Dark Frontier

Double Cross
23rd May 2159: 8.43 am

They pounded along badly lit corridors, and up metallic stairs. Occasional rage filled roars could be heard, and mangled bodies were ignord in their race for the docking bay.

And then they were on the far side of it: the Hopper could be seen across the open space. Some of the noises were closer now. Hoffman, clearly no micro gravity novice, glided straight across . Laura, being more cautions, signaled covering positions while the rest of them moved across. Hoffman reached the bay.

A yell from Zola brought them all to attention.

“Hoffmann!”

Hoffman had entered the Hopper bay, and activated the door control – even now it was sliding across. Laura cursed herself for not listening to her own suspicions. This had been all too easy. She pushed herself across the bay from a nearby crate, diving arrow straight towards the doors – hopefully before they closed. Zola and Franz followed suit, while the others fumbled behind.

Crouching behind a few crates, Hoffmann fired his pistol at Laura. Franz moved forward, and managed to catch him with a shotgun blast. Cursing he ran for it, activating the hopper airlock.

Zola reached it just after it closed, and opened it again. Hoffman was now inside, and sparks flew as he shot away the inner door lock.. Franz ripped the panel off with his new arm, and immediately starting fiddling with the wiring. Moments later Zola dived in behind a hull buttress. Hoffman spun round in the Pilot seat and winged her. But Franz fired again, and this time he fell like a stone.

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Escape from the Underground
23rd May 2159: 8.35 am

Hoffmann was wearing a Guards Vacc Suit, and carried a couple of their pistols. He seemed in good shape, and was holed up in a small maintenance room with another door leding to the north. Introductions were briefly made, as Laura eyed him suspiciously.

“They sent you to rescue me?” said Hoffmann. “Unbelievable!”

“Just as well they did old boy” said Rakham. “Advantage of a wealthy family.”

“I’m not complaining.”

Hoffmann seemed rather vague about what had happened. One moment he was being supervised by a guard doing some minor maintenance, and the next the alarms went off, and they started to hear screams. Soon after they were attacked and he fled, coming across a couple of other bodies, which he looted. That was several hours ago.

“We’ve still really no idea what happened,” observed Kurt.

“Doesn’t matter” called Zola. “Visitors inbound.” She slid down fom the junction back into the small room, closing the door before she left. Soon after they heard gutteral cries and pounding.

“We can try to slip past through the other door. It opens further along the corridor.” said Hoffmann.

Boarding Axe in hand, Vic took the lead with Zola gliding along just ahead of her. They took up position on the far side of an intersection, and then they came, barrelling down a narrow corridor. There were a number of them, but their access was restricted.

“Caight like rats in a trap -us and them” said Zola. “Hope more don’t arrive.” Vic ignored her and winced as one of them landed a blow like a sledgehammer. SHe responded in ind, slicing across its midriff, and then a burst of autofire from Laura behind it nearly cut it in half.

This was the pattern. While Vic did her best to hold the line, Zola, Laura and Karl pumped shots into the crazies. She took a few blows, but her armour and skilled defence manage to fend off the worst of it. Appearing in the main corridor behind the crazies Rackham laughed harshly as he pumped twin pistol into one from behind, helped by Hoffmann.

“All clear!” he yelled. “Run for it!”

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The Mark
23rd May 2159: 8.30 am

“This is it” said Zola. “He’s pretty close. Looks like those door are sealed.”

“A good sign,” said Rackham. “Comms?”

“Get a move on,” said Laura. They had come upon more evidence of destruction in the sub level, and three very mangled bodies.

“We should just try the internal comms frequency,” said Franz. “If he’s in a suit, he’ll be patched into it. If he’s not, the door comm will work.” He opened the panel and linked his own comm to the internal system.

“Hello.” is anyone there?" he asked. There was a pause. Then a response.

""Who is it. Is it safe now? came a response.

“Bingo.”

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The Dome
23rd May 2159: 8.15 am

Dome B had a large docking area for unloading of supplies – it contained a vehicular airlock as well as a standard one, and this they parked the Hopper in. Moving into the unloading area all was quiet, and slowly and carefully they made their way across the bay.

“So far so good,” breathed Rackham, as they finally reached the stairwell leading down to the sub levels.

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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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