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.