In the Archives

Characters: Arthur, Joe, Mazun
NPC: Gunderson, Rrokoth, Dathuel, Lt. Ghall and two guards
Location: Ghasghina Island Defense Facility
System: Korstsouth

1202.18.3 - 16:00 IST, 17:15 Local Time (39.5 hour day)

Rrokoth offers to push the door open while Joe and Arthur cover him.

They go on three. Rrokoth pushes open the door, which is 10 cm thick, and rolls on the ground to get out of the way. Doing so must have triggered a motion sensor somewhere, for the lights have come on.

Rrokoth has rolled into what appears to be a waiting room. A few chairs line the walls. Opposite the entrance is a glass window that rises from a low cinder block wall that's roughly waist high. There's a 6-cm slot and a speaker set in the glass. To the left is a steel door. The air is pleasantly dry when compared to the dampness outside.

Through the glass, there's a series of shelves and slots that face the window. There's a sense of a greater space behind the door and the partition.

Joe takes a look around the vault. "Looks safe. I'll stay here and cover the dock and stairwell in case any Vakh or local response. Give me a call if you need me to look at anything you find."

"Take Lt. Ghull's guards with you," Gunderson says. "The more eyes, the better."

Joe moves outside the archive door and drops into a crouch, his rifle at the ready, scanning the loading dock and the stairwell they came down. The guards join him. They hang over by the railing near the elevator and the stairs leading down to the flooded level.

Meanwhile, back in the archive room lobby, Gunderson is peering through the glass. "I don't see anything in there but shelves and paper. Dathuel, can you pick the lock?"

"Doesn't look difficult." She pulls out a lockpick set and gets to work on the keylock. In just a minute she has it unlocked.

Gunderson steps through the doorway and looks around. Motion sensors detect his movement and turn on the lights. With the doorway open and lights on, one can see that the room extends back for a couple dozen meters. He sighs. "This could take a while. Any suggestions on how to speed this up? Besides just splitting up, that is." He turns around and looks at the desk by the glass. "There's a monitor and a keyboard. Anyone feel brave enough to use it?"

"I am," Dathuel volunteers. She looks under the desk. "Found the computer. It's not connected to the network, unless they broke protocol and went wireless, but I doubt that. It's probably a dedicated machine strictly for the archives." She turns it on and the machine boots up. After a couple of minutes, it prompts for a username and password.

Dathuel pulls a handcomp out of her bag and connects it to the archive computer.

"Is that safe?" Gunderson asks.

"If their computer isn't connected wirelessly to the network, it is. I doubt there's any vakh in this thing. Oh, and my handcomp doesn't have any wireless connectivity so it can't transmit or receive except through this cable. Give me a minute to run the login hack."

Meanwhile out in SL6, there appears to be a lot of wave activity in the flooded section. It's caught the attention of Joe and Ghall's guards. Joe watches from a discrete distance from the railing, while the guards are up against it. One shines a light in the general vicinity while the other has his assault rifle trained on the area.

Dathuel's login hack succeeds. Now that she's in, she launches the archive search program.

Suddenly, the guard with the assault rifle yelps for help. Joe and the guard with the flashlight whirl to their right. The flashlight illuminates the other guard being dragged into the maw of a giant toad-like creature sitting on the flooded stairs, mostly submerged in the water. Its tongue is wrapped around the guard's midsection. Its mouth is open, and Joe can see two rows of serrated teeth. In an eyeblink, the guard is in the toad-thing's mouth and dragged under. Both the toad-thing and the guard are gone.

The guard with the flashlight screams at the sight. But then, another tongue whips out of the water and wraps around his legs. Joe's eyes and those of the flashlight guard meet. Joe sees the terror there. A split-second later the guard is gone, dragged under the railing and into the water.

Joe is suddenly alone.

Back in the archives, Gunderson tells Arthur and Rrokoth to go check out the commotion outside, but they're already on their way. Lt. Ghall is right behind them.

On instinct, Joe flips the selector switch on his ACR to "grenade", sets the launcher to "airburst", and sets the distance to about a meter below the water's surface. He fires a shot and hears (and feels) a rumble as it explodes. He sees through the low light mode of his visor a plume of water splash upward from the flooded level. While he wasn't expecting to hit anything, he hoped the concussion wave would stun or at least scare the creatures and buy some time.

"Guys, we've got some wildlife out here." He flips his ACR back to full auto. "Two men down. Stay clear of the water."

On the way out the door, Arthur says to Rrokoth and Ghall in basic Gvegh, "I'm left. You two right. Don't advance, cover your arcs." Once through the door, he says to Joe in Galanglic, "Joe, get the fuck back here NOW!"

Joe backs up to Arthur's position, his eyes on the water.

"What did you see?" Arthur asks.

"Two giant toad-like things with super long tongues and sharp teeth. Had to be 1.5 to 2 meters in size."

Ghall asks Joe in Gvegh, "What happened?"

Joe quickly explains what happened to her guards, describing the creatures he saw.

"A aengnggasletsksazzo toedh? But they're never more than 20 centimeters in size. There's no way they could be that big."

They all strain to see or hear something in the darkness. But so far they don't see anything beyond the light from the door. Arthur, who has put on his nightvision goggles can see what they all hear, residual waves from the toedhs' attacks and Joe's grenade.

Joe adds, "I doubt that grenade did any real damage to the creatures. I've only got HEAP, not much of a concussion wave, and I doubt I hit anything." While he's talking Joe opens his ammo pouch, pulls out a magazine marked with a purple dot, taps the mag against his helmet idly, and replaces his ACR's ammo. "Flechette!", he comments to a quizzical look from Arthur, "Next time if they grab anyone, I can shoot for the tongue and not hurt our folks in armor."

Meanwhile, Mazun has made his way to the doorway. He looks around to see whether he can find any easy-to-cut power cables in hopes of diverting a sizable electricity charge into the water. However, the darkness is limiting his search as a flashlight (torch) can only do so much.

While he is looking, he asks Ghall, "How do these Aenghi-Toads see? Sight, hearing, sonar?" He mentally goes through his equipment trying to think of something that would generate a big sonar wave, but can't think of anything that fits the bill.

She snaps at him. "How should I know? I'm not a biologist! They've got eyes; that's all I know."

Arthur has had enough. "Alright, let's get back inside. You first, Mazun. Then I want a leapfrog withdrawal back into the room. Keep your guns on the water, not on members of the team."

The group follows his orders. He's the last one in. As he shuts the outer door, he thinks he hears a wet slapping sound. He closes the vault door just to be sure.

Gunderson is there next to him. "Anything?"

Arthur shakes his head. "Let's check the room for a possible secondary exit, otherwise we'll prep for a fighting exit deployment for the way we came, once we get the info. Or not."

Gunderson replies, "We'll get it. Dathuel is good at that."

As if on cue, Dathuel calls out, "Found it." After she calls out their location, the power abruptly shuts off. The computer is now off, and the lights go out, leaving the entire archive pitch-black, save the flashlights.

Gunderson says to Arthur, "Find that exit. We'll get the plans."

A few minutes later, Rrokoth call out that he's found the exit. Everyone convenes on his location. Dathuel has the plans.

The exit is a duplicate of the side they came in, complete with desk, glass partition, and waiting room. The vault door has been closed on this end too.

Gunderson looks at his datapad. "According to the aerial survey we took of the island before landing, we're outside of the admin building and underneath the big rock plateau that forms the spine of the island." He turns to Lt. Ghall. "Any ideas about this part?"

She replies, "Computer core. Power plant. That's all I know, and I don't know where they are exactly. Just that they're in this vicinity."

Gunderson nods. "There aren't any windows to see what's on the other side of that door, and we don't know how far or where we need to go to find a way out. Arthur, do you think we should risk the unknown or go back the way we came and deal with the giant toads?"

Arthur lets out a bitter chuckle. "There's lots more unknowns the way we came, like: What's it take to kill a giant toad? How many are there? Can they swarm us under before we get out? How fast are their tongues?

"I think we want to push on, maybe see if the other side is a bit less unfriendly. Before we go though, any other info on fauna that may have mutated?"

Everyone looks to Ghall.

She growls. "How should I know? This is the first time I've heard of anything remotely like this. Are there big bad sea monsters out in the ocean? Yes! But I've never heard of giant toedhs so I'm just as surprised as you are."

Arthur resumes conferring with Gunderson. "Can we duplicate the intel and split it within the group? No sense havin' it all lost if the carrier becomes toad food."

Gunderson sighs. "I suppose we could scan the documents with the handcomps we brought along, but we're talking forty pages of architectural drawings. That's going to take some time. Either the toedhs behind door number one will get bored waiting for us or more of them will show up. And our silicon chess partner," he gestures to the ceiling, "may have its next move waiting for us behind door number two.

"Anyone else want to weigh in while we get started scanning these pages? Not that I want anyone to feel that losing anyone else is acceptable." He turns to Lt. Ghall. "I'm sorry about your wolves. They deserved a better fate than that."

Ghall nods.

Leaving the Archives

Characters: Arthur, Joe, Mazun
NPC: Gunderson, Rrokoth, Dathuel, Lt. Ghall
Location: Ghasghina Island Defense Facility
System: Korstsouth

1202.18.3 - 17:00 IST, 18:15 Local Time (39.5 hour day)

Copies of the naval base blueprints have been scanned into a handcomp and distributed around.

Gunderson says, "Worst case scenario: If it looks like we can't get out, find a spot where we can get a signal and transmit these to the ship. But that's not going to happen because we're all getting out of here."

There are nods on assent throughout the group.

Gunderson will open the vault door. Joe volunteers to open the outer door as he has the heaviest armor. Arthur intends to stand at the door opening with Rrokoth. Arthur has his LAG loaded with HEAP while Rrokoth has his ACR loaded with DS ammo. The rest of the group stands clear of the door opening. Lt Ghall is with Gunderson. Dathuel and Mazun take cover behind the desk.

Gunderson opens the vault door but holds onto it, just in case they opt to shut it.

Joe opens the outer door and then falls to his knees and rolls out of view. He shouts "Vakh!" over the comm.

Two cylindrical robots are in the hall. They're 1.8 meters in height and are firing lasers. The one on the right shoots at Joe. The one on the left fires into the room.

Joe is out of sight from the archive room's occupants. He's in a hallway with no cover to be had. Too close to the robots, he is unable to fire a grenade. Instead he swaps out his flechette ammo clip for HEAP. Unfortunately, that's all the time the closest robot (the one on the right) needs to fire at him. While he is hit, his combat armor protects him from any damage.

The room's occupants aren't so lucky. The left robot gets the drop on Arthur and fires at him. The laser hits him square in the chest and burns through the mesh of his armor, but comes up short when it encounters the chest plate insert, though it warms up a bit much for Arthur's liking.

Arthur fires back, albeit off balance by the shot. But it works to his favor somehow. He hits the robot that shot him at its base. The high-powered weapon and HEAP ammo wreck the suspension. Sparks fly everywhere. Unbalanced, it falls over.

Meanwhile, Rrokoth fires a controlled burst at the robot that shot at Joe.

Mazun elbows Dathuel and says, "Fire shower on them, now," while he readies his autopistol. She nods. But when they get ready to provide cover fire, they find that Arthur and Rrokoth are blocking their view of the robots.

Joe hears several bullets strike the robot that shot at him with plinking sounds and then a thunk. He has his gun ready to fire but the thing has shut down. A small plume of smoke is emanating from it.

The robot that fell over is trying to right itself with its servo arms.

Joe calls out, "All clear! Stand down."

He approaches the first robot. Its power core appears to have been critically punctured. Rrokoth and Arthur cautiously exit the archive room.

"Nice shooting, Rrokoth."

Rrokoth wags his tail.

The fallen robot is struggling. The arm that was equipped with the laser is broken and no longer functional. The wheelbase is a hot mess.

Gunderson is now in the hallway with the others. "Mazun, come take a look at this."

Mazun holsters his pistol and eagerly jogs over to the two robots.

"Recognize them?" Gunderson asks.

"Yes, these are ICAM AN-427 Security bots. Pretty common in the Imperium. They had a strong reputation as being quite reliable. There's a little bit of corrosion on them and some dust on the domes, but other than that they're in good shape. Well, until the battle damage of course."

While the techs investigate the wreckage, Joe drops into his firing stance, his rifle at the ready, covering up the corridor away from the vault.

Arthur says to Mazun, "While I'd love to be able to stick around and let you dissect it, grab what you can and let's push to the surface. We need to get the hell outta here with the intel."

Mazun, not used to being bossed around, ignores Arthur. He quickly thinks about the bot model and the tech level of its different parts (TL-12) and makes a spot decision on which of the reasonably-easily accessible components is most advanced relative to what he knows about the Pack (TL-11). He opts for the micro-sensor array. He has to exclude the memory chips as they might carry Vakh. He then quickly unscrews an access panel, rips out everything in his way, and carefully extracts it.

While Mazun works quickly, Lakir says to the group, "Everyone check your ammo load and keep it hot. We may have some softer targets if Toady back the other way is any indication. Bet we'll bump into a few more of these guys though. Rrokoth and I will lead. Let's shag it, people. Now, which way to the exit?"

Gunderson puts a hand on Arthur's shoulder and says, "I don't think continuing in this section is a good idea. I think we should go back the way we came. We know where the exit is. I realize those giant toads are a threat, but I'd rather take my chances with them than wander through a maze with laser rifle armed robots."

Arthur is about to respond to him, but he gets interrupted by something over his comm. He holds up a finger to Gunderson to indicate that he needs a moment. He's having a conversation with someone that neither Gunderson nor anyone else picks up on.

Over the public comm, Joe tells the team, "We got more incoming." He taps some piece of equipment. "Four...make that five targets heading this way."

Gunderson says, "Right. Back inside the archive then. We'll take our chances with the toads."

Arthur puts a firm hand on Mazun's shoulder and says, "If we're movin', let's move. It's a long hump back to the surface through Toadville."

Mazun puts some odd-looking component in his bag. As an afterthought, he takes his auto pistol out.

After the rest of the group has gathered themselves up and returned to the archive, Arthur closes the archive's outer door. Once he's inside, Gunderson closes the vault door. Arthur changes out his HEAP load for a mag of HE. Joe pops the flechette clip back in.

The group swiftly crosses through the archive room and returns to the lobby from whence they originally entered.

As before, Gunderson opens the vault door while Joe opens the outer door with Arthur and Rrokoth covering him. Nothing is there to greet them except for the dark and the sound of water gently lapping on concrete.

Joe scans the room with IR but doesn't see anything in the area. "All clear," he says on the team comm.

Arthur and Rrokoth are out the door to provide cover. Arthur waves the rest of the group out. The group then trots over to the door they used to enter SL6 and exit. Once they're safely in the stairwell, Rrokoth, Arthur, and Joe cover each other's retreat from their positions and join them there.

There's a sigh of relief from the group once everyone is back in the stairwell.

Light filters into the stairwell as they climb back up to SL3. Once at the landing, Gunderson holds up the group. He says to Arthur, "I realize that the GC is back on the landing pad, but what do you think about heading outside here and hoofing it up the road instead of staying inside, climbing the stairs, and heading back the way we came in?"

"That depends on what's outside," Arthur replies. He moves over to the emergency exit door. "If the GC can set down close, then yes. Otherwise, no. We have a secure LZ up top, and we can access it with a bit of grunt work."

Mazun isn't even listening; he's conducting an EM scan in all directions.

Gunderson says, "Let's have a look."

He pushes open the door and steps out into the sunshine. There's a triangular terrace that's been built atop the surrounding bedrock. It's five meters wide at its widest point, which is just three meters to the left. It extends another five meters to the right. A few rusty folding chairs are scattered about. There's a guardrail along the edge. A steep staircase runs off to the left. Across the way lie the ruins of two buildings, their roofs collapsed, original purpose unknown from here.

The steps lead to a narrow alley overgrown with weeds and grass, some small bushes. There's a small clearing in front of the closest building. Beyond the clearing appears to be the rooftop of another building. Beyond that is the dockyards, which is wide open once one gets clear of the debris.

Gunderson cues up his comm. "Ground pack to Aengkfaertoezthuedou. Come in, please."

"Nokh here. What's your status?"

"We have what we came here for. Can you get a fix on our scent?"

"Yes. Do you need evac?"

"Negative. Just need eyes in the air as we make our way back to the G."

"What's wrong with the path you took in?"


"Roger that."

Gunderson leads the group down the stairs, through the overgrown alley, into the clearing, and then down to the dockyards. It would probably be quicker to cut through a building, but Gunderson wants the group to remain visible to Aengkfaertoezthuedou.

"Aengkfaertoezthuedou to ground pack, you look like you're missing a couple wolves."

"Casualties from Lt. Ghall's pack."

The group makes its way past the smouldering ruins of the turret that fired upon Aengkfaertoezthuedou when it arrived. It's still now. Mazun doesn't detect any EM signals coming from it.

Finally, the group reaches the landing pad and their G-Carrier. Gunderson unlocks it and everyone gets in. They then return to Aengkfaertoezthuedou.

Next: En Route to the Naval Base