The Terran invaders are surrounded by alien security bots with their backs to a crumpled but still intact blast door. Near-boiling caustic water fills the vast dim space of the exoplanetary operations deck, refitted by the aliens for their own horrid purposes. A Sreelathan Master in submarine armor darts back and forth at incredible speed through the dark water between the containment chambers imprisoning Airy, Cassey, Josephine and Wintergreen.
Grey drops the shattered protonic axe and begins to sing his death song…and prepare his devastating mind waste psychic attack. He downs half a liter of mescal previously poured into his power armor’s internal camel-back and well known to strengthen the mental constitution of all sapients. Gooptaz administers the recently-acquired Mind-booster drug through a medical port.
Grek takes on one of the approaching security bots, a 1-meter black sphere with over/under turrets and four powerful tentacles. His micro-missile rifle shot is effective underwater at short range, taking out the alien energy screen in one shot. The 2nd gyrocket hits something critical. The sparking orb floats to the floor three meters below. Bannstone continues to hammer another approaching bot with the gyrojet pistol.
Sleestak readies his energy blade, takes cover and prepares to ambush the last bot as it approaches across the walkway. Sudomo manages to climb up the tangled wreckage below the landing, but just as he reaches the top he’s hit by powerful stun beams from which he has little protection. The third alien bot wraps Sudomo in its tentacles and speeds away through the murk. No one can intervene and Sudomo is not seen again.
As the remaining security bot crosses the walkway, Sleestak swings up from his hiding place and drives a glowing blue blade of force right through it’s center. The Bot’s energy screen is down and it explodes into purple and green fire. Stak kicks the wreckage away and dives over the side, moving as fast as his power armor will carry him along the floor below the central platform. Unfortunately power armor jump-jets are non-functional while submerged. Gooptaz lacks any effective ranged weapons so follows close behind Stak. Bannstone throws aside the empty gyrojet pistol, which doesn’t fall too far thanks to the lanyards devised by Strelok. The sneaky goat-man hybrid sets up his heavy Gauss rifle in a dark cranny between a bulkhead and the twisted blast door.
The approaching Sreelathan bears some kind of alien firearm…lighting fast projectiles pepper the area. Grey feels several impacts and notices long slivers of purple sticking out of his armor. The slivers come alive and begin writhing, but so far his massive armored shell keeps the little horrors at bay. The alien is now only 25 meters away. Grey reaches out through the ether and discharges the full force of his psychic attack into the alien nervous system. The attack is effective, but where a human might be literally blasted apart by the surge, the Sreelathan Master is only stunned. Grey readies his own energy blade and dives off the platform.
Bannstone zeroes in the Gauss rifle and begins pounding the stunned Sreelathan with hyper-velocity crysteel slugs. Grek joins in and fires off rockets 3 and 4 from his four-barreled micro-missile launcher. His incredible explosives skill puts the rockets right on target. The submersible’s protective energy screen expires in a balloon of green fire. Gooptaz reaches the base of the platform out of sight.
As Grey pounds across the floor below the platform, his mind is caught in a vise grip of incredible power. From his position on the landing Grek sees Grey tumble slowly to the floor…he does not respond to radio calls. Gooptaz is nearby and instantly realizes what has happened. The three-eyed humanoid prepares to inject a stim dose into Grey in case this might shake the Sreelathan’s mental grip.
Meanwhile Sleestak is approaching out of sight below the platform. He knows the location of the Sreelathan from Grek and Bannstone’s reports. There may be only one chance to attack the speedy submersible before the Sreelathan realizes it’s mistake in approaching too closely. Sleestak climbs up a structural column behind and beside the distracted alien and drives his energy blade through its midsection, cutting it nearly in two. A nimbus of black blood clouds the area.
At that moment two deadly black torpedoes drift into sight from around the containment chambers of Wintergreen and Josephine: type 2 alien bots! Sleestak is exposed atop the main platform and hit by multiple stun beams fired by the onrushing machines. His energy armor’s part-time (50%) force field provides only limited protection and the lizard-man is severely stunned but holds on to consciousness long enough to dive over the side. Triangular beams of blue distortion lance forth…alien deactivator beams! Fortunately the energy screen catches and stops the beams before they can knock out the armor’s energy supply. Sleestak tumbles through the dark water to the floor three meters below where Grey is just now regaining control of his senses. The ex-Mormon will be forever haunted by nightmares of falling into a dark swirling vortex of nothingness. Gooptaz switches patients and injects Stak with a stim-dose which shocks the mutant back into full alert without poisoning him in the process.
Bannstone takes aim through his thermal tactical sight and rocks the nearest bot with multiple Gauss rifle shots. He manages to avoid detection in his well hidden position beneath the shadow of the crumpled blast door. Grek breaks open the four-barrel missile rifle and slips in the last two rockets, both standard types rather than the special ‘Hydra’ depleted uranium/explosive variant.
Grey monkeys up the wall to the top of the platform and charges forward across the platform. His full-time energy screen wards off the barrage of stun and deactivator beams. Fortunately the alien plasma weapons don’t function underwater, but then neither do the dual blasters mounted in the forearms of Grey’s combine battle armor. He’ll be reduced to energy blade and powered-fists. As Grey charges into melee range, Grek and Bannstone blast away. Grek fires a single rocket…the missile strokes home against a green cocoon of reflective force. Gauss rifle slugs finish the job and the shield goes down. Sleestak is back in action thanks to Gooptaz’s medical attention. He climbs back up the side of the platform and attempts another ambush from behind the same structural column.
Two 2.5 meter black ovoid bots approach Grey from either side. Each possesses six powerful 3-meter long tentacles of segmented alien metallurgy. Grey strikes first and brings down the shields of the 2nd bot. A dozen flexible tentacles lash out. The 3-meter 350kg shell of duralloy creaks and groans as it is pulled in different directions. Red warning lights flash and boiling water squirts in through multiple fissures, but the armor and energy screen hold together against an attack that would have pulled apart anything or anyone else.
Grey’s struggle buys time for Sleestak to climb over the hulk of the dead Sreelathan Master and slash at the nearest bot. The alien spots Sleestak and stuns him again with beams, but has it’s sensors crippled in return and subsequent shots go wild. Bannstone loads a fresh drum of crysteel penetrators. Grek takes cover and holds on to his last rocket, just in case.
Grey and Grek grapple with the two security bots. Grey crushes and cuts one into junk. The 2nd is victimized by Sleestak’s energy blade seconds later. And not a moment too soon, as shadowy forms appear from the left and right sides of the deck. Two more Sreelathans, slight smaller and without any armor, enter the fray. The aliens must be getting desperate. According to Star Mother’s previous estimates, there can’t be more than 1 or 2 more Sreelathans unaccounted for at this point.
Grek takes aim at the far alien about 25 meters distant. In a miraculous shot with the very last rocket, he blasts a huge hole right through the center of the vaguely humanoid monster. Not much is left beyond tentacles, black gristle and a huge domed head with three platter-sized eyes.
Bannstone has managed to avoid detection for almost 45 seconds now. Not even the nearby Grek knows where he is at this point. The vaguely squid-like form of a Sreelathan takes shape in the glowing thermographic display. Even now Bannstone can feel insidious tentacles of mental power seeking out the fissures in his mind. The cross-hairs float over a huge glassy eye. BLAM! A stream of ten 4×60mm crysteel rods deliver 5MJ of kinetic energy to the unfortunate Sreelathan.
Horrific shadows dance across the flooded laboratory as light from burning bots and destroyed equipment shines through clouds of black blood and floating alien body parts. The Ghost Bears brace for the next ‘wave’, but the only sound is creaking metal and muffled explosions. Strelok still has no access to other ship systems so begins to follow the route provided by Star Mother to the small Command Bridge of the Daedalus. The B/C teams and their newfound ‘lost tribe’ allies are still deadlocked with defending Xarmids in the Crew Quarters deck.
The team quickly locates a zero-g elevator marked ‘Flight Operations Deck’. The swim ‘up’ the flooded cylinder is a long one. What awaits the team in the operations deck and bridge? Grey and Sleestak lead the way in to the Flight Operations Deck, a wide open 30 meter area with various movable seating and displays obviously intended to function as the main nerve center of Daedalus operations.
Except for heavy cables snaking along the floor from 3-meter alien power modules, the deck appears to be in largely original condition. And completely deserted. Just then Star Mother reports the alien frigate docked at the Command Bridge is moving rapidly away from the Daedalus, protected from the remaining X-ray laser by the bulk of the deployed EM projector dish. Grey, Strelok, Grek, Gooptaz and Bannstone rush up to the observation platform just in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of the departing spacecraft. The craft shortly disappears from sensor range (40,000km) using some form of inertialess propulsion unknown to terrestrial science.
Strelok meets the team a few minutes later in the small Command Bridge below the Flight Ops deck. The surviving aliens chose not to ‘go down with the ship’ without a moment to spare. Equipment and tools lie in disarray all over the deck, including a few alien computers that might contain a wealth of intelligence. Star Mother quickly regains control of ship systems removed from the network by the Sreelathans. Who knows what she will find?
The survivors of the savage battle for the Daedalus regroup to mourn lost heroes and celebrate the unlikely triumph of mankind’s remnants over the insidious machinations of a far superior alien race. Victory was possible only through the heroism of many people across many hundreds of years, and not least of all, the bizarre twists of fate documented herein. What lies in store for the heirs of humanity amid the wider universe?
Three months later the Daedalus leaves Jupiter behind and achieves .002% lightspeed. The antimatter ramjet thrusters are ignited and the Daedalus finally embarks on the long-overdue voyage to Epsilon Eridani with a compliment of 1,695 original colonists, ~2,000 new 28th century colonists, ~300 ‘Lost Tribes-people’, the android Titus Andronicus, and everyone else who elects to make the historic journey.