The Assault Begins

Characters: Darrurz and Mazun on ship. Arthur and Joe on assault team.
NPC: First Officer Gunderson, Rrokoth, Doukhken and Dathuel on assault team. Lt. Ghall, Captain Nokh, and remaining crew on ship.
Location: Aengkfaertoezthuedou (The Seeker of Prime Hunting Grounds) and Naval Base on Korstsouth's moon
System: Korstsouth

1202.18.3 - 22:00 IST

The Aengkfaertoezthuedou has contacted Koduka via laser comm and alerted him to keep a fix on the base.

The landing team, consisting of Gunderson, Arthur, Joe, Rrokoth, Doukhken, and Dathuel, suit up and grab their gear. Lt. Ghall is not going.

Once Joe realized that Lt Ghall was not leaving and will remain on the ship, he sought out Mazun down in Engineering. He and Onguk were examining the microsensor array salvaged from the bot. Joe surreptitiously passed his Snub Revolver to Mazun and whispered under his breath, "Ghall. Keep an eye out for her."

Mazun blinks, slightly surprised, but takes the gun, hiding it under his jacket. He says, "Take care you too, and come back in one piece."

He goes back to working with Onguk, trying to see whether those sensors have a weakness which can be exploited. On his first break (have to give back your coffee at some point), he quickly checks to see where Ghall is. He taps in through the ship's internal camera system and notes that she's on the bridge, observing the assault.

Not finding anything obvious, Mazun actively seeks Ghall to ask her a few questions about what kind of military technology has survived or been observed in Korstsouth, to get an idea of how the bots fit. If he gets to talk to her, he intends to ask about the scope of communications within defense networks try to gauge her reactions (as if he could tell a dropped ear from a wagging tail).

The ship swings past the moon, and once it's out of sight of the naval base, it swings low and comes down NOE until the naval base is just over the horizon. The ship lands and the ground assault team climbs aboard the G-Carrier.

Arriving on the bridge, Mazun approaches Ghall who is watching the main viewer. Darrurz is at the helm. Nokh is in the captain's chair observing the progress of the assault team. Aru is also present, busy with various stations. The doctor is also present, standing next to Aru but not looking over her shoulder.

"Lt. Ghall, may I have a moment of your time?"

She breaks away from watching the screen. "Yes."

Mazun then proceeds to ask her his questions about what kind of mil-tech survived the Vakh attacks and been observed on Korstsouth. He explains that he wants to get an idea of how the bots fit in.

A slight growl of irritation escapes her throat, but she quickly cuts it off. "We've only been able to keep the most rudimentary of weapons going. The Vakh infected our more advanced manufacturing facilities. Our ancestors were forced to destroy them before they got out of control and overwhelmed our entire planet. Obviously they weren't completely successful. We can manufacture some ammo and maintain simple firearms. The same goes for our support vehicles.

"From a distance, we've observed robots from before the war patrolling cities that were lost early in the Vakh attacks. I don't know which ones. We only have enough weapons to hold and keep secure some of the islands. We haven't gone on the offensive. We protect what we have."

"What's the scope of communications within your defense networks?"

An eyebrow rises. An ear droops. "If you're talking computer networks, we have none. We were hoping the TTF could verify that what we have was clean or purge the Vakh from it. Failing that, we'd trade for new ones.

"As for communications, we have radio, but we never know if the Vakh is listening in, so we have to speak in code. Paper is too scarce a commodity, so messages are often given in person."

Mazun strolls casually, moving a bit closer to Darrurz, hoping to call his attention, trying not to obstruct his view of the Lieutenant. He scratches his head. "I was actually thinking general purpose communications. Radio, eh? Say, have you had any instances in the past where you specifically suspected a Vakh was actually listening in? And on a related front, have you ever tried to actually contact a Vakh long range?" Mazun looks closely at the Lieutenant while asking.

Her head tilts to the side, an ear flops. "Not me personally, no. And I don't know of any instance where anyone in the defense forces ever tried to contact the Vakh. I don't know what that would achieve."

As the G-Carrier weaves in and out of the landscape through a series of gullies and low hills, Joe has a flashback.

Joe is standing in the ranks before a grassy field. His fellow infantrymen are standing in rows about him. Before them a general prowls up and down in front of the ranks, sitting atop his boutak. Every so often the creature snarls and shows its fangs. Ready for battle, it mirrors the attitude of the troops, who just wish this general would get the pep talk over with.

Joe picks up the speech every so often, but blanks it out. He's heard it all before. He's a veteran of many battles, as the markings on his armor indicate. The three skulls on his left breast indicating three confirmed one-on-one officer kills.

On the opposite side of the field the enemy masses. Another army. Thralls of the sky devils. Infidels who have rejected the gods of their birth, gods of this world, and rejected the holy paths for a path of treason and rebellion. Alongside the army is seen the metal monsters, servants of the sky devils and masters of the thralls. From their arms flames of fire spout, ready to shoot streams of fire in the battle to come. Joe hears the general make some comment that "the flames of hell shall not consume the faithful." Joe says a prayer to the lord or battle.

Suddenly, an unearthly scream is heard in the sky, followed by explosions in the ranks either side of Joe. Bodies, and parts of bodies, are flung into the air. Joe hears more screams, signaling incoming shells, but not waiting for the death to follow, leaps into a crater from the first wave, and curses the enemy.

A shell lands nearby. Joe sees a flash, feels a wind of heat pass over him, and then his body is mashed by the concussion. Everything goes black as he loses consciousness.

The flashback ends as the G-Carrier reaches the perimeter wall. The wall is just a berm consisting of regolith. It is five meters high.

Gunderson says, "Helmets on. Doukhken, go recon the base from the top of the berm."

Doukhken barks an acknowledgement.

The hatch opens and Doukhken leaps out. Gravity is 1/6 G. He adeptly scrambles up the hill and reports in on what he sees. "No sign of activity. Everything stationary."

Gunderson says, "Captain, are our friends picking up anything on passive?"

A minute later, Nokh replies, "Nothing."

Gunderson: "Douk, how close are we to the nearest laser?"

"50 meters down and in."

Gunderson turns to Arthur, "There's no cover from here out. I want to use the GC to get us close. If those laser batts start to rotate inward, it'll be quicker on the evac. It won't be able to take much abuse from those lasers, but it'll last longer than our suits. Agreed?"

"Agreed," Arthur replies. "The central tower would be the fastest."

"Alright then. Doukhken, we're on our way."

In The Naval Base

Characters: Arthur and Joe on assault team. Darrurz and Mazun on ship.
NPC: First Officer Gunderson, Rrokoth, Doukhken and Dathuel on assault team. Lt. Ghall, Captain Nokh, and remaining crew on ship.
Location: Naval Base on Korstsouth's moon and Aengkfaertoezthuedou
System: Korstsouth

1202.18.4 - 00:00 IST

The G-Carrier picks up Doukhken and cruises up to the central tower. There's nothing on the scanners the whole way in. The perimeter laser turrets don't move. All seems quiet.

The team disembarks and walks over to the airlock. Rrokoth stays in the G-Carrier to oversee the situation. The door is wide, apparently designed to accommodate ten people at once. The external control panel is a simple two button affair with a small camera above it and behind a polyacrylic panel.

Dathuel brings her tool box over to the panel, removes the cover, and starts playing with the wires. She hooks up a portable battery pack to the unit. "I'm just opening it wide enough for one person to get through at a time. I don't know how many doors I'm going to have to open."

Gunderson replies, "Agreed. Everyone in position."

Joe, Arthur, and Doukhken are there with guns ready. The door opens. The interior is dark. Gunderson shines a light around inside. The airlock is empty.

While Dathuel detaches her equipment from the control panel and Doukhken covers her, the rest of the group enters the airlock.

Once inside, Dathuel repeats the procedure to open the inner door. Successful, the team sees that the space beyond the airlock is dark with no atmosphere. It appears to be a decent sized room with a 1.3 meter high partition running along the left with monitors mounted to the wall behind it. There's nothing ahead or to the right. The far wall is made of some translucent material with a set of double doors.

Joe notes that the safety protocols are off as the doors remain open.

As he thinks this, Arthur says aloud, "OK, dark with no atmo. Let's not close the door behind us in case we have to shag ass outta here. Let's hard wedge the airlock doors open, then we'll breach deeper. Somethin's bound to hit us, and we want to be able to GTFO in a hurry, if required."

Gunderson replies, "I don't think we have anything strong enough to resist those doors if they close. Anyone?"

Rrokoth offers a steel pry bar.

"Thanks, Rrokoth. I was hoping to keep that as a fall back in case we need to pry something open. Let's see if we can find anything in this room."

Other than the monitors mounted to the wall and two three-meter plastic benches mounted to the airlock and opposite wall from the partition. The benches are supported by an aluminum tube along the bottom.

Joe moves forward into the room and takes a covering position to one side of the airlock door, his rifle covering the far wall and the double doors. "Welcome to the spider's web. Are we ready to see if the spider is home?"

Arthur says, "So, we have a problem. If we can't wedge the doors, that means we can't breach the doors when they close and we need to get out in a hurry, therefore we donít move further until we secure the route out. Must be somethin' in that G-Carrier we can use. This looks like an issue we'll have all the way through the complex, so we better resolve it now. The other option, if we want to collect Vakh spoor, is to create a stink right here and let them come to us, so we limit exposure."

Gunderson replies, "What we need is right here. Douk and Dath—"

"On it," Dathuel says. She pulls a drill out of her backpack and sets to removing the benches from the walls with Doukhken's help.

Gunderson says to Arthur, "Watch the door." He goes to assist the two vargr.

In a matter of minutes, Dathuel has a bench out. Gunderson and Doukhken wedge it into place at the outer airlock doorway. The second one is wedged into the inner airlock doorway.

Once complete, Gunderson says, "We can still lure them out here if you want. Maybe connect with the computer network behind this console and fiddle about. Or we can open these doors," he gestures to the translucent wall with the double doors, "and probe deeper. According to the schematics, the central access shaft is in the lobby behind those doors. Access to the hangar bays is there too."

Gunderson gives Arthur a few seconds to say something. When he doesn't, Gunderson says, "All right, let's press forward. Rrokoth, would you get that door."

Rrokoth takes a crowbar and pries open the double doors. After breaking the magnetic seal, the doors can be pushed apart on their track without them sliding back into the closed position.

Headlamps reveal a room wider than the previous one. In fact, it appears to run the width of the tower. Schematics show that this central room is a junction. Visitors can travel to either hangar bay via access corridors to the left and right, exit through an identical staging room and airlock like the one the assault team just came through, or move up or down levels via the elevators or stairs located in the middle of the room. The elevator doors are off on the left, facing the "west" hangar bay, while the stairwell door is on the right, facing the "east" hangar bay. The central shaft holding both the elevators and doors is 3 meters from you and is 6 meters on a side. The room extends 4.5 meters in either direction past it.

There doesn't appear to be any activity in the room. Nor are there any bodies. However, there are a couple brown stains on the wall.

Gunderson says, "This would be an impossible room to defend. There are seven doors, and the vakh can be hiding behind any one of them. Or even all of them. Before going any further, we need to make sure we're not going to get ambushed here."

The four doors that lead to storage and airlock equipment are checked, and no robots are found. The storage rooms have been picked clean.

The remaining doors are the two heavy security doors leading to the hangar bays, the sliding doors leading to the "north" airlock, the two elevator doors, and the stairwell.

Gunderson says, "Rrokoth and Doukhken, we're going with the plan we pulled off on Thaenenksoung last year." Both vargr nod their heads in understanding. "Head down the stairwell to level three. According to the schematics, that's where you should encounter some resistance. Levels one and two were all personnel quarters. Lure them up here. We'll execute a strategic retreat back the way we came and into the GC."

Rrokoth and Doukhkhen then head into the stairwell and down while Gunderson grabs the desicated remains of a potted plant to hold open the door. The four remaining team members then take a position to ambush any hostiles that come through the doorway after their packmates.

Stirring the Hornet's Nest

Characters: Arthur and Joe on assault team. Darrurz and Mazun on ship.
NPC: First Officer Gunderson, Rrokoth, Doukhken and Dathuel on assault team. Lt. Ghall, Captain Nokh, and remaining crew on ship.
Location: Naval Base on Korstsouth's moon and Aengkfaertoezthuedou
System: Korstsouth

1202.18.4 - 01:00 IST

Rrokoth and Doukhken have kept in constant network contact through their descent down the stairs. They found nothing in the stairwell.

"Opening door now," says Rrokoth.

With that, the lights come on, not only in the stairwell but up in the "lobby" where everyone else is waiting.

"Get out of there now!" Gunderson shouts to Rrokoth and Doukhken.

On the other end of the line comes a series of unintelligible, agitated barks. Finally, Doukhken is heard to say, "We're selling it, sir. Then we're on our way."

Dathuel has her paw on the stairwell wall. "I'm feeling a continuous vibration."

"Joe, Arthur, get to the elevators," Gunderson says. "Rrokoth, Doukhken, get up here now!"

"On our way," Rrokoth says.

Once Joe and Arthur get to the elevators, they see that both are active. While Arthur isn't familiar with the numbers, he can see the up arrows. Joe has his ACR at the ready and set to full auto. HEAP ammo loaded. Arthur has his LAG PDW. HEAP is the chosen ammo.

Joe and Arthur silently agree which elevator each shall cover. Each is positioned slightly off to the sides so that each has a view into the side of the elevator that the other can not see. Unfortunately, there's nothing for them to use as cover.

Joe attempts to mentally tune down the "gain" of the Vakh voices in his head (even though he's not hearing any at the moment).

The elevators pause at what Joe says is level three. After twenty seconds they resume their journey up. Meanwhile, gunfire erupts from the group watching the stairwell.

The elevator doors open simultaneously. Each is full of the security bots they encountered back at the abandoned military facility on Ghasghina Island.

Arthur doesn't hesitate. He fires as soon as he sees a target. The round punctures the mid-section of a bot on the far side of the elevator. Its operating lights shut off, and the unit goes still. However, it isn't blocking the doors so its companions begin to exit the elevator.

Joe hesitates for half a second as he becomes aware of the vakh chatter coming from the bots. As the gain has been tuned down, it doesn't distract him from the task at hand. Four out of five rounds hit the first robot he sees. Two hit the "head", one hits the "chest", while the last one hits the base. The first three rounds fail to pierce the bot's armor. However, the round that penetrates the base appears to have the desired effect as there is a brief, bright flash. Joe catches "transmission failure unit number..." amidst the vakh chatter.

The damaged bot raises its weapon to aim at Joe.

Arthur fires at the first bot to exit the elevator on the right. He hits it square in the "chest". There are sparks, followed by a brief flash, whereupon the unit shakes and goes dead. The bots behind commence to pushing it out of the way.

With his first hit only affecting the first bot's mobility, he has an idea: He needs to disable the mobility of a second (or third) bot to cause a blockade for the rest of bots inside the elevator, either preventing their exit, or more likely delaying them. Joe hopes his armor is up to the task of resisting the fire from the Bots—his position is exposed—but he needs one more shot before making a break for cover.

While inspiration comes to Joe, the first bot fires an integral laser weapon at Joe. It misses as the bots behind it jostle it in their attempts to push it out of the way.

He aims at their bases. He manages to sweep across two bots. The first two bullets striking one, the middle missing, the last two clipping another. Joe hears two cries of "catastrophic transmission failure" from the two bots who seize up and fall over as the remaining bots in the elevator try to file out. There is now a logjam. Meanwhile the first bot was pushed forward completely out of the elevator. Off-balance, it overcompensates and tilts over.

As Joe makes a dash to get out of their line of sight, he comms Arthur. "Falling back around the corner."

Arthur fires another round before joining him. He catches a bot trying to maneuver past the two destroyed units in the right elevator. It's rewarded with a shot to the "head". The now near headless bot shuts down.

As they round the corner, Gunderson is heard over the comm ordering the group to fall back to the airlock.

The doors to the "waiting room" outside the airlock have closed. Rrokoth is there first with the crowbar. He struggles to pry the door open, but is eventually successful. He uses his body to wedge the door open.

Doukhken and Dathuel leap over Rrokoth and into the waiting room while Joe and Arthur watch the way they came. With Arthur keeping watch, he switches over to DS ammo.

A grav bot emerges from around the corner where the others were guarding the stairwell. Gunderson sees it and opens up on it with his auto-shotgun. He hits it three times before it goes down.

He turns around and shouts over the comm, "Go!"

Joe and Arthur leap over Rrokoth. Once they're through, he rolls over. Gunderson manages to get through the door before it closes.

Looking to get out, the groups sees that the airlock doors are trying to close. The motors are straining to dislodge the benches which the team wedged in place to keep them open.

"Will it hold?" Doukhken asks.

"No time to find out," Gunderson replies. "Go! There's no telling how long we have before more bots arrive."

Dathuel leaps over each bench and is outside in no time. Doukhken is hot on her tail. Both take a position outside the outer airlock door to provide some cover. Rrokoth only goes as far as the airlock.

The lobby doors open with two grav bots and four-wheeled bots.

Meanwhile the bench holding the inner airlock door is showing signs of buckling.

"Go! Go! Go! Go!" Gunderson shouts over the comm.

Gunderson opens up on the closest grav bot as he backs towards the bench. The bot clatters to the ground.

"Shoot the base," Joe shouts over the comm.

Rrokoth fires at the base of one of the wheeled bots and immobilizes it.

Joe and Arthur run towards the opening.

The bots fire with laser weapons. Gunderson is hit twice but his combat armor negates the damage.

Joe is hit once square in the back but his combat armor negates the damage.

Arthur is hit once square in the back. The laser melts a hole in his vacc suit. Warning lights flash inside his helmet. Although he's losing pressure, he had the presence of mind to strap his trusty insert plates around his torso, thus sparing himself a laser rifle wound.

The immobilized bot fires at Rrokoth but he's under cover and the wall takes the hit.

Gunderson turns on the other grav bot and fires several rounds into it. One of its thrusters misfires and it careens off towards the monitor on the wall. Gunderson turns to run towards the airlock.

Joe takes advantage of the low gravity and leaps through the opening. However, his boot gets hung up on the bench. He tries to right himself as he falls. He comes up into a crouch but doesn't have a clear shot.

Arthur leaps over the weakening bench and through the opening. After he lands, he feels a hand on his back. "Down," Rrokoth barks in Gvegh. Arthur can understand that much. He feels Rrokoth slap a sealant patch on his back.

The bench buckles upward and into the airlock. Gunderson dives under it, the airlock door sealing behind him. The bench landing on top of him.

Joe lifts the bench off of Gunderson, who scrambles up to his feet. They both notice that the outer airlock door is attempting to close too.

Rrokoth helps Arthur to the outer airlock door. He's conscious but short of breath as the vacc suit begins to re-pressurize. Dathuel and Doukhken drag him out underneath the bench. While they drag him, Rrokoth bounds over the bench.

Joe and Gunderson follow right behind him.

Once everyone is clear of the opening the bench buckles into the airlock and the outer airlock door closes.

Everyone boards the G-Carrier. Rrokoth fires it up and turns toward the regolith berm that surrounds the base.

Ending the Assault

Characters: Arthur and Joe on assault team. Darrurz and Mazun on ship.
NPC: First Officer Gunderson, Rrokoth, Doukhken and Dathuel on assault team. Lt. Ghall, Captain Nokh, and remaining crew on ship.
Location: Naval Base on Korstsouth's moon and Aengkfaertoezthuedou
System: Korstsouth

1202.18.4 - 01:15 IST

As the assault team battled with the security bots at the naval base, the telemetry of their endeavor was relayed from the GC up to Aengkfaertoezthuedou and the Tsougak Trade Federation ship.

Once the images of vakh-infested robots were captured, Captain Nokh muttered, "Good. Now get out of there, Gunderson. No need for anyone to die today."

Aru announced, "The base's electrical systems are coming online, Captain."

"Yes, yes. I can see that from the video feed. Let me know when that power plant wakes up. Then we'll know that it means to use its real teeth to bite us."

Once the assault team entered the lobby, Aru said, "Sensors indicate the power plant is warming up."

"It realizes its prey are getting away. Bring the Den Buster online. I want to have a firing solution in place once our pack is away."

Aru gets to work.

The warning lights on Arthur's suit light up.

Nokh growls. "Why couldn't he just get combat armor like the rest of the pack. Stubborn human."

Once the assault team is back in the GC and speeding away, Gunderson comms in, "Did you get all that, Captain?"

"Yes, good job. Get back here best available speed. The power plant is warming up. No telling if the vakh is going to pick you off with lasers or wait for enough venom to go meson."

"Understood. Better have Doc Arkummu ready once we get back. Arthur's been hit."

"Yes, we saw. She'll be waiting for you when you arrive."

Nokh walks over to the comm station. "Captain Koduka, I trust that you've been following along."

Koduka replies, "Yes, Captain Nokh. You were correct. The vakh that has infested the base is cunning. That is not something that I'd expect to say about vakh."

"Not all vakh are the same. Some are mindless ghek. But some...some are smart as a wolf. You can not underestimate them."

"I'm sorry that I doubted you."

"Understandable, given the circumstances. You were defending your turf."

"So, what now?"

"As soon as my pack is clear, I'll launch a low yield nuke—"

"What? You would destroy what could be a strategic asset?"

"Captain Koduka, you saw what my pack encountered down there. As we speak, the vakh is bringing its power plant back online. How long until it can fire its laser batteries? How long until its meson cannons are ready?"

"We could be long gone by then."

"But what about anyone who comes after us? The vakh might stay awake and fry any ship that comes near it."

"Those meson cannons are too valuable—"

Nokh's voice has built in volume. He shouts, "And just how do you intend to prevent the vakh from using them?"

There's silence on the other end of the comm. Aru breaks it with a voice too low for the comms to pick up. "Captain, I have the firing solution you requested."

Nokh nods.

Koduka comes back online. "I'm not sure that I can let a foreign pack come in here and destroy Tsougak Trade Federation property."

Nokh growls. "I'd advise against that, Captain."

"As do I," Lt. Ghall adds. "Captain Koduka, as the ranking officer of the Korstsouth Defense Force, and by the rules of the treaty we signed with you, I'm formally instructing you not to interfere with Captain Nokh's decision to neutralize the vakh threat on the naval base. This is my den, Captain. Imperfect as it is, I have to live here. You don't."

Koduka waits a few seconds before responding. "Very well. Have at it, Captain."

Nokh nods to Aru. "As soon as the assault team is clear..."

It's maybe another 20 seconds before Aru launches the missile from the hangar bay. It speeds across the landscape towards the base.

"Captain, the vakh is employing countermeasures."

There's a blinding flash.

Nokh asks Aru, "Did we get it?"

"The missile detonated prematurely, sir. About 700 meters from the target. If nothing else, we blinded it."

Nokh growls. "I'm sure we did more than blind it. But I wanted to kill it, and I suspect we didn't. I just hope that we crippled it enough that when Koduka's pack sends in a recon team, they'll be able to finish the job."

As he heads down the hall to his quarters, he says, "Lt. Ghall, my quarters please. Darrurz, set course to pick up the assault team. As soon as they're aboard, set course for the Korstsouth downport."

Next: Back at Korstsouth Downport