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The Screaming Sky - DM Downrightamazed

Game Master downrightamazed

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now." -- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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John McNaught wrote:

• Are any weapon systems available/assigned for John's use?

• Can a torpedo package be mounted on Valkyrie in the mission's current timeframe?
• Are there any real time surveillance packages available (especially X-ray), either satellite-based or drones? Will these platforms be able to provide intelligence about sub-marine activity?
• Are there any combat troops assigned to the hive?

- Yes, pretty much whatever you want. What isn't already here, Al-Khidr can obtain in short order. Within reason, of course.
- Yes
- Drones are, but you need to allow a 10-hour window for positioning. Satellites are not available at this time.
- Yes, but not for you. Combat detachments can, however, be mobilized and placed under your command if you contact Al-Khidr. Turnaround time will depend on quantity/type requested, locale, and base proximity, but should never exceed 17 hours.

More intel and info from Czerny shows up in everyone's PCPUs (what's in the OOC post above), and Kyra looks noticeably agitated as the hour approaches for his meeting with Mettle in Abeche. Combat simulators, it would appear, are indeed available here in the Hive. You are reading up on the status and availability of combat troops when there is a knock on the door to the conference room you commandeered.

"Hello, anyone in there? Zero Team? Major McNaught? Anyone? I believe you are in there, may I enter?" The voice is reedy and annoying and fills every stereotype any of you has ever heard of "annoying nerds". Even as you think about it, a portion of the wall slides down and reveals a security cam view of the hall outside. There is a short caucasian man in a lab coat and bow-tie and very thick glasses. He is looking right at the camera and smiling beatifically, though even that is sort of irritating. His name plate reads "D. Keter"

Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Devereux mutters 'Better be good' and stands up, walking over to the door he looks around to see if anyone objects, if they don't he stands as tall and intimidating as he can and opens the door. 'Mr. Keter, please enter.'

The man breezes awkwardly into the room. He is easily the shortest person present, and of obscenely slender stature. "Yyyyessss, hello all of you. Bizarre that Dr. Yaradua didn't see fit to introduce us. Hmmm. I am Dr. David Keter. I am the Head Curator of the artifacts division here and a Research Lead besides." The doctor is looking only at Chelsea the whole time he is talking. He has dreadful halitosis and a faint air of cabbage water about his person. "There are certain items here of which you should be made aware. Would you follow me, please? It is a short walk, but you cannot gain access to the artifact room without me or one of my designated representatives present. The Hive will to see to that, as I'm sure you must know by now." He absently licks his lips as he gazes at Airfix's chest, then turns to talk directly to John for the first time. "I would like you to come with so I may give you some idea of the stakes of the missions on which you are about to embark. There are things you must see. None of you have eaten recently, I hope?"

"Erm... no, I haven't." John turns to Kyra and tells him "Your call if you want to come along on this; you can get this briefing later if you'd rather leave now."

He then gestures to Dr. Yaradura, "Lead the way. I am currently under the effects of a first-order scrying spell granting astral perception. Do I need to take any particular precautions in the artifact room, or should I dismiss the spell entirely?"

Dr. Keter's eyes widen. "Oh no, Mr. McNaught! In fact I encourage you to keep the spell up and be extra observant. I think you will find it educational, and I will be most interested to hear how it affects your observations and interactions with my Items." The nerdy fellow then steps into the hall and beckons you all to follow. "This way, please."

Leaving a pause here so if anyone does NOT want to go with, they can make that known.

Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Devereux makes a light comment, 'How bad can it be eh?', giving Winston a wink. Then he follows Dr. Keter down the hall.

Winston lets out a long sigh at Devereux's loaded comment and shrugs.

"This cannot end well..."

Grudgingly, he sets off down the hall after the group.

Alastair stood and smirked for a moment when Dr. Keter pparently ignored everyone but Chelsea. "Looks like we're losing our edge." He would have said more but he felt his PCPU vibrate momentarily an indication of an incoming call. He ignored it and quietly followed the others, leaving his helmet though back in their briefing room as he was sure he wouldn't need it for some time.

At Dev's comment Alastair grimaced. "I am sure we will be surprised. Couldn't be as bad as whatever you showed us though."

Chelsea notices Alastair's smirk and lets out a little sigh of annoyance as the curator leaves.



Shaking her head in mild amusement at the current situation, she gives his shoulder a friendly shove in the direction of the door. "Lets get moving tin-man. No sense keeping the mouth breather waiting."

Dr. Keter leads you all down a mildly winding tunnel to an elevator. His stinkiness is well-nigh unbearable in the close quarters, and he makes sure to stand by Chelsea. "Sub-level 26." he intones, and the doors close and you begin rocketing downwards. As the elevator slows, Keter begins speaking again. "Now. You are here under my supervision, and you must follow one rule and one rule only; do. not. touch. anything! Unless I say it is permissible to do so. Some of what you are going to see is, quite frankly, beyond human comprehension. Some of it cannot exist outside the Hive." The doors open and you all file out into a tiny vestibule area, maybe 10'x10' at most. The walls are stark white and there are no doors or windows or anything. The only feature is a small black touchscreen on one wall. The doctor walks up to that screen, goes through a triple biometric ID procedure, and speaks a passphrase at it. After a second, part of the wall slides open to allow you to enter.

The space you walk into is a large research room. There are lab tables, workstations, and several white-clad scientists engaged in tests and analysis. Some look up when you enter, but those that do go immediately back to work without a word. Dr. Keter barks over at a nazzadi researcher. "Dr. Giri! Do you still have 34 out?" The alien nods in assent and your host nods to himself. "Ah, excellent. This will be a fine demonstration. Gather 'round, please, all of you. Giri, you will be the subject." Dr. Giri, for her part, looks apprehensive, but nods assent.

Dr. Keter has you circle around Dr. Giri's table. On the table is a primitive knife constructed out of pure obsidian. It's so primitive it's barely recognizable as a blade. "This ceremonial weapon, " he explains "is well over a thousand years old, yet still sharp as a Liston knife with no maintenance required to keep it so. I will need a volunteer. The cut hurts, but is small and heals very quickly." He picks up the knife and brandishes it. He looks at Chelsea hopefully. "Ms. Scarlett? May I have your, uh, your forearm?"

Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

Today just keeps getting weirder and weirder, 2 weeks ago I was barking orders at some idiot cadets, and now I'm working for a secret organisation, in a multi-dimensional sentient cave, the host of a... a... a creature. And to top it all off I'm standing in a white lab listening to some freak asking Chelsea if he can c....

'You what now!' He barks, before realising at that level of volumn everyone has his attention, lowering his voice he continues, 'How dare you ask a girl to volunteer for something like that. Fair enough if she wants to put herself in harms way, that's a choice for her to make, not for you to ask.'

Rolling up his sleeve he steps forwards Can't be any worse then the last time some freak cut me. He muses, 'Here, get it over with.'

Dr. Keter's eyes get huge. He looks up at Devereux, but he is clearly not angry. The look on the scientist's face could more accurately be described as; reverent. "No..." he says, his voice hushed, "...not you. It will have to be another." He gives another hopeful look at Chelsea, but, sensing he has touched a nerve, he looks around at the rest of you for a volunteer as well. For whatever reason, he is completely unwilling to let Devereux volunteer for this.

Alastair pulls off the arm of his suit and places his forearm out, a small smile playing across his face. Devereux's display had been honorable in intent but if Chelsea still wanted to he wouldn't stop her. "Forgive me for Volunteering Chelsea but I don't mind, I've been cut by worse." This is the first time he's revealed his arms to anyone other then Kyra and Cythera. Alastair is scarred up, all of which look old some appear to be nearly faded away, it appears as if he'd been in more then one knife fight or perhaps bar room brawl and it is then that some notice the small scars on the palms his hands. "See..." He towered over Dr. Keter as he waited for what came next...

Chelsea has a coy smile on her face as she leans over and whispers in Alastair's ear.

"Thanks, Alastair. Nice scars, but if we're keeping score, I've had that arm blown clean off by a Null Ray before before so I think I'm still ahead on points."


@ Everyone: Wonders of medical science. Page 109. :-P

Alastair's eyebrows raise in surprise as he gives a low whistle but he grimaces at part of Chelsea's comment. "Never about keeping score, besides bayonets are a b#$%^. But very Nice, can't even tell. Perhaps I should look into that, get my girlish figure back." He smiles lightly as he continues. "You could be his test subject then, if you are so bold. Doesn't bother me either way."

"And give up the chance to watch you squirm? Not going to happen Alastair."

The smile she gives him is positively beatific.

Winston elbows Devereux and nods surreptitiously in their direction.

Turning his back to Alastair, he sketches a little heart in the air using his right index finger, a grin on his face.

Kyra raises an eyebrow at Keter's suggestion but doesn't react in any other way.

As Alastair held his arm out he suddenly considered the idea that he was making a grave mistake. What is the worse that could happen?

Dr. Keter makes an exasperated sound, then grabs Alastair's wrist and with a single, surprisingly quick motion, slices about a square inch of flesh off the man's arm. He immediately places a medipak over the wound, which seals and secures itself, preventing blood loss or spillage, and acting to keep the wound both clean and secure from airborne contaminants.

It happened so quickly that it takes Alastair a moment or two to register the thought that it did not hurt at all, though whether that is due to the doctor's startling skill with the blade or the sharpness of the blade itself is not clear.

The researcher hands the square of Alastair's flesh to Dr. Giri, who does not meet either man's eyes. She takes the flesh and quickly tosses it into her mouth and swallows. Within seconds there is a crunching noise and the nazaddi's eyes roll back in her head. She grunts in pain, and suddenly begins to grow, to fill out. Her hips narrow and breasts sink back into her chest, melding into her pectorals which themselves broaden with her shoulders. Her hair retracts into her skull and her height suddenly increases. Her eyes roll forward again and Devereux, Cythery and Kyra all gasp in spite of themselves; the scientist now has human eyes. In fact, as her body finishes changing, growing, shifting, she has human...everything.

She has become Alastair.

Looking across the lab table, Alastair is gazing at not a reflection, but a twin. It is...more than a bit unsettling. "The transformation is uncomfortable, but not painful." the nazzadi researcher says, and her voice is a perfect imitation of Alastair's. "How long it lasts depends on how eat. It only works on living victims, not dead ones, but can function indefinitely. If flesh is cut from a living subject, and that subject dies, the effect ends instantly." Hearing this explanation come from a duplicate of Alastair is at least a bit disconcerting, especially with the real Alastair right there.

Dr. Keter's eyes are wide as he looks from Alastair to Giri. "This was recovered by a Tager spec ops squad during a raid on a Migou encampment in what used to be the Northwestern Territories, about four months ago." He looks each of you in the eyes. "The question remains; who did they catch, and who did they imitate? Which of us is actually us? Or did we manage to retrieve the Item before they had a chance to use it? We are yet to get a definitive answer."

The doctor nods to Giri, who nods back. "Come with me, there is more." he says. He beckons you follow him again.

Alastair looks at his duplicate and barely holds back emptying his guts, first Dev's little show and now this. He covers his moment of sickness with a poorly humored comment. "I need to up my work out, my rump is getting a bit out of shape and my shoulders are sagging a little. Can Winston be next, maybe we can keep the researcher?" He smirks before following the doctor.

Currently flying will pot again later~

John nods slowly as he mentally slides that tidbit into the rest of the intelligence profile he had on Migou activities and begins tapping notes into his PCPU. As if the blanks weren't bad enough! He lingers for a moment to look between Alastair and Dr. Giri and compare their auras. The copy was downright uncanny, but he had the feeling that this was hardly the most strangest thing he'd see in here...

It suddenly clicks.

"Wang Ba Dan..." Bastard...

He pushes through the group, interposing himself between his partner and David, noticing that the man has somehow managed to drift back into close proximity while still leading the group.

"Doctor Keter," He says icily. "While I appreciate your little 'show-and-tell' session, if you ever consider trying to play out your little masturbation fantasies on my staff in the name of 'science' again, I will make sure your xiao di di will be playing in your hou men from that point onward. Do we have an understanding?"


@ Everyone: I will make sure your little brother will be playing in your back court from that point onward. Go figure.

Alastair gets a little more serious when Winston confronts Dr. Keter and decides that the time for light hearted jokes was over. He was still pleased however that it had been him over Chelsea or else this situation could have been a lot worse. Never mess with someones co-pilot, gunner or whatever they are called. Because you are very likely to get shot...

Dr. Keter's eyes get wide at Winston's threat, then narrow as a sadistic smile plays over his face. "Why Mr. Chang, I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about." You all notice, though, that the oily scientist is now keeping distance between himself and Chelsea.

He walks into a break room and stops by a coffee-vending machine. He inserts a single terranote and types in "the best coffee ever" on the little alphanumeric pad. The machine makes a couple strange noises, then drops a cup into its dispenser area and immediately begins filling it with what smells like just a positively amazing cup of coffee.

"Not all the artifacts here are grotesqueries from millennia past, like that ritual knife, which we can trace to the Aztecs. Some, like this coffee machine, are much more recent and relatively benign, though still subject to security procedures." The machine signals it is done, and the doctor pulls out the cup and savors the aroma, then takes a drink. He smiles in what appears to be honest pleasure. "This never ceases to amaze me. The machine adjusts constantly. Here, anyone want a taste? It really is just coffee, " -- he favors Winston with a devilish look -- "I promise."

Anyone who tries the beverage:
It really is, honestly, the best cup of coffee you have ever tasted in your life, ever.

The doctor inserts another terranote and types "a cup of gold" into the entry pad. Sure enough, after a few seconds of pinging and clicking, the machine dutifully dispenses a full cup of what appears to be actual melted gold. "It's real, I assure you." Dr. Keter says smugly. "I could entertain you all day with this particular artifact's tricks, but I should show you other things. My goal, after all, is to give you a sense of the scope of the things you are meant to be retrieving, and keeping from falling into Migou or other groups' hands." With that, he beckons you to follow.

Dr. Keter shows you a handful of other bizarre items; some impossibly deadly in a very direct way, like the strange lizard-creature that seems to bear all of humanity (and nazzadi) extremely ill will, and which cannot be destroyed, not even by D-cell powered weapons. There is a strange site that imparts impossible knowledge unto those that walk through it, though some of that knowledge causes the subjects to immediately take their own lives. There is a vase that ejects weird, vaguely simian creatures that seek to go out and destroy all things they come across. There is a small sketch that has come to life, and lives its days on a piece of drawing paper.

And other things.

Afterwards, Dr. Keter sees you back to the door. "Remember this is just a taste. There are things we've recovered that are far more dangerous, and which I am not allowed to show even to you. We do not know how many of these kinds of things our enemies already have, if any, but we must keep them from getting any at all, both for science and security. Feel free to contact me with any queries you might have. I'm always glad to make time for such fine warriors." He grins salaciously at Airfix, then shuts the door.

The elevator awaits to take you back up.

John only:
When Dr. Giri took Alastair's form, you could not distinguish their auras at all; they were literally the same person. It occurs to you, though, that if Giri was still Giri, there might be brain-wave scans that could lay bare the lie of such "duplication", if hers could be laid over Alastair's. If that didn't work, then it raised some interesting implications for what constituted "identity" in a being...

Devereux, you note, now has a large pouch (for lack of a better word) of shadow that follows him everywhere. It is pure black, and seems to be watching you and everything else around at all times, ceaselessly observing and calculating. It pulses a bit, but only irregularly. The most disturbing of its habits, though, is its predilection for randomly vanishing. One minute it is there, the next it is just...not. Whenever it reappears from one of these jaunts, it always does so in a slightly different shape from the one it wore before it left.

All of the artifacts Dr. Keter showed you possessed bizarre and anomalous auraus. Some, like the coffee machine, were clearly gates to other dimensions. Others just had extraordinarily old or violent auras. All of them, whatever they were, were strange and the vast majority were unpleasant or dangerous.

"Well... that was... strange..." Winston ventures as the door clicks shut. "So... we're in a three-way scavenger hunt with the cults and bugs over esoteric extra-dimensional bric-a-brac with guns involved. Oh be still my beating heart."

"You think we can trust Strangelove over there? Ignoring his attitude to women, God alone knows how Giri manages, I still get the feeling he's not quite all there."

"Besides," He adds. "Dev, what was up with the way he treated you over there? He seemed right willing to pucker up and kiss your rear."

His hand hovers over the lift console.

"We going up?"

Alastair was intrigued by the lizard creature that couldn't be destroyed. Before he left he made sure ask about it. "Where was this creature captured? Does it speak? Exactly how old is it?"


He waved goodbye to his duplicate. "Pleasure to meet you Giri, you take care of yourself, call me if you need another slice." He followed his ill humor with a wink before the doors closed. "Well that was interesting, disturbingly so." His thoughts returned to the strange artifacts and the lizard creature. In all his years such things were the stuff of legends, and nightmares. They couldn't fail, they had to obtain those items no matter the cost.

Dr. Keter shakes his head at Alastair's question. "Classified, my boy, sorry. O-level clearance only." Then, strangely, the doctor mutters a long string of Gaelic, only just audible. "Ar ndóigh, d'fhéadfadh muid a dhéanamh TÚ ... socruithe, an tUasal Cadwallader, más mian leat bualadh le liom ina dhiaidh sin. Ná freagra a thabhairt dom anois. Faigh liom ina dhiaidh sin."

Alastair or anyone else who can speak Gaelic ONLY:
Of course, for YOU we could make...arrangements, Mr. Cadwallader, if you would like to meet with me later. Do not reply to me right now. Find me later.

As you leave, you note that Dr. Giri has morphed back to her usual form.

As you are all in the elevator going up, there is a chime and Czerny's voice comes over your respective PCPUs' comm links. "Hey, ah, guys and gals, you may want to look alive. Something just landed in the city. Something silent and invisible, apparently; we only caught its heat trail coming in but now we can't find it. We're trying to coordinate with local law enforcement. Whatever it was, it wasn't very big. Human-sized, not much more, but it landed on the south side of Abeche and promptly disappeared. Also, more news; Dagonite mecha on the move around that island you were briefed on. They appear to be moving to the north side of the island in careful formation. Slight increase in heat trails and other movement on the island, small firefight, of all things, near the shoreline. Radio contact has failed thus far, as has laser, satellite, and arcane means. Whoever's fighting isn't one of ours. We're sending drones now for eye-on-site reports, I'll plug you into the video livefeed as soon as they're in range. Shouldn't be long."

"Lovely...looks like I'm going to miss my meeting with Mettle..." Kyra says when they get there update.

Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

At the smell of the coffee, Devereux whips out a terranote of his own and hands it to the Dr. 'I'll be damned if I'm sharing a mug with someone /that/ slimey he thinks.', 'I'll grab a cup of that myself if you don't mind, I've been hankering for a good coffee.'.


Devereux responds to Winstons question with a shrug, 'I don't claim to know all the answers, from what my new "friend" lets on he can be hard to detect through normal means, so there is more to Dr. Keter then just a pretty face', he grimaces at the mental image of Dr. Keter.

To no-one in particular, 'This classified nonsense gets up my nose sometimes... However, given how dangerous some of that stuff was we are going to have to be on our toes at all times capturing these artifacts, who knows what might happen.'

He falls silent as his PCPU jumps to life, 'Looks like we're going to have to move, sight seeing time is over. Finding whatever it is that landed in the city could be like hunting for a needle in a haystack, we might be better off leaving it to the team here and focus our attention on our mission.' he says after Czerny finishes.

Winston shakes his head. "Never a dull moment."

He taps the screen of his PCPU.

"Colonel, what transport options are open to us. Major Mcnaught, I need to know if you'll be riding with us in the field. Dev - Battle Armor proficiency if any."

"Scratch those training plans - we'll learn our jobs on the bounce or come back in body bags. Personally, let the Keystone Kops earn their paycheck here. The fishboys are out on land. That's a heck of a tell that they know something we don't - we miss this window, we'll never catch them on their own turf. "

Gone is the wavering expression of self-doubt, replaced by a steel core of grim professionalism.


@ Devereux: caffeine_addict I see... :-P

Alastair turned from Dr. Keter giving him a barely perceptible nod as he followed the others.


Alastair checked his Defenders, he would have to grab some extra clips before heading out. "we may want to look into cloaking tech for our smaller Mecha and Winstons ranger if we can for future missions. Kyra if we head cityside you find your contact and rendevous with us as best you can. If we do investigate we best getting moving fast."

He looked to John. How much time can we spare?"

Damn it. I wish we had time to get used to everyone else's toys

"The M-15 AAFV is the largest and heaviest thing found on our side mounting an integrated Cuttlefish Cloaking System. Most Engels are too large and Battlesuit D-Engines can't generate enough power."

He taps at his PCPU for a moment.

"I'll get a copy of the vehicle specs to you for the flight over."

"Sounds good, Winston. I know of a smaller Engel that can cloak, perhaps we could look into how and try and figure out something in the mean time. There has to be a way and we are the ones to figure it out."

Alastair looked to the others. "Team Zero, The Last Hurrah, hell we can call ourselves Red Riders. Fact of the matter is that after what we saw down there, we cannot fail. We cannot and will not allow a single artifact fall into the hands of our enemies. So Lock and load! Get your combat gear and regroup in the hanger in five."

Czerny comes back over your comms; "We have Mastodon-class transports fueled and ready to go if you need 'em. they can get all of you and your mecha and vehicles to Eritrea in six hours. If anyone is going to the city, we can arrange a Sabretooth to drop you there in just 30 minutes. Who's going where?"

@Kyra: You have an incoming video call; it's Mettle.

Kyra hits accept when he sees who it is. "Oh hey Mettle...there's been some problems on my end. I should be in the city soon.

Mastodons... Crap...

He suddenly remembers the sealed container of sand he'd kept for analysis left sitting next to his bunk. He signaled to Devereux that they had a problem, then tapped frantically at his PCPU.

If you can help patch me through to Dr. Giri, it'd be welcome big guy.

He left the thought hanging at the fringe of his consciousness where he knew the Hive would find it and scrolled down through the list of names.


@ DM Downrightamazed: No, I didn't forget about that. Going to see if Winston can patch a private call through to Dr. Giri, see if he can get the sand in for analysis hush hush without Strangelove finding out.

Computer + Intellect
1d10 ⇒ 10
Keep 10. Total 10 + 6 = 16.

@Kyra: Your vidphone explodes with noise and static. Mettle is hiding behind something large and made of steel or iron and there are growls and shouts and explosions from somewhere off-camera. Your old gang-brother looks beat up and panicked. "Kyra! Kyra my brother you gotta help! You still in da army, right?! You still guns and s+#*, right?! 'Cos we're gettin' KILLED over here! This s*~~ is crazy! This shi-" There is a blast of static, and the call is terminated.

@Winston: You are able to find Dr. Giri's number easily enough, but you can only get her voicemail.

"Mettle! METTLE!!! Damn it! What the hell is going on in the city? We've got to to know!" Kyra says and as soon as the elevator reaches the floor he runs towards the hangar to get preparations underway for their transportation.

I'm assuming they have a Saber, if not then I'd go with a crusader or centurion- hopefully with a handheld x-ray scanner.

It was about time something shook Chang out of that self-pitying shell! I guess all it took was a hit of adrenaline...

"Yeah, I'll be joining you in Eritrea. I'll meet you in the hanger..."

"Colonel, load a Saber onto the Mastadon for me along with an EB-12." (hand-held small charge beam)

He was hoping to have some time for familiarization training, but the frame couldn't have changed that much since he was in it last...
John runs to the barracks to pick up his ritual supplies then heads back to the hanger. He's mildly irritated at how strange everything had become over the past week. The 'vacation', Nyx, Lokapala, the train, the Hive... rushing into a combat mission almost came as a relief compared to trying to guess at what was going on behind the scenes.

@John: "No problem, major." Colonel Sobucek's voice rings over your comm.

@Kyra: You bolt out of the elevator and sprint to the hangar, where you find Azrael already set into the grip of a Sabretooth short-range high-speed transporter. A deck chief is gesturing towards you. "Right this way, sir, he's locked and loaded and ready to go." The Sabretooth pilot salutes you and closes the cockpit. The engines are prepped and he's ready to go.

Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

'Damnit, this city was supposed to be secure! Kyra, hold on i'm going with you, sounds like you'll need some help out there.' When the elevator doors open he follows Kyra to the Sabertooth transporter, wasting no time in finding a seat.

Alastair calls Czerny over his comm. "What exactly is ahppening in the city do we need to move in some heavy support? Because I am more then willing to bring my Engel into this fight." he says all of this while heading to the bunk to retrieve some ammo clips and snap his sentry mk V helmet on.

"We've got a lock on a firefight in the warehouse district, Chief." comes the reply. "There's definitely a weird heat trail, we can't lock it. Likely a Dhonaoid incursion or similar based on analysis of past attack patterns. Local law enforcement is currently getting clobbered, NEG MP regiment en route to assist. It should be a heck of a party by the time you guys arrive."

"Colonel, get a Ranger prepped for combat ASAP. Hotload standard AP rockets. Slave direct fire weapons to gunner's helmet HUD."

He glances over at Airfix, getting a thumbs up confirmation and gives her a nod.

"Alastair. See if you can slave your gunnery to telemetry feeds from the John's Saber and my Ranger."

"And ladies and gentlemen... That's a damn lot of firepower we're losing to chasing a spook." His eyes are cold but there is none of the usual recrimination in his voice, merely a calm statement of fact.

"We're going into a hot zone half-strength without most of our heavier assets. It looks a good day to die." He flips down his helmet visor, the reflective panels snapping into place and obscuring the better part of his face.

"Lets go."

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