NERD Issue # 040
The Seventh Circle
"Dude, I'm not going in there." Reefsmoker stated.
"What? Come on, we walked all the way over here, and now you don't wanna go?" Hurricane replied. Hurricane, Reefsmoker, Warlock, Evangelion, Gully Foyle, Techi and Lisa Davitt had all travelled to the gates of Regant's Legacy this day. Now they were there, and Reef was hesitating.
"Any particular reason you don't wanna go in?" Techi asked.
"Yeah, look at the sign." And everyone looked at the no smoking sign. Everyone fell over in exasperation.
"Right, now that the stupidity is over, lets go," Warlock entered first, activating his flashlight. The rest followed, with Lisa Davitt bringing up the rearguard and using her Dildo of Maven.
The air just inside the entrance was not too bad, but the further in they went, the more stagnant it became. This of course was to be expected. With the exception of the DeltaGen cryo-room, no living thing had entered Regant's Legacy since the Ceres War. The seven NUTS proceeded cautiously into the chasm left by the explosives Cassandra Edwards and her agents had placed several weeks ago.
The first room was much what you'd expect to see right behind a giant, well-sealed gate... nothing to look at. The mechanism for opening the gates was there and there were three exits from the room, but otherwise there was nothing.
"Mmm, homely." Hurricane noted.
"Yeah, its nice. Some curtains, a few throwrugs, and this place will look just like home!" Eva said.
"You mean it'll look like a brothel?" Warlock smirked. He got an elbow to the ribs for that one.
"Hey, over here," Gully beckoned them to a wall near the centre exit of the 3, "looks like a map of this place."
"How convenient!" Lisa clapped with excitement.
"I wouldn't get too excited, its just a basic floorplan. No directions of how to get where. This place has seven levels, starting with this one and going down. This floor is guardrooms and DeltaGen storage." Gully read.
"Lets hope none are left," Warlock gripped his firelance.
"SubLevel - 2 is Kitchen, food storage and Maintenance."
"Can't fix things on an empty stomach, go on," Reef said.
"SL - 3 is Laboratory's, SL - 4 is Testing grounds."
"Testing for what?" Lisa asked.
"SL - 5 is Command and Control, SL - 6 is the Armoury"
"Oooh, that sounds like fun." Hurricane's eyes gleamed.
"And SL - 7 is... The ... I can't read it."
"Well if we get down there I'm sure we'll find out," Reef said, "lets head onwards."
Meanwhile at Neocron,
The EGOS had joined the citizens for a party, commemorating nothing in particular. There was free alcohol and food, so no one cared what it was for. MoonUnit and Penzius were getting down with Trillian and friends. CheapLoveMotel was having a drinking contest with all of NDA, Critter was predicting what horrible things would happen next to people and Laemin was pretending to be a lamppost. The 2nd Circle of EGOS were all in Neofrag giving 20 or so runners the beatings of their lives. Reza looked on from above and smiled. He had planned this party to distract people from the growing rumours descending from the North; that the wheels of war turned fast up there and that soon Cassandra would be coming for their lives. Reza reclined back in his chair and breathed a short sigh of relief. This should get him through another month before the people start to get irritable again. Had it not been for the descisive victory using the FireWreathes, he would not have made it to the end of this month. But right now, time was all he needed. The wheels of war might spin fast in the North, but they spin even faster in Neocron. He just needed another month or two. Then the people wouldn't be yelling at him, they'd be bowing to him. His new assistant, Michael Felding, entered the office.
"What news Mike?"
"It's pretty quiet out there. Some rumours of dissentions amongst Twilight Guardians, and some of NUTS have gone off on a Wasteland expedition, but otherwise everyone is enjoying the festivities."
"Alright, keep the trackers going, but I think we can rest for this evening. It does look to be a quiet night."
"Yes, sir." Michael closed the door behind him.
That night, at Twilight Guardians,
"So it's agreed then?" Chiphead asked.
"Yes, we can no longer stand this... blatant cowardice." .cylon answered.
"We move, together, Now." Shadow growled. The rest of JERK's nodded in agreement.
For some time, the command of Twilight Guardians and JERK's had been butting heads. JERK's were of the absolute opinion that the Dome of York posed a clear and present danger and that they must engage them immediately. TG command on the other hand seemed to think if they did nothing, they would be left untouched. And so the two leaderships bickered and yelled for many a week. When Cassandra had taken control of the Dome, JERK's had geared up for war, in full expectation that TG command would not allow a former CityAdmin executive to take control of the Dome. They were wrong. TG command had simply smiled, as if they had been expecting it all along. And so for the last few weeks, JERK's had been making full preparations to sever their ties to TG and return to Neocron. This night, they were moving. JERK's gathered their belongings and began an evening march into the wastelands. They would journey to Tech Haven and from there contact the city and make them aware of their intentions. Once that was done they would then return to Neocron. Fully aware of the Fallen Angels attitude to what the former SODOM had done to TH, they asked if they would be granted safe passage. Suprisingly the Fallen Angels had granted it.
It would be a long night, so they got started...
Back at the Legacy,
"Geez you'd think they'd have put a few maintenance bots in here to clean the place from time to time. I haven't seen Spider Queen's make cobwebs this big." Reef complained.
"You complain to much. Exploration is an adventure, enjoy it." Warlock hacked away with his combatknife at the sticky strands of web.
"Fine, you enjoy the adventure. Me, I'm gonna take offense to having web in my hair."
"Woah, check this out." Eva called to them. They came to the room she was looking into. In it were rows upon rows of cryo-tubes. Each one had been opened and the dust on the ground had been disturbed.
"Guess this is where the DeltaGens were held." Eva said.
"I'm just glad they're gone." Hurricane said. Warlock looked at the far corner of the room and narrowed his eyes. He walked further into the room. The others beckoned him to return but he was fixated on something. As he neared the far side of the room, he continually gripped his psi gauntlet further. The dust at the far end of the room had been disturbed in the last few minutes...
It was at this point that Cassandra learned of the NUTS expedition and the Gates of the Dome were opening. Megaman was entering the deep sleep and Sid was starting to feel pretty good about himself. As Cassandra's Reveller tore out of the gate, the trackers in Neocron sounded off, but Michael, who was supposed to be monitoring them, was not paying attention, as he, and most of the party goers were distracted by the scene outside. Lupus had stolen Trillian's pants again and watching her run around pantsless after an EGOS with absolute speed was quite entertaining.
... and Warlock was certain he'd seen something moving around in the shadows. He approached as quietly as he could. And sure enough, he spotted two DeltaGens, their backs to him, loading their Fusion cannons. Warlock decided a quick Fire Barrel would be enough and prepared to cast when two latecomers showed up.
"YO WARLOCK, HOW's IT HANGING?" Diesel yelled into the room.
"Whatcha doin?" Byron called in. Warlock spun round to glare at them, but the glare quickly turned to frantic panic as the two DeltaGens leapt to their feet and prepared to fire.
"MOVE YOUR CANDY ASS NO BRAIN DROM LOVING BUTTS NOW!!!!" Warlock yelled as the Fusion fire started hailing past him. Cryo-tubes exploded and the glass showered them all. Warlock grabbed his NUTS and ran. They charged down the hall as fast as their Athletics would take them.
"Which way?" Lisa called.
"Pick one." the rest yelled back. They turned right and ran into another big room. As they entered the lights auto activated to reveal... rows of cryo-tubes containing more DeltaGens, unawoken.
"From now on, Lisa doesn't pick the direction." Eva whined.
"Hey!" Lisa took offense.
"Foyle, help me." Warlock threw him a Lasersword and the two ran over to some pipelines on the wall. They cleaved the pipes off the wall and from their exposed ends gushed the coolant for the Cryo-tubes.
"Are you nuts? You defrost them and they'll all wake up!" Diesel yelled.
"Wrong. If you just defrost someone in a cryo-tube, they die. They have to be re-animated properly. This will take care of the sleepers, and hopefully the other two, now go hide." And they hid. The two DeltaGens that had been pursuing them entered the room. One looked left, the other looked right, neither looked out. The coolant pipe exhausted liquid coolant upon them both and they began to freeze. In anger, they tried to walk forward, but their feet stuck to the floor. Another step, and one left its foot behind, snapping off at the ankle. As the liquid coolant turned them into icicles, Gully Foyle stepped out, pulled out his Wyatt Earp and with a badass look in his eye spoke:
"Asta La Vista, baby." He fired and the two shattered into a million gory pieces. The others came out to look and Hurricane patted Foyle on the back.
"Dude, that was cool. You used that movie line from that old film... you know the one... um.... yeah, Robocop."
"Let's move on." Warlock took them back to the intersection and they went left this time.
The nine companions marched in silence through the echoing corridors for a time. As they passed by rooms where DeltaGen's had once been frozen, they lived in hope that that was all the suprises left in this place. Finally they reached the end of the corridor and found a stairwell labelled "To SL-2".
"We still going?" Lisa asked. Warlock and Diesel had already begun descending the stairs, so the question was moot.
They exited the stairwell and were on SL-2. Here they found a more detailed map of the facility. Each Sublevel was constructed, with the exception of SL - 1, in a circular form. From the stairwell, the path led west, then north, then east, and then south, where it would meet the stairwell to the next floor. All the main rooms adjoined to these main corridors.
"Interesting design," Reef pointed out, "if you were in a rush to get in or out, you'd have a real pain of a time. Each floor is designed to make you walk all the way around to get to the next one."
"There might have been a faster way when it was built, but I guess we're stuck as pedestrians." Byron noted.
They began walking and got to the first turn and began heading north. On the left wall, there were glass panes and light coming through.
"A still active area?" Eva asked.
"Lets see," Diesel found a door and they entered the room. Rows upon rows of benches were in the room with lights above them and deutrithium steel benches at the far end.
"Looks like a mess hall." said Techi.
"No, its a bowling alley, of course its a mess hall." A synthesised voice yelled at them from beyond the benches. Taken aback, only Diesel and Warlock didn't take 5 steps towards the exit. These two walked forward and looked to see who had spoken. As they approached, a human-like creature wearing a dirty white apron walked out and came to face them.
"Who are you?" Warlock asked.
"Yeah CHEF. What, you work here and you never seen ol' CHEF before. Geez. I'm a Cybernetic Helper for Experimental Facilities, or CHEF for short. I manage the Mess Hall here, which Sherlock there figured out."
"Ah, ok. Well CHEF, I don't work here, I've just arrived. But I would like to meet any other employees around here, have you seen any?"
"Well, now that you mention it, I rang the lunch bell and no one came."
"And when was that?"
"Oh... would've been about 190 years ago."
"Riiiiggghhhhtt..... and this doesn't seem at all strange to you?"
"Well the science boys around here get distracted pretty easily. I'm sure once they're done with what they're doing their stomach's will tell em better than my bell will. They eat at such odd hours around here, but they eat like starving men."
"I'm sure you're right. Where would we find these science boys?"
"Oh, SL-3 and 4, thats where they hang out."
"Much obliged, we'll head down there and remind them about their meals."
"Well, hang on there, can't let ya go on an empty stomach, the boss would scrap me for that. I was hoping for some fresh Roach and Swampgrass 2 centuries ago... those delivery boys are gonna catch some hell for this I tell ya, errr... anyway, here's some Choc Choggers to keep your strength up. And you boys head back this way later and I'll fix you up something from the canned goods range."
"BOYS?" Eva protested, and grabbed her boobs, "What do you call these then?"
"Implants." CHEF replied. Eva's face matched her red hair, and Hurricane had to drag her back out into the hall before she unleashed Rei, her Soulcluster.
"Thanks CHEF, catch ya later." Diesel waved as the 9 exited.
"Right, better get cracking on dinner then...."
At that moment, just outside Tech Haven,
The members of JERK's, having left Twilight Guardians behind, were arriving at Tech Haven. The kind Fallen Angels allowed them access. But just as Murkster was about to enter he noticed a Reveller hauling ass across the mountains. Grabbing a scope, he checked who the driver was.
"Guys... isn't that Edwards?"
"Where?" Shadow grabbed another scope and saw for himself, "It is her. Where's she going in such a rush?"
"Only thing in that direction is Regant's Fortress." Elias, representative of Tech Haven said.
"Not the only thing..." .cylon pointed out.
"Seems our visit to Tech Haven has been cut short. JERK's, we're bailing. We make for Neocron this night." Chiphead yelled. They began another forced March, this time south, to alert Neocron that the queen bitch was roaming the wastelands.
"Strange though Shadow," .cylon said as they hurried on, "she's there, but where's her minions?"
Back at Dome of York,
"So Megaman and Cassandra took off together already?" Psycho Killa asked.
"Yes, yesss... er... They had to hurry, but insisted that you follow on. Here, take NUBI along with you and proceed to Regant's Legacy as quick as you can. I shall prep a squad of DeltaGens to follow you." Sid said.
"Okay, NUBI's you're with us. CDV, lets cause some chaos!" They all cheered as only stupid minions can and marched out the gate. The gate closed behind them and none were the wiser. It wasn't till the Defender bots and pop-up turrets opened fire that they realised they were betrayed.
"We are betrayed!" Psycho yelled, and a corpse turned in his grave.
"Yess.... Precious... they must all dies. They will dies, tricksy CDV. CDV never tells anyones the truth. Dome of York is better off without CDV (Big Red Subtitles slam down "HALELUJIAH BROTHER!!!"). Now diess" And thus the battle of the Dome vs. CDV began.
NUTS exited the 2nd stairwell with a degree of difficulty. The stairwell door was magnetically sealed and had to be disabled, but once that was done they entered the Lab section of the Legacy. Immediately they were confronted by turrets bursting from the ceiling and opening fire, all the while the lights going red and a siren going off.
"I'm guessing we're not supposed to be here." Reef pointed out. Warlock and Diesel used Energy Halo's to disable the electrical circuits and trash the turrets. Lisa had caught a few plasma rounds but Eva took care of some quick healing.
"A lot more security on this level." Techi noted to Diesel and Warlock.
"Probably gets worse the lower we go." Diesel opined.
"Weapons out everyone," Warlock called to the rest, "that wasn't too bad, but I think we've just crossed into the part of the facility that actually matters." They armed up. They moved through the different labs, examining the state of everything. The top two floors had been fairly neat and clean, aside from centuries of dust and cobwebs. This floor however was filled with scattered debris and broken windows, and it was not from the turret fire earlier. Many labs showed what appeared to be experiments in progress, and seemed to have been left unattended, as if the scientists had had to run all of a sudden. A few even had dried blood on glass shards.
"Ok, theory time," Reef stopped them mid-march, "why was the Legacy abandoned in the first place?"
"I think we're starting to see some of that. Would explain why this levels stairwell was sealed." Hurricane suggested.
"Ok so something went wrong on this level, and the levels above sealed it off. That would explain why it was clean upstairs, but... where are the skeletons?" And it was true. Though there was chaos and some blood, there were no bodies.
"Maybe everyone on this floor got out and then sealed it?"
"Maybe... lets keep going, I'm curious now." Warlock sneered. He knew all to well the lure of a good exploration.
As they carried on towards the next stairwell, there began to be a theme amongst the labs. The experimentation rooms all had large hermatically sealed chambers with a vial inside, roughly 2 metres high and a metre wide (thats roughly 6 and a half feet by 4 feet for our American readers). What was unnerving was that all the chambers were cracked. The other rooms had boards and displays and notes, each pertaining to a Project they called "The Cells", a project designed to create "an autonomous bio-engineered weapon capable of working in any environment" that could "achieve a state of controlled Mitosis by using any on-hand organic materials". None of those present truly understood what that meant. They only ascertained that it was a living weapon.
"SL-4 is the testing level. If my guess is right, this may be where the problems sourced from. We may be walking into some trouble here folks." Warlock declared. The others gripped their weapons, and they proceeded to SL-4.
Back in Neocron,
The jubilation came to a screeching halt when JERK's, no longer bearing the colours of TG, were escorted by NDA to CityAdmin through the party-goers. The realisation that something was up suddenly hung around their necks like a noose. Reza received Shadow, with a half dozen STORM bots in the room.
"Well Shadow, I'll be more happy to see you once you've signed back up with a city faction."
"And that will happen sir, but I bring news that couldn't wait for that."
"Very well, what is it?"
"Cassandra Edwards has been spotted making great speed towards Regants Legacy."
"WHAT? Who was with her?"
"That was what bothered us sir, she was alone." Reza couldn't have looked more puzzled, when Michael burst into the room.
"Sir, sorry to barge, but we're just getting these images from the Gate of the Dome." He patched through the transmission to the wall monitor. There they saw NUBI and CDV battling against the defenses of the Dome. And then Reza did the impossible and looked more puzzled.
"You're sure Cassandra is on her way to Regants?"
"Yes sir, I am."
"She's gone, CDV and NUBI are fighting the Dome... this is our chance! Gather the troops, we make for the Dome immediately!"
"But sir," Shadow interrupted, "should not someone go after Cassandra?"
"If we take the Dome, then she will have nowhere to go. The Legacy may have another squad of DeltaGens inside, who knows. But if she has no base to work from, nothing she finds in there will do her any good. Gather the troops..."
Sid was sitting back cackling away at his former allies fighting against the defences they had sworn were invincible. To add pain to their woe, Sid had a Warbot carry the Jukebox outside and threw it into their midst, with a song jammed on play. The fighters outside took cover and covered their ears.
"ARRGGGHHH, It's hideous!" One yelled.
"Its monstrous!" Another yelled.
"It's the SPICE GIRLS!!!" Psycho Killa screamed, "curse you Sid and your psychological warfare!!!" And Sid just kept on laughing.
The door showed signs of weaponsfire, which was not what they wanted to see. No lights at all worked on this floor. So the 9 travellers activated their flashlights (or dildo's) and began to walk. Everywhere they found blast damage, bullet casings and electrical scorching. Warlock, taking point, was looking along the path. This was where he was starting to worry. Still they could find no bodies, but now they were finding clothes. Shoes, labcoats, belts, underwear, but no bodies. They walked on a bit more. Warlock noted a rock in the path on the left, so navigated to steer the others away from it. He flashed his light to the right wall, noticing more damage and then back to the left. He stopped. The rock was gone. He looked around quickly and again stopped short. The wall with the damage now appeared a sleek, untarnished black wall. He took a few steps forward. Then stopped again.
"Form a circle, face outwards." He growled. Everyone formed a circle. Warlock pushed Eva into the middle, so they had 8 forming the circle and one on the inside.
"What're we looking for?" Lisa whispered.
"Not a sound." Warlock replied. They strained their ears to the silence, and then they heard it. A faint, soft, rippling sound, like shallow water running over pebbles. They looked around. Eva turned to face the other way and her foot squished in something. Warlock grabbed her arm and pulled them all out, and nodded to Lisa who fired her Pain Easer into the goo. The goo screeched and then rolled off down the corridor.
"What the hell is that?" Reef asked.
"Not time for explanations." Warlock growled again as he Firelanced the wall. The wall peeled away, morphing into a ball and rolled after the other one.
"Target anything thats pure black." He yelled.
"There's no light in here, everything's black." Foyle yelled back.
"Then shoot everything." And they did. To their horror practically every wall, surface, rock and pebble screeched and rolled off down the hall.
"Ok, time to get out of here." Byron suggested. And all would have done so, had the door behind them not been blocked by a giant blob of black goo that was actually growling at them. Warlock, Hurricane and Diesel stepped forward and blasted it with Energy Halo's. It rolled back but otherwise just seemed angry, not hurt.
"Yes, lets." Fire Halo's came out and they lit it up. It screeched at them and then seemed to lose its form, sliming outwards across the floor.
"Ahhh good, so lets..." and then the goo reformed. It reshaped back into a giant ball.
"Oh give us a break!" Diesel groaned.
"Stand back!" Reef yelled as he and Gully launched Kami-drones at the blob. They impacted and detonated. The ball of goo smattered all over the corridor. No one was going to ask the question. They just waited and watched. And to their dismay, like something out of the movie that Hurricane can't remember the name to, the bits rolled back across the room and reformed. Lisa stepped forward with her Pain Easer, but nearly lost her grip in shock as the goo formed into.... her! It took female form and stood like a mirror image, pointing a Pain Easer made out of goo at them all. And then it fired. Bullets of goo shot out and struck Gully on the arm.
"Arrrggghhh.... its burning! My skin is burning!" He tried to scratch the goo off, but it just began to burn his fingers as well. Warlock, not one to worry about such things, aimed his Firelance at Foyle and set him on fire. The others looked on in dismay, but the goo screeched and fell to the floor, only to roll back across the floor and rejoin Lisa the Goo. Eva put Gully out and healed him.
"So.... run?" Warlock asked. The others nodded. And they ran. Lisa the Goo reformed into a ball and began chasing after them like a giant boulder in an Indiana Jones movie. Whoever could lobbed fire down the hall to slow it down but it was only gaining in strength as it began to merge with the other goo that had been sitting dormant in the corridor. Lisa pulled out a grenade and lobbed it down the hall. It turned out to be a life saver as out of the darkness another giant boulder was rolling towards them. The grenade detonated, blasting that boulder to bits, allowing them just enough time to pass before it added to the mass of the one behind. The stairwell was in sight and they all fired off as much fire damage as they could. Gully reached the door first and swung it open. The others hauled ass through the door and Reef helped Foyle slam it shut and seal it. The boulder crashed into the wall but it held strong.
"Ohhhh crap, I wanna go home." Eva gasped.
"I think we know what The Cells are now." Warlock seethed.
"But that was huge, it looked like way too much to fit into those vials we saw upstairs."
"You're forgetting the other part," Warlock saw they were all looking for an explanation so he gave one, "we were wondering why there were no bodies, and you're wondering why there's more of that goo than could have been in the vials. The one is the answer to the other. The documents upstairs said that The Cells were an autonomous bio-engineered weapon that could achieve mitosis by using on-hand biological material. Now I get it. They use living materials to make more Cells." And it was so. The Cells were designed to be introduced, just a few microscopic cells at a time, to the Dome populace. They would then slowly ingest biological material; food, rats, peoples skin, and then multiply. And they would continue multiplying till they reached a point where they could attack an entire person and overwhelm them, and then use them to multiply further. And from there it was exponential. However, as history proved, the Dome was not the target The Cells ended up attacking. Before any genetic conditioning could be done to inhibit The Cells from attacking their creators, they broke free from a Testing room, just a few microscopic cells at a time. They hid as dust, as pipes, as anything they wanted to be till they were strong enough to overpower a guard, and from there... the rest was history.
"What do we do then? The exit is that way." said Byron.
"We have more grenades and kami drones, we could fight our way back to the exit, seal it up and get out of here." Lisa suggested.
"It would take time to get past the door when we re-open it. They'll be on the other side. We'd have to prepare." Reef explained. They were about to begin to prepare when Warlock started pushing them down the stairs.
"This stairwell isn't sealed, look!" And they saw that, just a few specks of dust at a time, The Cells were coming through an air vent overhead. The nine ran like Carl Lewis on Vitamin Supplements.
"You know the mission, move out and end this war before it begins!!!" Reza had one good trait, his corny, uplifting speeches did the trick. Fired up, the forces of Neocron set out in whatever vehicles they could muster towards the Dome to destroy all they found there. At their current speed they would arrive in 90 minutes.
The Dome again,
CDV were being pressed further and further back. They had destroyed the Jukebox but Sid had upped the odds by releasing a wave of BETA Warbots against them. Things were not looking good.
Just outside Regants Legacy,
Cassandra skidded to a halt, crushing a Slimeworm in her wake. She saw footprints heading in and knew that NUTS were already inside. She walked to a nearby boulder, and dusted off a few rocks. She then tapped her finger in a sequence, and the boulder lifted up to reveal an elevator door that opened for her. She stepped inside, and it descended.
The Nine quickly remembered that this level was Command and Control. They ran towards the main room and entered it, closing the door as best they could.
"This won't buy us long." Hurricane panted.
"I know, but even a little time is better than none." Warlock leaned up against the glass, feeling his energy draining fast. Hope had apparently decided to pitch a tent on SL-2 and let them go on ahead.
"Guys, look at this! There's a way out if we go down!" Reef exclaimed. The others all looked at him. Apparently Hope had caught up at last.
"These blueprints show an emergency elevator for Command Personnel on SL-7. It goes all the way to the surface!"
"Why only Command personnel?" Lisa asked.
"Well they're the only one's with access to SL-7."
"So either we need enough firepower to get past the doors or we need an access key." Byron determined.
"Seems like." Reef said.
"Hey look," Eva jumped up, "SL-7 Access key, its right here!" She reached for the black card on the desk, but Foyle grabbed her arm just in time, as the card became a claw and tried to grab her. A concentrated Fire Beam from Diesel saw the blob of goo cooked to perfection. It was solid this time, so they threw it down the corridor.
"Seems energy pisses them off, fire can bake them and slow them down and bullets don't do squat." Diesel groaned.
"And considering the notes upstairs, since they're designed for all regions, I doubt radiation is gonna work either." Techi noted.
"So its explosives all the way." Reef grabbed his Missile Drone.
"Ok, this is helpful. SL-6 is sealed off from 5. So they're not below this level. If we get there we can seal these black boogers up here and just head for the elevator." Warlock got up and the others followed. With Hope back alongside, they walked back into the main corridor. That was when the wall behind them erupted and a tidalwave of The Cells burst forth. It was running time again. Everyone who had fire started lobbing it behind them. They ran as if they were EGOS down that corridor. As they saw the end, there was a door. Foyle was about to sprint forward to open it for them when Lisa grabbed a grenade from her belt and hurled it forward. The door morphed backwards and then catapulted the grenade back at them. They dived out of the way and it shot into the approaching mass, exploding and stopping its advance. The three APU monks let loose with fire and cooked the rubbery door, and another grenade removed it from their path. The nine charged through and went into the stairwell, sealing the gate and The Cells behind them.
The Forces of Neocron arrived to see the beaten members of CDV still struggling for their lives. Old rivalries were set aside as the forces linked together to engage the Dome. Yet Sid did not open the gates to dispatch any more units. 2 squads of BETA Warbots and a few turrets were all that was still defending against hundreds of well armed runners. Within half an hour the bots were no more and the forces of Neocron marched on the gate. They only hesitated when Sid's voice burst from a loudspeaker.
"Wells...Precious, they comes. All the peoples of Neocron's they does. To takes our homes aways from usss...Yesss. Go now, leave Precious alone!"
"Sid? Open up in the name of Neocron. Do it now or we'll kick that door and your ass up your throat." Zane Shadowfall had been up front in the assault, and his words pleased his fellow fighters.
"Ohhh dears, how politely this ones asks. Wells then we must not be rude, Precious. No, we will sings him a rhyme!"
"Just how many times did your parents drop you on your head? I know Drom's don't have arms, but come on..." Zane joked. Again the others laughed.
"Roses are Red,
Violets Are Blue.
If I drop this Bomb,
Whats that make you?" Sid sang to them. They stopped laughing. A port on a mountain behind the Dome opened up and the warhead of a short range missile poked out. Reluctantly, the Forces of Neocron took CDV into custody and withdrew from the Dome.
Having sealed The Cells away again, NUTS took a break to enjoy the snacks they had been given.
"Thanks CHEF." was about all they could say as they chowed down on 190 year old chocolate. It was actually pretty good.
Once their energy returned they moved on, and there they found the Armoury. Not ones to assume anything, they geared back up on grenades and any other explosive weapons they could find. Then they marched on through the Sixth Circle. They reached the stairwell and descended once more.
"How deep are we anyway?" Reef asked.
"I'd say we're a mile down." Gully replied.
"What makes you say that?"
"Just a guess. See the rocks they carved the stairwells out of when we're in the stairwells? Thats seriously compressed rock. If we're not a mile down, then I'm not a geologist."
"You're not a geologist." Diesel remarked.
They emerged into SL-7 to find a maximum security gate in front of them. To their considerable joy, they found two dead bodies. One was dressed in a Scientist jacket, he had a SL-7 passcard in his hand. The other was a Security Guard with a gun in hand. From what they could determine, the Scientist had made it this far with a stolen card and was trying to gain access to the emergency elevator. The Guard, who probably didn't know what was going on up above, had shot him. Unfortunately, when SL- 5 was sealed off, he was trapped, and being a Security Guard he did not know about the Emergency elevator. Hence he had starved to death alongside the scientist whom he shot; ironically the one man who could have saved his life. The members of NUTS, not taking any chances, checked around for any black surfaces, just in case their theory about the deaths was accurate. But the fact that the bodies had not been processed was fairly convincing proof. They used the card and gained access to SL-7. Lisa, overjoyed to be getting out of the hellhole, stepped through first and was promptly shot for her eagerness by the awaiting Cassandra.
The Dome again,
Sid, elated with his scare tactic to get rid of Neocron's assault force, overjoyed at having taken the mighty Megaman out and over the moon at now being the Lord of the Dome, decided to call Cassandra and share his good fortune.
And back to SL-7,
Lisa's wound was a uranium round to the shoulder. Eva would have taken care of it in an instant, but could not make a move with Cassandra there. The nine stood and glared at the Queen Bitch of the Wastelands.
"My my, you made it all the way down here, I'm impressed. I'd often thought of coming inside to find out about the suprise that Regant left in here, but hadn't had the time. Though as you can see, I know an easier way down." Cassandra smirked.
"There's 9 of us and only one of you. What makes you think you've won?" Reef growled
"Because CDV and 2 squads of DeltaGens will be here in the next two minutes. Lay a finger on me and you'll never survive this. Under the circumstances I'll be generous and just have you removed from my property. Consider it an act of charity."
"Your property? You just said you'd never been in here."
"True, but I am the only one who knows WHAT is in here."
"You mean you WERE the only one. We know about The Cells now." Reef looked her hard in the eyes. He wasn't sure if he should be happy about the fact she looked confused.
"What ever are you talking about... I'm talking about this behind me." And she pointed to a massive machine. It was a giant pump station, with 6 pistons channelled into the ground. At the top of each piston was an impact hammer to drive the pistons down. Reef looked noticably worried.
"What is it?"
"A Seismic Wavefront Generator. I believe you know what that means." The horrified look on Reef's face told her he did. Reef had been able to study many parts of the Ceres Discs, and this was one part that had chilled his mind and soul.
"No... it can't be, you can't use it... not the SWG!! SWG will be the death of all Neocron!!" (Big Red Subtitles slam down "SAY IT AIN'T SO!!!") "We have to stop her!" The others went to charge her.
"With the press of this button, I can destroy the entire city of Neocron and everyone in it. One more step, and I will." Cassandra leaned over a big yellow button on the control panel. They stopped. All of a sudden Cassandra's communicator sprung to life.
"Cassssandra." Sid called.
"Yes? Sid where are my troops, the should have arrived by now."
"Your troopsss are now my troops. Your mother is now gone. I control the Domes, yes Preciousss... You loses!!" Cassandra went pale.
"YOU SON OF A DROM!!!"
"Don't speaks bitchesss... I woulds be findings somewhere to hides if I's was u. Cause I R L337 Precious.. I ROXXOR UR BALLZ!!! YESSS!!" Cassandra smashed her communicator to the ground. With tears in her eyes and vengeance in her heart, she slammed her fist down on the button and the pistons shot at a speed beyond that of sound deep into the earth. The ground split, the earth shook and the walls shuddered.
The first of the troops were returning, downcast. Reza took the news that Sid now controlled the Dome as good and bad. He knew Sid would launch a war, but at least he was not Cassandra. Cassandra knew every dirty trick Neocron could pull, Sid was just genocidal. He was about to head for his office when the entire city quaked. Windows shattered, walls broke, but the city stood.
Tech Haven, Twilight Guardians, Military Base and Dome of York,
Everywhere felt a massive and resounding earthquake. Walls broke, foundations weakened, but the cities remained.
Giant cracks in the walls formed and the entire facility felt like it was a deck of cards. Cassandra looked around her in dismay; something had not gone right.
"Why?? Just let me have my vengeance!! WHY!!!" Only she knew to whom she was screaming, she and him. But her scream for vengeance turned to just a scream, as a giant blob of pure black goo oozed out of a fizzure in the ceiling and her very flesh was stripped away.
"Time to leave?" Warlock turned to the others.
"Yeah." They all nodded. And they all ran. They ran for the elevator and boarded it. The goo was too busy mealing down on the late Cassandra Edwards to pursue them and they travelled 1.3 miles back to the surface (Gully got a pat on the back for that). When they reached the surface, they smashed the controls to the elevator.
"Well at least The Cells are stuck down there." Hurricane breathed a sigh of relief, and they set course back to Neocron to see the damage. Warlock however stood and looked on in despair at Regants Legacy. For there was a giant crack that had opened up and had allowed the nearby river to flood into the facility. And sure enough: The water around the facility had turned a pitch black colour.
The Nine reported in, not too happy to be standing in the same office with JERK's but under the circumstances they said nothing.
"So, what was that?" Reza asked.
"Poisoning the wells." Reef replied.
"Excuse me?" Shadow looked at him funny.
"Cassandra unleashed the SWG mechanism. The theory is that you create a tectonic shockwave that will destroy a small city. However, what she didn't realise is that that technology is supposed to be mobile, a small one piston device. The one in the Legacy had 6 stationary pistons."
"So what did it do?" Reza asked, now physically showing signs of concern.
"As I said, it poisoned the wells. Back in ancient times, if an attacking force looked like it was going to take your town, you abandoned it, but you poisoned the wells so that the land was unusable. It's the ultimate act of spite. Regant designed this machine along the same lines. If Neocron had ever been close to losing the Ceres War he would have used it," Everyone looked at him even more intensely, "I had seismic analyses done. The device has begun a chain reaction. As we know at the end of the 3rd World War, a great deal of tectonic shifting took place, completely altering the face of our world. The SWG device is designed to accelerate that tectonic chaos so that the planets crust will rip itself to pieces."
"How bad can it get."
"It couldn't get any worse. The planets tectonic plates will crush each other. All land masses will be destroyed and ultimately our entire planet is going to fall apart from the inside out. It's Armageddon." Everyone took a long silence.
"How long?" Reza was the first to speak.
"Our estimate is 365 days." Byron answered.
"So, we have 1 year to either figure out how to stop this, or to find a way off the planet." Shadow looked gloomy.
"Yes. I don't think this should be kept under wraps. If the people know, maybe they'll be more motivated to work to a solution." Michael suggested.
"Agreed. I'll spread the word in a few hours. Thank you gentlemen. I'm sure you could all use some rest. We have a long year ahead of us." They departed from his office.
"Great," Eva sighed, "one year to either revive the entire space program to a point its never been before, or stop an entire planet from shaking apart. Well here's my bright side. Things couldn't possibly get any worse..." And Warlock clenched his teeth.
D minus 365 days.
Until next time...