Week 5 - Aerin Starport Recon

The Trailblazer drops smoothly out of orbit and begins the descent to the world's surface. The air burns as the Trailblazer slices its way towards the ground. The kick of the thrusters is felt throughout the ship moments before the grav systems overcame Aerin's grip on her. Teanna guides the ship to the coast below and settles in the shallow waters 100 meters off the beach.

Teanna taps her comms to open a channel to the G. "Team away." she calls.
She taps another channel. "Engineering, begin refueling." Amalric and Saihe confirm the command.
She then turns to Kirth. "Mr Gersen, please take the first watch." She gets up and retires to her stateroom.

Heather guides the G-Carrier smoothly out the Trailblazer's hold and set off towards the starport at cruising speed, keeping one eye on the forward scanner and one eye on the landscape ahead. Vegetation was moderate through the rolling hills as the team sped toward their target. The controls, adjusted for his physique, respond instantly to Heather's commands. Sterlkar manned the G's gun while TK and Nigel readied themselves in the back. Heather breathed deeply as he piloted the air raft toward the ruined star port. He was alert of course for in a place like this danger was ever present. Still, it was good to be back in the natural world and if time permitted he would explore the habitats and creatures of the planet. The trip was uneventful, except for a startled pachyderm that bounced off the side of the G, and thirty minutes later the G glided into the wrecked starport. At the star port perimeter he settled the carrier just a meter above the ground, just above the low grasses and looked about.

It didn't take the team's trained eyes long to realize that the craters pocketing the starport were from ship's missiles. Most of the major liftoff zones were blasted, as well as three quarters of the buildings. All the craters had bushes growing across them but they were still recognizable. Bushes and trees also sprouted out of the crushed buildings. Heather stopped at what was left of the starport perimeter fence. He looked at the scanner screen, gave it a slight tap, and had another look.
"No movement detected Mr Strawn." he said, not looking back from the screen and his view of the starport. "Do I deploy the drones?"
The G-Carrier came stocked with 4 short range recon drones that could be controlled remotely or set to an automated search pattern.
"Yes by all means, patch a couple of those feeds back here." replies Nigel.
In reply to Nigel Heather tapped the control screen with a finger, careful to leave the claws retracted. One, two, three and four taps. "Drones away. We will maintain position on the perimeter to relay comms." Heather manipulated the controls to patch in a feed of each of the four drones into the small console in the carrier. Each of the four drones glided silently out until they reached their pre-programmed survey height of 50 meters and began scanning. Within five minutes the consoles started to beep as contacts came in.

The G-Carrier sat at the southern perimeter of the starport. Several launch zones sat before them, with the wreckage of several light craft scattered about within view. To the north-east of them, about 500 meters, was several small buildings and what was left of the control tower. To the north-west at 750 meters sat a dozen medium to large buildings, possible repair hangars, as well as the main gate. Directly to the west of them at 1000 meters sat huge rusting tanks, hydrogen storage. Two blips showed on the console, a possible humanoid contact in a small building behind the control tower, and a low level fusion energy signiture in one of the larger hangars.
Heather examined the readouts of the drones. He kept three on their programmed search pattern, tagging the humanoid contact, then he taps the control to release the last drone and begins to take it closer to the hangar with the fusion power source. Sterlkar moves his targeting screen to the side and brings up the drone feed so he can focus his attention on the energy signature in the hangar bay.
"I will try to localize the power source first. Then it may be best to scout forward on foot alone." says Heather.

The hangar is full of wreckage. Heather could pick out the remains of a couple 100 ton traders, a shuttle and three ship's boats. One trader's upper hull had been ripped apart, its innards laying across itself, the floor and half over a nearby ship's boat. The damage to the trader is old as clear signs of oxydization and rust are all over the damaged pieces. The energy signature emanated from inside this shattered ship. Bringing the drone in closer Heather could see the fusion power plant now lay exposed to the outside environment. A console to one side of the plant flickered weakly.
"There's the source of the power readings." says Heather. He hovers the drone in and around the wreckage. No movement is detected.
TK leans in over Nigel's shoulder to look at the display.
"We going in then Mr Strawn?" he asks.
Before Nigel can reply Sterlkar asks "Can you zoom in to tell if the trader has been abandoned or attended to recently?".
"Sure." replies Heather. The camera on the drone zooms in.
The damage to the trader is old as clear signs of oxidization and rust are all over the damaged pieces. Nigel looks at the vision.
"Even on such low power output that the plant is currently putting out a full tank of fuel would only last four or five years." he says.
"Humm, the power plant would seem to be the obvious mystery here. Somebody or something is keeping it going. Why?" he says to no-one in particular.
"Alright, keep a drone on the life sign," Nigel says to Heather "spread the two others out to cover a rough triangular perimeter. Use the last one to continue to search the hanger. If it's clear have it join the others to expand the perimeter."
"Redeployment underway." responds Heather.

"I'll take one trooper with me to check the hangar, the rest hang back in case we need it. So who want to come along?" Nigel asks.
"Ah Mr Strawn," responds TK, "standard recon procedure for a four man team is for the driver to hang back to monitor while the rest of the team goes in."
Sterlkar nods in agreement. "Yes, combat members in front with tech resources following."
"Then lets do this men." replies Nigel as he begins to do the seal up on his suit.
"Make sure you cover your IR signatures" Nigel says when he saw the others watching, "any suggestions on how we should to infiltrate?"
"The Legionnaire way, straight in" replies TK.
While the others are getting ready Nigel will pay attention to any signs, cables and what not, to see if the power plant is feeding something else as the drone continues to scan.

"Stop there!' Nigel suddenly commands Heather.
Heather tapped the controls and the drone vision stops.
"There," Nigel points at cables snaking out of the power plant, "the plant is feeding something. Where do they go?"
Heather zooms in on the cables to follow them. Eventually they disappear under the wreckage. No cables are seen outside of the Hangar.
"We can't go into the wreckage without risking the drone." states Heather.
"OK then." responds Nigel.

The team finish getting ready and head across the field, leaving Heather to monitor the situation in the G. After 10 minutes of dodging brush and debris they arrive at Hangar 11. Nigel looks up at the nearest hovering drone, giving it a thumbs up. One of the large hangar doors nearest to them stands open, the gloom of the interior broken by the light coming through the broken skylights and roof panels above.
"Right," says Nigel to the other two, "how are we doing this?"

"Lets check it out then." replies TK.
"Right," says Sterlkar to Nigel, "I'll go in first, TK fans out to the right and you hang back 10 meters."
Sterlkar nods to TK and they head in.
Sterlkar and TK check each of the ships, in turn, as they head into the hangar. Nigel notes the ships are in quite poor condition, stripped of a lot of electronics. After checking the first trader and ship's boat the team approaches the shuttle in the middle of the hangar. Suddenly Sterlkar signals a stop. He briefly speaks softly to TK and, in a crouch, comes back to where Nigel is standing. He points to the side doors of the hangar and the tail fin of the shuttle.
"There's been a fight here, see the holes in the doors, and in the shuttle tail fin?"
Nigel sees a combination of holes by laser and ballistic hits."
"Can you pinpoint the source?" he asks.
"Judging by the angle, best guess is the far end of the hangar. Maybe the other side of the debris. Be alert and keep your head down."
Nigel nods and Sterlkar heads back over to TK. Together they head to the other side of the shuttle towards its entrance hatch.

As Sterlkar turns to head up the entrance stairs TK takes up position next to the shuttle landing gear, covering the other end of the hangar. Just as Strerlkar steps on the stairs the grinding scream of metal on metal breaks the quiet of the hangar. Rising up out of the debris beside the other trader is a mound of steel and pipes. To Nigel's trained eyes it looks a lot like an old cargo handling bot, 30 tons of raw power used to load containers onto starships. Strerlkar and TK only see the laser canon and dual auto-cannons turning slowly towards them. Sterlkar's combat training kicks in and he instantly evaluates the situation. Sterlkar doesn't believe that either of his weapons is any match for a 30-ton robot. Hoping the thing is slow and its targeting system has bad "eyesight" he heads for the nearest cover, the shuttle's open hatch, even as the sound of the auto-canon whirring up to full power reaches his ears. Seeing TK bunker in behind the landing gear and Nigel backing off as he races up the ramp to the shuttle he attempts to shut the hatch, but finds it jammed open.
"Maybe the shuttle can be powered up and flown and shield the others so that they can get back to the G-Carrier" he thinks just as robot's auto-cannon opens up with a clak, clak, clak. Sterlkar dives for cover inside the shuttle but realizes there has been no impact from the shells. He risks a quick peep out the hatch and sees the auto-cannon's firing mechanism going back and forth. Sterlkar lets a little breath go, it's out of ammo. Then the laser opens up.

Nigel backs off, putting the shuttle and the other trader between him and the cargo robot, screwing on a RAM grenade as he goes. He sees Sterlkar take off up the shuttle's boarding ramp and TK go flat behind the shuttle's landing gear, also screwing on a RAM grenade.
"Holy crap" he thinks as he tabs his radio and announces the following, "Everybody out NOW. Heather we've got a heavily armed 30 tons cargo loader about to attack. Need pickup, give the ship a SitRep, we're gonna need its guns."
Nigel takes up position near the ship's boat to cover the other two's retreat, ready to back off to the hangar's entry point. He holds off on the AT grenade for now.
Thinking about the laser on the G-Carrier he thumbs his comms. "Heather, we really could use the G's laser right about now!"
He also thinks how a disposable AT missile or two on the G-Carrier would be useful right now.
TK listens to the empty auto-cannon firing and smiles to himself. He pulls out a RAM grenade with a flame painted on the head and stuffs it in the launcher while watching Nigel retreat back to the ship's boat. The bot's laser then opens up on the shuttle's hatch, hot metal spraying down from above. He tabs his comms.
"The laser isn't fully powered, it's not penetrating the hull. Prepare to move on my signal."
He taps the launcher with his index finger then rolls over and pulls the trigger. The HEAT round flies across the hangar towards the bot, but the bot lurches sideways at the last minute. Still the round catches its target in the right shoulder joint, blowing off the arm containing the auto-cannon. Smoke, flames and debris fill the area. Instantly TK is to his feet, loading another round.

Sterlkar uses the smoke from the hit to get in the cockpit. He goes in low through the door to keep out of sight, then curses upon discovering the cockpit has been stripped of electronics. Most of the glass in the cockpit is still intact however, and the glass facing the bot has several fist sized holes in it. Sterlkar opts for a sniper approach and uses his Yeheal to target the laser on the cargo bot.
Heather makes the call to the ship to report the situation even as his well trained reflexes brought the G up from concealment to move forward toward the hangar. He gets nothing but static, then remembers the ship is on radio silence during refueling.
"I am on the way comrades, hold fast. Draw the robot forward if you can so that I can slave the pintel mount forward at the 'bot."
Heather speeds the G across the starport at full throttle, aiming to bring it around to fire into the hangar at the bot.
"Negative," Sterlkar says. "Fly over the hangar. The doors on the far side are open. You'll have a clear shot of the robot's backside from there."

From the cover of the ship's boat Nigel sees the shot is safe to take and while TK is loading another grenade and to keep the robot distracted he fires off his own grenade. He aims for the robot's center of mass, hoping if it lurches he can still get a hit. Nigel pops off his grenade, scoring a shot dead center of mass. The bot lurches sideways slightly, it's sensor bundle swiveling to focus on Nigel's location. Hydraulic fluid starts to flow down its front, like black blood from a wound. It's tracks begin to spin up, crunching through the debris, just as Sterlkar's shot hits its laser, doing minor damage. The bot begins to build up speed as it smashes its way through the hangar.
"20 seconds and I'll be there." comes Heather's voice over their coms.
Sterlkar decides to keep firing at the laser until he's certain it's no longer a threat. As he fires TK pops off another RAM round into the bot's tracks, causing Sterlkar's shot to hit the chest. Hydraulic fluid sizzles and bursts into flames even as the track comes off. However the bot has built up a frightening amount of speed in such a short distance. Sterlkar realizes the bot has veered off course from Nigel and is headed straight for the shuttle nose. Nigel also sees this and holds off his next shot. Sterlkar dives for the cockpit door just as the bot crashes into the shuttle, its laser 'arm' coming through the plexiglass windows. He makes it in time through the door, but now has bigger issues as the cockpit becomes engulfed in flames. The bot attempts to extract itself from the shuttle but with no traction on the right hand side it just thrashes about. Flaming debris is ejected from it, starting spot fires around the shuttle and the thrashing threatens to collapse the shuttle's landing gear. Sterlkar, being familiar with this model of shuttle, knows there's a rear exit on the shuttle as well as the cargo hatch. But he also knows that without power he would have to hand crank the hatches open, something he knows he doesn't have time for, so he decides to go out the way he came in. Nigel holds off firing any more rounds, knowing Sterlkars limited options and prepares to cover him as the bot and cockpit is engulfed in flames.

“Sterlkar, do you have bead on an egress option?? Is there an emergency hatch handy??” TK calls over the comms while moving steadily from the position of cover near the landing gear, which is no longer a viable option for him. He firstly backs up to the wall directly behind him, looking for visible emergency hatches on the outside of the shuttle to might give Stelkar a way out and sees the cargo bay door.
"Nigel, have you got a bead on any fire fighting gear handy?"
Nigel comms back negative.
TK starts to look around for any type of fire-fighting gear close by.
"Sterlkar if you have O2 get clear of the fire and hunker down, oh and if you can see a fire extinguisher handy grab it we may need a plan B".
Just as TK says this he sees Sterlkar come down the shuttle ramp at a full run. As he hits the bottom of the ramp Heather pops up at the other end of the hangar, over the broken door, and lets loose a barrage of laser fire into the back of the burning bot. Sterlkar continues straight at TK, indicating the open office door behind him, and dives for the doorway behind TK just as the bot explodes into a fireball, engulfing the front of the shuttle in flames.
TK attempts to make the same precautionary dive for cover as Sterlkar dives past him, attempting to avoid landing on top of him of course. "OOOHHH SHHIIT!" as he goes.
As the dust clears he gets back into a position of cover and over-watch and coms "Everybody good!?"
Nigel looks over towards his team mates to make sure they're alright.
"Man, the fires you go to and you don't have any marshmallows!" TK yells in his mic, "Heather.....love your work!"
"OK, so irate loading droid '0', us '1'. Lets get this over with! Whos in the lead?" TK says, a little more settled.
"Alright guys, time to leave. TK, cover the back." Nigel comms back. He then radios Heather.
"We're coming in Heather, any more contacts in the area?"
Sterlkar cautiously steps out from cover to see if the bot is truly toast. Seeing it is, he asks, "Are we sticking around to sift through this mess, or are we moving on to scout out the locals?"
"No, I think we have drawn enought attention to ourselves already." replies Nigel.
The shuttle is now well and truly engulfed in flames, giving TK and Sterlkar the options of heading towards Nigel and the way they came in, or towards the G and the mess of debris between them. Black smoke is starting to fill the hangar and the fire is spreading rapidly.
"Ah boss," comes Heather over the comms, "contact is moving towards the hangar from the east, 200 meters to contact at a moderate pace. Hang on while I redeploy a drone..."
Seconds later he comes back "Contact is human, rough clothes, looks like it is carrying a rifle."

Nigel spins on his heels and, looking out the hangar doors, sees the lone figure. He holds his carbine at the ready.
"Guys we have company. Would be nice to have some of my own!"
Nigel quickly evaluates the situation then says "Heather swing the G-Carrier back this way, set the hatch to face us and the nose and guns toward our friend. Hopefully he will decide to leave. I really rather not pop a RAM at this guy."
Sterlkar and TK rush over to join Nigel, careful to give the burning end of the shuttle a wide berth, and taking up covering fire positions.
"Will do." comes Heather's response.
Heather pops the G up and over the hangar and in front of the hangar doors. At the sight of the G-Carrier the figure turns and sprints back the way it came.
"That works." comments TK.
Everyone piles into the G and Heather points the nose back towards the coast and hits the power. Half way across the starport the drones return to the carrier. Ten minutes out from the ship the comms comes to life.
"Base to Carrier. What is your situation right now?" Kirth's voice breaks radio silence.
"Had a small run in with some locals but on our way back. ETA to the Trailblazer ten minutes. Out." replies Heather.
All is quiet until the G docks with the Trailblazer.