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SAL quickly observed the situation on their makeshift battlefield. He hadn't offered any advice in the planning of the defense strategy and instead had simply done what was asked of him, pulling furniture from the offices and supply closets to construct the barricade and a few lower barricades for the team to use as cover. The Skaldurm had burned through the sealed door with a laser torch, then shortly afterward had blasted through the barricade. Matija and Harrison bickered as the fight started and Tibulus had to run out and use the shock trap early to cover her retreat back to their cover. Then, as quickly as it began, there was a lull in the fighting, as the Skaldurm pulled back, just out of sight.

SAL heard the stomping of armored feet. It appeared the Skaldurm had devised a new plan of attack slightly faster than anticipated. After a quick chamber check to ensure his shotgun was loaded, he wheeled around the corner and saw them. A line of vikings were slowly making their way down the narrow hallway, the three in front hoisting steel slabs in front of them like shields. They must have used their laser torch to rip the door into smaller, more manageable pieces, or maybe even ripped paneling down from the walls of the entry chamber. Either way, this was less than ideal. Just as they reached the edge of the water puddle that remained on the floor, they stopped, and dropped the slab in the middle, covering up the water. Before SAL or anyone else cold loose a shot, the shield slab they dropped was replaced by another. Before they continued to walk forward, the barrels of several laser rifles poked out between the cracks in the shield wall and one by one began to open fire as they marched further down the hall. Nobody on his side moved or made any suggestion, so against his better judgement, SAL began to speak into the team comms and take charge of the situation.

"I calculate an 82.6% chance of us sustaining casualties if we remain in this configuration." He said, looking down at Koren and Harrison "You two pull back to the secondary position with Matija. When the lane opens, begin a concentrated stream of fire. Support trio, get ready to cover Harrison and Koren as they move back. Tobi, get ready."
@iTem@Xandrya@Gardevoiran@superservo27@Rultaos@t2wave@Shard@Silver Carrot@BKburke

"Taleste, come in.... Taleste do you read me? Damn it!" Stryker said, his hand falling away from his helmet as he looked to the others.

The ground under their feet rumbled and shook as the rocky surface at the center of the plateau began to split open, revealing a spiral staircase that twisted down into the depths of the dark hole in the earth.

"Taleste was captured, but she got the job done. If she's lucky, she's already dead, we have to honor her sacrifice by pushing forward and getting this job done. Besides" he added, looking up at the pulsing red light above them ".. they're probably gonna follow that right to us, and we have a better chance of defending ourselves down there in cover than out here in the open."

"They're already comin' Stryker" Grayson said, his cybernetic eye able to locate the faint signals of ships taking off from the settlement.

"Ok, everyone get down there!" Stryker said, pulling his rifle from it's sling and frantically jabbing at the controls on his wrist-computer to set the shuttle to auto-pilot itself back over to the ship. If they left it here, the Skaldurm would either destroy it or take it.

At the bottom of the stairs a few minutes later, the crew found themselves in a small circular room with a single door being the only way forward.

"Hey!" Stryker said, pounding on the door "Open up, we're with the Alliance, here to rescue you!"
The door clicked as it unlocked and slid open, revealing a narrow, decently-lit hallway. The walls were Alliance-standard sterile white, like a hospital. Doors leading on to other rooms lined the hallway on both sides. From the architectural plans he'd been provided, Stryker assumed this whole floor was the living quarters.
"Works every time." Stryker said to himself with a slight chuckle.

Once the last of them were inside the door slid shut again.
"We need this to stay locked." he ordered. SAL responded immediately by punching at an access panel, killing all power to the door, but also killing all the lights but the emergency lamps mounted on the walls.
"That works." he said, he looked around and picked the first three he saw "Ok, Grayson, Amy, Benny, you three with me, we'll grab the eggheads. The rest of you stay up here. Sure, we killed the power, but the Skaldurm are nothing if not resilient, they will break through that eventually, so grab whatever you can from the rooms up here, barricade it off, and set up some cover points in case you have to fend them off. There's another way out of here according to the blueprints I got from the Alliance. Soon as we're ready to go, I'll call up to you guys."

He looked at his selected team and jerked his head to the side "Let's get moving. The rest of you, don't die. They don't get another win today."
@iTem@Xandrya@Gardevoiran@superservo27@Rultaos@t2wave@Shard@Silver Carrot@BKburke

"As per usual, the Alliance doesn't care about the innocent lives. Let me read you a line or two directly from the mission files" Stryker said turning his head to look at Tibulus "'The local populace will likely have been slaughtered. Losses unavoidable. Any who may have survived the initial attack will have been rounded up and corralled onto one of the transport ships to be enslaved or sold off to human traffickers in the Deadzone. No authorization will be granted to attempt a rescue, as the priority is the safe collection and transport of the scientists from the research facility' bastards literally couldn't care less than hundreds, or maybe thousands of people are dead or en route to something worse, and there's nothing we can do about it, even if we attempted a rescue, there's thirteen of us and hundreds of them. I don't like it either, but that's the facts."

Even though Tobi had already left, he answered the question anyway for everyone still gathered around.
"Wildlife shouldn't be an issue. It's mostly livestock in this region. Anything wild, we won't have time to cross paths with anyway. Once we find a place with some overhead cover to hide the ship, we'll be taking the shuttles out. The entrance to the lab is up on a plateau, totally barren from the scans, won't be anything there to cause trouble for us. Someone pass that note on to Tobi when you see him."

Looking back at Tibulus fiddling with the robot, he thought about Tibulus's request for name suggestions for a second.
"Nothing coming to mind, but listen, we've all got work to do. When we get back from Arbonne, there'll be plenty of time for a brainstorming session on what to call your pet project here. Come on guys, file out, we need the room."


Grayson returned Amy's smile and nodded as she slipped out. Before leaving the War Room, he borrowed Stryker's datapad for the moment to access the ship-wide PA system just so everyone aboard, both still in the War Room or elsewhere on the Revenant, would hear him.

"Gonna be in the Armory loadin' up for the mission" he began "'fore we get there, I want everyone to either drop by or ping me on the comms, need ta know what weapons you'll be carryin' so I know what kinds of ammo to load up on, in case things do go sideways down there. If ya drop by, I'll be includin' a weapon an' armor check-up, free o' charge."
He closed the transmission and handed the datapad back over chirped out a quick "Thanks mate" and headed over to the Armory door just a few steps away.

'Let's do this.' he thought as he entered the code and stepped inside. Before he even sat in his chair, his mind was racing, creating a mental checklist of everything he'd need in case Stryker's 'doomsday scenario' came to pass.
@iTem@Xandrya@Gardevoiran@superservo27@Rultaos@t2wave@Shard@Silver Carrot@BKburke

After a slight delay, the Revenant finally departed from it's berth at the Alliance base on Laredo and once more headed off to the stars. The plant life was swiftly removed from the Lower Deck and dumped out of the airlock. Things quieted down after that and over the next several days, the crew sunk back into that same feeling of monotony they'd been mired in for weeks. Finally, Stryker woke up to an incoming call.

"Gooood morning partner" Dawson said as his face filled the screen and he got his first glimpse of Stryker's 'literally just woke up look' "Aww, what's wrong, interrupt your beauty rest?"
"Shove it Dawson, what do you want?"
"Just figured you folks would be eager for a job, and as luck would have it, there's something here on my desk right now, sending it through.... might wanna jump on this immediately, sort of a time-sensitive issue, but you'll see for yourself if you still know how to read."
With a chuckle, the video feed abruptly cut off.
"Yeah, fuck you too." Stryker said under his breath as the briefing files arrived on his terminal and he began to read through them.

May 27th, 2167
Somewhere In The Belt
The Revenant
War Room

A few hours after receiving the intel, Stryker had everyone gather in the War Room for the briefing. The first image that popped up on the holotable was an image of the known universe, gradually zooming in on a lone system right on the border between the Alliance territories and the Deadzone
"This is the Orion Frontier, the single most isolated system under Alliance rule. They've got one settled planet, Arbonne, and that's our destination. The Alliance started up a settlement here because, unlike most worlds they've colonized, Arbonne was already perfectly suited for human life. Most of the planet is covered with forests, though there are a fair number of open plains, with mineral-rich soil. Their plan at one point was to colonize, let the first generation of settlers get things going, then hand off operations to corporations with interests in mining or forestry, strip mine the unsettled areas of the planet for resources. This never came to pass, due in part to the isolated nature of the system, didn't make financial sense for an Earth-based mining company to send freighters all the way out there to pick up the raw material and bring it back for processing, they'd burn too much fuel. Ditto for setting up a processing plant in the system, too much investment for not enough return, so the plan was scrapped and the settlers were mostly left to their own devices, save for an Alliance supply freighter making the trip out there once every few months. They keep a small garrison of soldiers and an administrative staff on-site to run day-to-day operations. The only reason the Alliance hasn't shut this colony down is their one other vested interest."

The images on the holotable shifted to a topographical view of an empty plateau, which shifted horizontally to show a structure lying underneath the surface.
"The Alliance had this underground R&D facility built on the planet, a fair ways away from the only settlement, for classified reasons. No one knows its there apart from Alliance Command, the administrative staff, the researchers that live there, and now us. Although earlier this week, the researchers made some sort of big discovery, again classified, and now Command wants them and their research brought in, which I'm sure has nothing to do with the latest situation at Arbonne."

The holotable changed again to show an image of the planet surrounded by four Reaver-class ships.
"This is a composite scan from about three days ago, an Alliance patrol ship passed through the Orion Frontier on its way back from the outer-Expanse, they spotted these pirate vessels descending on the planet, they moved in to recon, but they went silent after a lone intelligence transmission. Operating theory is that they're dead, along with the entire military garrison, so it falls to us to get to the surface, get the scientists from their underground lab, and get out. Not the most exciting job I know, but there's a twist."

Another shift of the holotable brought up images of decidedly Nordic-looking pirates.
"They're called the Skaldurm. A mostly-human cabal of pirates that adhere to the culture and way of life of the vikings, an ancient human civilization. They storm a planet, overrun defenses, then raid, rape, and pillage what they want. On an isolated planet like this, their victory celebrations could last for weeks, so we can't just wait for them to leave, then swoop in and grab the nerds. There's also way too many of them to fight head-on, so that's out. And one last wrinkle, there's no way to get direct word to the scientists that we're coming, or to even get access to the facility without going into the town itself. The admins had a terminal they used to get word to the research team if anyone from Alliance Command showed up and needed to go down there. Like I just said, we can't storm the town itself, we wouldn't survive against their numbers, so someone has to go in undercover, alone, and get to that terminal. Taleste, you're the only one who has the skills to pull this off, so I'm putting this task on you, hang back a minute after the briefing, I'll go over the details for your side of things."

"Here's the plan." Stryker said as the holotable went dead "We're gonna breach the atmosphere on the far side of the planet, and fly low under cover of night to avoid any chance of detection, we'll find a landing zone to tuck the ship away then take the shuttles out to the entrance to the lab, where we'll lie low while Taleste does her thing."
He looked over directly at her as he continued "When you get to the terminal, radio back for evac and I'll come back for you at the same place we drop you off, about a kilometer or so outside of town. If you run into any trouble, I'll come back with numbers. If all goes well, none of us will even fire a gun, but after those last few jobs, I want to be prepared for the worst possible scenario, so Grayson... get everyone kitted out for a doomsday scenario, maximum ammo, and I'll also need this stuff as well."
He paused to slide a hand-written note across the holotable to his quartermaster, who unfurled it and scanned it over quickly.

"Shouldn't be a problem, how much time I got?"
"We're en-route now, should be about three hours before we get there."
"Piece a' cake."

"Alright guys, if there's any questions, find me afterwards, I need the room right now to give Taleste the details of her job. We'll reconvene before we enter the system, in the meantime, I guess there's not much else to do but relax and get ready, Grayson'll have your gear ready before we get there."
@iTem@Xandrya@Gardevoiran@superservo27@Rultaos@t2wave@Shard@Silver Carrot@BKburke

So, like it has been already suggested, we should get a discord going at least so we can keep in contact if the guild goes down again, my account is Crossfire #5377
@iTem@Xandrya@Gardevoiran@superservo27@Rultaos@t2wave@Shard@Silver Carrot@BKburke

Alright folks, if you got anything that you want to post before we head off on our next adventure, get to it! I'm gonna do the post with the mission briefing by the end of this weekend, but if for any reason, you have something to post and won't get a chance to do it, let me know and I'll push back the deadline a little bit.

"Alright, Koren. Got it. And to answer your question, I think the Alliance is surprised we've lasted this long to tell you the truth. Being on this ship is just a less boring way of serving out a life sentence... usually anyway, these last few weeks have been fairly dull, but that'll change fast. So, gentlemen, to kick off the tour..." he gave a half-hearted sweeping gesture around the Cargo Bay "... the Cargo Bay. Not a lot to really see here, considering it's mainly storage for additional supplies and parking space for the shuttles. Engine room is up those stairs over there. Hope one of you guys is mechanically-sound, we haven't had a proper engineer on board in months."

"Leave your things here for now, no need of dragging around your luggage while I'm showing you guys around. You can pop back down for it later once we settle the rooming arrangements." Stryker led the way over to the elevator and called it down "Let's start at the top and work our way back down shall we?"

He kept the tour fairly brief, showing the newcomers around the main areas of the ship in a timely fashion, not really lingering on any one place for too long, unless either of them had a question. He ended off the tour by bringing them into the gym to check in on how much progress Benny and Grayson had made on the firing range, and found Matija and Benny inside.
"Oh, you're back, that's good" he started "Well, before I ask how it went, I guess I'll do the introductions. Harrison and Koren, this is Benny and Matija. Benny and Matija, these are the new ...."

A crash coming from just outside the door cut him off. He rounded on his heels and marched outside to find an unfamiliar figure lying in front of the hatch covering on the ladder leading down to the Cargo Bay. A female Hemiplantae who was conscious, but unmoving, and very clearly equal amounts of confused and exhausted. As he stepped closer, he got a good look at her face, and his jaw dropped as he realized he knew her. All at once, it came back to him. Serros Station, Vanderos, Kaeci. Harriet.. that was her name. He didn't believe it was possible, all of Kaeci's talk of bringing her back from the dead, but against all odds, here she was.

"He did it.... the crazy son of a bitch did it." he said in amazement as he knelt down beside her. Coming back to the present, he snapped into action "Alright don't panic Harriet, you're ok now. Guys, come on, we gotta get her up to Med Bay, right now!"

@superservo27 Well, Stryker still has to show the new guys around, I think what he'll do is take them to the top of the ship first and work their way down to the lower deck, and they'll arrive right around the time Harriet comes bursting out, that should work out nicely.
@Rultaos I was gonna have SAL find her since he's not up to anything right now, but with the server/loading issues on here of the last couple days I haven't had a chance. As for posts we're waiting on? Pretty much just something @Xandrya and me have been working on (which is nearly done). I'll probably throw something together before I go to bed tonight to nudge things along for everyone.

I just remembered- @GamerXZ are you still making a CS to join us?
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