Hunting for a Toolbox

Character: Verroel
NPC: Kfuez (Corsair guard), Oraegrengouz, Sosazue (Junior Engineer)
Location: Engineering
System: Jumpspace

1126.32.4 - 03:00 Imperial Time, 19:00 Vilani Time

The tool hunting party decide that the safest route is not down the central stairs, but rather the floor iris valve in the starboard-aft corner of the upper deck. This route will drop them down next to the starboard maneuver drive in engineering. The corsair guard goes first and keeps close watch while Verroel and the others climb down.

"Where's your toolbox," Verroel asks Sosazue.

"Up front, just to the right of the monitor board." She gestures to the left.

The group hustles over to where she indicated, but they quickly learn that it isn't there.

"It was right here. I swear it."

Verroel is absolutely on edge. He's sniffing and listening, but stays relaxed as best he can to present a good leadership image. When the toolbox is not where it was expected he growls softly.

"Is there anything else down here that we can use to break into the armory besides what is in your toolbox? It would save a wild goose chase."

Sosazue keeps looking around, as if hoping that the tool box will magically appear. "No, there's nothing else that will do it. We need to find it."

"It's ok," Kfuez says to calm her down. "We can search the rest of this level of Engineering. There's only two ways in or out that we have to worry about: the iris valve in the floor where we just came in and the one over there." He points to the one that leads to the corridor that runs from sick bay to the crew lounge. "We can leave someone to guard each hatch while Sosazue searches for the tool box with an escort."

Verroel growls for a moment and then relaxes. He wags his tail. "Stay calm; stay focused." He looks at the others as he takes back control of the situation. He thinks of his own experience with iris valves. "Kfuez, go ahead and guard the lower iris valve. Try to put something heavy over it to trigger the safety protocols. And if they're overridden, they'll get a nasty surprise. Oraegrengouz, guard this door here. I'll go with Sosazue. Now move out."

The other two males exchange glances with each other after Verroel's last sentence, then go to their respective portals.

Meanwhile, he looks at Sosazue. "Is your tool box distinctive in appearance?"

"Of course it is," she replies, paws on hips. "Don't all engineers personalize their toolboxes?"

Verroel stops to think about that one, briefly trying to recall what he did with his.

She doesn't wait for an answer. She walks past him, shimmies between the outer caps of the magnetic turbine housing, and then ducks under the cross-lateral stabilizer. Verroel follows. He's interested, of course, in the engines from a professional stand point but keeps his senses focused on the possibility of a lurking threat.

She continues on to the engineer's maneuver drive monitoring station and stops to check around it, giving time to Verroel to catch up.

Suddenly, she says, "There it is," and proceeds aftward, past the plasma conduit sensor tubes, and then the nozzle alignment plate. She picks it up, turns around, and holds it up for Verroel to see. He starts to wag his tail.

Her smile vanishes, and her eyes go wide in alarm.

Seeing her exhibit alarm, he doesn't hesitate but ducks, turns around, and brings his gun up to fire.

Six meters away stands one of the aliens, blocking the way Verroel and Sosazue just came from. It's roughly two meters tall. Hard to tell with the crab-like legs. Its large pincers are held in front of its chest in a defensive posture. Leathery wings are retracted. Its body is grey with mottled pink patches. What appears to be a head is a knobby structure with about a dozen antennae sticking out.

The air between Verroel and the alien shimmers, and there's a buzzing sound in his ears. Verroel realizes the alien is trying to do something with his mind. He shakes his head, then smacks it with his paw. The pain helps to clear things up enough to concentrate on the task at hand.

In the meantime, the alien is closer. Verroel quickly fires a single five-round burst. Three bullets strike the alien: one in the front left leg, one in the right front leg, and one in the abdomen. The front legs buckle, and a black ichor leaks from the abdomen wound. The shimmer is gone, and the buzzing sound fades away, replaced by some gurgling. The creature is still upright, waving its claws around, blocking the exit.

Verroel doesn't have the luxury of trying to communicate with the creature. Perhaps they were really tragically misunderstood and the entire situation was a misunderstanding, but that was not where he was at the moment. Just before he fires off another five-round burst, he calls out to Sosazue, "Get ready to run for it!"

Four bullets hit the beast in the chest. It slumps over to its right, resting upon the port maneuver drive. It's still, unmoving.

As Verroel, still crouching, growls under his breath in triumph, Sosazue rushes past him, bumping him with the tool box. He snaps at her a bit as she brushes past, a little for bumping him, but more to prod her along. He's back to his feet when she sidesteps past the lifeless alien and rushes to catch up to her.

At the end of the maneuver drive "corridor," Sosazue comes to a stop with a gasp. Verroel edges past her and puts himself between her and the outer caps of the magnetic turbine housing. Peering out, he sees Oraegrengouz slouched down on the deck, leaning against the bulkhead to the left of the iris valve, which is open. Two proboscises lead from a second alien to Oragrengouz's head, a blank stare on his face.

Bastards! Now this was just unacceptable as Oragrengouz was part of his pack. As far as Verroel can tell, the alien hasn't spotted him yet.

Knowing that Oragrengouz might already be dead or lost to the alien, Verroel jumps out from behind cover and lets fly another full volley from his gun.

All five rounds hit the torso of the alien, spilling black ichor. It keels over.

"Close the iris valve and then get the hell out!" he yells to Sosazue.

She runs over to the iris panel and keys it closed. She shouts, "There are more of them coming down the corridor." The valve closes. "I'll lock it, but I don't know how long it'll last." She then runs back to the ladder that leads to the top deck.

Verroel shoulders his rifle and starts dragging Oragrengouz toward the ladder heading back to safety. He calls on the comm link to the others. "Oragrengouz is injured by the aliens. Kfuez, get over here and cover me while I drag him. Dharla, open the hatch and rig a rope to pull Oragrengouz to safety. We leave no wolf behind."

He bumps into Sosazue. As he's about to growl at her for clumsiness, she blurts out, "Quick! Kfuez needs your help!"

Verroel growls in frustration this time. He drops Oragrengouz and unslings his rifle. "Grab Oragrengouz and watch our tails."

She replies, "I can't drag him and my toolbox." Verroel notes that she's using two paws to carry her toolbox.

"Then stay here and watch the iris valve in case the aliens get through."

With that, he rushes around the corner. Kfuez is crouched on the deck, grimacing in pain, trying to shield his head. One of the aliens, whose back is to Verroel, is almost upon him. Two of the probosces dangle in the air in Verroel's direction and start changing before his eyes. They darken to a reddish-violet color and become rigid, with some form of carapace forming along the last meter of their length.

Verroel opens fire on the alien. Four out of five bullets strike the alien in the back and it falls over. It's still twitching, but its limbs are limp.

Kfuez appears to be ok. He slowly removes his hands from his head and shakes it, trying to clear his mind.

Verroel motions Sosazue forward. "Get up and open the armory. That's the first thing we need done." As he speaks, he steps forward and offers a paw to Kfuez. "We leave no wolf behind. Help me go back and get Oragrengouz. He was attacked."

Kfuez accepts the paw and uses it to steady himself as he stands up. He nods. "Yeah, sure thing. Thanks."

Sosazue scoots past them and starts climbing up the ladder. The toolbox appears to be heavy. Her ascent is slow.

Verroel and Kfuez head back to Oragrengouz with their rifles ready. When they round the corner, they discover that Oragrengouz isn't where Verroel set him down. Instead, he's walking to the iris valve that Sosazue shut and locked to keep the aliens out.

Verroel growls. "Damn, he's been influenced. We have no time to mess with this."

He purposefully strides up behind Oragrengouz and uses his rifle to butt him in the back of the head. Oragrengouz collapses in a heap. Kfuez rushes over and helps Verroel drag him back to the ladder.

Once there, they look up to see a rope being lowered down. Kfuez makes a harness out of the rope and wraps up Oragrengouz good and tight. He's then slowly lifted up with Kfuez directly underneath to help with the load.

After Oragrengouz is out of sight, Kfuez looks over to the iris valve. He shouts, "Hurry Verroel! The iris is opening!"

Verroel scrambles up the ladder without looking back. He hears something like darts pinging off the ceiling as he climbs into the upper deck of the ship. The iris valve is sealed and manually locked behind him.

Sosazue gets to work on the iris controls. She announces that she's disengaging the electronic controls so that the aliens can't get in manually or electronically. "It'll take an iris valve opener or a plasma torch to get through it now," she says with satisfaction.

When asked about Oragrengouz, Verroel relates what he saw.

"We better put him into a cryopod," Dr. Gvekhs says, "until we can be sure he's no longer under their control."

Verroel agrees.

Inside the Ship's Locker

Character: Verroel
NPC: Kfuez (Corsair guard), Sosazue (Junior Engineer), Dr. Gvekhs, Dharla, Uerro (previously unnamed corsair), Dzo (previously unnamed crewman)
Location: Bridge
System: Jumpspace

1126.32.4 - 03:20 Imperial Time, 19:20 Vilani Time

Dr. Gvekhs and a crewman load Oragrengouz into one of the cryostasis pods while Sosazue gets to work on opening the ship's locker. Kfuez updates Dharla on what happened down in Engineering. Verroel keeps an ear on their conversation while he watches Sosazue work.

It takes Sosazue half an hour, but she finally succeeds. Inside are several suits of cloth armor, assault rifles, shotguns, handguns, assorted ammo, a couple cases of grenades, and a rocket launcher along with a case of four rockets.

At this point Gvekhs and the crewman have returned to the Bridge. Gvekhs says, "Oragrengouz is stable. Saw some weird vital signs before he went into deep sleep. Have to run them through the med computer when this is all done." He peeks over at the locker. "Good job, Sosazue."

"Thanks!"

Verroel congratulates Sosazue as well, and smiles with the additional praise.

He says to the group, "The medical changes may provide some clue as to how the aliens are controlling and affecting us, but we need to overwhelm them before we are all worn down."

He looks around the room to see who's wearing armor. All of the corsairs are set, that leaves him and the rest of the crew. "We'd better get suited up in that cloth armor. We'll need it."

While Verroel and the crew are getting suited up, he says, "We'll move on them directly. Dharla, Kfeuz, that wolf," he points to the corsair he doesn't have a name for, "and I will arm to the teeth with assault rifles, grenades, and handguns. The rest of you staying behind should take handguns for self-defense and hold the bridge." He looks about. "Can anyone use the rocket launcher? We can use it in the open expanse of the cargo hold as a blast weapon if the aliens fortify themselves."

Dharla and the corsairs exchange looks. She says, "You want to use a rocket launcher inside a ship? In jumpspace? Are you mad?"

Verroel snaps his jaws. "Of course we're not going to fire the rocket launcher inside the ship while there is still hope of winning conventionally. If it comes to it would you rather die cleanly by breaching the hull and destroying the ship or have your minds ripped from you and controlled by these aliens?"

With his tail hanging limply, Kfuez says, "Well, when you put it that way..."

Satisfied that they're seeing his logic, Verroel continues, "If we are faced with dying, or worse than dying, we'll use whatever weapons we have at hand and go out standing proud and unbroken. I will not live as a mind ripped thrall of these aliens."

Kfuez says, "In that case, Uerro and I are both capable of using the rocket launcher. So what's your plan?"

Verroel considers his forces and their choices. "We'll split up and go down the port and starboard turret accesses. That will bypass the middle deck and get us into flanking positions in the cargo bay. The G-carrier hangar will be cramped, so I'm assuming that the aliens will be in the main bay or more likely aft in the special cargo section or the engineering section. Dharla, you'll lead the starboard team and I'll lead the port. You'll take Kfuez and one rocket launcher. Use it if we're going to lose. I'll take Uerro and you..." he points to the remaining crew wolf. "What is your name so I can honor you for your bravery?"

He unconsciously puffs up his chest. "Dzo."

"Well met, Dzo. We'll take the port access. If you use grenades in the main cargo bay, use them sparingly. We may all be in the blast radius.

"When we burst out, my group will pivot aft and face the special cargo bay. Dharla, you'll clear the forward section and the main air lock." He pauses to consider alternate scenarios. "If the aliens are not in the cargo bay or retreat and hole up in engineering, then we'll split up again and my team will work directly down the iris valve into engineering."

Verroel turns to Sosazue and Gvekhs. "Barricade the entrances into the bridge and monitor comms. Stay armed as I may call on you as final reinforcements. We'll go out fighting with our teeth in their throats rather than be hunted down one at a time."

He looks around, noting stern nods of approval, even from Dharla.

"Questions?"

Kfuez asks, "And if the aliens aren't in the special cargo bay, where will your pack go? Will you circle back to help Dharla and me?"

"Of course," Verroel replies. "Anyone else with a question? No? Then let's get to it."

Assault on the Cargo Hold

Character: Verroel
NPC: Kfuez (Corsair guard), Sosazue (Junior Engineer), Dr. Gvekhs, Dharla, Uerro (corsair), Dzo (crewman)
Location: Bridge
System: Jumpspace

1126.32.4 - 04:30 Imperial Time, 20:30 Vilani Time

After everyone is suited and gone over the plan a few times, the assault teams form up and head to their respective shafts. Verroel, Uerro, and Dzo head to the port turret shaft while Dharla and Kfuez go starboard. Once both teams are in position—relayed via comms—they try to open their respective iris valves, but they appear to be locked from the other side.

Once they realize that both teams are stuck, Verroel contacts Sosazue on the bridge about their predicament.

"They changed the lock codes. I'll need some time to find an override."

Several anxious minutes pass.

"Got it! Opening now."

The iris opens but the way out is blocked by a crate.

Verroel comms Dharla, "There's a crate blocking our way into the cargo hold."

"Us too," she replies.

"I can't see over it." To the others with him, he says, "Give me a paw." They push on it, but it doesn't budge.

Dzo says, "We should be able to move it. I'm guessing they stacked other crates around this one."

"No luck here either."

Dejected, the cargo hold assault force returns to the bridge to reconsider their attack plan.

Formulating Another Plan

Character: Verroel
NPC: Kfuez (Corsair guard), Sosazue (Junior Engineer), Dr. Gvekhs, Dharla, Uerro (corsair), Dzo (crewman)
Location: Various parts of the ship
System: Jumpspace

1126.32.4 - 04:45 Imperial Time, 20:45 Vilani Time

Dejected, the assault team returns to the bridge.

Uerro asks, "Should we try the main stairs?"

Kfuez replies, "They'll be expecting it."

"What about the iris valve outside of the g-carrier garage?"

"We could, but because we'd be climbing down a ladder, we'd be at a disadvantage. We'd have to peek down through the opening and throw a grenade or two to buy us some time."

Dzo says, "But that would make for a good diversion, no? Make it seem like we're coming down the ladder. After the explosions, the main force comes in through the front door."

"Or do the reverse," Uerro says. "Make them think we're coming in through the main door and surprise them with the garage ladder."

Kfuez nods, then looks over to Verroel. "Do you want to weigh in on this?"

Verroel growls for a moment and then shakes his fur. "We'd be suicidal to go down the ladder, so that is the way we will go: bold. With the way they are barricaded in the hold, we'll need to take more risks with the ship and the weapons we use. As much as it's dangerous, we may need to use the missile launch to wreak havoc at the main entrance. Grenades, a missile fired to minimize actual damage, and then multiple automatic weapons in the front. Do we have a way to make smoke? That would confuse things at the main entrance and disguise for a bit that we are not attacking at that point."

"Hold on. Let me check." Dzo hurries into the ship's locker. He calls out, "I found a few." He emerges with four smoke grenades.

"So how do you want to do this?" Kfuez asks. "Do you want the ladder or the main entrance?"

Verroel growls as he considers their options. "I'll take the ladder. We'll run a double feint. Smoke and a grenade down the ladder and shouting, gunfire. Then we do the same at the front door assuming they haven't blocked it as well. If they have then we fire a missile at it and breach it."

Nervous glances are exchanged all around. There's even some whimpering, but Verroel is quick to clamp it down.

"Look, it may severely damage the ship, but we will all suffer a fate worse than death if these things win. After a few seconds to draw their attention we'll go down the ladder. I will go first."

The attacking party heads down to the middle deck. Verroel and Uerro split off and head to the forward iris valve at the end of the stateroom corridor. Darla, Dzo, and Kfuez continue their way down the stairs. Once everyone radios that they're in position, Verroel launches the assault.

[...to be continued...]