Monday, February 25, 2013

2300AD Star Marines: Episode 8 - Conclusion

"So I tried to helicopter and pee at the same time. Moral of the story is I couldn’t do it and now I’m banned from all Hilton Suites ”
PFC Lenny Mondragon, Dunkelheim, 2302

The squad had entered the complex at the entrance in the destroyed barracks tower while Jutta and the Texans entered through the bunker. Below ground a long corridor connected them. The corridor was filled with animated corpses. The zombies all bore large device embedded in their chest marked with the Uranus logo. Many of the zombies were armed with submachine guns and large vibro-blade cutters.

The zombies charged both groups. Two of the things, seemingly unarmed, bounded up the stairs towards Jutta. As they approached, she noticed they wore large metal bracers on each wrist with readout flashing a countdown, walking bombs. She kicked one off the platform back into a larger group of zombies. Russ kicked the other, noting, “These pukes ain’t worth sheeyeet.”

The rest of the Texans unloaded with their assault rifles. Then the two bombs went off, blasting a huge swath of destruction in the zombie mob at the bottom of the platform.

At the other end of the corridor, the squad opened up on the portion of the zombie horde that was approaching them. Lenny fired the autocannon and managed to bounce the rounds through the doorway into packed corridor beyond. The explosions of the rounds ripped the zombies apart. Kubich added to mayhem with an anti-personnel missile. The rest of the squad blasted into the crowd of zombies at the bottom of the platform. Within moments, all but one had been knocked off the platform. This one was armed with both a machine pistol and a vibro-blade. Shots from the gun bowled Gaylord over while the whirling blade cut through Lenny’s body armor.

Sanchez yelled for them to duck and fried the creature with her flamethrowers. The flames lapped into the corridor and soon all was quiet and the hallway cleared of the monstrosities.

As the acrid smoke began to clear, Ms White cursed, “Those bastards in R&D must’ve had a Lazarus program and didn’t share it with the other departments!”

“What?” asked Boomer.

“Part of security protocol, along with self-destruct systems, in secured facilities. Keep assets, especially militarized assets hidden in secret compartments in the facility that will reactivate when help arrives. The landings here must of somehow been picked up and activated the Lazarus system. The Kafer garrison must’ve been battling these things for a couple of days now.”

“Well, that’s good news, we’ve got help. All you need to do is identify us to the system and we’ve got reinforcements," said Boomer.

“Not so simple, I was never informed of this, let alone given access codes. This is par for the course; competition between departments in Uranus is cut-throat, we’re all competing for a portion of the budget. No communications between departments, information is a premium.

“We thought the only defense here was self-destruct. My department has been wondering why the self-destruct didn’t seem to we work. We had the ceilings loaded with nanobombs…”

“Nanobombs?” asked Gaylord.

“Yeah, they release streams of nanobots to attack targets at the molecular level. They should’ve turned this facility into a big pool of grey goo. I guess R&D overrode our departments protocols.”

“What department are you?”

“Human Resources.”

Lenny said, “Some companies call it human resources, other call it inventory.”

“Exactly,” said White.

“Enough talk,” grunted Boomer. He ordered Jutta and the Texans to move down their corridor to the main section of the underground lab while the squad would advance down another branch. Ultimately, they should be able to link up in the main laboratory.

As each group advanced, they passed several dead Kafers lying in corridors, along with signs of running gun battles, Obviously, the Kafer fought back as hard as they could from surprise attack but were losing.

Meanwhile, SGT Korand and the Noob were knocking on front door. After destroying the security bot, they found themselves in a large corridor facing two doors. According the schematic read-out Sanchez had provided one led to the security center while the other led to some sort of lounge. The door to the security center had been locked down and the lock mechanism disabled. It looked like the door was partial welded shut.

They decided on checking security control first. Rather than attacking the door to the room directly, Korand used his plasma rifle to try to cut hole in wall. Although the steel walls weren’t cut, the plasma blast did cause the metal panels to buckle. Once they did, the Noob peered into the gap created and saw three Kafer standing ready at door. He immediately opened fire, killing two of the Kafers.

Korand then fired the plasma rifle through the door to the room. The blast went through, the doors being much thinner, killing another of the Kafer. The two remaining Kafers returned fire and both Korand and the Noob fell. The Noob only knocked down while Korand received a wound to the arm. Together, the two Marines dispatched the remaining Kafers and the Noob set about giving first aid to Korand that stabilized wound.

The pair then entered the control room. Most of the security systems were wrecked in the firefight. A door at the far end led to the main lab. Before that, they decided to secure the lounge next door to make sure they didn’t leave an enemy at their backs. The door to that room was not locked or welded, and the lock mechanism showed a simple closed signal.

Hearing some movement inside the lounge, they set up three directional mines around frame to blow inward once the doors opened. When they opened door, the mines went off with a roar. When they looked inside, they saw that the blast had killed the dozen or so Eviscerators that the Kafers had left in there.

Korand and the Noob then returned to the security room. The door to the lab on the farther wall had been welded shut. Korand still had a couple of breaching charges with him. They began placing those around the door.

About the same time, at the LT’s direction, Gaylord made radio contact with Brigade. Although the com links were fuzzy at the nearly 1000km distance, he could make out that an aerial attack was inbound although he couldn’t link directly to determine when the strike would hit. The only advice they could get from Command was to get out to as safe a distance as possible as soon as possible.

By this time, the squad had reached the entry to the main section of the facility. The door to the interior corridor opened easily. They could see what appeared to be robots, some of them combat models, moving around within.

“Guns Up,” ordered the LT and Lenny happily complied. Three rounds from the autocannon sped out into the lab. The explosions devastated the large room.

Gaylord argued that they should try to salvage some of the combat bots to help get out of the facility. He charged into the lab.

At the other entrance to the lab, this one locked, Jutta had been trying to blast open the doors using Naci’s RPG launcher. After several rounds, the damaged doors slid open, shortly after the autocannon fire ripped through. The Texans immediately blasted away at the shiny machines inside. They all then entered the lab.

Gaylord realized that he was on a walkway over four large enclosed vats that were cracked from the explosion. Suddenly, four huge spiderlike creatures sprang from the vats, each one still spouting large translucent eggs. He could see that the eggs contained infant versions of the eviscerators and mutant camel-insects. The sight unnerved him and he collapsed into a fetal position screaming at the horror around him.

The queen bugs tried attaching plasmic goo like spider webs around Gaylord. Before he could be caught, the autocannon roared, and rockets and grenades tore into the hulking creatures. The Texans added to the mayhem with their assault rifles. Fortunately for Gaylord, the creatures’ bulk absorbed the shock and the shrapnel from these deadly rounds.

In moments the creatures were dead. The Texans ran up, smashing the remaining eggs and killing any of the small creatures that had hatched.

In the quiet aftermath of the firefight, they could hear the groans of more of the zombies coming down the corridors. Gaylord leapt up toward the main computer console. He found the program that controlled the corpses and shut it down, figuring that he would be able to determine how to control the zombies with a bit of undistracted time.

At that moment, the breaching charges that Korand had set went off, and he and the Noob charged in.

Gaylord cursed as he realized that the blasts had wrecked the main computer, ensuring that he would be unable to revive the zombies. It also severely scrambled their already tenuous com links. However, White assured them that the info they were after was not on the main but was rather on a stand-alone computer unconnected to the facility network. That computer was in a very secure hidden compartment below the main lab.

She showed them the secret access panel. When it opened, they were confronted with a large, combat bot standing guard. Prepared for such an eventuality, they blasted the thing to spare parts before it could react. A small hatch in the floor of the compartment lead to the secure room in which the back-up computer stood. Boomer, White and Gaylord descended.

In the compartment, were severald dozen of the disabled zombies. It would have been murdered fending them off had they still been active. Gaylord downloaded the research files in a few moments.

In the meantime, Korand remembered the human prisoners above who would be killed when the Marine strike hit. He hurried out of the facility the way he had come. He found about 25 scarecrows in the make-shift camp and led them hurriedly down into the secured room.

Locking themselves in, they awaited the strike. Less than 20 minutes later, it hit. The intensity of the bomb strikes shook the whole place but they remained untouched int the safe room. After about a half hour, the explosions stopped and Gaylord was able to raise Brigade command.

A transport had come with the strike package and they were able to retrieve all of the survivors. As they exited the facility, they saw it had been totally wrecked. However, they could see some of the mutant camel-insects retreating into their sand flat habitats.

As the transport headed back to the drop zone, White speculated that the Kafers had produced the eviscerators using the Uranus labe, comining Kafer DNA combined with the mutant camel-insect stock already being used. Obviously given the ease with which the Kafer adapted the bugs, the Uranus plan doomed to fail if implemented, with the possibility of the Kafer being able to raise vast new armies of eviscerators to add to humanity’s problems.

"Not to mention the other horror you created," broke in Korand. "Do you really want to tell the people of Earth that their sons and daughters, after giving their lives, would have their bodies desecrated and made into those monostrocities?"

He grabbed the memory device that bore the research materials from Gaylor.

"Here," he tossed it to her. "You decide what to do with it. It's on your conscience now."

White looked at the device and then shoved it down the waste disposal shute.

Friday, February 8, 2013

2300 AD: Star Marines - Episode 7

“At least I save the vids of my kids. You want to see them --ZZZZAPPP --uggh! ”
The Late PFC LaVonne Jone, Dunkelheim, 2302

As the Uranus APC went up in flames, the squad tried to sort itself out. They were receiving incoming fire from some of the Kafer sentries but mostly from a Kafer armored walker that had been immobilized from the explosion when the train hit the large tower. Fortunately, there was plenty of cover from the fire.

As the squad examined what equipment they had managed to grab from the APC, PFC Jones chirped up, “At least I save the vids of my kids. You want to see them --.” His words were cut short as a pulse laser from the walked hit him in the head, killing him instantly.

The rest of the squad scrambled further into the surrounding cover, most small structures and debris and then began a cautious advance towards the main entrance to Site Beta. They managed to kill or run off several Kafer hold outs as they encountered them.

Off to their left, the huge horde of mutated camel-insects, attracted by Korand and the Noob, charging toward the hole in fenceline that Korand had cut with his plasma rifle. Fortunately, the bugs seemed to more interested in the Kafers who were pouring fire into their ranks than the handful of Marines creeping through the ruins.

Korand and the Noob could not be seen but their comm links indicated they had made it in one piece into the tunnels running under Site Beta. They did spot the police rover driven by Jutta rolling toward the fence line, the mob of Texans hanging out of the windows and blasting away wildly with their assault rifles. They also saw the humans in the prison compound running or cover in their shacks. The bugs ignored them also, moving through to gap in the fence toward their Kafer tormentors.

The bugs proved to be an excellent distraction to most of the Kafer defenders. Almost all their fire was directed toward the chittering masses. Despite huge losses, the bugs managed to reach the fence line and charged through, heading to the main bunker that guarded the inner compound of the Site. The bugs soon over ran a small barricade, slaughtering the Kafers manning it. They clawed their way onto the roof of the bunker, slaughtering the crew of the large gun mounted there.

Soon, however, Kafer reserves rushed to counter attack. Two Death Sleds moved up to engage the attackers. One, joined by an infantry group struck back and bugs on the bunker, beating them back after a fierce fight. The Death Sled then took a position in front of the bunker, blasting the following waives of bugs.

The other death sled turned its attention to the human attackers, firing several heavy rounds that narrowly missed the caroming police rover. Jutta punch the rover forward, driving directly under the hovering Death Sled. The Texans fired madly into the bottom of the sled with assault rifles and grenade launchers. The light rounds penetrated the hull and succeeded in immobilizing the Sled but it still managed to keep itself in hover and its weapons still.

The rover continued deeper into compound. The damaged Death Sled let it go and turned its fire onto the advancing Marine squad. The squad again went to ground but one of the heavy rounds landed in their midst, hitting CPL Kusmanno in her leg. Biff applied its remarkable Sung medical skils to the wound and mended her leg in a few moments. While Kusmanno gritted her teeth while Biff her wound, it said to her, “You good now. Why humans have so much methane gas inside them?”

Meanwhile, the police rover was approaching a line of barricades that flanked the bunkers. Beyond this, Jutta spotted a large group of eviscerators charging toward them. She also noticed that a large gun in the smaller of two bunkers was being turned away from the attacking camel-insects toward the rover.

Jutta again hit the accelerator, trying to build up enough speed to jump the barricades and move past the advancing eviscerators. However, the rover was caught up on multiple lines of strung barbed wire and hung up on the barricade itself. Jutta and the rest of crew leapt from the rover to avoid the cannon fire from the bunker.

The Texans had leapt out just near the smaller bunker. They raced towards it and tossed several grenades through the narrow firing slit. Unfortunately, one of the granades missed and bounced back to the rover, blowing it up apart. The remaining grenades exploded inside the bunker, killing all the Kafers within.

Jutta and Naci had advanced to the barricade and began firing at the eviscerators and were soon joined by Texans. After killing half the eviscerators’ number, they began taking fire from a nearby observation tower. They all leapt through the firing slit into the bunker. Although they thought they were protected by the thick bunker walls, a ricochet hit Naci in back, killing him instantly.

At the main entry to the inner compound, hordes of bugs were still coming forward but the Kafers were holding the line against them. With the bugs now at a distance, the Kafers lobbing artillery at the bugs with great effect.

Recovering from the death of her last comrade, Jutta discovered an entrance plate in floor of bunker to lower level, and she and the Texans all headed down into the tunnels below.

By this time, LT Boomer and the squad had advanced into sand-bagged emplacement. There, they captured a small Kafer-portable light artillery piece from it’s single crewmember. Lenny discovered it he could lift the gun fairly easily but that there were only a few rounds left for it.

One round was enough to take out the damaged death sled, clearing the way for the squad to move into the compound. At this point, they discovered that the large tower that had been hit by the train must have been the main garrison building. Scores of dead Kafers lay inside. No wonder the Kafer resistance was relatively light.

Boomer also noticed that the door to a stairway leading downward had been blasted open. Checking the facility diagram that Ms. White had provided, he saw that it led to a tunnel near the main laboratory. They moved through the ruined tower towards this entrance.

While of this had been transpiring, Korand and the Noob had leapt down in the hole Korand had created with his plasma rifle. They found themselves inside the tunnels that ran under complex. Despite the sound of the fighting above, they could hear an emergency claxon going off. Oddly, it was a human not Kafer one.

They were in a long narrow corridor. The moved towards along towards the interior of the facility and came to a large electronically locked door. The Noob fiddled with it for a moment and slide open in a moment. With a flourish, he motioned for Korand to lead with way.

They found themselves in a large run, empty except for several large machines and storage units. Just as they entered, the door on the opposite side of the room slid open and small armed drone flew in. The Noob fired two shots from his assault rifle, knocking it from air. “Just like shooting ice skeeters at home,” he said with a smile.

They advanced into the corridor beyond. They stopped abruptly when they saw a large, heavily armed combot was activated and turned toward them. The Noob fired again, and got a lucky shot, hitting the machine in a weak point and causing its guidance system to short out momentarily. Korand finished the machine off with a blast from his plasma rifle.

In this corridor were two doors, one of which was marked on the diagram as leading to the control center. Just as they were about to open it, they heard over their com link that the two other parties were entering the facility from two other entrances.

As the squad and Jutta and the Texans descended into the tunnels, they were confronted with large groups humans, some apparently armed. Shockingly, these appeared to be animated corpses. Large mechanisms were inplanted in their chests, remarkably like the one Biff had placed in Ms. White’s chest.

Biff said “Oh, yeess, that is my work. Pretty good, yeess!”

Friday, February 1, 2013

2300AD: Star Marines - Episode 6

“The last time I was in a po-lice car, I ended up in this shithole.”
Russ Katurian, ROT Penal Colony, Dunkelheim, 2302

After dispatching the remaining two Kafer escorts, the squad took stock. Although the humans had suffered no losses and barely a wound, the train cars were horribly ripped open. Nonetheless, the train was still operable and Gunter and Franz repaired the break in the maglev line in short order. They did notice that the break was caused because several of the magnet couplers had been broken intentionally. They original supposition that the mutant camel-bugs had some form of intelligence seemed more and more likely.

Boomer and Korand decided to question Ms. White about the bugs and their original. She was still in a near coma as Biff tried to revive her using strange Sung technology. The Sung were known to be adept at the repair of biologic organism, hence their ubiquitous presence in human health facilities. The Sung told Korand that her heart and lungs had been heavily damaged by Gov. Happy’s attack.

Biff was attempting to integrate mechanical power sources into the woman’s chest cavity to keep her heart rate and breathing regular. Korand threw several magnetic couplers and their power supplies on the table, “Will these help?”

“Big jump start. I jump her good,” cooed Biff. Within an hour, the Sung had somehow imbedded a large electromagnet in Ms. White’s chest. This seemed to revive her almost immediately.

Gaylord asked whether it was really a good idea to make such a heartless, suspicious jerk as Ms. White into a cyborg.

Korand, breathing through the filter that all bio-engineered natives of the planet King needed, hissed, “I’m enjoying the irony of one of the shills for a corporation that’s responsible for monsters like me becoming a monster herself.”

Although she occasionally lapsed into vague silences and uttered the occasional “whoo-whoo,” Ms. White was soon coherent enough to explain how the camel-insects had been developed. The mutated bugs were a development to combat the Kafers, an equalizer to cancel out their overwhelming demographic superiority. The environment on the Kafer home world is similar to that on Dunkelheim. It’s no doubt that the bugs could survive. The idea was to covertly plant colonies of the bugs into isolated areas of the Kafer homeworld. With a boosted metabolism, they would soon be reproducing in their billions. Their enhanced size would make them a real threat to the Kafer and, with a little luck, be the answer to the long term war humanity was facing.

She did reveal that the insects should be in the underground containment labs at Site Beta. Something must have happened when the Kafers took over that resulted in their release.

“I think we’ll have to write off Dunkelheim. Now that the bugs are ensconced in the environment, there’ll be no way to get rid of them. Uranus will be paying compensation claims for years.”

Jutta shouted, “You can’t just write off the entire planet! There are over a million people living here!”

“Not for long.” Ms. White replied.

Previously, Gaylord had used the rail system computer to arrange for two other trains to arrive at Site Beta within a few minutes of the squad’s train. Just as they were leaving the ambush site, an automated call came over the system ordering all trains to stay in place and not to approach Site Beta due to an emergency there.

After he relayed this disturbing news to the LT, Gaylord suggested, “Maybe I could hack in --“

“NO!” shouted everyone within ear shot.

Boomer continued, “The last time you tried messing with the comms you nearly brought an airstrike down on us. Lenny, if LePetre tries to touch the comm system again, shut it down Alberta style, right!”

A few minutes later, the train reached Neuw Zweibrucken, the closest settlement to Site Beta, only about 40 klicks away. They arrived about sunset to devastation. Originally a town of 3000 people, it was now a deserted ruin, the mostly metal dwellings ripped apart, obviously destroyed by the mutated camel-insects. More chilling were the numerous signs of blood marking the fact that the colony had been inhabited when the bugs attacked.

Boomer formed the squad and the Texans into salvage teams while Gunter and Franz worked to repair some of the damage done to the train by the bugs. Fortunately, the bugs were nowhere in evidence and, despite the destruction, there were large quantities of equipment strewn about the settlement. The work parties were able to find a garage that had enough spare parts to get the Uranus armored carrier moving again. Jutta was able to local the colony police station where the armory was found intact. More luckily, the police ATV which had been in a small shed was undisturbed and found to be still functional.

Within a few hours, the party had made the repair they would be able to and had rested. The next stop would be Site Beta. LT Boomer and SGT Korand began discussing a way to get into the site.

Just as they started, Jutta suggested that they might want to find out from White exactly what they were trying to get out of Site Beta.

White proved to be far more forthcoming than previously. The mainframe computer and its links to the corporate network had been destroyed as the Kafer were landing on the planet. All of the research in the mutation project was presumed lost. However, there was a stand-alone computer in a hidden room in the underground lab facility. It contains a back-up of the entire project’s record. If recovered, they could not only use it as originally planned but might be able to figure out a way to forestall the loss of Dunkelheim, possibly through the development of some type of insecticide. White had a palm-sized device that could be used to rapidly download and store the huge amount of information on the computer.

Gaylord said, “You know, she’s had her heart ripped open and replaced by a battery, and she’s become more warm and human.”

The Noob responded, “And this is a surprise how?”

The LT and Korand then worked out the attack plan. Rather than infiltrate, they thought a bold assault would catch the Kafers by surprise. They would shift everyone into the armored car, and police vehicle. As a diversion, the train, which could be programed to run automatically would be sent hurtling down the track to the Site at full speed as a diversion. Once it crashed, the other vehicles would charge in.

Since there were several large camel-insect patches surrounding Site Beta, Korand and the Noob would take one of the dune buggies and try to lure hordes of the bugs after them as a further diversion.

The party split up this way and set off. The program on the train was delayed so that they could be in position before it approached Site Beta.

As the long Dunkelheim sunset gradually faded into night, the various vehicles set off.

Korand and the Noob had no problem locating the camel-insect habitat. The Noob drove the buggie along the end of the sand flat while Korand fired rounds from his assault rifle into it. In a short time, they had attracted a huge horde of the angry bugs.

In the meantime, Jutta, Naci and the Texans who were now armed and armored with the surplus police equipment hurtled over the desert floor in the broad wheeled police vehicle.

Russ, the Texans’ de facto leader, said,” Yeeehaaa! The last time I was in a po-lice car, I ended up in this shithole!”

The rest of the party was jammed into the Uranus vehicle that lumbered more slowly behind. With Sanchez driving, Gaylord manned the large mounted laser and Kubih sat in the opened hatch with his Javelin missile launcher propped on top of vehicle.

Site Beta sprawled over the desert and had been fortified by the Kafers. A line of barbed wire lined the perimeter. Beyond that were a double line of fences with guard towers at irregular intervals. Within the line of fencing was a compound with what appeared to be human prisoners. In the very center of the Site was the original Uranus compound, several buildings and a small power plant surrounded by yet another high fence. They knew from schematics that Sanchez provided that the surface buildings provided access to a larger underground facility.

Korand and Noob were the first to break from the hills surrounding the Site, their new-found friends skittering madly after them. They noticed that the Kafer guards on the fenceline were not in their usual lethargic state but seemed alert and excited. Overhead, a small but heavily armed Kafer flyer circled the compound. A wrecked Marine recon flyer lay outside the fenceline, mute testimony to the effectiveness of the Kafer defenses.

The Kafers began firing madly at the little buggy and the oncoming horde.

In the meantime, the rest of the party approached on the left. Laser and missile fire from the Uranus vehicle shot forth. Two large Kafer laser arrays were knocked out in the first volley. Soon, Kubich and Gaylord took out two of the guard towers. The rest of the squad and the crew of the police vehicle joined with small arms fire that took out numerous Kafer infantry.

Then they saw a silver streak hurtle past them as the train charged towards the end of line just in front of the Site Beta gates. It was going nearly 300 km per hour. It slammed into the track head and flew forward, driving like a vast missile into the fortified tower that was the center of the Kafer defenses. The explosion was deafening as the train, the big tower and any living thing within a few hundred yards went up in a great fireball.

Gaylord was able to raise Brigade on the radio. He sent them images of the explosions at Site Beta and reported that the Site was a big Kafer facility and they needed assistance. The operations officer on the other end said they would get back to them.

The Kafer flyer came in for a strafing run. A shot from a disruptor gun tore into the Uranus vehicle, setting it alight. The squad scrambled to get fire. Not everyone made it. Cleet the big body-builder was gone as was Franz, the little engineer. The LT collapsed from the fumes while trying to save them. His last thought was that he was a goner.

Only a few seconds later he was revived when he hit the fresh air. The Sung Biff had somehow managed to pull him out of the burning wreck.

Before Boomer could thank him, Biff asked, “Why is it humans have hair on their anus?”

While the Noob strained to keep the dune buggy under control and beyond the reach of the bugs, Korand used his plasma rifle to knock a hole in the main fence line. The shot melted right through both fences.

Just as the buggy crossed the first fence line, a shot from the one of the flyer’s lasers hit it. Korand and the Noob were able to jump clear. As they rose, they realized they were facing a Kafer gun emplacement to their front and the mob of giant camel insects behind.

Korand aimed his plasma rifle at the ground, blasting a hole through to the underground tunnels ran under the Site. He grabbed the Noob and they both jumped into the dark below.