A fusillade of alien energy splashes across the chest and leg plates of Bannstones ancient 1st-generation power armor, inflicting serious burn wounds. The bleating goat-man tumbles eight meters down the hall. His precision skills allow him to grab the corner and swing to a stop out of sight where he can ready his Gauss rifle. Sudomo escapes unscathed. The ex-colonist attempts to grab the edge of the doorway and swing to a stop, but loses his grip and spins out of control against the far wall.
Grey and Sleestak swat and dodge the floating psychocites while tossing more grenades through the ragged hole in the security door. Multiple explosions splatter rafts of psychocites against the walls. The grenades provided by the Star Children are proving their worth. While Grey readies his energy blade to deal with the few sparkling jellies that got into the hall, Sleestak turns and blasts a pair of Xarmid technicians stepping into the doorway. One goes down with burned legs. The others arm is fried by the white flare of energy erupting from the Tendrakkai arm-projector at only five meters range. The bug’s energy pistol tumbles down the hallway. Stak handily dodges return fire from the prone survivor. Sudomo gets reoriented and fires his laser rifle at a ‘thinker’ bug taking cover inside the small room beyond. In seconds the remaining Xarmids and psychocites are dealt with before they can cause further harm.
Grey returns to the lab and verifies all the psychocites are destroyed then chops through one of the closed blast doors. This is when he notices the protonic axe has become degraded after cutting through a half-dozen security doors. Webs of crackling energy crawl over the ancient weapon. Goop takes a break from figuring out the device suspended over the observation bubble and treats Bannstone’s burn wounds. The Xarmids were hiding out in a small aid-station room featuring an original medical supply cabinet now secured by an electro-mechanical lock apparently placed there by the aliens. Bannstone handily picks the lock. Inside Goop discovers a mind-booster injector and a few other useful drugs.
At this juncture Sleestak gives his Tendrakkai ‘arm-blaster’ to Gooptaz and equips the old fusion rifle. The team expects more serious alien contact and Goop’s knowledge of alien physiology makes him deadly with the more powerful energy weapons.
Ten minutes later Goop discovers that the console in the observation bubble is a powerful networked telescope able to observe earth, the moon, or anything else (half of earth is currently obscured by the deployed 900m EM dish). The telescope is actually a large array of 16 networked digital eyes mounted to various parts of the ship. 13 are still functional, allowing observation of the many Xarmid robots and a few stealthed scout-ships clinging to areas of the hull not reachable by the 3GW X-ray laser wielded by Star Mother. The 40-meter alien frigate is still attached to the dock at the bridge. Goop notices an open shuttle dock bay doors (30m) only about 100m away from the observation dome – one of four such docks. The others are closed. Just then a wavering distortion passes into the open bay doors…undoubtedly a stealthed Xarmid ship! The aliens entirely removed this device from the ship’s network so that Star Mother was never able to use it.
The team decides to avoid further exploration in that direction for now. Grey uses the protonic axe one last time to chop through the heavy security door on the far side of the psychocite lab. Luckily the ailing weapon makes it through the ordeal. The short hallway beyond still has artificial gravity. To spare any more damage to important hand-weapons Grey uses Sudomo’s and Stak’s smaller energy-daggers to chop through a lightweight side door while Grek and Stak watch from the hole in the heavy security door.
Grey gets a nasty surprise after cutting halfway through the door: a 2.5 meter long torpedo-shaped class 2 alien security bot drifts into view and opens fire with all weapons. Fortunately the quavering beams of triangular distortion fail to deactivate Grey’s heavily shielded battle armor. Grey stumbles back and hugs the wall as the glossy black bot bursts through the door. Grek fires two rockets from the micro-missile rifle just as Stak projects a blast of energy. The energy drops the bot’s shield and Grek’s first armor piercing rocket crits out the bot’s antigravity drive, sensors, several weapons and tentacles. The bot’s return fire is ineffective as it bounces around the corridor out of control. Stak finishes it off with a final blast of energy. Beyond the door is another aid-station room. Bannstone picks the security lock but unfortunately the cabinet is empty.
Grey uses the energy daggers to chop a small peep-hole in the other security door at the end of the hall. Beyond is a huge dimly-lit space dominated by a central floor raised 3 meters above the periphery. A horizontal chamber of thick transparent material is visible…inside floats the form of a small human in a one-piece medical skin-suit. The team assembles and hacks through the security door. Noticing the bottom of a heavy blast door flush with the ceiling above, Grey and Stak drag the heavy remains of the alien bot beneath the opening. Grek, Grey and Stak inspect the transparent chamber. The slight figure suspended in the thick goo inside turns out to be none other than lieutenant Ariana “Airy” Sands, sister of the commander of ‘B Team’, Colonel Beth Sands. She appears intact and alive, though no one can make any sense of the alien instrument display attached to the chamber. So this confirms that the Eagle Clan ‘Special Operations Team 1’ was indeed snatched up from the New Megsko desert by aliens. With the exception of Grek, who had left the team by that point, and Titus, who stayed behind at the Wizary village.
Sleestak contacts Colonel Sands with the news. A and B teams are still pinned down in a see-saw battle with the Xarmids and bots defending the fortified crew-quarters. Sands has been hoping against hope for news of her sister, but becomes a little unhinged when it actually happens. Fortunately the B-team leader is able to get a grip and not go charging off into an alien ambush.
A curving metal stair leads up to the elevated portion of the huge chamber. Below and beyond the stairway is a computer terminal protected by a shimmering bubble of greenish force…clearly an alien force-field. Taking a break from fighting off the Xarmid hackers in the bridge, Strelok reports that the terminal shows up on the network, but is secured and would require a few hours to break into. The team takes a vote and opts not to risk allowing the Xarmids to make progress against Star Mother. The terminal will have to wait.
Grek climbs the winding metal stair up to the elevated platform. Three vertical versions of the same chamber imprisoning Airy stand in the center. While Grey covers from the stair, Grek confirms these hold the three other Eagle Clan explorers: Sergeant Major Cassey (a 1.5m mutated flightless bird), 1st Sergeant Rick “Willy” Wintergreen, and the ex-civilized then ex-tribal warrior Josephine. There doesn’t appear to be any immediate way to extract them, which would be deadly in any case as this entire deck is hard vacuum. Bannstone and Sudomo identify a large 3-meter security/weapons locker that was dragged across the floor and set against a far corner long ago. Like some other containers around the deck, this one is secured with alien electro-mechanical locks probably intended to keep out only the roaming ‘Lost Tribes’ descended from colonists released by Star Mother 150 years past.
Grey and Sleestak walk the periphery of the 60×50 meter space. On the left side is another light security door with the bottom of a heavy blast door visible above. Grey carves a small hole for Goop, who sees what appears to be a medical laboratory filled with similar transparent chambers containing humans and humanoids in various states of terminal experimentation. Some are in pieces, but still alive. Others are retrofitted with unknown mechanisms and wiring. Grey finishes chopping out a larger hole.
Suddenly a huge volume of dark water pours from every ventilation shaft. Simultaneously the heavy blast doors slam shut. Sleestak and Gooptaz are both near enough to make a run for the openings, but stick with the team. The water proves to be very hot, almost 90c, and quickly begins rising. Even in this large space, such a volume of water will completely fill the room within five minutes. Grey checks for an exit at the far end but finds only a staircase descending into dark water. Running to the original entry, Grey finds the alien bot has been crushed almost flat by the descending blast door. Water is escaping, but trivial compared to the volume flooding the chamber. Grek sets his last remaining demolition charge at the blast door closing off the unexplored medical laboratory. Water has reached 4 meters deep and covers the raised part of the room by the time the explosion sends a wall of water rebounding from the walls. Everyone holds on to stanchions and rails to avoid getting battered. The outer blast door is breached, but a second matching door is just beyond! It is crumpled but not destroyed.
Grey goes to work on 2nd blast door with the sparking protonic axe while the rest of the team takes up defensive positions nearby. By now dark water has reached the ceiling and the team is completely submerged. The powered armors worn by the team, and armored spacesuit worn by Sudomo, provide at least 48 hours of oxygen and protection from the increasing pressure and heat, so this is not a huge problem. But then three tentacled spheres appear in the murk…type 1 alien security bots!
Which weapons will function effectively underwater? Sleestak is the first to answer this question in the negative: the trusty fusion rifle explodes into a ball of orange fire. Stak drops the heavy rifle and 12kg atomic cell, now burning like a violent green alka-seltzer. As the bots approach, they fire only their alien stun beams…apparently the alien blasters don’t work underwater either. Grek is slightly stunned but his heavy skeletal structure protects him from being knocked out. Unwilling to risk the Gauss rifle underwater, Bannstone grabs Grey’s gyrojet pistol. The weapon proves effective at 16 meters, possibly double that at the extreme end. The goat-man gunslinger knocks out the energy screen of one approaching bot.
Grey desperately smashes the protonic axe against the 2nd blast door. Looks like it’s going to take a few minutes to get through, assuming the axe doesn’t give up the ghost first. Just as the team comes to grips with the approaching bots, a writhing mass of shadow appears beyond the containment chambers. The psychic cloud partially conceals a speeding armored form projecting a dim green force-field. The heavy squat shape of a Sreelathan Master is unmistakable, now protected by submarine armor and energy-screen. It appears the aliens have drawn the Ghost Bears into a well-laid trap.