Project Apex

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blaster219
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Re: Project Apex

Postby blaster219 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:55 am

S02E11 - Wayward Part 2

Friday, August 17, 2418
Calder, 51 Tauri system, 176.31 light years from Earth

After making sure that the captured man was secure, Snake set about purging the sedative from Carlos's system. While they waited, Face (being the only person who spoke Spanish) attempted to interrogate the man. Even with the help of Snake's pheromones, it seemed he was a tough nut to crack.

Terminal did a quick scan the computers in the farmhouse to see if he could find any sign of Mouse or a clue to his whereabouts. Finding no information, he moved on to checking out the spaceship. He quickly found a series of poorly hidden compartments most likely used for smuggling. Inside were a number of tightly packed plastic parcels that looked suspiciously liked drugs. Still no sign of Mouse.

Back at the "interrogation", they finally made a breakthrough after Rhino carried through on a threat (delivered via Face) and shot the man in the leg. After unleashing a stream of insults and curses (switching fluently between English and Spanish several times a sentence), it was clear that he had been faking the language barrier. He eventually agreed to answer their questions as long as they "kept that perra away from him."

After some prodding, he admitted that Mouse had been at the farm but that he'd handed him over to the military; there was a sizeable reward on offer for capture of the "rebel cadets" that had stolen a military ship and ran off to join the terrorists. USNDF military police had collected Mouse the previous day and had taken him to the Forward Operations Base. That explained where Mouse was but not why they still had Carlos tied up in the basement, nor what they had planned to do with him. The why was simple, it was because he was "that Ayala's kid". It turns out there was some sort of feud going on between the Ayalas and the Salazars. A feud made worse because Victor Ayala, Carlos's father, was a Federal Marshall and the highest-ranking Marshall on Calder at that. What they had planned to do with Carlos, well Rafael (the surviving Salazar brother) admitted they hadn't thought about that part yet.

With no more information to be obtained, they decided to lock him up in the same basement that the he'd kept Carlos. Terminal and Ghost unloaded the ship of the suspected drugs and torched them.

By this point, Carlos had regained consciousness. They asked him just what had happened. He explained that as soon as they entered orbit something had hit the ship and Mouse had bundled the both of them into an escape pod. That was pretty much the last thing he remembered clearly. Face wanted to know why he'd asked Mouse to come with him. "I may be able to ride a horse, drive a quad bike and bullseye a volksrat with .22 hunting rifle, but I can't hotwire a security system or fly a spaceship ... plus he's my friend."

On the way back to the dropship the group discussed what to do next; Ghost understandably wanted to go and rescue Mouse, Terminal said the problems with the planet's terraforming infrastructure were more important "and it's not as if he's going anywhere." Carlos wanted to go find his family. He was overruled until he pointed out that his family owned the next farm over "we just came down a few miles off course, but since we were falling out of orbit in an escape pod at the time, that's pretty good."

The flight to the Ayala farm in the next valley only took a couple of minutes. From the air, it was obvious that the farm was no longer a working farm, the fields were left fallow and no farm animals could be seen. Carlos explained that the family had stopped using the farm as an actual farm since before he was born but still lived on the land, preferring the country to the city. As soon as they landed Carlos was out the door calling for his father, brother (Esteban) and his brother's wife (Maria). There was no answer, and the garage was empty.

Carlos entered a code onto the keypad next to the front door and ran through the house but no one was home. When someone suggested he call his dad's work number to see if he was there, he ran over to the vidscreen and switched it on. Normal channels had been over ridden by a message that was being broadcast by the Colony Alert System; a planet wide communications override that was intended for use in emergencies. Switching the default language of the vidscreen from Spanish to English, the message read:

"Due to damage to the planet's terraforming infrastructure, catastrophic failure of Calder's environment is expected within the next few days. Because of this, a colony-wide state of emergency has been declared. All citizen's are urged to remain calm and begin making their way to Calder City as soon as possible where emergency shelters beneath the city have been established. To repeat, catastrophic failure of the planet's environment is imminent, the surface will be uninhabitable. Please make your way to the colonial capital as quickly as possible. Anyone unable to make the journey is urged to contact the Federal Marshall's Office in Calder City using the emergency comm code attached to this broadcast."

Carlos explained that the shelters were probably located in the geofront beneath the city. A massive cavern excavated during terraforming by detonating subterranean nuclear devices. It'd be a squeeze but the colony's population of 2.6 million could be housed for a short time.

After some discussion, Rhino decided that the team should head to Calder City. If they wanted to fix the orbital shade, they needed spare control boards and propellant for the shade's thrusters. Both of which were more likely to be found at the colonial capital than anywhere else. Furthermore, they might be able to get the assistance of the Federal Marshals if their captain was Carlos's father; he'd probably be grateful that they'd rescued his son from being a brainwashed super solider.

A twenty-minute flight led brought them to Calder City, a picturesque city built on a spit of land a few miles wide between two flooded craters, each of which would easily have been visible from space. Picturesque that is if it wasn't for the pall of smoke that hung over the city from the raging inferno a short distance to the north. From their research, they knew the fire was near the Terragen complex. They landed outside the city and walked in. The streets were crowded with people making their way towards the emergency shelters in the heart of the city.

After battling through the crowds and traffic, they eventually found themselves in front of the headquarters of the Federal Marshal Service on Calder. The building was pockmarked with bullet impacts from small arms fire and manned barricades secured the front entrance. As they approached the entrance, weapons and armour concealed to the best of their ability, one of the two Marshall's standing guard looked up, startled as if he had seen a ghost. Staring at Carlos, he spoke into his radio. "Jefe? Será mejor que aquí. Hay alguien que quiere verlo."

A man in a Marshal's uniform stepped out, squinting in the artificial sunlight. "¡Papá!" Carlos ran forward hugging the surprised man who turned out to be his father.

As soon as gushing, emotional reunion was over and done with Marshal Ayala turned to Echo Team to thank them for returning his son. He stopped as he realised that he'd seen them before. Because they'd saved his son, he was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when he remembered the "All Systems Warning" from the USNDF about their renegade cadets. After a brief demonstration of their abilities, he was convinced of their intentions; even out in the Deep Range Colonies they had heard about the Apex Dossier.

In private, Echo Team asked him about the situation with the terraforming infrastructure. It turns out that the colonial authorities knew about the communication problems but not the venting of the thruster propellant. Terminal mentioned that a virus had been uploaded to the orbital installations from the Terragen facility that burned out all the communication boards and dumped the propellant. Terminal was also concerned that the virus shared similarities with the virus that had infected the Safehouse's systems last month (see S02E04); although its function was different it's codebase was identical implying that it came from the same source. He chose not to disclose this information to the Marshall. The Marshall mentioned that they had spare control boards that were compatible with the solar shade stored down in the Geofront. When Face asked about the propellant, the Marshall just pointed at the inferno on the horizon. "The Separatists blew up the fuel depot?" Face asked.

"No, the terrorists just tried to use the orbital mirrors to create a kind of orbital Archimedes Laser to destroy the USNDF FOB. As you can imagine, the military took offence at that and launched an airstrike."

The Marshall went on to explain that the USNDF had no way of knowing about the virus disabling the orbital infrastructure. Even if the Terragen complex was damaged beyond repair, backup facilities were located in the GeoFront. Rhino broached the delicate subject of where his sympathies may lie; the USN government or the Seperatists. His response was simple. "My job is to ensure the peace, uphold the law and protect the citizens on my patch. I don't much care who pays the departmental budget as long as they don't get in the way of my men performing their duties."

He also mentioned that the USNDF base was in the process of evacuating all their personnel and he didn't exactly expect any help from them in evacuating the 2.6 million colonists on Calder. The Marshall left at that point, followed by Carlos, to oversee the evacuation. Before Carlos left, Rhino took him to one side.

"You've got a difficult decision to make Carlos, we were sent here to bring you and Mouse back. You need to decide if you want to stay here or..."

"I'm staying."

"Good enough for me."

By now, Ghost was getting pretty anxious to rescue Mouse from the USNDF FOB. Terminal accessed a weather satellite and managed to get a sat photo of the Forward Operations Base. It was still under construction but you could easily see the level of troops and hardware at the base. Rhino studied the footage and concluded that for five people to infiltrate a base on high alert and infiltrate one of the most secure parts of the base without backup or intelligence would be difficult. In fact, in her opinion, it was virtually impossible to do it without being captured.

That's when Snake suggested they don't even try not to be captured. As far as the local USNDF know, Echo Team is just a bunch of wayward cadets with no special abilities. Why don't they intentionally allow themselves to be captured, meet up with Mouse and then hijack whatever ship their put on during the evacuation? As far as plans go, it wasn't the worst they could come up with and it could work. Ghost didn't like the plan, having an aversion to being a prisoner again, no matter how short or voluntary. Rhino agreed to allow him to use his stealth implants to remain invisible and accompany them; acting as their "secret weapon" for the hijack attempt.

It took a bit of convincing, but they eventually managed to persuade Marshall Ayala to help (he did "owe them one" after all) by pretending to arrest them on terrorism charges and then handing them over to the military police. So, after stowing their armour and weapons aboard their dropship (Terminal had rigged up a program within the Pelican's autopilot to automatically fly to their location when it received a signal), they dutifully filed into the cells; practicing the sullen and rebellious expressions.

Twenty minutes later, after Marshall Ayala had made the call, USNDF MP's arrived to take Echo Team into custody. Handcuffed and shackled, they were led onto a hover transport and flown to the FOB. As soon as they landed, they were marched to the brig and locked up. Waiting for them, lying back on a bunk with a bandaged leg, was Mouse who looked up at them with a bemused expression and came in. "What took you guys so long?"

He didn't seem that concerned about being locked up, or worried that in a few hour he was supposed to be on a ship bound for Earth. While he was grateful that Echo had come all this way to rescue him, he smirked as if he knew something they didn't; content to lay back and just play internet poker over his connection to the Commonwealth Hypernet.

Meanwhile...

USNDF Calder Forward Operations Base, Orbital Monitoring Station

Private Hauksson yawned and watched the ground crew loading another space transport. Behind him, the console Private Wiezman was sat beeped. "We've got a slipspace event detection, 6 AU out, right on the edge of detection range."

"Send a routine identification request," Hauksson said dismissively, "it'll take at least an hour and a half for a response to come back."

"Should we alert System Defence?"

"Nah, it'll be hours before their in range to do anyth..." He was interrupted by another beep from the computer, this one repeating continuously. Wiezman bent over the console, his eyes narrowed in confusion.

"The SED Array's picked up another event at the same location ... a second one in orbit around Calder!"

"What?"

"It's saying that something just jumped into low planetary orbit, from in-system!"

"An in-system SlipSpace jump? That's impossible."

"I'm telling you, that's what the computer is saying. That ship just jumped 1.8 billion kilometres directly into low orbit, below the defence grid and has already begun a descent vector towards the base. And the ship, it's massive!"

"Oh my God, it's the Commies, this isn't happening!"

Back in the brig...

Echo Team's conversation was rudely interrupted by the wail of an emergency siren. "Right on time," Mouse said sitting up. Ghost and Terminal quickly unlocked the cell doors and everyone headed out of the brig, finding the guards gone. Outside it was a pure chaos as a 2km long ship broke through the cloud deck and assumed a hover over the FOB.

The markings on the side of the dirty white hull were in Cyrillic and read Содружество Исследование службы судна Одиссея Один, or in English, Commonwealth Exploration Service Vessel Odyssey One. Catching the USNDF completely by surprise, the Commonwealth ship's hanger bay opened up, disgorging what could only be described as 6 meter tall mechs (although Mouse would later say that the Commonwealth reffered to them as Mechanised Assualt Vehicles, or MAVs for short and more commonly called Maverics). The MAVs surrounded Echo Team in a protected cordon as a small hover transport came down from the Odyssey and landing next to them.

A man stepped out, a man Echo Team had met several times before; the agent from Commonwealth Security who was also Mouse's father. "Why is it whenever Alexis is in trouble, I find you five with him?" He asked, half-jokingly.

He offered to give them a lift "before the local soldiers mistake this extraction of an illegally imprisoned Commonwealth citizen for the prelude to a planetary invasion." Taking them up the Odyessy in the hover transport, they were escorted by the MAVs. As soon as they were aboard, the massive ship quickly left the atmosphere and returned to orbit.

Terminal sent the signal to summon their dropship and as they waited, Echo Team told Agent Petrov about the problems with Calder's orbital terraforming infrastructure. While the Odyssey could easily fabricate replacement communication boards, the propellant used in the Odyssey's RCS thrusters was incompatible with the solar shade's thrusters. Petrov suggested an alternative; Rhino had already programmed a burn sequence for the shade's thrusters that could nudge the shade back into position, if she could modify it, then the Odyssey's Maverick squadron could take the place of the thrusters. It would only be temporary solution but it should last long enough for help to arrive.

Rhino sat down and reconfigured her solution. Her new plan called for every available MAV to be deployed which meant that Rhino, Mouse, Snake and Terminal took control of spare MAVs and joined the operation. Together they were able to temporarily correct the solar shade's position.

After the operation, Face asked to speak to Agent Petrov in private. He asked if the agent knew anything about a group called the Circle. The question seemed to alarm Petrov, and the agent demanded to know where he'd heard that name. Face explained that he suspected (with little or no evidence) the group may have been behind some of the incidents that had been inflaming tensions between the USN and the Separatists. He and Terminal had also met a dataghost inside Mouse's mindscape during the Commonwealth's attempt to forcibly repatriate Mouse, she had originally claimed to be an agent with Commonwealth Security, but it turned out she was a double-agent working for something called The Circle.

The news that the Circle may be active with the Union was extremely worrying for Petrov. His advice to Face was if it is true that The Circle was active in the Union, and if their agenda had remained the same as they used to be, then the best thing that Face and his friends could do was "get a ship, and leave. Get out of the Union as fast as you can."

Face asked what the Circle's agenda was. "It's been over 150 years since they were last active in the Commonwealth, but back then their goal was simple. They wanted to destroy the USN. Completely. Utterly. They came close, once, when they released an illegal nanotech weapon on the Martian colonists in 2238. I believe you called it the 'Fire Plague'. After they did this, Commonwealth Security hunted them down. We believed they were destroyed. Looks like we were wrong."

While Face and Agent Petrov spoke, Terminal got a panicked message from Carlos over his comm. "I was trying to get in touch with Psipher, I wanted him to explain why I wouldn't be going back. But something's gone wrong back at the transport. You've got to get back as quickly as you can. He says the General's dead!"

Carlos said that according to Psipher, the Warbeast corpse that Echo Team had brought back from the NXG labs on Serpens (see S02E09) wasn't as dead as they thought. It had reanimated, regenerated or something and attacked the crew of the Drake. Terminal rounded everyone up and told them the news. It was time to leave. Face asked if there was any way that the Odyssey could drop them off but Petrov said it was impossible. They were already pushing it by bringing the ship into Union space in the first place. Jumping that close to the USN core worlds might be taken as an act of war. "However," he said, "give us thirty minutes with that Pelican of yours and we might be able to upgrade your SlipSpace drive."
"Heroes get shot, stabbed, burned, bludgeoned, poisoned, infected, disintegrated, irradiated, electrocuted, exposed to vacuum and fall from great heights. Being a hero is a tough job."
- Alternity GMG, Chapter 6 (Damage and Injury)

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Re: Project Apex

Postby blaster219 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:01 am

S02E12 - Warbeasts

Friday, August 17, 2418
Zeta Tucanae,161.55 light years from Earth


With the Commonwealth SlipSpace drive installed, the journey back to PAT-36 only took a few hours. One of the Commonwealth engineers had tried to go through the changes to the Pelican's hardware and software with Rhino and Terminal, but they were in hurry. Luckily, Mouse could access and download the required documentation directly into his brain thanks to his hypernet connection. This gave him a good excuse to go back to the PAT and he was able to convince his father to let him go.

That PAT had moved for security reason from AX Microscopii to a nearby system, Zeta Tucanae. When they entered the system, they jumped through Slipspace to point a few thousand kilometres away from the PAT's position. The Drake was drifting about a kilometre from the PAT and the Remora was missing. Rhino scanned the Drake with the Pelican's sensors whilst Face conducted a telepathic scan. According the sensor's, the Drake was dead in space, its decks open to the vacuum. Despite this, Face could pick up three active minds on the vessel. His telepathic abilities however didn't have the finesse necessary to determine who, or what, those minds were. As they got close to the two ships, they could see that the Drake had suffered damage to its airlock as if it had torn away from PAT without first disengaging the docking collar. This would make boarding it a difficult task.

Meanwhile, Terminal attempted to make contact with the PAT. A young voice answered the radio; it was Kerani Guneta, a pyrokinetic and one of the kids rescued from Io. She sounded scared as she explained that the monster had woken up and broke out of containment, attacking anyone it came across. The General had managed to contain it on the Drake but a lot of people got injured. Terminal asked who had been aboard the Drake when it undocked. "Umm, Frost and the Drake's crew. I think." Unsatisfied by the vague answers, he asked if there was an adult he could speak to. It turned out that most of the adults left were the civilian family members that Delta Team had been extracting over the last couple of weeks. Already in stressed by the recent revelations regarding their children, the events of the last 24 hours had pushed many into a full-blown panic. It was taking the combined efforts of both Psipher and Chameleon to prevent things getting out of hand. Sawbones was being rushed off her feet treating the wounded, which included Glock. So no, there wasn't an adult he could speak to.

Convinced that the warbeast was confined to the Drake, Rhino decided that they should don suits and sweep then craft. Looking for any survivors and destroying the alien creature on sight. They briefly docked with the PAT and off-loaded Mouse (who was quickly given a telekinetic punch by Psipher before being put to work) since they only had enough suits for Echo Team (one less due to Snake not needing one). The Pelican also didn't have an airlock so if they wanted to use it to board the stricken Drake, they'd have to vent the dropship. After they had done this, they parked the Dropship a dozen or so meters away from the Drake's ruined airlock. Leaping across the gap between the two vessels was straightforward, even if they had missed their scheduled zero-g combat training course back in June. For Snake, it was no problem at all, as his armour had an integrated Combat Mobility Harness that included zero-g thrusters.

The Pelican was left on autopilot, its remote control ports open. Rhino had ordered Mouse to use the dropship's weapons to destroy the Drake if he didn't hear back from them after an hour.

One by one they touched down in the airlock. The gravity plating was still on, and the ship's lighting still worked which meant that the ship still had power. A quick inspection showed that the inner airlock door was open as was the inter-deck bulkheads. The Drake's decks were open-plan and individual rooms and corridors were not airtight. However, emergency bulkheads across stairwells and the elevator shaft could quickly close, sealing off individual decks in the event of a breech. This was supposed to happen automatically and independently of the ship's main systems, triggered by rapid loss of atmospheric pressure. That the bulkheads had not closed indicated that someone had manually overridden the system.

Face could still detect three presences on board the Drake; one in the bridge at the top of the Drake's conning tower, one a deck below in the Engineering compartment, and a third in the cargo bay at the base of the ship. He tried to address them telepathically to see if he could get them to break radio silence while Terminal scanned through all available frequencies in order to make contact. There was no response. Rather than split up, Rhino decided they should attempt to head towards the bridge. Even though they had been mind-wiped and brainwashed by the military, they still retained enough genre-awareness to know that splitting up would be a catastrophically bad idea.

Ghost, stealth field on, took point, closely followed by Terminal. Quickly, but stealthily, the team climbed the stairs to the bridge. The cramped room was deserted. As the team looked around, Face over to the small evac airlock at the rear of the bridge. He had a momentary flash of danger just as he opened the door to reveal the warbeast. That split second warning gave him just enough time to get out of the way. In the cramped confines of the bridge, the warbeast couldn't use its speed or chameleon abilities. After a short but brutal fight, the warbeast was defeated; an entire clip was emptied into its body to ensure that it was dead, even if it was only temporary.

Almost as soon as they had made sure it was "dead", the lights went out. Terminal tried to access the bridge controls but wasn't quick enough to prevent control of the ship rerouted to engineering one system at a time.

Wasting no time, Echo Team hurried down several flights of stairs to the Main Deck. The Engineering Compartment was located at the end of a long and narrow corridor that passed two of the ship's escape pods. Bursting into the chamber, they found it deserted again. Face conducted a quick telepathic scan of the ship and found no sign of any active minds other than their own. Eagle-eyed Ghost spotted a grate leading to the maintenance ducts had been prised open.

The ship lurched beneath their feet and they felt the dull rumble of the engines briefly firing. Terminal again tried to access the ship's controls but discovered that the navigational controls had been rerouted to a remote terminal that he couldn't locate. Using the ship's sensors he discovered that the docking thrusters had fired and the Drake was moving towards the PAT. Short of blowing the Drake up, there was nothing Terminal could do to stop the ship. However, he did have access to the life control systems and at Rhino's insistence he sealed the inner airlock and pressurised the ship, restoring the lights at the same time.

Assuming that the "person" responsible for rerouting controls and seizing control of the navigation systems was a warbeast raised uncomfortable questions about their supposed intelligence. Never mind the question of just where a second warbeast had come from (not to mention a third since they now assumed that all three mental signatures that face had detected were warbeasts).

With an atmosphere now present, Rhino's enhanced hearing could detect something crawling through the ducts away from them. Shedding her spacesuit, she crawled into the duct (how Ripley of her) and ordered the rest of the team to try and head of the warbeast. Crawling through the ducts, she relayed updates on the warbeast's location and movement. Eventually she tracked it to a shaft leading down into the cargo bay. Hoping to cut off any potential avenue of escape, Echo Team split up, each of them taking one of the four stairways down to the cargo bay while Rhino dropped down the shaft.

She landed in a pile of gore; a slushy mix of organic matter. It was only when she noticed bits and pieces of clothing mixed in that she realised she was standing in the shredded and pulped remains of the crew. The rest of Echo Team ran into the darkened cargo bay to ambush the remaining two warbeasts. But there wasn't two beasts, there were six. Spread about the cargo bay and ready to pounce. Echo Team had been lured into a trap.

Outnumbering the Apex Renegades, the warbeasts used their superior numbers to lock down individual members of Echo Team. With their regenerative abilities, they proved a serious challenge to Echo Team; their injuries healing as fast as they were inflicted. When Snake attempted to use his neurotoxin cloud attacks, they seemed to be aware of the danger and were content to wait for the cloud to dissipate. This earned Snake the undivided attention of two warbeasts.

After incapacitating one warbeast, Ghost ran to help Terminal who was just about holding his own against one. Face found himself in a standoff with one that employed its chameleon abilities to perform a series of rapid hit-and-fade attacks.

During the battle, the ship again fired its thrusters and began to accelerate towards the PAT. The PAT responded by beginning to move off but its response was met by the Drake firing its main engines. Terminal could access the logs and saw that the Drake was on a collision course. According to the logs, the Drake was programmed to ram the PAT in one of the hanger bays. However, there was a stroke of luck. Right at the moment that the course was inputted, Terminal sensed a burst of radio communications coming from the remote terminal. He tracked it back and discovered that the remote terminal was in fact one of the warbeasts. Specifically the one that was attacking Face.

Before he could deliver this information, Ghost accidentally embedded his sword in deck whilst attempting to skewer a prone warbeast. Terminal had to help the disarmed Ghost who was about to be jumped from behind. Things didn't look good as the prone warbeast recovered and got to its feet.

On the other side of the cargo bay, Face saw his brother's predicament. He lined up his sniper rifle, blocked out all distractions (including the fact that an invisible warbeast was stalking him) and fired. The 14.5mm round rocketed out of the barrel of his gun, streaked across the entire length of the cargo where it expertly threaded its way through the melee between Rhino, Snake and two warbeasts, and struck the head of the one about to strike his brother. The force of the bullet's impact tore a huge hole in the warbeast's head, obliterating its head and killing it instantly.

After this one-in-a-million shot, then tide began to turn. By focusing on individual warbeasts, they were able to disable all but one warbeast. Unfortunately, it was the one remote controlling the Drake. At some point during the battle, it had gone invisible and left the cargo bay. Terminal wasn't about to give up. When he detected a door opening on the Science Deck, he knew precisely where it was. Overriding the safety protocols, he locked down the deck and vented it do space. Startled, the warbeast lost its invisibility and Terminal saw it being sucked into space.

Out of range of the Drake, the warbeast lost the ability to control it and the navigation controls were unlocked. Terminal quickly fired the RCS thrusters and averted collision with the PAT.
"Heroes get shot, stabbed, burned, bludgeoned, poisoned, infected, disintegrated, irradiated, electrocuted, exposed to vacuum and fall from great heights. Being a hero is a tough job."
- Alternity GMG, Chapter 6 (Damage and Injury)

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Re: Project Apex

Postby blaster219 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:00 am

Season 2 Epilogue

Friday, August 17, 2418
Zeta Tucanae,161.55 light years from Earth


After regaining control of the Drake, it was time to mop up the aftermath. The corpses of the warbeast's killed by Echo Team were loaded on to the Pelican and jettisoned towards the system's sun. It was hoped that even they wouldn't be able to come back from a stellar cremation. Other than the pile of gore, no trace of Frost or the Drake's crew was found. Doctor Marshall did an analysis and discovered protein strands and DNA fragments indicating a human origin. Although he said there wasn't enough biomass in the pile to account for the missing men.

Agent Barrett had left before the incident on a mission, taking the Remora with him. With him gone, and with the loss of Frost, a question of leadership arose. In an effort to prevent things from spiralling out of control, Rhino took command. Using the repair and recovery efforts to stabilise the situation and calm everyone down. Her firm and confident attitude persuaded many to overlook the fact that she was just 15. Those that couldn't were gently reminded by both Delta and Echo teams that despite their ages, they were vastly better prepared and suited for this sort of thing thanks to their training.

Slowly but surely, things began to calm down as the PAT remained hidden it Zeta Tucanae's debris disk.

Sunday, August 19, 2418
Tradestation Beta-4, Vega, 25.3 light years from Earth


Michelle Danvers stood and looked at the vacant eyed man sitting in the chair before turning to her subordinate. "Well? Anything useful?"

The telepathic agent nodded. "The scan revealed that he has been in contact with the Apex Renegades, the technopath in Echo Team to be precise."

"So what was young Ben after?"

"It seems Echo Team are trying to track down Ibrahim Oaken and the location of any facility operated by NXG Systems."

Danvers looked thoughtful for a second. "Did the fixer find any information?"

"On Oaken no, but he did manage to locate a 'Site B' operated by NXG on Hyannis, one of the moons of Barnstable in the Alsafi system."

"Interesting, but I think it would be much better if NXG's base was on Kage Station. Replace Hyannis in the fixer's memory with its extrasolar coordinates. Then erase any memory of him meeting us."

"Are you sure?" The telepath asked hesitantly.

"I think it's time that the Apex Renegades and PsyComm had a little chat," Danvers said smiling, "don't you?"

Monday, August 20, 2418
Unknown Location


The male figure stared at the footage with a growing sense of horror, his glowing form flicking in sync with his emotion. He didn't look away when the form of his female companion coalesced behind him. She was ranting in frustration about the Calder operation, on how the Apex brats had butted in and ruined her carefully orchestrated humanitarian disaster. It took her a few moments to notice what the male was looking at.

"It's a Union colony in the Primus Hyadum system, about 220 light years away," he explained, "or at least it was."

The footage continued to play. It had been taken be a hand held camera. Fires were burning, and mutilated bodies were lying in the street. The signs were that whatever had happened had happened recently, within the last 48 hours. However, despite the devastation, the only sound that could be heard were the crackling of flames. No emergency sirens, no screams or shouts, just silent devastation.

"I thought Calder was our target for Phase 2?" The women asked confused.

"It was, this wasn't us. This footage was taken by one of our undercover operatives. About an hour later, radiothermic warheads delivered from orbit incinerated all organic matter on the planet."

"Do we know who did it?"

"No, but our operative managed to acquire some data before the radiothermic blasts deactivated his avatar." He waved his hand and a virtual hologram appeared between them. It was a warbeast. "This creature appeared on the outskirts of the colony and massacred the entire population."

The female stared at it for several seconds before speaking. "What is it? Is it native to Primus?"

"Native?" The male said laughing without humour. "This thing is engineered. Its DNA shows obvious signs of artificial construction and its entire body is riddled with biosilicate nanostructures effecting creating a distributed supercomputer. The information processing capabilities of this creature are off the chart. If that wasn't enough, it possess cellular regenerative abilities that make it virtually impossible to kill permanently."

"Someone created this abomination?" The female said in disbelief.

The male spoke barely above a whisper. "Creating this, this is beyond our science."

"We've underestimated the Union's scientific and technological capabilities before," the female said carefully. "Despite Syndic propaganda, the Commonwealth's technology is not superior to the Union's in every aspect. Their terraforming technology is generations ahead of ours and the human enhancement abilities of Project Apex..."

"You don't understand," the male interrupted, "the science to create these things is beyond the Union AND the Commonwealth. It represents more than just a leap in ability. It would be like a stone age culture creating a fully working SlipSpace drive. These creatures were not created by human science."
"Heroes get shot, stabbed, burned, bludgeoned, poisoned, infected, disintegrated, irradiated, electrocuted, exposed to vacuum and fall from great heights. Being a hero is a tough job."
- Alternity GMG, Chapter 6 (Damage and Injury)


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