Dark Frontier

Hesperus Station
23rd May 2159: 7.55 am

“Hoffmann, changed or not, is in the sub level here” said Vic, as they examined the schematic.

“Our most convenient access is near Dome B, here. From there we can take a cargo lift down to the sub level, and traverse about 200m of corridos. It’so on the opposite side of sub level 2 to the train tunnel, so maybe there will be less traffic, in terms of crazies.”

“We’ll need to take a suit to get him out”, said Zola.

“Whatever has caused this, if its airborne, will be densest here,” she continued. “We should stay in suits,”

“We should all take a broad spectrum shot, just in case,” said Rackham. He took out an injector and did Laura.

“What about the others?” she asked, as he put the injector away.

“I lied,” said Rackham, “It’s a nervous system dampener. SHould calm you a little.”

“What……” she growled.

“Your hesitation almost got yourself, and more importantly me, killed.” snapped Rackham. “We need your smg if we encounter more Crazies. The shot might help.”

“He’s right Laura,” said Vic. “No room for more hesitation this time.” Laura remained silent.

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Next Problem
23rd May 2159: 7.30 am

“Good to go” said Laura, checking the controls of the Hopper. Her composure seemed to have returned.

Zola had raced to the computer room and easily extracted the data they had required: she had also sealed the tunnel doors between Hesperus Station and the compound, so at least the number of Crazies would be limited. The bad news was that their target was one of the prisoners in the Research Facility, but now they had his bracelet ID they could at least track him. They had given Dave a different story.

“The comms is too damaged for a quick repair” said Franz; in fact he had simply switched it off, slaved to a password. “But we’ve managed to close the Decompression Doors in the train tunnel.”

“We think there are some survivors in the main facility,” he continued. “So we’re taking one of the Hoppers to see what we can do. Help should be here within an hour or so anyway.” Or longer, he thought guiltily.

“Well there are 50 inmates supposed to be stationed there, and 30 staff” said Zola.

“We accounted for six” said Rackham. “And were they tough? If we’d encountered more than a handful at a time we would have had it.”

“Twenty inmate bracelets at Hesperus still” said Franz. “And they are all moving about.”

“But how many are turned?” asked Rackham. “And how? Why?”

“Combat drug” said Laura sharply. “The perfect soldier. Lot 49, or one of it’s derivatives.” All heads turned towards her.

“Lot 49? Never heard of it.” said Rackham.

“Experimental; doesn’t work properly. Serious side effects.” she replied curtly.

“And…..?”

“Look. I don’t want to talk about it. Suffice to say that if this is a continuation of that programme, it’s bad news.”

Rackham hesitated – Laura was hardly one to open up. And he vaguely knew that she had a background in Corp Intelligence, but also that she didn’t take to prying.

“Laura, I don’t want to pry. But this other drug – was it injectable, or could it spread like, a…er, well, a disease?” Laura frowned.

“It was a directly injectable stimulant, derived from some engineered fungus or other; I don’t know the scientific details. Maybe its been developed further. In fact, that’s likely.”

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The Next Wave
23rd May 2159: 7.05 am

Vic, followed closely by Rackham, moved back into the Control Room. She could see Laura, stood at the end of the main corridor, flinching as one of the Crazie’s swung at her. For some reason, she had not fired any shots as it rushed down the corridor.

Vic holstered her pistol and drew her Axe; drawing on her internal reserves she fealt the adrenaline stream through her, pumping her muscles to almost superhuman levels. Rackham floated past her.

“Laura!” he shouted. “Wake up woman!” He had seen what Vic couldn’t – two more Crazies racing down the corridor. Sidestepping only, Laura seemed transfixed. He fired both pistols into the nearest; Vic rushed forward and cut into its neck with the monofilament edge of her weapon.

“You are going to Die!” yelled Rackham. “Do something!” Laura finally seemed to react; looking around as though dazed, she stepped back and dodged the blow of one of the Crazies, and emptied three bursts into it.

“Finally!” thought Vic, as she hacked at the next. “What’s up with her?”

“All done!” yelled Franz. “To the computer room!”

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Beacon Control
23rd May 2159: 6.50 am

“We get in there, use the system to locate our target and then invent some excuse to go find him.” said Laura.

“And the survivors?” asked Zola.

“What about them?” puzzled Laura.

“Well. We can’t just leave them to be killed.” explained Zola.

“Why not?”

Rackham laughed, but neither Franz nor Zola seemed happy. Laura sighed.

“Look. I suppose we can send an actual Mayday once we’re clear.” she relented. Zola nodded.

The Beacon Control was a small building several hundred metres away from the main complex. Dave had explained that all of the base technical and communications control was concentrated here: a beacon was located above the building, and underground it was linked to the prison complex by passages. The surface facility was a square building about twenty metres across. All seemed quiet as they approached the airlock and cycled the controls.

As they opened the airlock emergency lighting flickered. From the schematics Dave had passed on they knew that the upper level contained only an office and a few domestic arrangements. They would need to descend some stairs to a sub level to access the main systems; mainframe, servers, power controls.

“The main systems are in the control room ahead” said Franz, as they descended the stairs. “And the servers and computer systems are in a room round about to our left. Left and left again at the junction up ahead.”

They stared around as they entered the central control room.

“It looks like a bunch of hyped up teenagers have been trashing the place” said Vic. There was disorder and superficial damage everywhere. Franz moved over to the power modules.

“I think I see the problem” he said. “The vandalism has damaged some of the relays. I just need to replace them and then we need to go to the server room and reboot, after I’ve powered up again from here.”

“How long?” asked Laura.

“Not long, " said Franz. “Here….” He stopped as Laura exclaimed, and there was a burst of automatic fire from her smg. leaving them to it he immersed himself in his task.

At the junction behind them appeared two prisoners, identifiable by their coveralls. However, there was something not normal about them. Their faces were twisted and contorted in anger, and the pair yelled incoherently as they bounced towards Laura down the corridor in the micro G, seemingly oblivious to their own hurts as they bumped walls and equipment.

Laura put two bursts into one of them, and still he came on, only finally dropping when also hit by Vic and Zola. The other scrambled helplessly, losing control of his movements as he flailed down the corridor. More sustained firepower finally put him out of his misery.

“They” , said Zola, “Took a lot of putting down”. Rackham squinted down at them.

“Drugs maybe?” he said. “Or something that produces a similar effect.”

“They were like animals” said Vic. Laura said nothing, but quietly loaded her smg. Although she would never admit it, their whole posture had shaken her.

“How’s it going?” Zola asked.

“Few more minutes,” said Franz. Zola nodded, and then glided down to the junction to keep tabs on the stairwell to the north: it was here that their attackers had approached from.

She called a warning as another of the Crazies (as Vic had dubbed them) appeared. Confident of her own ability to evade the Crazie she fired with her Anvil; with a gutteral snarl it glided towards her, ignoring the others in the corridor at right angles to the junction.

Vic and Rackham headed south east from the Control Room to meet with Zola: Laura stayed put, ostensibly to cover the corridor. In reality her mind was in a turmoil. This wasn’t like her, but no one had noticed anyway.

Perhaps due to overconfidence the Crazie managed to close with Zola. As she pulled away it dealt her a heavy buffet: it was like being punched by a Gorilla. Rackham spun out of control, as Vic angled for a shot. Down he went.

“Are you ok back there?” asked Vic. “Laura? Laura?!”

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A Prison Under Siege
23rd May 2159: 6.25 am

The speaker, who was called Dave, was clearly a junior officer of some sort. The situation was this: a contagion of some sort had escaped the main research complex, and affected some of the workers there.

Seemingly he was not prepared to divulge precise details to a mere Maintenance Team, but it appeared that the contagion had affected some of the prisoners working at the main complex, which was connected to the prison by a small railway. Through this the prisoners had spilled, attacking the prison complex. Surviving guards and unaffected prisoners were now under siege, and losing ground.

“Can we access the Comms Room from the surface, without going into the prison?” asked Laura.

“Y…Yes. Here’s the access codes. But it must have been over run.” said Dave. “Everywhere is linked up from underground.”

“Let us worry about that. " said Laura.

“But can’t you just send a Mayday yourselves?” asked Dave.

“We’re doing that now,” lied Laura, “But you need direct contact, and we need to put you back online. Your main servers are there too, right? Data. Environmental Control. Life Support control. All that.”

“O.. of course” stammered Dave.

“You mentioned a contagion?” asked Laura.

“You should be ok in sealed suits,” said Dave. “As it was explained to me it’s airborne and short lived. And vacuum will kill it.”

“Hang on in there Dave.”

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The Trek
23rd May 2159: 5.55 am

The takeoff and landing went without incident, and Hopkirk seemed comfortable with the knap of earth flying and short horizon; it was as though she was actually prepared for this. They had landed without incident, and as it was hardly crowded airspace, then once they had left, Port Control – two staff at most probably – had lost interest. More time to doze.

The putdown was a good 2 km from the facility, and this needed to be crossed on foot, in microgravity. And so the five of them set off, with an emergency vacc suit in tow, in case they could find nothing better.

Zola led the way, and the other four were tethered to avoid any fatal microgravity errors on what was, after all, just a rock.

A visual check had revealed no special security measures: there was nowhere to go after all; however, cautious as always Laura suspected some sort of ground sensor net. They also spotted two small weapons domes on this side of the facility. Vic reasoned thatt hey might contain missiles systems or railguns, in case of pirates perhaps.

From the spacing I’d say these aren’t specifically protecting the Prison," said Laura, “But the area surrounding both the Prison and Research Facility. The Facility would be more important, I suppose.”

“I’m getting something!” said Franz excitedly. While they had been surveying the base from cover he had been fiddling with a comms box he had brought from the ship. “There’something wrong. No wonder its so easy!”

“Explain.” said Laura curtly, somewhat surprised that Franz had broken into the local, and presumably semi secure, frequencies.

He patched in the frequencies. Panicked voices. Occasional gunfire. Screams. Silence. Desparate calls for help. They paused to take it all in. There was something wrong with the prisoners; the guards were holding positions inside the cell blocks and were being over run in some places. Both guards and prisoners were being killed.

“We can take advantage of this.” said Laura. “Lets move in closer.” Franz searched his PDA for the secure codes and passwords they had been provided with by Hopkirk.

“Right” , said Laura. “Let’s try this.”

“Hoplite 237 this is Remote Maintenance Team Theuros 39. We are receiving your transmissions but do not understand. What is your situation. over?”

“Someone is there? Thank God!” replied a somewhat desearate voice; they didn’t seem too concerned with security protocols."

“What is your situation? Over.” replied Laura patiently.

“We’ve been over run,and the beacon is down.” relied the voice. “We can’t even send out a Mayday!”

“Calm down Hoplite 237.” said Laura. “What is happening?”

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Winging It
22nd May 2159: 8.30 pm

“So we’re booked in to leave in a very early window: 4.00 am.” said Hopkirk.

“Fine,” said Laura. “We’ve no choice but to wing it. The only other choice would be for me to get arrested and sent there; frankly, I’m not doing that.”

" We can take off and orbit the rock easily" said Hanson. “And put down here.” she pointed to a ridge, little more than an irregularity really, but enough to hide their craft. If they had radar on the far side, which she doubted, they could get away with it. It would need a hike in suits however, as they had no vehicle

The Detention Facility consisted of pressurized prefabs, comprising a smaller single story building, a medium sized building and three larger ones – possibly barracks.

“The larger ones could house about 50, assuming no underground facilities” said Laura. “So 150 inmates maximum?”

“There are a couple of parked Aerodynes too” said Zola. “Maybe we could grab one. If not we’ll need to get the target into a suit.”

“We have the gas grenades and the breaching charges supplied by Ms Hopkirk.” said Vic. “But there may be casualties.”

“The fewer, the less shit afterwards”, said Laura. “It’ an extraction, not a massacre.” They spent the next hour or so working out details, before turning in.

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Plan B
22nd May 2159: 6.00 pm

Hopkirk had stretched out her stay as long as was reasonably feasible. Selling, buying, taking on supplies, minor maintenance.

“The stuff hasn’t moved. It’s still in port.” she said ruefully.

“You didn’t bank on the industrial action,” said Rackham. “Everything is taking four times as long. But where does that leave us?”

“Fortunately for you” said Laura, “I had zero faith in your plan, and used the old fashioned methods.”

“What do you mean?” asked Vic.

“I borrowed an ID and surfed the Company Net; don’y worry, I didn’t keep it long. By the time they noticed it was back with them. plus there’s a degree of common knowledge floating about: you just need to squeeze it out of people.” Zola wondered how she’d done this, but decided not to ask: she gathered that Laura had been some sort of Corporate Op.

“And?”

“The Jug facility is called Asphodel; it’s in Sector 24, about a 100 km away. And there’s a research facility nearby – Hesperus Station.

“These fellows like their Greek Mythology don’t they?” commented Rackham.

“Plus,” continued Laura, “There was a bit of reporting on the Corporate Net at the time. Hoffman lost his temper at a picket confrontation and gave a Mr. Rudi Densh, a Production Executive a good kicking before he was dragged away by Security. Some of it was on film. He was sentenced to a year’s Indenture within a day, and sent to Asphodel.”

“Indenture at the Research Facility presumably” said Zola.

“Any more?” asked Hopkirk.

“I dug up some routine scans; basic surface facilities. One other interesting fact.”

“Yes?”

“Checked newsnet for other workers sent there over the last 3 years. Checked 3 people. nothing heard of them since. "

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A Trifling Matter
18th May 2159: 6.00 pm

“Demarcation mate, that’s the problem.” said the official unhelpfully. “You’re delivering these here supplies, but I can’t let you through unless it’s ok’ ed by the Mining Workers Committee. We’re in dispute with the management at the moment, and I can’t let you through.”

“But dear chap,” said Rackham, “We’re not involved with the Ariadne’s trade: we’re just passengers killing a few days till it takes us on our way again.” He commenced a rambling, and slightly amusing story of GeCoDex’s inefficiency, and their consequent adventures.

The official seemed unconvinced, then one of his mates perked up.

“Hey, you’re that bloke in them ‘Confessions’ vids aren’t you?” he said. “Go on. It’s you isn’t it.” He looked round at his mates. “It’s him, isn’t it?”

“Ah… Come again?” asked Rackham.

“Go on it’s you. Used a stage name did you?; can’t blame you. big Porno star and all.”

“Porno star?” asked Zola.

“Yes Miss,” replied the official. “Confessions of Public Schoolboy? Confessions of a Fitness Instructor? Ah……” he paused. “Sorry Miss, you’re a well, girl. Big hits on the Gay scene, you probably missed ’em.”

“But we love ‘em, don’t we boys?” he nudged his two mates.

A light bulb lit in Vic’s head; she had vaguely heard of them, back in her marine days.

“But Jimmy,” she smiled. “You never told us this.”

“Urhur, Urhur.” One of the officials suppressed a snicker.

“But I…Ah. That is….” For once Rackham was speechless.

“You can go through Sir, and your friends. Cult Porno star like you.” said the first official.

“But could you sign this? It’s for my husband……”

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16 Psyche
18th May 2159: 4.55 pm

Psyche 19 was huge, being over 200 km in diameter.

“Plenty of opportunity for multiple bases” thought Laura, “And mostly underground, no doubt.”

Hopkirk was receiving docking instructions, and they were due to dock at Port Cupid, the corporate Docking Facility for outsiders, and the only location generally open to outsiders.

“We would normally be in Port for a couple of days” said Hopkirk, “Though I’ll try to stretch it out a bit. As non corporate types you’ll have restricted access to many areas,but you will have some opportunity to circulate. Be sure to send a message to your supposed masters at GeCoDec – its sure to be monitored.”

“What about finding the target?” asked Vic.

“Just take it easy and circulate,” said Hopkirk. “We have items on board of a direct security nature.” She smiled smugly.

“You mean…. you have a shipment likely destined for their security facility?” asked Laura. “Bugged? How did you manage it?”

“You don’t need to know.” said Hopkirk. “But in a day or two we should be able to pinpoint the location at least.”

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