NPC: Kfuez (Corsair guard), Oraegrengouz, Sosazue (Junior Engineer)
The tool hunting party decide that the safest route is not down the central
stairs, but rather the floor iris valve in the starboard-aft corner of the upper
deck. This route will drop them down next to the starboard maneuver drive in
engineering. The corsair guard goes first and keeps close watch while Verroel
and the others climb down.
"Where's your toolbox," Verroel asks Sosazue.
"Up front, just to the right of the monitor board." She gestures to the left.
The group hustles over to where she indicated, but they quickly learn that it isn't there.
"It was right here. I swear it."
Verroel is absolutely on edge. He's sniffing and listening, but stays relaxed as best he can to present a good leadership image. When the toolbox is not where it was expected he growls softly.
"Is there anything else down here that we can use to break into the armory besides what is in your toolbox? It would save a wild goose chase."
Sosazue keeps looking around, as if hoping that the tool box will magically appear. "No, there's nothing else that will do it. We need to find it."
"It's ok," Kfuez says to calm her down. "We can search the rest of this level of Engineering. There's only two ways in or out that we have to worry about: the iris valve in the floor where we just came in and the one over there." He points to the one that leads to the corridor that runs from sick bay to the crew lounge. "We can leave someone to guard each hatch while Sosazue searches for the tool box with an escort."
Verroel growls for a moment and then relaxes. He wags his tail. "Stay calm; stay focused." He looks at the others as he takes back control of the situation. He thinks of his own experience with iris valves. "Kfuez, go ahead and guard the lower iris valve. Try to put something heavy over it to trigger the safety protocols. And if they're overridden, they'll get a nasty surprise. Oraegrengouz, guard this door here. I'll go with Sosazue. Now move out."
The other two males exchange glances with each other after Verroel's last sentence, then go to their respective portals.
Meanwhile, he looks at Sosazue. "Is your tool box distinctive in appearance?"
"Of course it is," she replies, paws on hips. "Don't all engineers personalize their toolboxes?"
Verroel stops to think about that one, briefly trying to recall what he did with his.
She doesn't wait for an answer. She walks past him, shimmies between the outer caps of the magnetic turbine housing, and then ducks under the cross-lateral stabilizer. Verroel follows. He's interested, of course, in the engines from a professional stand point but keeps his senses focused on the possibility of a lurking threat.
She continues on to the engineer's maneuver drive monitoring station and stops to check around it, giving time to Verroel to catch up.
Suddenly, she says, "There it is," and proceeds aftward, past the plasma conduit sensor tubes, and then the nozzle alignment plate. She picks it up, turns around, and holds it up for Verroel to see. He starts to wag his tail.
Her smile vanishes, and her eyes go wide in alarm.
Seeing her exhibit alarm, he doesn't hesitate but ducks, turns around, and brings his gun up to fire.
Six meters away stands one of the aliens, blocking the way Verroel and Sosazue just came from. It's roughly two meters tall. Hard to tell with the crab-like legs. Its large pincers are held in front of its chest in a defensive posture. Leathery wings are retracted. Its body is grey with mottled pink patches. What appears to be a head is a knobby structure with about a dozen antennae sticking out.
The air between Verroel and the alien shimmers, and there's a buzzing sound in his ears. Verroel realizes the alien is trying to do something with his mind. He shakes his head, then smacks it with his paw. The pain helps to clear things up enough to concentrate on the task at hand.
In the meantime, the alien is closer. Verroel quickly fires a single five-round burst. Three bullets strike the alien: one in the front left leg, one in the right front leg, and one in the abdomen. The front legs buckle, and a black ichor leaks from the abdomen wound. The shimmer is gone, and the buzzing sound fades away, replaced by some gurgling. The creature is still upright, waving its claws around, blocking the exit.
Verroel doesn't have the luxury of trying to communicate with the creature. Perhaps they were really tragically misunderstood and the entire situation was a misunderstanding, but that was not where he was at the moment. Just before he fires off another five-round burst, he calls out to Sosazue, "Get ready to run for it!"
Four bullets hit the beast in the chest. It slumps over to its right, resting upon the port maneuver drive. It's still, unmoving.
As Verroel, still crouching, growls under his breath in triumph, Sosazue rushes past him, bumping him with the tool box. He snaps at her a bit as she brushes past, a little for bumping him, but more to prod her along. He's back to his feet when she sidesteps past the lifeless alien and rushes to catch up to her.
At the end of the maneuver drive "corridor," Sosazue comes to a stop with a gasp. Verroel edges past her and puts himself between her and the outer caps of the magnetic turbine housing. Peering out, he sees Oraegrengouz slouched down on the deck, leaning against the bulkhead to the left of the iris valve, which is open. Two proboscises lead from a second alien to Oragrengouz's head, a blank stare on his face.
Bastards! Now this was just unacceptable as Oragrengouz was part of his pack. As far as Verroel can tell, the alien hasn't spotted him yet.
Knowing that Oragrengouz might already be dead or lost to the alien, Verroel jumps out from behind cover and lets fly another full volley from his gun.
All five rounds hit the torso of the alien, spilling black ichor. It keels over.
"Close the iris valve and then get the hell out!" he yells to Sosazue.
She runs over to the iris panel and keys it closed. She shouts, "There are more of them coming down the corridor." The valve closes. "I'll lock it, but I don't know how long it'll last." She then runs back to the ladder that leads to the top deck.
Verroel shoulders his rifle and starts dragging Oragrengouz toward the ladder heading back to safety. He calls on the comm link to the others. "Oragrengouz is injured by the aliens. Kfuez, get over here and cover me while I drag him. Dharla, open the hatch and rig a rope to pull Oragrengouz to safety. We leave no wolf behind."
He bumps into Sosazue. As he's about to growl at her for clumsiness, she blurts out, "Quick! Kfuez needs your help!"
Verroel growls in frustration this time. He drops Oragrengouz and unslings his rifle. "Grab Oragrengouz and watch our tails."
She replies, "I can't drag him and my toolbox." Verroel notes that she's using two paws to carry her toolbox.
"Then stay here and watch the iris valve in case the aliens get through."
With that, he rushes around the corner. Kfuez is crouched on the deck, grimacing in pain, trying to shield his head. One of the aliens, whose back is to Verroel, is almost upon him. Two of the probosces dangle in the air in Verroel's direction and start changing before his eyes. They darken to a reddish-violet color and become rigid, with some form of carapace forming along the last meter of their length.
Verroel opens fire on the alien. Four out of five bullets strike the alien in the back and it falls over. It's still twitching, but its limbs are limp.
Kfuez appears to be ok. He slowly removes his hands from his head and shakes it, trying to clear his mind.
Verroel motions Sosazue forward. "Get up and open the armory. That's the first thing we need done." As he speaks, he steps forward and offers a paw to Kfuez. "We leave no wolf behind. Help me go back and get Oragrengouz. He was attacked."
Kfuez accepts the paw and uses it to steady himself as he stands up. He nods. "Yeah, sure thing. Thanks."
Sosazue scoots past them and starts climbing up the ladder. The toolbox appears to be heavy. Her ascent is slow.
Verroel and Kfuez head back to Oragrengouz with their rifles ready. When they round the corner, they discover that Oragrengouz isn't where Verroel set him down. Instead, he's walking to the iris valve that Sosazue shut and locked to keep the aliens out.
Verroel growls. "Damn, he's been influenced. We have no time to mess with this."
He purposefully strides up behind Oragrengouz and uses his rifle to butt him in the back of the head. Oragrengouz collapses in a heap. Kfuez rushes over and helps Verroel drag him back to the ladder.
Once there, they look up to see a rope being lowered down. Kfuez makes a harness out of the rope and wraps up Oragrengouz good and tight. He's then slowly lifted up with Kfuez directly underneath to help with the load.
After Oragrengouz is out of sight, Kfuez looks over to the iris valve. He shouts, "Hurry Verroel! The iris is opening!"
Verroel scrambles up the ladder without looking back. He hears something like darts pinging off the ceiling as he climbs into the upper deck of the ship. The iris valve is sealed and manually locked behind him.
Sosazue gets to work on the iris controls. She announces that she's disengaging the electronic controls so that the aliens can't get in manually or electronically. "It'll take an iris valve opener or a plasma torch to get through it now," she says with satisfaction.
When asked about Oragrengouz, Verroel relates what he saw.
"We better put him into a cryopod," Dr. Gvekhs says, "until we can be sure he's no longer under their control."
[...to be continued...]