(Character generation, then... )
All of the group are employees of Rimworld Ventures, Ltd. An Earth Alliance combine that specializes in looting dead worlds and alien civilizations in search of new technologies to sell to the ever-eager Earth Alliance military industrial complex. Though they have never worked together before, they have seen at least one year of service for Rimworld in the Knossos Sector of Earth Space.
Each arrives on Babylon Five on the weekly transport in possession of transit papers directing them to the local RV office to contact Per Rubio Gossi, the local agent, and an accomodation card entitling them to Class 4 quarters on the station. Each makes his or her way through customs without incident save for el'Lavath, who is taken aside and grilled by Michael Garibaldi, head of station security. Garibaldi is concerned by the sight of a Mimbari warrior in the employ of an Earth mercantile venture. El'Lavath is also told, in no uncertain terms, that if RV should find "anything, anything AT ALL" out on the Rim, that they are to report it to Security before bringing it aboard. El'Lavath is quite cooperative and is let go.
G'bar and Drusus accept their Class 4 cubicles without incident and spend a quiet evening watching vids.
Dr. Vaughn refuses her quarters, sublets them to an itinerant spoo-seller and checks herself -- after failing to be assigned better quarters by Station Housing -- into the Hilton. This exhausts the remainder of the credit left to her after the Hyades Expedition.
McBride, a scientologist, finds the Station temple and acquires housing through that means. He spends the evening at peace with himself.
El'Lavath makes his way to the Mimbari embassy where he spends a long time with the ambassador's aide, Mr. Lennier. He explains to the aide that he was captured in the war against Earth and had been help captive for a long time in an Earth Alliance prison camp on Neptune, working in the methane extraction facility. Finally, Rimworld Ventures bought his freedom in exchange for a five-year contract with the firm. He has worked for them since. Lennier relates the events of the Battle of the Line to El'Lavath and the subsequent state of Human-Mimbari relations. El'Lavath needs a lot of drinks as a result.
Finally, the following morning, all of the characters save the Narn (who is notoriously late) present themselves at the Rimworld Ventures office for their mission briefing. Gossi, a Centauri, explains that he is the new RV agent on B5 and that as such their resources are rather limited. However, if their first expedition is successful, then he will get them bigger quarters, workspace and a real office.
Gossi completes the briefing, relating the information in the breifing packet.
MacBride and Lavath questioned wether RV had any idea of how the Warrior had been stopped by the station personnel. Gossi had no answer, that information was being held by EarthForce security. Similarly, the mechanism of Drake's 'conversion' was and is unknown. The transcript was discussed, with MacBride being of the opinion that almost any Ikaran artifact could be such a mechanism. He began demanding that the team contracts be revised to take into account the danger inherent in the mission (even though he did not know what the mission was... )
G'bar roused himself from his sloth enough to opine that "there wouldn't be any backup."
A great deal of discussion ensued about the virulence of the Ikaran technology, the great amount of money that could be made from managing to discover the secret of the Ikaran self-generating power system and wether the team would be able to acquire any heavy weapons to protect them from another Warrior.
Gossi told them that they already had all of the equipment that he could get for them, already loaded aboard a leased exploration ship he had arranged for, the "La Mathilde". It was parked in bay 27 in the Grey sector docking ring. Gossi was still waiting for a ship engineer to come in on the transport from Earth, but none had arrived as yet.
MacBride, who had decided that he was in command of the team, then demanded that Gossi leave them for private consulation. Gossi left in good grace to check out the bar scene it the Zocalo. More contract talk followed. Finally, MacBride, Lavoth and G'bar decided to go check out the ship in bay 27.
Drusus decided to wait for Gossi to return, and rifled his office in the meantime. Dr. Vaughn attempted to hack Gossi's terminal and managed to lock it up and set off a security alert.
After this Drusus returned to his quarters to spawn, while Vaughn went off in search of Gossi in the Zocalo. The doctor found him in Earhart's, having some black and tans. The place was crowded with off duty Earthforce personnel.
At the ship, they found the main hatchway closed, but a maintenance hatch open - a score for G'bar - a work crew was inside, repainting the ship hull with a new coat of anti-radiation and thermal paint. Only Lavoth had a breather, so he retrieved breather units for the others and they entered the ship after having a short discussion with the Docker's Guild forewoman - Neooma Connelly - about the work being done on the ship. Apparently it was in some kind of a tight scrape and lost the left-side power conduits.
The inside of the ship is filled with crates, transit boxes and packed up gear. Work continues inside. G'bar and MacBride scuffle about which quarters they are occupying, spending a good two hours reprogramming the environmentals and trying to get the biggest cabins to themselves. Lavoth leaves the ship and tries, unsuccessfully, to find Mr. Lennier at the Mimbari embassy. He then goes down into Downbelow in search of an arms dealer that can sell the team something with more punch than a PPG. He is successful, but does not have a credit chip. He returns to the zocalo in search of Gossi.
A station security alert is announced by C&C and security begins searching the transit quarters, door to door. Drusus is interrupted by this.
Lavoth finds Gossi in Earhart's and enters. Too late, he finds himself surrounded by a large crowd of semi-hostile EarthForce officers and ratings. He makes his way to Gossi's table; where he acquires a credit chip. Turning, to leave he is confronted by two EA marines who procede to insult him rather virulently. His pride is stung - "would you like to surrender to ME, bonehead?" - and a fight erupts after "Betty" Vaughn's attempt at mediation fails miserably. Vaughn's table is destroyed, Gossi makes himself scarce, and the doctor gets a nacho cheese bowl dumped on her head.
After quite a fierce fight Lavoth mops up the deck with Marge and Rita. His left knee is badly damaged, however. Security breaks things up and hauls Lavoth, Rita and Marge off to the holding tank.
Vaughn returns to the ship, finds the environmentals all screwed up, looks up Narn homeworld conditions - tells G'bar that his cabin should not be at sub-zero temperatures and moves into her own cabin. The vibe showers are not working and there is no running water, so she goes across the deckway to a public bathroom and washes her hair out in the sink.
Drusus abandons his ipit love and moves his gear down to the ship.
Lavoth is released by Garibaldi from the holding tank due to some unknown station security alert. He returns to the ship and tries to patch himself up. He is unwilling to accept human help from Vaughn, so he finally turns himself into the Medlab, where they put a brace on his knee and band-aid him up otherwise.
G'bar, meantime, has set up shop on the cargo-deck and is working hard at getting absolutely nothing done - other than breaking into the emergency supplies and eating all of the chocolate and drinking all of the beers.
Vaughn and Drusus go over the manifests and fail to find all of the equipment. G'bar finally realizes that the extra-vehicular rover is too big to unpack in the cargo hold, though it is still in its massive transit crate. He mentions this to MacBride, who has spent the day running diagnostics on the ships computer, navigation system and power relays.
Lavoth goes down into downbelow, again, and purchases a great deal of ammo, HE seismic charges, a chain gun and a lot of flares to supplement the gear on the ship. He then moves his personal belongings onto the ship.
By the end of the day - discounting all of the fun with the intercom system - they had managed to find all of the items on the manifests and had moved them into the proper storage locations, save for the heavy equipment in the cargo bay.
The engineer, Nicola, finally arrived on the morning shuttle from earth and almost immediately dissapeared into the bowels of the La Mathilde to run diagnostics and check the environmentals.
More fun ensued with getting equipment properly loaded onto the ship. The rover was unpacked and Drusus managed to get it working. He then proceded to nearly wreck it against the side of the docking bay. One fuel cell was burned out. The engineer was not pleased.
More shopping expeditions were made, by MacBride, Drusus and Vaughn. All of the discretionary funds were expended. Docking fees were paid, exhausting the remainder of the expedition budget.
Finally, the ship recieved departure clearance and exited the bay. As the bay depressurised, a solitary sneaker was seen being blown out into the main exit corridor. Docking control was informed. Dr. Vaughn immediately assumed that there was a stowaway aboard, and that this miscreant had lost a shoe.
La Mathilde's transit out of B5 space was uneventful and the jump-gate cycled to send them on their way to Rho Triangulis.
In the week in hyperspace, the crew checked and double-checked all systems. Dr Vaughn and Drusus began calibrating their equipment to the latest information provided by RTVL.
Nicola and the Narn, G'bar, expended a great deal of effort hiding crates of beer from one another. Eventually Nicola managed to gain a slight advantage. Dr. Vaughn continued her search for the stowaway.
Upon exit from hyperspace into Rho Triangulis, MacBride initiated passive scan of the system and it was determined that there were no other spacecraft in the system. Course was set for the moon, Wuteru.
Nicola and G'bar EVA'd with the work-cage to install the external instrument package that RVL had provided to them. During this effort, there was an accident with an exterior power lead, which caused minor damage to the instrument package and a short in the venting for the #2 semi-solid waste recycling tank, which voided into the abyss of space. Sixty-eight kilograms of semi-solid waste was lost from the recycling system as a result.
The next day, it was discovered that the Pak'mara'a, Drusus, was hiding an enviro-crate of kittens in his cabin. Apparently they are a delicacy on the Pak'a homeworld. Dr. Vaughn confiscated the kittens and moved them into her own quarters; the kittens are named "Mac", "Socks", "Fluffy" and "Mittens".
Still two days out from Wuteru, Lavoth and G'bar EVA'd with the work-cage to repair the damage to the instrument pack. After six hours of work outside they managed to get the pack properly attached and the damaged components repaired.
One day out from Wuteru, the engineer Nicola, while running routine environmental reports found that the CO level in the air handler system was 12% higher that it should have been. She began double-checking all of the recycling sub-sytems, suspecting that the accidental dump of the #2 semi-solid waste tank may have damaged something. In the process of this, she found that the #3 semi-solid waste recycling tank, despite being empty, was pressurized with a regular environment atmosphere.
Nicola comm'd Lavoth and the two of them crawled down into the guts of the ship to find, in the #2 tank, an inflatable pup tent containing a young human female and all of her expedition gear. They dragged her, protesting, from the tank. She was Carmen de Santiago de Vasquez, a reporter for ISN.
A long interrogation of the wayward reporter Carmen followed, and in time it was revealed that she had first been attempting to discover the story of the expatriate Mimbari, Lavoth, who in turn had led her to the mostly secret RVL expedition to Rho Triangulis. Determined to make a name for herself, she had snuck into the landing bay and stowed away after spoofing the environment controls of the #3 semi-solid waste tank.
A vehement argument over wether to space the "damnned reporter" followed and eventually Lavoth and MacBride were voted down. Carmen moved in with Betty (that is, Dr. Vaughn) and the cats. After more argument it was decided that since she was good with communications equipment that she would be the new communications and sensor operator on the ship. Carmen wanted to know if this meant she could "open hailing channels".
With Wuteru swelling in the foreward view screens, the crew at last turned their attentions to the long-range reconnissance photographs that the RVL probe had returned. Upon they found that the RVL had first noticed a long regular shadow laying across the icy plains and mountains of the moon. A long straight shadow, 150 miles in length. Computer enhancement of the shadow in turn revealed some kind of installation on the north end of the shadow, an installation marked by fields of circular pits to the east and other regularly geometric artifacts that pointed to the hand of an alien civilization.
Great discussion ensued over the shadow and what it could be.
At last the La Mathilde swung into a polar orbit and prepared to deploy the first of two communications sattellites. The long range cameras, meantime, had focussed on the shadow and it was determined that it was a long, elevated, ramp or pipe stretching from the ground at the north end to a point some fourteen miles high at the south end. Indeed, the thin atmosphere of the moon was exhausted at fourteen miles, so the construct - which it plainly was - reached nearly out to open space.
A pass was made in full ECM lockdown over the facility and one sattellite was dropped in a geosynchronous orbit. A full video record was made. Once the ship was over the horizon, a radar scan was made of the site, bouncing the beam off of the sattellite.
The sattelite survived; no energy beams or missles tore it to shreds. The radar return revealed an even great expanse of circular pits, each about a mile across in the plain to the east of the facility. Too, a broad field to the west of the site was found under a layer of snow. Obviously some massive enterprise had once been underway upon this non-descript moon.
An anomaly was noted about the ramp; it had no radar return.
About fifteen minutes after the radar scan, one of the radio bands began to pick up a repeating message from the surface site. It was weak, and short, and composed of thirty-four words. Dr. Vaughn and Drusus immediately began to run the translation programs on it.
While they worked, the ship completed its corkscrew pass around the moon. No other installations were noted in the course of this. MacBride now parked the ship just over the horizon from the site and a more thorough radar scan was made of the alien city. Again some odd details were discovered, but nothing to indicate that the city was occupied.
The translation was completed, and it contained a navigational warning to stay out of a 14 degree cone centered on the ramp. At this point, MacBride suddenly realized - from the long range video and the radar returns - that the ramp was not a ramp but rather a collossal mass-driver composed of some kind of super-conductor.
Due to the odd axial tilt of the moon, the mass-driver pointed towards the system primary, or occasionally towards the fourth planet and the destroyed colony.
The navigation warning came on again, lasting slighly longer.
The team decided to land on the flat plain just to the west of the base of the mass-driver, on what they assumed was a spacecraft landing platform. The descent was smooth, until the downdraft of the landing jets blew up a blizzard of methane ice and show. MacBride, cursing, brought the ship the rest of the way down on instruments.
Once down, the rover was fired up and sent out with a crew composed of Lavoth, G'bar and Dr. Vaughn. MacBride, Drusus and Carmen remained on the ship. The rover drove into the city, finding it a ruined wonderland of corkscrew towers, crenellated pyramids and shattered pavements. It was soon clear that the city had been severely punished by some catastrophe.
Picking a building at random, the rover was driven through a great hole in the side of it. Within, the exploration team found a large chamber with a methane snow-covered floor. Myriad lumps and mounds were scattered across it. Lavoth and G'bar exited the rover in their vacc-suits and found that the mounds were ancient bodies, the one-time inhabitants of the city.
The first body was of a tall creature with four arms.
The team explored the rest of the chamber and found two sloping ramps leading up to the higher levels of the tower. While they moved through the chamber, Carmen (watching through the suit cameras from the ship) directed them to another of the mounds, where they found the body of a short creature with only two arms. Samples were collected, though the bodies were so ancient that they easily crumbled when touched.
With the bodies in collecting bags, the rover drove on, coming at last to the foot of the mass-driver. It was anchored into a vast cube-shaped building, the first building that they had encountered that had right angles in its construction. They drove up a vast ramp that led to a plaza around the trapozohedron. Upon the plaza they found that the surface of the trapozohedron was covered with a slick dark material that swallowed their radar probes. Lavoth assumed that it was the superconductor. The plaza around the building showed signs of massive battle-damage.
Beyond the plaza there was a steep dropoff to the ice plain that the mass- driver ran south across. Broad ramps led off of the plaza to the west and to the east. The team attempted to negotiate the western ramp and managed to slide the rover six hundred feet down it when the wheels lost traction on the icy surface.
Eventually the rover managed to return to the ship by sliding to the bottom of the ramp and then picking its way through the ruins below the platform of the trapozohedron.
The following day, a second expedition team was assembled -- MacBride, Lavoth and Drusus to carefully examine the building that the bodies had been found in. Dr. Vaughn elected to remain on the La Mathilde to complete the DNA analysis tests on the recovered bodies, while Nicola, Carmen and G'bar retired to their quarters to rest and take the day off.
Again the Rover reached the city without undue incident and entered the building that had been partially explored. The three expedition team members EVA'd from the rover, locking it, and ascended the left ramp to the second floor.
Back on the ship, Vaughn patiently monitored her instruments. After a short period, an icon began flashing on her computer console. Activating the program she was informed that the regularly scheduled de-icing system had detected that it needed to de-ice the exterior of the ship. Vaughn gave it the go-ahead.
In the building, the ramp led to a large second floor chamber - round, divided into pie slices. On the far end, a ramp led further upward. Four doors lined each wall of the chamber, one for each slice. At the center of the chamber stood a blunt pillar some five feet tall. With Lavoth in the lead, the team entered the chamber, going first to the doors on the left-hand side.
Aboard the ship, Vaughn continued her experiments. The de-icing program went off, again. She ran the de-icer, again.
The first left-hand door in the chamber was smashed open, with debris on the floor of the wedge shaped room behind it. Looking within, by the helmet lights, Lavoth saw a ruin of bodies, rubble and seared walls and ceiling.
The de-icer on the ship ran again. Vaughn became worried and comm'ed MacBride to ask him if this was normal. MacBride attempted to debug the problem from his suit comm, but was unable to get enough information to make a real call on the problem.
The second door was sealed shut and no amount of pushing or shoving would open it. The third door was partially open and within the room beyond were rows of mounded bodies on either side. At the far wall, a set of shelves and a low desk. In the aisle in the center of the room were two wheeled tables. Lavoth and Drusus entered and examined the bodies. Again they were of the two types of native - the four armed and the two. On the shelves were various sealed jars and other artifacts of unknown provenance.
Vaughn climbed up to the sleeping deck and attempted to get the engineer, Nicola, to come and look at the de-icing system. The engineer, busy, told Betty that she would look at it later. The system activated again. Vaughn, who had put a monitoring trace on it, now determined that the de-icer was running about every 12 minutes. At the same time, the exterior cameras did not show any appreciable ice buildup.
Lavoth found the fourth door to be sealed. Determined to get -somewhere- he swung the squad support weapon around and fired a burst through the door-frame. The door blew apart in chunks, a huge hole was torn in the far wall of the chamber and the proximity alarms on the La Mathilde went berzerk, thinking that the ship was under attack as depleted uranium flechettes hissed past.
The room inside was littered, now, with debris and what seemed to be partitions of the space. Before Lavoth and MacBride could examine the room in great detail however, Drusus made a panicky call from the rover downstairs.
Drusus had been lolling about in the rover command deck when he happened to notice that some kind of a stilted, spidery, creature across the snowy street. He started squalling for help and while he did so, it scampered off.
MacBride and Lavoth hustled back downstairs and they, in the company of Drusus, went across the street to examine the tracks of the creature. They found them to be pole-like pits in the snow and they led around the circular base of the tower across the street and into a narrow crevice in the side of the edifice.
Back on the ship Vaughn idily sat around, watching the de-icer go off. Finally, another icon began to ding, telling her that the DNA scanning test had completed. She hurried down to the lab and began reading over her results. They were not encouraging. The material recovered was a shattered mess; centuries of freezing and then thawing and then freezing again had broken down even the smallest cellular structures. Further, the samples showed evidence of being subjected to massive electromagnetic damage at some distant time. It was goo, no more and no less.
Lavoth and MacBride, leaving Drusus in the rover, once more ascended the ramps into the upper building, this time taking with them a powered jack from the expedition supplies. Before using the jack, they returned to the room with the destroyed door and poked around in it. MacBride managed to find, in what seemed to be a rubbish pile, two flat oblong devices.
With the jack, Mac and Boney managed to open the closed door to room number two. Within they found a series of cylinders lining the walls. Now they got a little excited! Storage containers! They opened one at random and found it to be filled with packages of blue gelatin globules.
Meantime, downstairs, Drusus had been idily messing with the viewport controls when he became aware of a ticking-tacking on the roof of the rover. Frozen with fear, he numbly listened to the skittering sound procede across the roof and down to the back door. Then, to his growing horror, the keypad at the rear door began to ping slightly as some -thing- tapped through a succession of entry codes. At last, as the door began to slide open, Drusus recovered enough to start squeaking into the comm.
Upstairs, Mac and Lavoth abandoned their explorations and the jack and sprinted downstairs, PPG rifles out. When they arrived, they found the back loading door on the rover open, a trembling Drusus in the cargo compartment training a shaky PPG on them and nothing else. They searched around for a while, trying to find the creature, but nothing was found. At last, after berating poor Drusus for leading them on a wild-creature chase, they stumped back upstairs to find that the power jack had dissapeared.
This was enough for them! They scrambled back downstairs, piled into the rover and drove hastily back to the ship. Mac then proceded to change all of the door locks to use a 24-bit key rather than a 16-bit key -and- required that all exterior air-locks be opened by command from the ship command deck rather than from their local keypads.
Now, there was the matter of the de-icing program. After some messing around with the computer system it was decided that someone would have to go outside and check all of the de-icing sensors to see which one was malfunctioning. At the same time, at Mac's urgent behest, Lavoth and G'bar went outside to set up a perimeter security scanner fence to detect (hopefully) any spider creatures sneaking up on the ship. Nicola elected herself to go check on the de-icer.
The security wands were set up in the deep snow pretty quickly and the fence was powered up, whereupon it shorted out and one of the wands fried itself. Mac began to get very nervous. Lavoth and G'bar went back inside, got some shovels and began digging when they had put the fried wand in.
At about this time Nicola found that the icing sensor on the forward right landing strut was the one that was causing a problem. She too got out her trenching tool and began digging out the strut. After quite a bit of labor, she managed to clear off the snow around the strut and landing gear down to the landing plain surface. When she had done so she found that the landing gear was squarely set down upon a narrow strip of black material. Thermal analysis of the material revealed it to be some kind of supercold super- conductor. As the de-icing sensor was right above the strip whenever the microwave system went off, the microwave energy was sucked off into the strip and the strut did not de-ice.
Lavoth and G'bar, meantime, had excavated the wand pit and had found that they had happened to put the wand on a similar strip. So, after some discussion the ship was lifted off and then moved over a few meters to make sure that none of the landing struts was placed on a black strip. Whew.
MacBride's paranoia continued unabated and he had Nicola rewire the access panels on the rover as well so that joyriding spider-thing youth would not steal it. While she was performing this brain surgery, she noticed that the access panels light up when in use so that you can see them in the dark. By this means a spider-thing watching Lavoth and Mac enter the rover in the city tower could figure out the entry code.
A team meeting was held and it was decided that the rover would be sent out with a team to plant some seismic charges and do a sonar map of any subsurface cavities, tunnels or Pellucidar-like hidden worlds. Nicola, Lavoth, Betty and Drusus were dispatched in the rover to travel to the north-east corner of the upper city (near the giant pits) to set the charge.
This effort was successful, even though they had to negotiate some trenches filled with snow. The rover then drove around the southern side of the city, below the mass-driver arch and set off a second one. After this the rover returned to the LA MATHILDE and Betty and Drusus worked the computer models to see what return they had from the charges.
These efforts revealed a substantial underground component to the city, particularly under the mass-driver base. Various deep pits and underground tunnels were also found. More discussion followed, with a concensus being reached to explore the lower city. Thus the rover set out again, this time with Lavoth, Nicola, G'bar and Betty aboard.
After quite a bit of driving around in the lower city (and almost getting lost) our heroes found a tripartite tower (three cones with a central core) with an open door on the ground floor. As this looked likely, they parked the rover and sent the whole team into the building.
They found a broad corridor ending in doors on the left and on the right; only the door on the right was open, so they entered, finding a short corridor lined with doors. These were closed, but the door at the far end was open.
Beyond that door was a vastly deep pit ringed with a walkway. On the near side of the pit was a platform on tracks - some kind of elevator. A duplicate track was on the facing side, but there was no platform. Way far off down in the bottom of the pit was an odd watery blue light.
Extensive examinations of the platform and its control panel ensued, during which it was discovered that if a hand-light was shone on the panel for a period that the panel itself would light up in response. When this happened the explorers could see a three-track numeric panel (0-11) and various other buttons. The engineer did some fingers-and-toes and decided that the pit must be over 1,700 levels deep.
A long time was spent trying to get the panel to work, but in the end the elevator just had no power. At this point, G'bar declared that he would rappel down to the second level of the pit. After tying in, G'bar decended to the second level, where he found a matching walkway and the other platform, anchored on the far side of the pit.
There was also a corridor angling off from the walkway, which he went down. At the end of the corridor was a pressure door with a small octagonal window inset into it. The inside of the window was frosted up, though G'bar could see some white dome shapes beyond.
At this point, Lavoth's wrist-com went off, alerting him to something fooling around with the rover outside. He dashed off down the corridors to see what was going on. The others began hauling G'bar back up.
Lavoth ran out of the front of the building and immediately spotted one of the spider creatures on the roof of the rover, messing about with the radio antenna. He pulled his PPG pistol and fired, striking it squarely. It flailed about and fell off of the roof of the rover.
Lavoth skidded around the corner of the rover, pistol ready to fire again but the creature had dissapeared. This time the Mimbari was not to be fooled, and crouched down to look under the rover itself. The spider thing was there, folded up between the chassis and the roadway. Lavoth emptied his PPG into it, and then got the shock of his life as it swarmed out, its snaky appendages clawing at his faceplate. For a horrible instant he stared into the horrific visiage of the thing as diamond-tipped drill-bits howled into his facemask.
Luckily, his PPG had gone dry a moment before and he pulled his backup gun, a Glock-Andreesen 10mm caseless hand-cannon with an over-and-under 20 round magazine loaded with tungsten-rod bundle rounds. Two blasts from the Glock-A tore the spider-thing into a thousand unrecognizable bits. Lavoth staggered back from the side of the rover, atmosphere hissing out of his faceplate.
He popped the rear door of the rover and scrambled inside, looking for a pressure patch. While he did so, Betty Vaughn had also arrived outside, her PPG at the ready, to see what all the fuss was about. As she arrived at the rear of the rover, she found herself face-to-face with two more of the spider- creatures. For a long moment, she stood transfixed, her PPG twitching back and forth between the two targets. The creatures stood, regarding her silently.
Just then the rear door swung open and Lavoth stepped down from the rover, the SSW swinging ready in it's waist-cradle. Vaughn jumped back and shouted "they're behind you!" over the comm. Lavoth spun, crouching low, and the SSW opened up like the heavens with fire. A three-second burst tore the rear door of the rover into a swiss-cheese dinner plate and annhilated the two spider-creatures standing beyond. The face of the building on the far side of the street also disintegrated and slid into the roadway with a crash as three thousand depleted uranium flechettes raked across its surface.
Within moments the rest of the team had run back to the rover, scooped up the remains of the spider-things and was beating feet back to the ship.
On the ship, Carmen was busily pulling all of the video she had of the spider things (more, now that Betty and Lavoth's suit cameras had gotten good closeup images of the creatures) and was running image enhancement of their appendages and surfaces.
By the time that the rover team had returned to the ship, Carmen had spread out a whole set of magnified images out on the command deck plotting table to show MacBride and Drusus that the stalky arms of the spider-things were festooned with diamond-tipped drills, cutting torches and all kinds of manipulators.
Within minutes of the rover rolling into its wheel-locks in the cargo-bay, Mac had the ship airborne and boosting for orbit. Discussions and a new plan would wait until the crew and ship were safely in a parking orbit a few hundred miles up.
Babylon 5 Game Log Monday, December 9, 1996 Log contributed by Engineer Nicola Lennox
Our intrepid adventurers decided to return to the moon, taking certain precautions: We would not attack the spider-droids, and we would have the Rover return to the ship while we explored the tower, elevator, and pit we discovered last game.
Due to late arrivals by players, the exploration party consisted of Engineer Lennox, Lavath, Drusus, and Dr. Haley Vaughn (those who were on time). G'bar would drive the Rover, then return to the Ship, where Captain Mac and Carmen would monitor the com channels.
Capt. Mac landed the ship on the south side of the Mass Driver, putting us close to the Tower we would explore. The Rover headed out, with the abovementioned crew, and the following supplies: 600 meters of climbing fibre, a grappling gun, our portable fuel cell power generator, a high-intensity light, the BIG gun, and assorted other gear.
The Rover arrived at the tower to find the door closed (we had left it open, and found it open last session). It was suggested by Dr. Vaughn that we look for another building of identical shape in hope of finding an open door, so G'bar drove around for close to an hour, hunting for such a building.
We didn't find another tower of that design, but instead found an odd metal structure with metal arms that folded over a 50' deep metal hole, surrounded by a metal railing. All previous structures in this area were covered with a flaky black material over stronger material. This was the first and only metal structure. Also, unlike all other structures, and the ground itself, there was no methane snow or ice built up on this structure.
Engineer Lennox headed out without waiting for Lavath to check security (and got properly yelled at for it), and walked up the steps to the railing around the center hole. It appeared man-made and lined with metal. After discussion, Drusus agreed to be lowered down with a rope (ignoring the holes in the side wall that looked suitable for the spider-droids). The Pak'mara xenobiologist discovered the floor of the hole was angled towards a center hole, and very slippery.
When he reached the center area, the Pak'mara lowered a flashlight on a rope and learned the center hole, which was lined with the same black stripes we'd found on the landing site and elsewhere around this base, was 30' deep and very narrow.
At this time G'bar spotted a small box-like thing about 30' from the Rover, and called our attention to it. Lavath recommended G'bar drive away from the metal structure, being careful to avoid hitting the box-like thing, to see if it followed. When the Rover moved, the box sprouted legs and ran off.
Drusus reminded us he was dangling down in the pit, and was hauled up while Lavath and G'bar continued to watch the surrounding area.
We sent full vids back to the ship for Carmen to analyze, and for our employers, then headed back toward the Tower we had initially planned to explore.
The door was still closed. Engineer Lennox used one of the smallest seismic charges to blow the door ... and the wall covering, a tower on the building across the street, and lots of snow.
We disembarked and with all the necessary equipment, the three scientists and Lavath headed into the building. G'bar headed back to the ship to wait there until we called for pick-up.
Inside the tower, the directional markers we'd placed on the wall last visit were gone, but we knew where we were going, and headed straight for the elevator/shaft area.
First, Engineer Lennox set up the light powered by the generator, and directed it at the elevator car panel. After about 15 minutes, the panel seemed at full power. We removed the light and sent a vid of the panel back to the ship for Carmen to analyze. There were 3 bars marked 0-11 and a 4 digits LED panel, possibly for inputting the destination level.
Carmen noticed the power on the panel faded as she watched, and informed the party. We returned the light to the panel, and the power level returned.
Drusus and Lennox then came up with the brilliant idea of trying to attach the generator directly to the panel. Once it was connected, the whole shaft lit up, the elevator on the far side of the shaft rose to our level, and Carmen immediately reported that the lights on the outside of the tower we were in, had come on.
The elevator car was ready for use.
Lennox and Lavath used the car, programming it for level 1000, which took us down 20 levels, approximately 600 feet. Then the car stopped and the emergency interlock activated. (Uncertain whether that was the 1000 level, or the end of the line.)
On this level were two doors, each 15' wide and 15' tall, shaped like the upper half of an octagon. Upon investigation, they were found to be closed, with a 12-key digital keypad next to the door. Lennox set out to try and short the keypad, allowing access to the interior.
Meanwhile, back on the upper level, Drusus was getting nervous, and shortly thereafter Dr. Vaughn looked back up the corridor, toward the outside. She spotted one of the spider-droids. She returned to the shaft and warned Drusus. They stayed out of direct line of sight, but were discovered when the spider-droid peered around the corner using an appendage.
The spider-droid then entered the shaft area, and moved over to the power generator. It cut the cable linking the generator and the panel, and carried the generator (our ONLY portable generator) away. Drusus and Dr. Vaughn, being unarmed, were unable to stop it.
Dr. Vaughn bravely looked down the corridor after it, and saw what appeared to be dozens of the spider-droids, coming toward her.
Twenty-levels down, Lennox had almost gotten the panel to give up its secrets when the power was cut, and it got very dark. Relaying through Carmen, Lavath and Lennox learned the cause of the problem.
As Drusus and Dr. Vaughn had the climbing fibre with them, Dr. Vaughn tried tossing it down ("You throw like a Pak'mara!" snarled Drusus) but it didn't go past level 6, as revealed by Carmen, using Lennox's camera view.
At Lennox's suggestion, the grappling gun was next tried, and it was successful at reaching Lennox and Lavath, though they had to quickly get out of its way as it slammed into the railing where they'd been standing.
Making sure the fibre was securely attached up above, they attached their ascending/braking grips and began the long climb up 600'. Then Drusus noticed the rewind control on the grappling gun, and they were hauled quickly upwards, so quickly Lennox, in the lead, bashed her pressure suit helmet on a railing.
Safely up on the first level, with G'bar and Captain Mac on the way in the Rover, they checked the corridor again. This time, no sign of the spider-droids.
They got outside, Lavath trying to track the generator thief, just as the Rover pulled up. There was a party of 15 spider-droids working on the building across the street, the one damaged by the seismic charge, but they ignored the Rover and our party, in spite of Captain Mac tossing a lit flare in their direction. Another of those box-like things watched, but did nothing.
Lennox and Lavath, so they'd have something to show for this, returned inside to remove the panel from the elevator shaft, but the door was closed. They immediately decided to return to the ship and get OUT OF THERE NOW.
While G'bar, Captain Mac, Lavath, Drusus, Dr. Vaughn, and Lennox headed back to the ship in the Rover, three of the kittens (Socks, Fluffy, and Mittens) ran into the control room, meowing worriedly. Carmen grabbed her PPG and went hunting for whatever had scared the kittens.
They lead her toward the Ship's Mess, but she sees nothing to worry about. Then the lights dim slightly. She turns and sees one of the same box-like things spotted by the others, on the ship, cables attached to the Mess lighting panel. She shoots, scaring it away, and pursues it down the corridors toward the Cargo Bay.
She sees it in the Cargo Bay, and locks it inside.
Meanwhile, the Rover is trying to enter the ship. Finally, Captain Mac uses the ship's intercom to get Carmen's attention, and she explains the situation.
She activates the airlock cycle. The Rover enters, and the air pressure returns to the Cargo Bay (takes about 10 minutes total). Lavath, G'bar and Capt. Mac take center, port and starboard, respectively, while Lennox takes one of the spare fuel cells for the Rover and sets it up as bait near the airlock.
Dr. Vaughn and Drusus exit the cargo bay, and wait just outside the door, as Carmen returns to the control room.
G'bar spots the box-thing and it flees, heading toward Lavath. Lavath uses his slug-thrower on it, and with a major BLAST of sound, the box-thing is in lots and lots and lots of pieces. Lennox examines part of it, then hands it off to Dr. Vaughn, who's returned to the cargo bay, and is collecting the pieces.
Lennox is to finish setting up the fuel cell as bait, with a camera on it, so we can see if there are any more of those things aboard the ship, and set up the computer to give a ship-wide alarm if there are any unusual power drains, such as this thing did with the Mess light panel.
Lavath and Lennox are all for leaving immediately, and checking the ship for these things from space, especially when a nervous Carmen reports sighting one of the spider-droids outside the ship.
Captain Mac is for staying, and Drusus and Dr. Vaughn are in their cabins recovering from the adventure. (Dr. Vaughn discovers the fourth kitten, Mac, in her cabin, where he'd been accidentally locked all day.)
Lennox hauls Captain Mac to her cabin and they consult.
Meanwhile, Carmen picks up a roughly page-long broadcast from the base around us, heading as usual, in-system. She begins translating it immediately, then a second broadcast comes in, twice as long.
Captain Mac goes to the control room and announces the ship will be lifting off in 30 minutes. Dr. Vaughn has her sonic shower interrupted, and is sufficiently surprised, it isn't until a ... slightly embarrassed Captain Mac says something, that she realizes she was replying with full vid.
Everything is battened down, especially the litter boxes and the Rover, and we head into space.
As we pick up the satellites in orbit, the Mass Driver on the moon below comes on, and a small package (approximately two meters cubed) heads in-system.
It's going too fast to snag, so Lavath blows it out of space. Then, to prevent further packages, Captain Mac and Lavath direct the ship, and a missile, at the Mass Driver below, blowing a section of it into lots and lots of small chunks and dust.
Dr. Vaughn does a gas spectral analysis and finds the chunks consist of rare earths and heavy metals in a titanium casing -- worth 10,000 to 15,000 credits. And now nothing but moon dust.
The package was heading toward the inner system, and Drusus analyzes the route. It was headed into the system's sun. This doesn't make sense, so Drusus does further analysis. That shows that the inner two planets have "perturbed" orbits, probably caused by an orbital collision, or a change in the system's gravitational forces.
Carmen announces she has translated the first message: "Power restored 1/20th of 1% - self-regenerating power is on-line. A list of needed equipment will be transmitted shortly. Contact with possibly hostile non-Ikarran elements." Then there's a bit of untranslatable garbage.
Drusus messes with the computer and builds the system cosmology by normal standards. The two inner planets are definitely "wrong." The packet from the Mass Driver should have passed within the vicinity of the 4th planet, and there should be a small moon-sized planet orbiting within the orbit of the first planet. (Size of the existing first planet is that of Mercury; as is the second planet. The missing moon should be 3/4 that size.)
So, as ten o'clock hits, we stop. Lennox is finishing up the alarm system modifications to check for power drains, G'bar is somewhere on the ship, and the others are in the Control Room, monitoring space as we head toward the 4th planet to continue our mission.
[ End Transcript ]