As Mongo, Sleestak, Gooptaz and Strelok reach the dome and ready their weapons, a harsh mechanical voice booms from the surrounding air: “REMOVE ALL ITEMS AND CLOTHING. ASSUME A SINGLE FILE. MOVE TOWARD THE OPEN CARGO BAY AND ENTER.” A trail of blue dots appears in the snow leading toward the twelve-meter wedge-shaped vehicle parked 100 meters distant. The dots end in a transparent blue sphere suspended in the air next to an open door along the left underside of the strange craft. The tall white figure on the hill glances down casually, then resumes admiring the arctic scenery.
The option of complying with the instructions is not even considered. What terrible fate awaits prisoners of these bizarre visitors? Humongous triggers a stim-dose from his power armor and rushes forward to take cover at the dome entrance.
Strelok moves back into the shadows and commands the half-ton security bot to attack all non-friendly targets outside the dome. The bot rolls from the dome toward the nearest enemy, a large round six-legged creature bearing some type of energy projector. The creature is wounded in the legs by blaster fire from the onrushing bot, but manages to stay upright and return fire along with it’s companion 30 meters distant. Raging beams of blue-white energy coalesce on the security bot, shattering one omni-directional wheel, slicing off a tentacle, destroying the machine gun ammo locker, visual sensors and atomic cell backup power.
Titus is screaming unintelligibly into his mic…something about “murderers!” and “bomb”, and running back toward the cargo hold. Stak uses his ‘command voice’ to calm Titus and get him back into a rational state of mind. Gooptaz injects Stak with a stim-dose. The medication doesn’t function correctly on the mutant physiology, but fortunately the lizard-man is only slightly poisoned. Stak sprints for the exit.
Bannstone has managed to hand-crank the turret around to point at the file of smaller creatures approaching the Zephyr. The two nearest are about 1.5 meters long and identical to the ‘technician’ bugs seen invading the Control Base in ancient video logs. Using his precision skills, Bannstone just clears the underside of the Zephyr and burns off a couple of jointed appendages. The surprised creature flips over with it’s remaining members flailing helplessly. Bann’s second shot misses, scoring a steaming 10-meter divet across the rocky tundra. The next ‘tech-bug’ readies a large clumsy-looking weapon and takes cover behind its fallen comrade. The small ‘pilot-bugs’ immediately turn around and begin scuttling back toward their ship as fast as their six legs will carry them.
Mongo is in position and launches an 80cm rocket at the two pilot-bugs who are just now beginning to scale the cockpit access ladder. The missile explodes against a previously-unseen energy shield surrounding the craft, which flashes brilliant green as it dissipates. A cloud of green sparks and blue smoke balloons up from the underside of the craft. The 1st pilot-bug was already inside the protective field and survives the blast. The second pilot rides a 10-meter fireball into the night sky. It’s crumpled, broken shell lands 25 meters away.
Stak sprints out of the dome and blasts into the sky using inertia armor jump jets. He soars 70 meters above and 110 meters across the field of battle. One of the heavy armored ‘battle-bugs’ fires furious beams of blue-white energy upward at the swerving, jinking figure. One beam briefly makes contact, but Stak’s hide is resistant to energy and receives only a light grilling. As he descends toward his target, Stak squeezes of several bursts of assault rifle fire, nailing the remaining pilot creature now climbing up to the cockpit. The creature is hit in the legs, loses its grip and plummets to the ground. A second well-aimed burst perforates the struggling form. Weird blue-green blood soaks the tundra. Stak makes a perfect descent through the rising fireball from Mongo’s rocket, landing directly inside the open crew hatch atop the forward end of the ship.
Meanwhile Gooptaz runs to the other corner of the dome entrance opposite Mongo and takes up position with his laser rifle. Strelok radios Titus to activate the repair bot’s new “kill everyone that’s not us” mode. Bannstone fires the heavy gas laser at the Xarmid still standing in front of the Zephyr, inflicting a glancing hit. Then the jerry-rigged heavy weapon begins to burn like a torch, emitting a thick cloud of noxious pea-green smoke. Thanks to pressurized armored spacesuits, Bannstone and Titus are unaffected by the deadly gas that billows out into the crew compartment. Bannstone climbs up into the crew compartment where he meets Titus, who has just activated the repair bot.
The tall armored figure on the ridge is illuminated by the web of multicolored energy beams streaking across the slope below. This finally seems to attract it’s interest. The figure fires twin beams of murderous energy from 300 meters, blasting the security bot’s anti-gravity pods, broadcast receiver and tractor beam. A missile loops up into the sky and down onto the security bot in a blinding explosion of blue-white energy. The bot’s arms and remaining tentacle sag lifeless…it’s AI is stunned and temporarily inoperative.
At about the same time, the tech-bug in front of the Zephyr fires the strange bulky weapon. A triangular beam of translucent distortion darts out to bathe the hapless security bot in crackling blue energy. Strelok loses all communication with the crippled bot.
The white-armored warrior begins charging down the rocky slope in gravity-defying leaps, yet is still able to direct energy beams and shoulder-launched missiles with accuracy. The first shots miss the well-protected Humongous, who is preparing his 2nd and last missile. The durasteel surface of the dome next to Mongo crumples and burns. Mongo takes aim at the bounding warrior. Unfortunately the decrepit missile launcher malfunctions at the critical moment…the firing mechanism is dead.
One heavily armored ‘battle-bug’ takes cover behind the disabled security bot, taking aim with a stubby energy projector. Despite his protected position, Gooptaz is hit once and receives a serious burn. The powered plate armor’s medical system instantly injects pain reducer.
The other large armored bug-creature is still exposed on the slope between dome and ship. The creature seems indecisive, turning this way and that, then finally turns and begins ambling back toward the black triangular craft where Stak landed moments ago. Gooptaz fires his laser rifle from across the field, but the heavily armored target suffers only light damage.
Stak doesn’t find any recognizable control surfaces inside the strange ship. The cockpit features a pair of small ovoid depressions obviously designed to accommodate the two small ‘bugstronauts’. There is no visible control mechanism and the instrument panel, if it is that, is just a broad blank expanse with a few rectangular outlines. A mechanical hatch opens to the rear.
Beyond the hatch Stak discovers a small cargo space featuring acceleration couches for half a dozen non-human passengers and a smaller cage at the very back for cargo…or prisoners. The blue sphere still hovers outside the open cargo ramp along the left underside of the ship. What horrors await those foolish or luckless enough to make the trip to space as prisoners inside the cage? Stak takes cover within the cargo bay and surveys the battlefield outside.
Bannstone opens the main hatch and fires heat pulses from his mutant hands, burning the ‘tech-bug’ just now standing up in front of the Zephyr. The creature returns fire with a small handheld projector, but misses. It’s companion (wielding the bulky ‘negation gun’) scuttles toward the lifeless security bot, trying to interpose the bot’s bulk between itself and the dome.
Humongous tosses aside the broken launcher and readies his man-portable Fusion Rifle. The onrushing warrior from the ridge fires beams and missiles with incredible accuracy while bounding across the rocks. This time, several brutal hits blast through duralloy armor into Mongo’s exposed flesh. The armor’s medical system triages and treats the resulting wounds as best it can.
Stak fires a dozen silenced rounds from his hiding place in the alien cargo hold. The tech-bug is cut down from the flank as it tries to take cover from Mongo and Gooptaz. That’s two more notches in the composition stock. It seems these primitive assault rifles are still useful when skillfully wielded and the target’s armor isn’t too heavy. Gooptaz trades shots with the battle-bug taking cover behind the security bot. Both have excellent cover and heavy armor. Neither score any significant hits.
The repair bot uses anti-grav pods to fly out of the Zephyr. It lands and rolls toward the remaining tech-bug. The creature misses with several panicky shots from it’s hand-beamer. Bannstone also misses with his second heat-beam shot. From his position inside the alien cargo hold, Stak notices a small object stuck to the top of the deactivated Zephyr and radios this to Bannstone and Titus. Unfortunately neither can easily reach the top of the Zephyr without being dangerously exposed.
The tall armored warrior is now only 60 meters distant from the dome. Just as Humongous fires the fusion rifle, lighting up the dome in brilliant orange, two blue-white energy beams projected from the warrior’s right arm strike home. The first critically burns and disables Mongo’s right leg. The 2nd completely incinerates the armor protecting his head, rendering him instantly comatose and hovering on the edge of death. Only the robotic medical system keeps Mongo’s remaining organ systems functioning. To everyone’s horror, Mongo is out of the fight and likely permanently disabled, if not dead!
Coruscating orange flares of nuclear energy from Mongo’s fusion rifle go wild. One blasts a hole in the duralloy dome and another burns a great smoking scar across the frozen tundra outside. Seeing this disaster, Strelok pulls the new Omega Suit from the nearby pile of loot and starts to squeeze into it. This advanced jumpsuit provides additional energy screen protection…and major stealth capability, just in case escape becomes a priority.
Gooptaz is hit by energy beams from the monster-sized battle-bug hiding behind the security bot, suffers a serious wound to the head and loses consciousness. The power armor suit medical system goes to work on the head wound and also injects a potentially deadly stim-dose, shocking Gooptaz into instant blood-mad wakefulness. Fortunately the battle-madness drug does not poison the mutant. It would be ironic for the team medic to be euthanized by his own power armor.
The retreating battle-bug has reached the ship’s open cargo bay and is actively searching for Sleestak’s hiding place. Stak pops it with six rifle shots, emptying his first magazine. The creature fires it’s powerful energy carbine, hitting once. Stak’s energy-proof hide again saves him from a serious wound. The creature’s second shot misses, blowing a hole in the hull of the cargo hold.
The remaining ‘tech-bug’ near the Zephyr hits Bannstone with it’s small energy pistol. The energy burns through the armored spacesuit and cripples Bannstone’s left leg, but he manages to avoid a fall by hanging onto the open hatch. Bann unslings his heavy sniper rifle and lets it drop to the snow-dusted rocks beneath the Zephyr.
Stak takes cover and rolls a grenade down the cargo ramp as the bulky 2-meter creature searches for it’s assailant. The primitive frag grenade explodes, knocking the creature down and blasting off a large armor panel. Air whooshes as the vacuum is broken and earth atmosphere rushes in. Violet ichor spurts from a great wound in the exposed black and purple-streaked carapace. Stak jumps down from the cargo bay and uses power-armored fists to tear off the armored monster’s head before it can again bring the energy projector to bear.
The Security Bot comes back to life after being out of action for 30 seconds. It quickly destroys the surprised battle-bug that was using it for cover, then rolls forward on crippled wheels toward the next nearest enemy. The unfortunate tech-bug still standing in front of the Zephyr is caught between the behemoth security bot and a torch-wielding repair bot. It is quickly burned and beaten to a smoking pulp.
Bannstone drops down into the snow beneath the Zephyr, sets up the sniper rifle and takes three shots at the armored warrior approaching from the west. Two miss entirely. The third bounces harmlessly off the gray-white armor. Unfortunately this draws attention and swift retaliation. Bannstone’s right leg is completely burned off above the knee by a direct hit from the blinding energy beam. Vaporized snow and permafrost fills the air around the Zephyr.
In a feat of robotic dexterity, Strelok manages to don the Omega Suit and activate the additional force screen. The android-brained bot rushes over to the burning hulk that once was Humongous, locates and lifts the fusion rifle from nerveless armored fists. Strelok is now concealed by his stealth-field projector and Mongo’s red-hot armor.
The mighty three-meter tall alien warrior, lord of the battlefield, bounds past the dome searching the corpse-strewn tundra for additional targets. It fails to spot Strelok concealed behind the flickering hulk of Humongous. At forty meters, Strelok unleashes a devastating jet of plasma from the fusion rifle’s magnetic containment chamber. The plasma explodes against the alien armor to blast a large hole in the left chest plate. As the white-armored form skids across the rocky tundra, a 2nd gush of energy burns off its entire left arm. Unfortunately the warrior’s deadly energy projector is located on the right arm. Strelok drills a hole in it’s left leg with shoulder-mounted laser pistol, but still the smoking giant struggles to rise.
Titus runs out of the Zephyr to administer life-saving CPR to Bannstone. Gooptaz is hopped up on stim-dose and practically flies across the battlefield to reach the Zephyr. One of the new medi-kits is applied to trim and seal the burned stump where Bannstone’s right leg used to be.
The fallen warrior struggles to point the deadly arm-mounted beamer at Strelok, who fires first. The warriors left leg is burned halfway off. The excess energy blasts a 1-meter hole in the rocky tundra, flipping the massive armored form. The fusion rifle magnetic barrel fails with the next shot. Unfocused plasma energy explodes in all directions. Strelok scrambles away from the flaring rifle and continues firing at the struggling form with blaster carbine and shoulder-mounted laser. The huge being survives another four hits from laser and blaster before finally succumbing. Blue-green smoke and flame pours from the twisted hulk.
- Situation Map, 00:01 hours
Back in the Xarmid scout ship, Stak hears a voice from the cockpit. The distorted image of a face has appeared on the center of the blank control surface. The strange visage repeats a verbal message barely understandable through multiple layers of harmonic distortion.
“We have transmitted this message directly to the Xarmid scout craft at great risk, as their masters might intercept hyperspace transmissions. If this is the group we communicated with at Delta Star 419, we are happy to find that you have survived the shuttle crash and retrieved the Zephyr from Ares Base. Unfortunately, the Xarmid mercenaries will now be actively hunting you. Additional Tendrakkai Warriors may be dispatched as well. Please leave the vicinity of Omega Control Base within the hour, or you will be destroyed. If you return directly to your old bases in Utah using the Zephyr, you will surely be destroyed along with your friends. Hide the Zephyr far away, in a place concealed from satellite or aerial observation, and return to your home by other means. We do not know how, or when, we will again communicate. Good Luck.”
The comatose Humongous and Bannstone are lifted into the Zephyr. Titus hovers the Zephyr around the battlefield while Strelok, Gooptaz and Sleestak jump from the open cargo ramp to retrieve dropped weapons and equipment. There are many strange weapons, explosives and other unknown devices, some damaged in the fight but a few still nearly-perfect. Stak jumps up onto the Zephyr and pries off the 20cm gray hemisphere for Strelok.
Stak cuts the armored head from the hulk of the dead Tendrakkai Warrior, revealing a strange alien face. The granite-like stuff of this being is extremely dense and heavy. Only the energy dagger is able to cut through the metallic bones that connect head to body. Strelok sees that the armor locomotive system works on some principle unknown to earth science…perhaps something akin to miniaturized force-fields or anti-gravity ‘muscles’. Unfortunately the complete armor and body are too heavy to lift into the Zephyr in the short time remaining. Titus nervously eyeballs the radar scope, knowing that arriving Xarmid reinforcements probably won’t be detected anyway.
A few examples of the smaller ‘Xarmid’ corpses are tossed into the cargo hold. Rivulets of multi-colored ichor seep across the corrugated metal floor. The motorcycles and loot from the Control Base is thrown aboard. There was not enough time to retrieve the heavy snowmobiles. Stak uses energy dagger and power armor fists to destroy the cockpit and other mysterious mechanisms found in the rear quarter of the Xarmid scout craft. The Zephyr rockets away into the arctic night, leaving behind a battlefield strewn with the corpses of strange beings. Titus mutters under his breath, “…insufficient payback for your crimes here…and for my father, my lost friends and all the people of earth.”
GM note to players:
A few known hiding places in the Utah wilderness that might accommodate the Zephyr.
- Omega Bunker 4: 200km northwest of New Salt City. Also, see Session 36.
- Dome City 12 – ARLU: 80km west of Black Mountain. Also, see Session 8.
- The ruined terminal found on Day 6 of the skyship expedition: isolated mountain valley 50km east of Efram (now abandoned). Also, see IVT Session 8.
You might think of some other hiding places, based on maps or previous sessions. Using the Zephyr, you could also search for new/undiscovered locations west or east of the I15 corridor. Hint: wait for bad weather before searching, like dust/storms/heavy clouds, and fly only at night and nape-of-the-earth.