Episode 6

Samantha lunges right into the mercenary leader's face and scowls. "What do you mean, you don't do rescue missions?!"

Weathering the verbal assault, the leader remains stoic and collected with strictly business exterior. "We were hired to guard key targets. We have guarded them to extraction, and we will remain with them until they are away from this site. As per the exact specifications of our contract."

Stepping back in huff, Samantha's face reddens with bubbling anger, and she growls loudly. "YOU. CAN'T. BE. SERIOUS! I've got a whole camera crew unit trapped down there, and you bunch of fucking tools won't move a gods damn finger to rescue them!"

Straightening his tall, armored form, the leader glowers over Samantha, summons up his resolve, and points over to The Next Adventurers of Nexus. "Ma'am. We guard the specified assets until they leave the site. Again. That's our contract. Period."

Boiling rage swell up into Samantha's twitching face, and she grits her teeth with hiss. "Then, what do YOU propose I do with my trapped camera crew?!"

The mercenary leader quirks his brow, glances behind Samantha, and coolly directs her. "I don't know. Maybe you should try hiring them."

Aristespha leads Dretphi, Cideeda, Sotalia, and Bach around the chaotic gatherings of recording teams and scans the different people rushing about. Settling her stare upon Samantha, she stops right behind her and hems. "Excuse me. Sorry to intrude, but are you in charge here?"

Spinning around quickly, Samantha greets Aristespha with brief shock. "Hello- I- Oh. Hello! Yes, I'm in charge for all practical purposes. And, I'm SO glad you are here!"

Aristespha nods with a slight bow, draws in a long breath, and maintains a calm expression against her unamused tone. "Excellent. We picked up an emergency broadcast at another site, and were able to ascertain that it was coming from here. What is the exact situation?"

Samantha blinks her hazel eyes blankly a moment but swiftly gathers her thoughts. "Oh... Yes! It seems that some of the outpost's defenses have been reactivated. We got everyone out except a camera crew unit of six people that got separated in the chaos. They are currently held up and trapped down in the command center of the base."

Nodding her understanding, Aristespha holds her hand out and levels a commanding gaze right at Samantha. "Give us a copy of any maps you have. Mark their known location, along with any information about where you encountered the defenses. Also, have there been any recent communications from the crew?"

Gerald overhears the conversation from nearby, scrambles over searching his pockets, and presents his materials with a pencil at the ready. "Here! We were last together in this hallway running from the things. They've radioed that they've barricaded themselves here and managed to lock the security door."

Aristespha passes the marked map to Cideeda nearby while Bach, Dretphi, and Sotalia peek over. "Thank you. What defenses did you encounter?"

Samantha wags her finger to a few bodies near the entrance of the outpost. "Over there! They look like cyber-zombies or something like that. Like rotting bodies with machine parts."

With a curt nod to Samantha, Aristespha signals the rest of the group. They walk over towards the entrance, and gather around the unmoving humanoid figures on the ground. Samantha follows until she breaks off to the side with Gerald in tow. Well behind impromptu barricades and equipment, Chad Bosch narrows his brown eyes at the other team. Ignoring the requests of a mercenary guard, he storms defiantly around him. He lines up an intercept to Samantha and stops in front of her. "What the hell is going on here?! I thought we were going to get a chance to go back down! We're supposed to be the heroic adventurers here! So, why aren't we being the heroes?!"

Samantha's voice rises louder than Chad in sheer indignation, and glares through his being. Chad crosses his arms, puffs up his chest under his breast plate, and stares down at Samantha. Chad snaps a retort, and an argument between Samantha and him ignites fully. Escaping out of earshot of the verbal outbursts, Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi and Sotalia split around to inspect the strange bodies near the entrance to the ruins. Twisting her mouth in thought, Aristespha sneers her upper lip and kneels for a closer examination. "Oh my. I haven't seen beings like this in a while."

Sotalia stands next to Aristespha and uncomfortably wanders her golden gazes over the humanoid creatures. "They look like vat grown cybernetic soldiers... Oh, ew. They look like they've been out of the stasis pods for too long."

Aristespha gestures as a violet glow lights up her eyes. Moving her hand over the body, parts of the body move with Aristespha's hand motions. She scrunches up her hose as she investigates further. "Yes, they certainly have. The preservative bio-gel spoiled quite some time ago. There is only the barest amount left to maintain basic functions."

Sotalia fans her free hand against the stench and covers her nose. "Gods, that's a lot of decay. Is there any natural tissue left?"

Pondering a moment, Aristespha furrows a curious brow at the body. "That is a good question."

She gestures deftly within a faint haze of magical energies branching onto the corpse, and a slice of rotting flesh peels off the body's leg. Snapping her head the other way, Sotalia winces her golden eyes shot and gasps loudly. "Dammit, girl! Warn me before you do that!"

The rest of the team huddles around another, similar corpse. Cideeda hovers a claw tip above the many exposed implant lines in the body and traces out the routes within the flesh. "These are some serious cybernetics inside here. They've got some serious power throughput with implanted conduits that big."

Dretphi searches the area, finds a stick nearby, and taps spots on the body. "Armor reinforcements in key areas. Small arms did not affect them significantly. Concentrated vital hits were ineffective."

Cideeda's investigative stare stops around the neck, and she holds her hand out for Dretphi's stick. Passing the stick over, she follows Cideeda's gaze and squints her steely gray eyes through her full face visor. Bach scoots over to get a better view. Cideeda pries a severed cable from the neck and perks an intrigued brow. "I bet that's what stopped this thing."

Hovering a hand over the cable, Bach's eyes glow faintly. "I guess that's some kind of power cable, because I'm feeling some power in it."

Bach slides his gaze to a round metal cover on the chest of the body. "And THIS has to be a power source. I feel it."

Cideeda taps the metal cover with the stick and grimaces with a light bite of her lower lip. "I think these use removable power cores. From the construction, it looks like you should be able to change them out. You want to try to open it?"

Tilting his head, Bach groans with an uncertain twist in his expression. "Ah... I don't know. But... It'd probably be best if we could make sure they had no power. I'll give it a shot."

Bach readies his hand right above the metal cover and concentrates as his eyes illuminate with a blue glow. After a minute, the power core cover turns sharply and then slowly unscrews itself. As Bach smirks with flits of confidence, the small plate floats off to the side, locking mechanisms within the chamber disengage, and a metallic tube with a row of lights along the side rises out. Both Cideeda and Dretphi focus on the extracted device. Dretphi reads the characters etched on the side and furrows her brow. "Military issue. High capacity power core."

Cideeda widens her emerald green gaze at the power core. "Holy shit.... That thing is almost fully charged. After all these years, it's still got that much in it."

Aristespha and Sotalia peer above the gathering. Shaking her head, Aristespha sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. "That means they have plenty of power to make up for the lack of functional biological tissue. That unfortunately explains a lot."

Bach grabs the power core and stands up along with Cideeda and Dretphi. Holding her chin, Aristespha thinks and briefly pivots her head to Samantha who is now arguing with Chad, Tassilda, Trakenthin, Deedri, and Modoran. Sebastian's voice ethereally sounds out from the sword at Aristespha's side "Hey, Bach, Cideeda? Could you make sure these cyborgs out here are disabled. We definitely don't need any more trouble out there."

A loud and feverish argument between Samantha and the Next Adventurers rises up from the background noise. Sebastian sighs with faint reverberation from within the sword. "Sotalia and Dretphi. Get what equipment we need ready. Dear?"

Aristespha hardens her composure, neatens up her attire, and groans as she watches Samantha berate the other group. "I know. I'll inform... Them... That we are going in, and meet everyone back here."

A flurry of voices clash in the air and flood clearing around the facility with the back and forth of confrontation. Within a section of crumbling pavement encircled by mercenary guards, the Next Adventurers of Nexus stand around either arguing or idling. Recording crews slink around the edges of the space between capturing a few shots of the action and avoiding the attention from those in the conflict. With Tassilda and Trakenthin at his sides, Chad stands defiantly up and glares unamused at Samantha. "Listen, WE are supposed to be the Next Adventurers of Nexus! So, why are we not adventuring back down there?! This whole show is about people doing adventures."

He jabs a point towards the entrances of the ancient facility and narrows his glower. "There's literally an adventure right THERE! Yet, you say we can't do it!"

Samantha twitches her cheek under her eye and focuses her ire at Chad. "LISTEN! This was supposed to be a simple mission to get all of you familiar with each other and establish a group dynamic. Cybernetic zombies were NOT in the plan!"

Tassilda pouts, tosses back her raven black hair, and puts her hands on her hips. "This is a perfect opportunity, and you are WASTING it on another group!"

Samantha curls her lip and bares her teeth in reddened face rage. "Opportunity?! You HAD an opportunity and you all RAN!"

Chad explodes in retorts and counterarguments against Samantha with Tassilda and Trakenthin pitching in and verbally jabbing back. With a long sigh, Modoran leans against an old fence post near Deedri, perks an amused brow, and crosses his arms. "Well... This is turning out to be quite the day of... Entertainment."

Watching the clash of personalities, Deedri nervously rubs her hands together and rolls her shoulders through the tension. "Why are they fighting so much? Aren't we on the same team here? I don't know what they're trying to accomplish here. "

Twisting an ambivalent expression on his dusky bluish gray face, Modoran holds his hands up and shrugs nonplussed. "I really don't know. The only thing I can figure is that we have got three A-type personalities all wanting a chance to impress on the screen."

Deedri turns her head slightly towards Modoran and perks her furry, tufted ears. "A-type personalities?"

Modoran grins smugly and snorts with an ill-humored tone. "Assholes."

Returning her attention to face the argumentative scene, Deedri takes a deep breath in and groans with a trailing sigh and roll of her auburn eyes. "Yes. That, unfortunately, seems to be the case."

Carefully approaching Samantha from behind, Aristespha lightly taps her on the shoulder and presents a calm, professional exterior. Samantha spins out mid sentence, halts her retort to Chad, and presents a welcoming smile. "Yes? How can I help you further?"

Aristespha stoically meets the glares from Chad, Tassilda, and Trakenthin and focuses upon Samantha with a calm tone. "We are going in now. We will need to have a discussion AFTER we rescue your people. As a precaution, please have your guards mind the entrance in case anything else tries to come out."

Samantha genuinely smiles and exhales in relief. "Thank you so much! We'll do what we can up here. Please, get the crew back to safety."

After a quick nod into a bow, Aristespha pivots away and walks calmly to Bach, Sotalia, Dretphi, and Cideeda near the entrance way into the ruined facility. Chad squints his ire and frowns at Aristespha. Continuing towards the entrance, Aristespha signal the rest of the team to join her. Just past the entrance to the ancient structure and down the entry hallway, she grumbles loudly and wrestles her irritation. "That was... Horrifically awkward. Last thing I need is a bunch of self-important shits trying to play hero after they've run off with their security detail. And having the gods damned nerve to glare at me when we go do the job they should have done."

Sebastian's ethereal form materializes next to Aristespha and shares a disapproving expression on his face. "Okay, I do not like that Chad guy. Something about him doesn't feel right. I picked up that much from within the sword even."

Glancing around the smooth concrete floor and reinforced wall, Sebastian narrows a studious gaze around the vicinity. "But... Enough about those guys. We got people to rescue from here."

Visually checking the team, he bounces his gaze between everyone. Dretphi rolls her armor plated shoulders and double-checks the large machete on a magnetic holster on back and an energy shield gauntlet. Cideeda checks the chamber of her shotgun and cycles a round in. Sebastian nods and speaks to the group. "Okay. We'll do it similar to last time. I'll scout ahead. Dretphi and Cideeda, keep the front covered. Sotalia and Aristespha, hit anything at range. I'm guessing electrical attacks and anything that slices and dices will be the right type of attacks?"

Brushing off her bodysuit, Cideeda nods and points around her neck. "It looks like there's a main cable for the cybernetics in the neck. So, I'd aim for there first and see if you can damage it and bring them down quick."

Thinking for a moment, Dretphi sighs with a frown as she readies her sub-machine gun. "Attacking vital areas is not effective. Bodies outside showed that. Go for the power cable. Otherwise, attempt to disable limbs."

Sebastian's eyes search his mind and he glances to Bach. "Bro, watch the rear, provide support, and try to pull the power cores out of these things. It seems like they need them to work. So let's make sure they don't have them."

He floats over to the first intersection, studies all the directions, and glances back at Aristespha. She flips through a small packet of maps, scrutinizes a page, and then points towards a direction. Sebastian grins as the group readies themselves. "Okay. Let's do this."

Bright light floods the dark corridor as a long arc of electricity flashes into a plodding figure. Shuddering and shaking as the current flows into it, sparks erupt from the cybernetic cabling that decaying, necrotic flesh doesn't conceal. Smoke belches out through sizzling flesh of the figure, and it stiffly topples onto the floor. Another nearby cybernetic abomination pauses, listening to the downed cyber-zombie smoldering, and sloppily swings its partially decayed head toward another hallway run. Forceful pops and mechanical clacks bounce the halls, and fresh perforations rip open through the creature's neck. A few more holes open up in the rotting mass, and a bright flash explodes out from the flesh. The cyber-zombie collapses to the smooth concrete flood as plumes of acrid smoke raise up the slumped mass. The ethereal form of Sebastian zips around the corner of the intersection, points down a corridor, and holds three fingers up to the team behind. Cideeda and Dretphi position themselves at the sides of the hallway and Aristespha stands slightly back in the middle, starting a spell incantation. Sotalia's golden eyes dart between the shadowy corridors nearby, and she flexes her fingers within the faint magics mists enveloping them. Sebastian nods, turns back down the hallway, and ignites his form brighter. "Hey rot boys! Come get some of this, you fuckers!"

Backing away perpendicular from the team down another run of the intersection, and he holds a hand out to signal the others. Three cyber-zombies trudge out from the pipe lined corridor in a loose group with their hazy glares upon Sebastian. A red laser dot wanders up to the neck of one. When the three cyber-zombies near the middle of the intersection, Sebastian yells out. "NOW!"

Aristespha throws out an ivory hand with a forceful flick, and a large wave of translucent energy expands to the walls of the corridor. The pulses of flow push down the hall, reach the middle of the intersection, and coat the creatures in a thick, transparent energy. Struggling against the constricting magical gel, they manage only the tiniest, strained motions. Lining up her sights, Cideeda braces her small, lithe form and squeezes the main trigger on her shotgun. A loud kaboom blasts out and the middle upper chest region of a cyber-zombie liquefies into a gray green, chunky goop. Light flickers within the rotten soup, and the creature ceases fighting the energy enveloping it. Dretphi burst fires her submachine gun, and rounds punctures a cybernetic horror, pops reflecting down the hard concrete walls. A sparking corpse freezes in the energy and hovers within the magical mass. Aristespha raises her free hand as flows of power condense to an illuminated point. A beam of brilliant light streaks across the distance, she slices through the neck of the remaining abomination. The initial binding energy dissipates, and the leftovers from the fray flop onto the gunk and chunk coated floor. A decaying head rolls along the ground and rights itself on the laser sliced neck as few final twitches fade.

Sebastian gives the group a double thumbs up and squints down the hallway. "Okay! This way looks clear, and I think there's a big door here. Looks kind of important."

Aristespha swiftly straightens up her attire, retrieves the collection of maps, and traces a path on one of the pages. "That should be it!"

The team quickly reassembles and rushes through the intersection down a hall to a large door within the confines of a lighted section. Lagging just behind the group, Bach kneels down to the corpses of the cyber-zombies. He deftly hovers hand above the metal chest covers and swiftly extracts power cores. Extracting the last power core, he stuffs it with the others in his duster pockets. Dretphi takes a watch position towards the unlit, unexplored hallway past the large doorway. Typing on an active control panel, Cideeda's furry ears flick when blares out error tones. "It's locked. That might be a good sign."

Bach stands up from the pile of bodies. As he lifts his head up, he squints at something in the dark. In another shadowy, unknown stretch of hallway beyond the intersection and away from everyone else, he observes unusual flits of motion rising out of the blackness. A sleek humanoid figure moves precisely and purposefully without any waste. Its head tracks Bach perfectly with a slight rock in each step. When Bach discerns the faint red glow coming from where eyes should be, the being precisely snaps up the end of the rifle barrel. Bach's eyes flash bright, brilliant blue with terrified recognition, and he thrusts his hands forward. Both Sotalia and Aristespha freeze confused and search towards Bach. A rush of magical flow bursts forth from Bach's body, plumes out in a torrent, and swirls towards a point in front of Bach's hands. The flow condenses, and explodes out into a golden, splintering web of hexagonal fractals. The framework flashes up to the ceiling and sinks into two corners at the intersection, and floods full of golden transparent energy. The sleek figure smoothly engages the trigger on its weapon, and a chain of plasma bolts stream upon the golden barrier. The gaseous orbs bounce off, explode into the plasma splatter, or dissipates into the magic barrier. Bach staggers back and barely remains on his feet in the panic. "WHAT THE FUCK ARE THESE?!"

The team snaps their focus to the golden barrier as plasma bolts pound onto it. Raises his head up from the ground to the others, Bach's pupils shrink to shock. He spots another sleek humanoid figure darting out from a shadowy corner down the unexplored section of hallway behind Dretphi and everyone else. With another bright flash of blue in his eyes, Bach lunges his hand forward. "BEHIND YOU!"

A woven centimeter thick cord of stabilized magical energy launches from a glowing mass of flow billowing out in Bach palm. Jetting through the air, the stream arcs over the group and descends directly towards its target. The sleek, near featureless being trains its plasma rifle at Dretphi. The magical cord plants itself onto the weapon. A web of blue energy threads spider out on the rifle from the contact point and root through the entire weapon. The cyber soldier strains its finger against the unmoving trigger. Bach grasps onto the cord, and a pulse of energy arcs down the path. Swiftly following the fuse, the energy hits the plasma rifle, and a burst of power propels the weapon out of the soldier's grip. The sleek being puzzles a moment with erratically flexing hands and processes the change of situation as an ominous shadow envelops it. Dretphi raises the massive machete with both hands. Its faintly glowing edge gleams with off-color outpost lighting. The blade slices down into the sleek humanoid and splits the meeting point between shoulder and neck. A stream of transparent red blood waterfalls down smooth contours of the body from the machete and splatter upon the smooth concrete. The figure shudders with fading life for moments and limply drops off the blade into a sloppy heap.

The tension surges and stifles in the minutes of still silence. Everyone watches either end of the hallway for activity in paranoid glances. Dretphi's steely gray eyes behind her full face visor scan her direction, and she pants tensely with sub-machine in one hand and blood stained machete in the other. "Think we are not under threat... Currently..."

Dragging himself up from the floor in a slight daze, Bach nervously bounces his glowing gaze between the golden barrier sealed intersection and the inky darkness the other way. "Okay... Um... Door? Please?!"

Sebastian rams his intangible upper body through the thick doors. The two crew members leap in fright as the angry ghostly figure materializes on the other side. Sebastian glares between the two crew members and an annoyed grins. "Will someone... OPEN THIS FUCKING DOOR! PLEASE? We're only trying to RESCUE YOU here."

Aged lamps overhead light the large command center. Flickers of text stream out on a few dust caked monitors in a row of old consoles. Blinking indicators pulse on a control panel next to the heavy security beyond a barricade of upturned old office furniture. Away from the barrier, Sebastian hovers in front of a few recording crew members and inquires. "Huh... So, you actually got into the control center, and then something brought the system out of standby mode?"

A cameraman nods and shrugs uncertainly. "Yeah. We can't figure out if one of the adventurers hit something ,or if it was remotely triggered. I mean, the place was silent. Like completely dead. Then before we knew it, alarms were going off everywhere. Our group ran into those cyber-commandos- Or whatever the fuck they are. Gods, we were just lucky to get everyone into this old command area, I guess. From the looks of it at least."

A half-emin engineer sighs and shakes her horned head. "Unfortunately, the only thing we've managed to do is to get the door to lock. Seems like this room is off the main security system and on its own loop. Poor Radnae caught a plasma bolt to the shoulder blade. Harris got a bunch of ribs broken by a few punches from those freaks. And, Urdi got her ankle twisted when one of them swept her legs out of nowhere."

Sebastian drifts in thought for a few moments and blinks back to awareness at their expectant gazes. "Okay... Hang tight, I'm going to scout our path back and see what exactly is going on out there. I get the feeling these cyber-commandos are the real defenders to worry about. The cyber-zombies were nowhere near this dangerous. Meanwhile, I'll have my team help the injured and work on a plan for getting everyone out safely."

He waves to Aristespha and signals towards the door. Aristespha nods back as he phases through the heavy security door. Resuming her medical treatment of the large fvalian man, she inspects a very serious plasma burn on his shoulder. "You are incredibly fortunate. It seems like your camera harness and backpack broke the plasma bolt early. While these are pretty terrible burns, you still have a shoulder and shoulder blade intact. I'll apply some initial healing and preventive magic, and a synth skin cover. Anything further will have to wait until we get to the surface when we are in better circumstances."

The fvalian man winces against the pain and nods while laying on his belly. "Yes, ma'am. Um... Is Urdi's ankle serious?"

Gazing upon the fvalian a moment, Aristespha smiles slyly and pats him on his uninjured arm. "Oh. It's only a bad sprain. She saw that sweep kick and dodged most of it. But for you, Radnae, I have a question."

Blinking confused, Radnae twists his head carefully up to Aristespha curiously. "Uh. What's that, ma'am?"

Aristespha leans close to one of Radnae's big furry ears and whispers softly. "Do you know of any really nice restaurants in Amaranth Valley? Because from the way Urdi has been trying to catch your eye, you might be going to one."

A flush of pink fills Radnae's face, and he lowers his head to hide a surge of embarrassment. "Y-you really think that- She'd ask me out?"

With a small grin, Aristespha chuckles softly to herself while applying the next stage of Radnae's treatment. "Oh, call me old fashioned, but I think when a brave man shields a lady from a ball of superheated gas, he should at LEAST get a nice dinner out of it. Now... Make eye contact, smile, and wave at her with your good arm."

Sotalia sits nearby lightly applying the last thick cloth strip along a middle-aged man's heavily bruised and sore side. He groans and grumbles with each unintentional, painful move. Reaching into a belt pouch, Sotalia pulls out a small vial of blue liquid and narrows her golden eyes. "Now drink this."

The man eyes the vial with suspicion and furrows his brow. "What's it do?"

Sotalia lifts an eyebrow back and holds it closer to the man's face. "Oh, you know. It prevents you from experiencing tremendous amounts of pain when the brace strips I put on you activate and move your broken ribs away from your internal organs."

The man glares at the vial again warily. Sotalia rolls her golden eyes and sighs with a smirk. "It's blue raspberry flavored, if that helps, Mr. Harris."

Harris twists his mouth uncertainly and takes hold of the vial. "Like the slushies at the convenience store?"

Sotalia nods with an amused smile. Harris twisting opens the top and pours the solution into his mouth, tilting his head back. He swallows and gives a nod of approval. "Okay. Not bad. So, what's next?"

With a grin, Sotalia presses her hand on the side of Harris. "This."

Harris's eyes widen as the strips glow. A few ribs shift slightly underneath his skin when magical bandages stiffen. He checks his side, gently pokes the bruises, and lifts his intrigued expression to Sotalia. "Man, that is such a fucked up feeling."

Applying a cover pad over the strips, Sotalia laughs with Harris. "Gods, I KNOW. I've used these a few times, and I never get used to that."

On the other side of the command center in a cleared out section of floor, Cideeda, Dretphi, and Bach sit on the ground around a downed cyber-commando. The darkening transparent red solution slowly seeps out onto the dirty floor panels from the dividing machete wound. A fading status light pulses on the open chest chamber, sans power core. Bach rests his head back on the wall, blinks blankly, and eases a breath out with a faint whistle. "These are some serious cyborgs. I'm glad you had that machete. Otherwise... we might still be fighting it."

Dretphi straightens up and draws a small knife from her belt. She presses the blade firmly on the exterior covering of the cyborg and struggles to leave anything more than a pressure mark in the synthetic coating. Waving a utility scanner over the corpse, Cideeda growls out her frustration and shakes her head of short multicolored hair. "Damn this thing! It's like my scanner pulses are going right through. I'm getting more a signal from the plating in the floor panels."

Bach tilts himself forward and gets his legs underneath him. As he rises up unsteadily and reflexively braces himself against the wall, both Dretphi and Cideeda reach out to catch him. Bach waves his hand appreciatively and chuckles awkwardly. "I'm good. My leg fell asleep sitting on that floor for so long. I'm recovered enough, in the magic department."

Dretphi stands up fully, walks around the cyborg cautiously, and pats Bach on shoulder. "Thank you for shielding us. Disarming it."

Bach hangs his head and shrugs his shoulders. "Ah, not a problem. But... I just get the feeling when we get out of this Sotalia and Aristespha are going to have more questions about how I did all that."

He glances down to familiar gentle five claw point squeeze around his forearm and soft shoulder nudge in his side. Meeting his gaze, Cideeda flashes a toothy grin, winks her emerald green eye, and let's go. "Hey, you're getting the results that keep us alive. That's good enough in my book."

She glares down in disgust at the cyborg and shoves it away from her with the heel of her toed boot. "Let's get away from the dead thing. I've studied and gotten all I want from it."

Dretphi and Bach agree and follow Cideeda as she leads them to Aristespha and Sotalia. Bach briefly glances back at the cyborg corpse, winces uncomfortably, and squirms a bit. "Damn... Still feel a bit weird about killing that thing. It was alive and all..."

Nodding solemnly, Dretphi turns her head down to Bach. "It is never easy when it is something you can sympathize with. It did force a decision upon us all. It... Us... Do not feel bad for choosing us."

Cideeda aims her head over her shoulder to Bach and Dretphi with a faintly saddened frown. "Honestly, if there's any poor souls trapped in those things, I think we're doing them a huge favor. Give them a chance to move on to something better."

Bach ponders quietly in thought. After a few silence seconds, he sighs with grim acceptance. "Yeah... Especially those rotting ones. Gods... That HAS to be some kind of hell."

Sebastian rockets through the closed large doors, halt in the middle of the room, and calls out to everyone in the command center. "Everyone! We have a situation... Gather around."

People gather closer and attention shifts towards the middle of the room where Sebastian hovers. When the team gets near and Sebastian glances over the crews, he wrestles an uneasy grimace and sighs ethereally. "I checked most of the way back, until I could go any farther. So... Everywhere we ran into the cyber-zombies, we have cyber-commandos waiting. From what I can gather, they are able to coordinate with each other. After the first few groups shot at me, the rest stopped trying."

Members of the crew wither as dread weighs over them. Dretphi crosses her arms, lowers her helmeted head, and ponders out loud. "Any tactics you witnessed them employ?"

Sebastian nods gravely. "Yeah. Plenty. They changed up hiding spots between when I passed them the first time and on my return. They're in groups of three now. And, it looks like they are concentrating the groups the closer you get to the exit. I think they know we're going to try to get out of here and are looking to contain us."

Straightening her posture, Aristespha rolls her shoulders and breathes deeply with worry in her voice. "Any signs they are going to break into here?"

Shaking his head, Sebastian frowns and motions around the space. "No. They're waiting for us to make a move. I think they know they can wait us out."

Frustration bubbles into Dretphi's tone, and she tightens her gauntlet covered fist. "We were lucky with the two we encountered. It will be a perilous fight to get out. If they can communicate, our cautious tactics will cease to work. They will surround us."

Sotalia rubs her temples, guides back stray dark red locks over her swept back horn, and groans at the situation. "There's only so much firepower I've got, but I can throw my heavy hitters. How many are we looking at?"

Darting his translucent blue gaze around awkwardly, Sebastian lowers his head in grim understanding. "Fifteen or so from my count along the path. At least, those are the ones I saw."

Blinking in abject surprise, Sotalia uneasily bites her lower lip and drifts from the gathering with a single word. "Fuck..."

Cideeda paces around near the huddle, her distance stare inwards sorting through a flurry of thoughts. "We need a distraction or something. If only to just to keep them from attacking us, much less running in us. Even just for a few minutes. If we run for it, we should get to the exit easy enough before they form up enough of a resistance."

Listening attentively to Cideeda, Dretphi nods in agreement. "Avoid engagement. Move fast. That would be our best option."

Sotalia spins around towards the group holding a hand up in protest and balks. "Gods, we need something more than just a distraction. We need something to temporarily take them out! Stun them or shut them down. I can throw some ball lightning. They didn't seem to like electrical magic that much... But, that only can reach within a few meters of a spot."

An idea sparks inside Bach. He narrows his blue eyes, and glances around his head as pieces fall into place. Tilting his head towards Cideeda, he inquires. "When you scanned the cyborg, the pulses were going through it? Not like refracted around or being absorbed by it?"

Lifting a flap on her vest, Cideeda retrieves the small scanner and presses buttons to bring up the last reading. "Right through. I got some internal data of the cyborg, but mostly reflections from the micro-mesh reinforced concrete that makes up this base. It's weird they're so electrically permissive."

Stepping next to Cideeda, Aristespha angles the screen of the device towards her searching violet eyes as her very long, pointed ears perk up slightly. "Wait... I read about these once. There were such things as infiltration commandos by a few older nations. Recovered documents mention they have electromagnetic transparency augmentations to avoid being detected by radar systems. They were specifically designed to be used in areas that used robotic soldiers and radar systems for detection."

A sly smile cracks from the corner of Bach's mouth, and he perks a daring brow. "So, how much would say a powerful EMP fuck them up?"

Blinking in thought, Cideeda perks her furry ears, straightens her posture, and rests her hands on her hips. "They have some protections, and their augmentations obviously allow signals to go through. But..."

She furrows her brow, glances over to Bach while stroking her light brown chin with intrigued claw tips, and reveals an eager, toothy grin. "That's for defeating detection equipment. An electromagnetic pulse is orders of magnitudes more powerful than even standing directly in front of a microwave transmitter. Only hardened front line battle droids and mechs are capable of weathering blasts like and functioning through it. So, an EMP might fry them and definitely should take them down for a while."

Sebastian breaks into a hopeful smile and gaze expectantly at his brother. "Whacha got, bro?"

Bach nods with his thoughts and explains. "I believe I can construct a magical device that can release a powerful enough EMP. I think the construction of the outpost will keep it in the hallways?"

Meeting Bach inquiring gaze, Cideeda smiles slyly and perks her brow. "Oh yeah. This place is packed with metal plating and mesh throughout the entirety of the structure. It was meant to keep stuff out... But it works just as well to keep it in."

Narrowing her steely gray eyes in thought, Dretphi smirks and crosses her armored arms. "That will disrupt their communications. Leave them completely uncoordinated. Any we encounter active would be unable to relay intel. Keep our position obfuscated."

Sotalia furrows her brow and faces Bach seeking hope. She sighs with a reservation heavy in her tone. "I'm certain between you, Aristespha, and me, we can power this up and make it work. But... If we do have to fight, I don't know how much magic we'd have left to defend ourselves."

A cunning sparks glints in Bach's blue eyes, and he grins ear to ear. "Oh, don't worry. I got most of the power covered."

He grabs the edges of his duster and fans it open. A dozen salvaged, nearly fully charged power cores rattle metallically against each other in the duster pockets. Bach smiles smugly and chuckles. "Well, technically, they covered it."

Sebastian ethereal form flies around and directs people as they ready themselves near the security door. "Okay!"

He gazes over to Dretphi with a point. "Dretphi. Shield deployed and machete ready. Bash and slash anything that doesn't have the sense to get out of the way."

As Dretphi confirms the order, Sebastian meets Cideeda’s expecting expression. "Cideeda. Shoot anything that tries to get up in front of us."

He glances over to Aristespha with a smile. "Dear. Ward and barrier the crew."

Straightening his hover posture, he calls out to the gathering crowd. "Crew members! Line up two wide. Help Mr. Harris, Urdi, and Radnae along."

Glancing over his shoulder, Sebastian spots Bach and Sotalia. "Bach and Sotalia. When it blows and the crew clears the doors, I want you two to cover the back and make it hell for anything that tries to follow us."

People form up along the length of the wall near the heavy security door with a cautious distance from the actual entry. Reaching inside an open access panel, Cideeda readies a rigging of wires and components. Stretching her arms out, Dretphi holds her gauntlet forward as a force field forms into a tower shield from a mounted generator. She draws out her large, glimmering machete and inspects it. Aristespha recites incantations, precisely gestures, and fans out a protective warping bubble around the crew members with ample space. Bach and Sotalia stand facing each other in front of the heavy entry door. Bach holds his hands half a meter apart in the air front of Sotalia. "Okay. To build this thing real quick, I'm going to need you to flow some energy into it to keep the build processes going. That way I can concentrate on charging it up with the power cores. Okay?"

Nodding slowly with vague hints of uncertainty, Sotalia aims her golden stare at Bach and awaits further instruction. "Yes. So, what do I need to do, specifically?"

Bach motions his hands up and down and indicates the space between them. "Keep your hands right here. Then, when I say so, just flow energy into it."

Sotalia cautiously reaches her hands out next to Bach's. He rotates his hands around a center pivot until they are at the top and bottom. Taking in a deep breath, his eyes glow brightly, and he releases a calming breath. "Okay. Here we go..."

A surge of magical flow erupts from Bach and jets into the space between his hands. The amorphous energy solidifies into a ball outer structure and mechanical and technological shapes materialize inside. Two discs form, slide on the outside of the ball, and park next to Sotalia's hands. Gawking at the creation, her golden eyes dart around to follow the orderly chaos made manifest before. Bach calls out as his blue eyes flash brightly. "Now! Flow into it!"

Sotalia shudders her head of dark red shoulder length hair, blinks her back to awareness, and stumbles upon her words. "W-w-wait! What kind of magical energy!?"

Letting go of the top and bottom of the magical creation, Bach searches his duster for a power core. He briefly glances nonchalantly at Sotalia with a spark of confidence. "Well, any really... It'll process it out."

Furrowing her brow, Sotalia twists an uneasy grimace on her light tan face and tilts her head slightly. She shrugs her shoulders and releases a form of magical energy down her arms. Startling as the discs lock on to the streams from her hands, she studies the build process before her. Her fingers flex around the flurry of activity between, and she stares into the constructs materializing within. Bach presses a power core into the bottom of the creation. Placing his hand on top, he concentrates with a slow inhale. Sotalia's attention darts between flits of activity throughout the device, shifts in magical flows, and the adjustments to the discs near her hands. From the connected power core, a massive surge of energy floods into the center. Bach returns the empty power core into his duster and replaces it with another one. Each power core flushes the center with a new wave of power, and the whole magical orb shines brighter. Fighting off her fascination, Sotalia snaps back to her senses as the discs tremble near her hands. Stopping short of retrieving the seventh power core, Bach returns his free hand on the bottom of the magical bomb and narrows his brilliant blue stare. "Okay... That's all it's probably going to hold... Uh, safely for a bomb. Time to seal her up and prime it."

With a pulse of magic flow, the intertwined constructions within solidify around the radiating blue-white core. The exterior shell darkens to an opaque red. The discs next to Sotalia's hands dissipate into a cloud of miasma that sinks back into the manifested EMP bomb. Cautiously pulling her hands away to the sides, she stands fascinated at the creation. Bach shifts over to the side and hems to get Sotalia's attention. "Hey, you might want to move out of the way. It's going to fly out the door when I trigger it."

Sotalia blinks her golden eyes, side steps away, and dons a hasty front of confidence. Bach nods to Cideeda. "Open the door! It's ready to fly."

Taking her hand off the handle of her shotgun, Cideeda presses the button upon the rigged control panel. The large security door opens. After Bach taps a spot on the bomb, it rockets off through the door and charges down the hallway. Bach rushes into the protection bubble with everyone else. Cideeda presses another button, and the door quickly seals. She hops into the protective field. Tense moments hang over the gathering in the silent, still seconds. A chorus of alarms sound out from the banks of control center consoles into a chaotic cacophony, before the heavy security vibrates within its reinforced frame. Lights flicker to a very dim glow, old computer displays flash a rainbow of error messages, and the protective bubble crackles with tiny arcs. A low singular tremor pulses through the very structure of the outpost, and showers of ancient debris rain from clouds of dust from the ceiling rafters. Cideeda rushes over, yanks back an emergency release handle inside a maintenance access panel. A loud rush of fluid sounds from within the doorway frame, and hydraulic override rams swiftly drag open the security door. Sebastian darts open into the hallway, glances down both ways, and yells. "LET'S MOVE IT!"

Sebastian leads well ahead of the column and glides down the hall of flicking lamps and occasional waterfalls of sparks. Dretphi and Cideeda set the pace down the hazy passages of fresh smoldering electrical systems and swiftly gauge the threats from disabled, twitching cyber-commandos. Sweeping over the still and barely shuddering humanoid creatures, both push forth, with Dretphi booting cybernetic bodies clear. Aristespha calls out directions while guiding flows of energy into the protective bubble over the crew. Holding the rear of the formation, Bach aims his plasma pistol into the chaotic darkness, and Sotalia keeps a hand of sparking magic at the ready. The group weaves through the maze of the ancient facility, and swiftly darts through barricaded choke points.

A cyber-commando stumbles around in the middle of the hallway and ambles aimlessly. Fighting through daze, it gains enough awareness to face a powerful energy shield bash straight in its muted features. As it slams into the concrete wall with a resounding thud, another recovering cyborg menace spins shakily around to the noise and shudders when a large, glimmering machete slices into its neck. Falling into a wet slump, another one of its kind sluggishly sits up from the ground. A loud report echoes down the corridor with a bright muzzle flash. A lead slug bounces off the rising cyber-commando's head, and it flops back down onto the concrete floor. Cideeda cycles another round into her shotgun and calls out. "They're getting back up! These weren't hit as hard as the others!"

Sebastian's ethereal visage rockets around the corner and shouts back down the hallway. "Last three are still groggy, and then it's a straight shot out!"

Dretphi and Cideeda charge through the intersection. A loud crackle of energy sounds out, and another body smacks against the metal piped wall. Another shotgun blast booms, and heavy metal impacts with a wet crunch. Sebastian remains in the middle of the intersection, and directs the formation down the passage. Pausing a moment, Sotalia unleashes a bolt of lightning behind her and sprints back into pace. Bach lays a covering volley of plasma bolts from his pistol and suppresses the advance of awakening cyborgs. Setting up for another casting, Sotalia waits for Bach to run past, and another arc of electricity erupts down the hall in a flood of blue-white light and crackling chaos. Sebastian flies next to Sotalia and Bach and motions towards the exit. "Save the firepower and run! We may need it outside!"

Dretphi and Cideeda leap to either side of the facility entrance. The crew flee out in formation with Aristespha commanding from the middle. Cheers fill the air from the crowd of the other Next Adventurers of Nexus support staff. Samantha and Gerald run out to the rescued crew and immediately lead them away to the safety perimeter. Deedri eagerly rushes over to assist with the injured and happily assists. Modoran nods respectfully to the team with honest applause. Chad, Tassilda, and Trakenthin glower at the events unfolding before them. Bach and Sotalia halt and pivot around after clearing the entry. Panting heavily, Bach squints down the corridor beyond the main doorway. "What the- Oh shit! I don't think they're stopping. They might actually come out here!"

Peeking around from the side, Cideeda narrows her emerald green eyes towards the sleek wandering figures in the dark, hazy chaos. "Fuck! There's probably no central control to keep them from wandering off now!

Sotalia squints down the corridor into the distance, and her eyes widen in horror as she spots the unsettling humanoid outlines in contrast to the flickering backlight. "Are they all coming back online?! That's more than what we shot!"

Dretphi flips up her visor, draws in a deep breath, and bellows out to the crowds. "MOVE BACK! THEY ARE COMING TO THE ENTRY! GET BACK NOW!"

Sebastian zip out of the entry, pivots around, and watches the masses of movement swell out from the dark depths of the ancient ruins. "Gods damn it. I guess they engineered them to handle an EMP. Oh fucking hell, they're all coming towards the exit. We're going to need to set up a choke point here and try to keep them contained."

Aristespha slides to a stop behind everyone. "Bach! Do you have another one of those barriers left in you? Even if we call the guild and military, it'll take them at least half an hour to get out here. Anything to slow them down now."

Panic rushes up through Bach's rigid form with nervous trembling and shuddering breaths. He searches the area frantically and wrestles down the flits of fright. "Uh- I- Uh- Maybe! But, one or two won't get through, but this many?! I need a power source to recharge the-"

His eyes snaps o a large trailer power cell with runs of cables to Next Adventurers of Nexus equipment in the vicinity. Pointing at the device, Bach commands determined. "THAT. HERE. NOW!"

Dretphi and Cideeda bolt to the power cell. While unlocking the restraints, Dretphi prepares the device to roll on its wheels. Cideeda rips out plugs and disconnects cables in bulk to free it. Aristespha gestures out an incantation and throws both hands forward. A massive wave of force funnels down the corridor, and launches cyborgs back in the commando pile up. Sotalia flings out shock wave bolts, and each erupting impact knocks a cyborg tumbling behind the amassing horde. Dretphi lifts the tongue of the trailer and summons the sheer brute strength to drag it back. Ripping out the last few cables, Cideeda sprints ahead and feverishly clears the way in front of Dretphi. Reaches his hand out, Bach's eyes glow, and energy flows into a hexagonal grid in front of him. The magical matrix grows onto the heavy archway and roots itself to the concrete around. As the seal strengths, Sotalia and Aristespha stand back and keep spells at the ready. Dretphi heaves the power cell trailer into position behind Bach. "It is here!"

Bach draws his hand away from the framework of hexes, and a woven cord of magical threads form from his palm. Quickly pivoting around, he swiftly studies the power cell. Flipping open an access panel covered in warnings, he glances at the cord in hand and the high voltage electrical insides of the power cell. Gritting his teeth uncertainty, he winces and jams magical cable inside. After a moment of concentration, a rush of flow jet down around his arm and floods the insides of the power cell. The cord flashes to a bright prismatic glow, and the energy framework sinking into the archway fills in quickly, growing denser by the second. A thick golden barrier materializes and anchors securely into the structure of the outpost. Plasma bolts barrages from inside pelt the magical seal. The barrier holds with no signs of damage. Bach sighs with relief and quickly backs away from the entryway. "It should be good! I guess... I hope?"

Minutes of constant assaults from cyber-commando wane. After a few tactical changes, the cyborgs fall back, and only a few rotting bionic husks idly press against the entryway seal. The Next Adventurers of Nexus crews and adventures collect themselves. Meanwhile, Aristespha, Bach, Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sotalia retreat to the humvee as Sebastian dissipates back into the sword at Aristespha's side. As the team rests, Aristespha hangs up on her aetherphone, walks back over to the humvee. "Well, the GAA military should be here soon enough to lock down the area. The local guild office was happy for the containment and information. So, we might get a nice bonus."

Grumbling as she sits in the front seat, Sotalia sips from a bottle of water. "Gods... Still can't believe we had to help them out."

Sebastian's voice resonates from the sword at Aristespha's side. "To be fair... That was a fucked up situation for anyone.

Rolling her golden eyes, Sotalia scratches the dark gray patches under her pointed ears and sighs. "Yeah..."

Cideeda finishes chewing a large piece of jerky and laughs while tapping on Sotalia's shoulder. "Did you see the look on their faces when we got the crew out? I hope THAT gets put on air!"

Dretphi groans while laying on the far back seat, throws her head back into her pillows, and sinks into the cushion. "I worry what will be on the show."

Bach yawns and stretches his neck. Pauses a moment, he chuckles to himself and shakes his head. "You know... I don't think they'll have much material to work with."

Blinking her emerald green eyes, Cideeda's furry ears perk with her thoughts, and she widens a toothy grin. "That's right... Oh, they'll be lucky to get anything of use from today."

Aristespha puzzles at Bach and Cideeda, and steps closer to lower her voice with a wry smile. "Why do you two say that?"

Bach gestures towards the power cell near the magical barrier. "I think that's the only one they brought, and they have a lot of power hungry equipment."

An evil smile settles upon Cideeda's light brown face, and she wiggles comfortably into the driver's seat. "Also, I know the EMP didn't help."