the 17 support crew aboard, including Franklin, to evacuate to Aegis Division's DropShip Tachi. Kathryn was subsequently conscripted by Aegis Division's commander, Captain Charles Maxwell, to fill a temporary vacancy aboard the Tachi as its acting CMO. Despite being untrained in and unfamiliar with front-line combat, Nurse Franklin accompanied Aegis Division to Eleos, the 16th moon of Epsilon Eridani VII, on an extraction raid to rescue a group of diplomats abducted from a political summit held on Sheratan. When Sergeant Steve Jenkins suffered from a medical emergency shortly after the unit landed on Eleos, Franklin's intervention played a critical role in ensuring his continued participation in the rescue operation. On February 3, 3031, Aegis Division operatives, with Kathryn Franklin serving as their ad-hoc combat medic, breached the MV Gambit, the Shadow Lotus DropShip implicated in the dignitaries' abduction. The team located the hostages, freeing them while coming under heavy enemy fire. Kathryn assisted Aegis Division Quartermaster Levi Wright in moving the dignitaries to safety, rendering medical attention to Councilor Kael Morgenstern in the process. Moments thereafter, in a final, heroic act, Kathryn, recognizing that Sergeant Steve Jenkins was suffering from a momentary lapse in awareness while in the midst of a firefight, pulled him to safety. Seconds later, she was mortally wounded by a sniper's bullet, which struck her in the head, rendering her permanently comatose. Aegis Division was able to medivac Nurse Franklin back to the Tachi, where she was stabilized, albeit in critical condition, by the ship's remaining medical staff, under the guidance of the Crayven Corporation AI, Curie. Recognizing that the mercenary unit was ill-equipped to manage an injury of Kathryn's severity, Curie urged Aegis Division's command staff to return Franklin to the Sheratan system, where she could be admitted to the Caldoria Heights Medical Center in Gellen's Heights. The JumpShip Sagittarius, having made a miraculous escape from Epsilon Eridani's gravity well, facilitated the rapid return of the Tachi back to Sheratan V via a pirate jump. On reaching Hollingsworth Station, in orbit of Sheratan, Aegis Division transferred Kathryn to emergency responders. During this handover, Captain Maxwell instructed Curie to covertly accompany Franklin, issuing the AI three overriding mandates that superseded all others: Directive 1: Continuously monitor and assess the vitals and neurological status of Franklin, Kathryn Nicole. Directive 2: Masquerade as a non-sentient bio-monitor, observe the patient and her environment, and trigger alerts to notify medical personnel of any threats to her well-being or deviations exceeding a 5% variance from her baseline parameters. Directive 3: Protect Franklin, Kathryn Nicole from harm by any means necessary. Aegis Division Warrant Officer Nicholas Schuster transferred Curie's Riemann Matrix and its server blade into a specially configured portable terminal affixed to Kathryn's biobed, enabling the AI to carry out its directives without detection by the receiving medical staff. Kathryn Franklin was subsequently rushed to Gellen's Heights for life-saving surgery. Although the operation to remove the bullet from her right frontal cortex was successful, and despite a promising physical recovery in the six weeks that followed, Kathryn never woke up. On March 22, 3031, just after 0100 hours Gellen's Heights time, two orderlies were captured on hospital CCTV, transferring Franklin to an operating room in the neurology department. Curie reported a concurrent disconnect of Franklin's bio-sensors. Roughly three hours later, one of the two staff members previously seen emerged with Franklin and returned her to her hospital room. Shortly thereafter, Curie reported a successful reconnection to Franklin's monitoring sensors. At 0350 hours, another unidentified individual, this one in a suit and tie, wearing dark glasses, appeared in the monitored area and entered Franklin's room, carrying a briefcase. Ninety seconds later, the an orderly exited the room, leaving the unidentified man in street clothes alone with Kathryn. The orderly loitered outside its door until 0353, at which time he was seen leaving and going to the commissary at the opposite end of the floor. Shortly after 0355, Curie stopped checking in. Three minutes later, a bright flash, characteristic of an extremely powerful electrical discharge, was recorded coming from the patient's hospital room. Following the explosion, at 0402, Kathryn Franklin was observed exiting from her room alone, seemingly awake and under her own motive power. Twenty-six minutes later, one of the unidentified orderlies returned and assisted the suited man, severely injured, out of Kathryn's room. They fled the complex together. Simultaneously, Franklin entered a staff locker room, disrobed, tore into someone's dry cleaning, put a dress shirt on without unbuttoning it, wandered around a bit, stole a pair of sweatpants, and left the hospital. None of the hospital staff nor the man in the suit have been identified or located since. However, later that day, Kathryn Franklin arrived at Site 187, the military compound belonging to the Aegis Division mercenary unit, bruised, bloodied, and barefoot. She was in a severely disoriented state, repeating Captain Charles Maxwell's name and little else. Her motor skills were severely diminished, and she seemed overwhelmed and fearful. Captain Maxwell, Commander Orlex Jaeger, and Doctor Mallory Aldon took Kathryn in, rushing her to the infirmary and treating her wounds. As Franklin stabilized, the truth about what happened in the hospital came out: following an illicit surgery where infiltrators and co-conspirators installed a neural port into the comatose Kathryn's brain stem, Curie had undertaken a desperate act of self-sacrifice to protect Franklin from further harm. Transferring her entire database into Kathryn's mind, Curie then detonated her own server blade, creating a diversion while Franklin awoke from her slumber as a new, integrated entity with the memories of Alyssa Chase, Kathryn Franklin, and the predominant personality and knowledge of the AI, Curie. After fighting off the unidentified man in the black suit, she then fled the hospital, seeking help from the last trustworthy people she remembered. She would go on to take the name "Curie Emily Franklin" as an homage to the amalgamation of personalities she now carries in her mind, and is currently in the protective custody of Aegis Division, where she continues her recovery and adaptation to her new, unexpected transcendence. Aegis Division staff photo, April 3031 /* More to come... - NS */
    1 point
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