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The Umbra of Tartarus

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Tiberius:

 

Taking position at the front of his group, Tiberius made his way to the ship, careful to avoid stepping in bloodstains.  First, to minimize the possibility that his footing might be compromised in a combat situation later by some slick he stepped in now, and second, best to avoid contamination as much as possible at least until he got a report on the blood.  Reaching the barricade, he carefully checked it for booby traps, or anything that might offer some indications about the psychology of the people who had built it; "Abandon All Hope!" or "THE WORMS!  THE WORMS ARE IN MY HEAD AND THEY'RE TELLING ME I'M GOD!" written in blood, or anything along those lines.  Tiberius had to suppress a shudder at the thought of...feeling one's mind cracking apart, knowing he was going insane, but unable to stop it.  Gimme an army of bug-eyed monsters or a horde of rabid parasite-infested brain-dead corpses over that **** any day! he thought.  He set the BFG to fire flash-bang grenades, of which he had four in his loadout; the other six were split evenly between knockout gas and frag.  This whole place seemed designed to create itchy trigger-fingers.  He willed himself to remain calm, and be ready for anything, including some scared child hiding in the ship.

 

 

Venera:

 

With the I Saw It First! tucked safely into Tartarus' L1 libration point, the spot between the moon and its primary where the two bodies' gravity balanced exactly, Venera wouldn't have to expend fuel to hold position relative to the Citadel.  It was like sitting atop a hill in space; any ship or missile that wanted to come at her would have to claw its way out to her against gravity, while any maneuver she made would take her gravitationally "downhill," giving a free bonus to acceleration.

 

Her delicate hands manipulated a thicket of complex holographic shapes in an exercise that was something like a combination of chess with dozens of different types of pieces (playing against opposing pieces that weren't all visible), a jigsaw puzzle, Go, and a protein-folding simulator, all in three dimensions.  The "pieces" all had shapes, colors, and symbolic markings, together constituting a highly information-dense programming language, necessary for complex beneath-the-user-interface programming tasks in an era after Moore's Law had finally reached its limits.  Modern programs were so massive that advanced coding with the limited array of letters and numbers available on a keyboard like they did in the old days would require a whole army of people plugging away for years.

 

The cockpit hatch opened, and Signy came in, looking anxious to get into some freaking action already.  Venera counted herself lucky to have found her.  She hoped it would turn out to be good luck.  A pro L-tagger with a pretty good win/loss ratio for someone who wasn't already a champion, turned spec-ops soldier, turned merc.  As far as Venera could tell by hacking into her records performing a background check, Signy was really good at what she did.  On the other hand, Venera wasn't exactly an expert in the field of killing people and breaking things (which was why she needed Signy in the first place) so she had to question her own qualifications to judge such things.  But Signy had a whacking great gun, and gave all appearances of knowing how to use it.  Good enough, especially since Venera wasn't made of credits.  Bonus points: she was a woman, so Venera didn't have to worry as much about being alone with her on a Ship light-years from anywhere.

 

"Heya.  I think we're go for a caper," Venera said in an accent that, to someone from pre-monoculture Earth, might have sounded like it was from somewhere between Australia and Texas, with a bit of Scotland mixed in for good measure.  "ISIF, bring up the map."  The holoprojector conjured a partial wireframe schematic of the base on Tartarus.  "I got into some of the low-level systems so far, and found a few entry points.  There's the cargo bay, but I ken that could be trouble, what with autodefenses likely, and a door somebody could shut behind us."  As she spoke, the cargo bay was highlighted. 

 

"There's a dirty big waste-disposal system that I scope wouldnae be too hard to get in through; industrial trash compactors and robotrucks that haul stuff to outlying craters.  Dunnae ken if I wanna go in through there though.  If what they're throwing out isn't sommat they can reprocess with a closed-cycle life support system, I ain't so sure I wanna be near it.  But there's regular service doors we could go in through here, here, and here," she said, pointing them out on the map.  "If we can get a scope roundabout and vouch it's safe, disable the defenses on the cargo bay, then we could bring the First in to load up.

 

"Right now I'm trying to get into the Citadel's top-level systems, get us some better intel on what we're out against."     

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Signy

 

They seemed to have finally arrived somewhere. Good, maybe Venera had found her next salvage; Signy was certainly ready to get off this ship and do something interesting. Space travel could get very tedious if you weren't the one doing the flying, and there were only so many vids a girl could watch before zoning out entirely.

 

She opened the hatch to the cockpit and stepped inside, Venera was doing something that looked either incredibly complicated or downright random with a bunch of colored shapes and lights. It was almost mesmerizing to watch, as she flicked, twisted, separated and combined the holographic shapes in countless ways. She was certainly good at it as far as Signy could tell. They hadn't ever crashed at least, and even if something did go wrong with the I Saw It First! she seemed to always know how to repair it. Really it worked out well, Venera did all the computer stuff, and Signy provided some muscle and a gun. It was a decent job, even if it did get dull when they were traveling for a long time.

 

"Heya. I think we're go for a caper," Venera said. "ISIF, bring up the map." The holoprojector displayed something Signy could actually understand, a partial 3D blueprint of the outpost on the planet's surface. 

 

"There's a dirty big waste-disposal system that I scope wouldnae be too hard to get in through; industrial trash compactors and robotrucks that haul stuff to outlying craters. Dunnae ken if I wanna go in through there though. If what they're throwing out isn't sommat they can reprocess with a closed-cycle life support system, I ain't so sure I wanna be near it. But there's regular service doors we could go in through here, here, and here," Venera was saying, pointing to different points on the map. "If we can get a scope roundabout and vouch it's safe, disable the defenses on the cargo bay, then we could bring the First in to load up. Right now I'm trying to get into the Citadel's top-level systems, get us some better intel on what we're out against."

 

Signy nodded in acknowledgement and examined the map, considering for a moment. Then she pointed to one of the service doors Venera had mentioned. "I'd recommend that one. This," she said, indicating another. "is too close to the cargo bay, we may trigger those defense programs if we try to fly in. And the route once you get inside the third door is far more roundabout, it would take longer to get to the section you want; and if we do hit trouble it would be a harder getaway."

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OT: I apologize if this is positively horrid, but I wasn't sure where to go considering he wasn't responded to really.

 

Joseph

 

     "Be on guard everyone" He said to the group following along. He was a bit nervous. He'd been on dangerous missions before, but seeing some of the inscriptions threw him off his game. It appeared obvious someone had suffered there before he had. A sudden noise caused him to jump, and almost fire his weapon.

"Stand your ground..." He told the group, moving forward slowly. In some areas, blood painted the walls. What the hell was here before us? He thought to himself.

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Adah

 

The android gave Adah a smile and nod in affirmative. As the others continued to choose what group they'd go with, to the generator or to stay here, and then take off to do their own things, Adah walked over to the computer. Upon waking the screen, she found a meassege waiting.

 

Computer Status: Active.

Power Source: Minimal. Please increase power to access operations in [area] Cargo Bay.

Functions available:

***PLEASE LOG-IN TO ACCESS EMPLOYEE FUNCTIONS***
****NO UN-AUTHORISED ACCESS ALLOWED***

If you are having difficulties logging in please [touch here] to call for assistance where a member of staff will verify your credentials.

 

As she saw it, she had few options here. She could try to hack in, but with minimal power, that would be hard, if not impossible. She could push the assistance button, but what exactly would that do? If the place really was empty, who would there be to give assistance? Still, it couldn't hurt. Maybe it would actually be of some help. You never know. Or her third option, she could just walk away. Walk away from a challenge? Never.

 

She pushed the assistance button.

 

The screen filled with messages of loading, then a ringing noise started, followed by static. With no response on the other end, there was a click and the call ended. The screan returned to it's origonal meassege.

 

Well that was incredibly....useless. Adah sighed. Of course it wouldn't be that easy. She sat thinking for a moment and mentally scolded herself for not thinking to bring her equipment. If she had a tablet with the right software, this would probably be a lot easier. Just plug in and let the technology do most of the work. Too late to think about that now.

 

She knew one way that would more than likely get her into the system, a simple bypass. It involved shutting down the computer and restarting it in safe mode. From there, it should only take a few simple steps and she'd have access to anything she wanted. But with the power the way it was, the computer may not come back on. It would be a gamble. But with the other team on route to repair the generator, it wasn't that big of a loss if the computer didn't boot now. It always could later.

 

She pressed the modem's power button and tried to reboot. After a few whirls of the fan, the computer slowly flickered. After a moment, instead of booting up, the screen filled with error messages. A long line of error messages stating load failures. Literally nothing loaded. Just from restarting, what few devices that were on seemed to strugle just to keep going.

 

Adah knew this wasn't because of low power. Something else was at play here. It could be a fault in the Cloud. Or maybe the computer was simply subcoming to it's age? But how could that be? It seemed fairly new. A virus seemed more likely, though the question remained, how would the computer contact a virus of this strength? Wouldn't the company have a protection system or at least a fire wall? And if this area was recently operating, then how did the computer get so bad without anyone realizing? The only thing Adah knew for certain was that this computer wasn't going to do anything without a debugging, which she didn't think was possible right now.

 

With a defeated sigh, she pushed herself away from the computer with more confusion but no more knowledge than when she had started. What now? She wondered.

 

The big man with the big gun seemed to have assumed the role of leader and wanted to explore the other ship. She shrugged. Might as well, if there's no computer in need of attention, she could at least be some back up....not that this guy looked like he needed any.

 

Following his lead, she held her pistol at the ready. She took another glance at the blood on the floor and wondered what the doctor's findings would be. But more than that, she wondered how the blood had gotten there and if an answer was waiting inside the ship.

 

"What exactly do you think is in there?" she asked, gazing at the small craft in front of them.

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Lane

 

"Ma'am, you can monitor those drones remotely?  Can you rig a way to do the same for our ship's sensors, security systems, and telemetry, while one of your drones watches the outside of the ship?" 

 

"I'm on it," Lane nodded. She smiled appreciatively as Khalida took her handheld for the other half of the D.W.A.R.F.s. She knew her babies could be in no safer hands.

 

As her team roamed the wreckage, Lane set to delegating to her half of the D.W.A.R.F.s, rigging and hacking the systems just as Tiberius has suggested. She was so honed in on her own work she barely barely noticed the others, except for what she saw of them on the D.W.A.R.F.s remote cameras. 

 

Her fingers flicked back and forth hastily one her screen as she managed all six of the D.W.A.R.F.s, switching back and forth from each ones display every few seconds. As the D.W.A.R.F.s roamed around she found herself absent mindedly sending number 3 upward toward the creepy vent from before. 

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OT: Apologies for how short it is, need to get back in the flow of things. Ive messed with the order of talking with Khal and Joseph, mostly as I made a post and then forgot Jazz had posted ;-;

 

Khalida

 

"On three, one - two.. thre-'

 

 

For all she complained she had to admit, they really did work rather well together. Within seconds the door stood unobstructed and awaiting those who dared reap open its iron casing and walk down its hollowed out corpse of a hall. Even when functional the maintenance portion of the bay was nothing to look out, now even the setting groans of its infrastructure appeared to lament its glory days. 

She placed two fingers to her ears and looked back out at the others. "Mr Saxon, you there?"

There was a long pause of silence before the radio wheezed to life, just loud enough so that those within a few feet could overhear.

"...... Yeah i'm here, beginning to think you forgot about me. Find anything?"

"Some, hard to eleborate on the time line but there's a ship stationed in the docking bay, the others are going to check inside but it looks messed up, trail of blood leading into it. There's no power to the area though so me and Pink Flamingo are going to get down to the generator".

"Is it what we thought then?"

 

She started pacing, heading a few steps away from Dane for a bit more privacy and started typing a response back to him.

"Oh... I would say head on back but with the facility's defenses still up there's no point. *sigh* Alright, resort to plan B then. Crap.... Well, in better news ive got the off-shore servers up and running, had it installed to keep an eye on our little white-coats. Cameras are down but the tripwires are functional, been nothing since you got there. Soooo... Everyone's probably dead...Well... Never say I don't at least try to give you good news. Keep me updated mate, i'll see what I can get going to help you out". 

 

"Appreciate it".

 

She gave a quick glance back to make sure no one was listening and seeing she was in the clear she took a moment to compose herself. She gave just the faintest of smiles and a snigger before straightening up and heading towards Joseph and Dane with all of the robotic composure she had perfected.

"I'm on your side, if you need me for anything else call me up"

 

She placed a reassuring arm on his shoulder, mostly just to keep him focused for a few measly seconds. She gave a somewhat calming smile,  "You have a radio correct? I'll give you a bell if you want to stay here, we wont be far though. You're welcome to come with if not though".

Dane signalled for her to take the side and she gave his shoulder a quick squeeze and took up stance, feet moving in time with Dane as if practicing an old dance routine. The D.W.A.R.F followed in kind a few feet behind. Dane checked the sides while she went straight ahead, torch and taser outstreched to quickly scan for the manhole on the far side of the corridor.

 

She tapped him on the arm to draw his attention, "gentlemen first".

OT: Yes Dane's nickname is Pink Flamingo. Blame West Wing.

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