Log:Array Consortium: Drug-Worlds and Invisible Killers

From Star Wars: Age of Alliances MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search

Drug-Worlds and Invisible Killers

Location: Nar Shaddaa, Planetoid Aurek-4227-Besh-1 in Rseik Sector
Participants: Bar'duur, Quentin Haslett, Adhar Gann

Adhar has hired the eccentric scientist, Quentin Haslett, to create a synthetic version of the spice used by the Mathall Syndicate. However, more data must be gathered - and at the source. Adhar, Bar'duur, and two of Adhar's more science-minded security troops conspire to sneak onto the very planetoid from which the spice is mined. A mad plan to re-create Aola's meteoric stealth drop ensues, but that's just the beginning of the danger that awaits...

The Voidhawk is a beautiful ship, though it looks like something a planetary noble would fly, not a smuggler lord; the Helix's graceful, yet intimidating shape is painted a deep, royal blue, and it leading edges and hull are ornamented with a golden metal. It is...rather striking, to say the least. And of course, it sticks out.

Also sticking out is Adhar, who stands by the ship, attended by a pair of others in heavy combat armor, also colored blue. Their visors are vaguely like a psychopath's rendering of a Neimoidian skull, with strange, bulging visualizers like those of cephalopods, and a voxgrill like an angry mouth. Adhar, in his armor, goes without his helmet, though bristles with a full panoply of weapons, the most visible is a marksman's blaster rifle slung by its strap on his caped shoulder. Waiting for the rest, it doth appear.

Quentin Haslett had already taken precautions. Two more burly men, whether or not they were Adhar's men was a negligible difference to him, had hauled a few large Imperial-style crates into the small ship. When he had been told to load up for bear, the man had scoffed and continued with his work. Perhaps his haughtiness served as a deflector shield. It was possible. Following the dock workers, he had a datapad in one hand and a generic SoroSuub DY-225 blaster in the other. He was tucking it away in a shoulder holster when he spotted the good Captain. "Captain. Are you and your men intending to be targets in that gaudy armor? It's very ostentateous." Translation: Hi, how are you?

Bar'duur makes his way across the spaceport ramp wearing a simple set of heavy armor, nothing over the top or that stands out in any way, just a generic Zabrak man wearing generic armor. No rifle for him but he has a pistol at least and a small steamline pack on his back for good measure. As he approaches the Voidhawk the man looks it over curiously before nodding to Adhar. "We're taking that? Figured we'd take the shuttle, it has enough room right?"

"We are indeed," says Ahdar, nodding once. "But we will be landing on the planetoid's nightside, and its star gives off blue light. Besides, if we stand out, you know you won't be targeted if there's trouble." Adhar nods once to the Doctor, gesturing to the ship. "We have your supplies loaded, Doctor, just as you laid out. Feel free to set up your laboratory as we are underway. It will take about twelve hours or so to get there - and of course, I will provide bodily protection for you as well, but quite stealthy by comparison."

He looks...amused. No. He's smiling, but it's not quite amusement. And then Bar'duur arrives, and he waves at the fellow. "Quentin Haslett, please meet my first officer, Bar'duur of Iridonia. And these are Tannex and B'losh, your security detail."

To Bar'duur, he says, "Shuttle's too slow, and not as well-armed. Plus, I want to give this sucker a run-through. We're not here to rescue slaves, we're here to get planetary data. Hopefully if we get this nailed down we'll have their whole operation and no slave labor to worry about." That said, he gestures for the lot of you to follow him, and proceeds to board the ship through the ramp in the rear.

"Ah, yes," said Q as he followed Adhar into the vessel. "A pleasure to meet you, Mister Bar'duur," the man said to the Iridonian in a manner that indicated it was just a formality to get through. Not much of a people person, this one. He ran a hand through his hair as he consulted with his two brand new experim- bodyguards. "Tannex, B'losh, we are going into dangerous territory. Please try not to die, but above all, don't allow me to die. That would render your Captain's task moot." Oh, Quentin was going to make so many friends.

The ship is small, but incredibly well-appointed. The interior is painted a rich cream color, with accent panels of red greel-wood and chromium. Beyond the cargo bay, which is a small, enclosed space fronted with transparisteel windows and a secure door for entry and exit; all of the Doctor's things are there, as he asked, and a comfortable single bed set up in one corner. The passenger bunks, though folding, are plush Dantine metafoam, supporting as much as a thick, standard mattress in an expensive bed. Chairs are rich brown leather, the hide likely indeterminate but definitely natural, and a greel-wood table with a holopod projector lens on top and bottom is mounted in to a recessed fitting overhead to serve as entertainment and data display. Beyond that is a luxury refresher pod and a compact but highly advanced autochef unit. It's all....very expensive. Thing looks like a yacht.

"All right," says Adhar, gesturing to the cargo bay, "You can get things set up as you require, doctor. Tannex and B'losh are trained technicians as well as security personnel, so if you require any assistance they can be of help. Otherwise, they will leave you to it. We will reach our destination in fourteen hours."

Adhar gestures to Bar'duur. "Shall we go? Needs two to really tango, after all."

Bar'duur looks over Quentin and just smirks a little at the fellow's words, and decides to ignore him for now. One of the great things about being retired he doesnt have to put up with the hoity toities anymore. Bar moves forward to the cockpit to help fly. "Yup." He answers Adhar. "So we're going to actually land I take it? I figured it would be a fly over."

"Flyover?" Adhar quirks a brow. " No way. Doc needs access to the actual planetoidn so we're getting him in there." Adhar takes the pilot's station; as he does so a console folds put from the wall for Bar'duur, where the controls for the ship's turrets are. "Strap in," he says, firing up the ship's softly humming drives. "Gonna get interesting."

Bar'duur grunts a little bit and messes with the control for a moment. "I'm not that good with turrets, didnt know we were expecting to fight our way through." He says with a little smirk. "Geeze so much for subtly captain." Is he just messing with Adhar?

"This is very nice," said Doctor Q, paying lip service to the appearance of the room before discarding it from his mind. It had space for his laboratory and enough comfort that he wouldn't wake up with a bad back, and that was enough for him. During the long transit time, Quentin set up the laboratory, continued his experimentation on both the mineral sample and the completed drug, and reviewed Holonet journals on geology. The doctor was loathe to say it, but geology was not something he studied nor invested time in. Curses. He would have to improvise.

"Subtlety is overrated," Adhar says with a chuckle. "Besides, if we end up destroying something, I want them to know that I'm the one doing it. We're not supposed to know this thing is here, and I put a good piece of change in getting the location of this rock."

And so does the ship travel through hyperspace, the hours ticking by. Whilst Doctor Q does his mad science thing, Tannex and B'losh remove their helmets - revealing a Chiss woman and an Arkanian man - who busy themselves with assisting the doctor if they require. Tannex is the true engineer, and she assists the doctor in getting the equipment rooted to the cargo bay deck not with welds but with a secondary tractor carpet with its own generator that will keep the stuff anchored regardless of what happens. B'losh is a chemist who dabbles in geology and planetary ecology; he offers to assist the doctor in gathering samples and analysis. Assuming the doctor allows their help, being fellow intellectuals, they will be of great aid to him...and if not, they will still keep him from getting killed.

Eventually, the time winds out, and Adhar and Bar'duur are summoned to the cockpit again as the navicomputer lets out a musical chime that informs them that realspace transition is imminent. Once in their stations, Adhar draws a deep breath and turns on the intercom. "All right, everyone," he says, "This is the captain. Get into your crash seating and lock yourselves down, we're about to enter realspace and begin a stealthy entry in thirty seconds. This means you too, doc, don't want that magnificent brain spattered all over my cabin."

He cuts the audio, then looks back at Bar'duur. "So all that telemetry that Aola gave us on her drop over Vestar? That's what we're doing. So, uh, brace yourself."

UGH. Interruptions. Quentin had been terse with his newfound meatshields, appreciating their assistance but never seeing them as quite on his scientific level. They had their role. But for now, crash seating. He dropped himself into the wall seat with a sigh and buckled in. Truly this was the most stressful part of the adventure.

Bar'duur frowns a little bit. "So do you have a plan that requires them making you a target?" He asks curiously. But he shrugs. "If you're trying to make a name for yourself I guess that's your thing but I always thought there's no point making yourself obvious unless there is a good reason for it." He goes about doing his part, settling in at his console again, strapping himself in.

"I don't," he says, "But if it gets problematic, I'm just saying. I want them to know it's me. Trust me, I have an angle on this! I'll tell you about it later."

Tannex and B'losh strap themselves in as well, pulling on their helmets as they settle into the drop seats that unfold from some of the wood-paneled wall sections; they give each other a look before they do so, one that speaks of not too small an amount of anxiety. But they're strapped in, and so is the Doc, and the blue of hyperspace cures to stars - no, not stars, but the black wall of a planetary nightside. Just over the surface, maybe by a mile or so.

Adhar kills all but the slightest bit of the ship's power, and the ship begins to plunge into the atmosphere. Lit up by the raging flames of re-entry, Adhar keeps the yoke straight as the ship shudders and shakes through the friction storm; it lasts for only a few seconds, and then the ship is clear - clear to continue falling. Adhar pulls his helmet on with one hand, keeping the ship's yoke steady still as he engages the armor's s-link with what systems are still active. It's...a long fall, and all there is is blackness. The atmosphere of the planet is rather thin.

A little 'hmf' emits from the horned male but he just nods a little, lowering power for his systems, the non essentials, since this is a stealthy entrance he aims to lower power signatures a bit. He's familiar with the practice and often aims to do that with Deep Hunter but he's not the most adept with computers so he can only do so much.

Well, it's a bit like strapping yourself to a bird, who's tied to a rock, which is on fire - and the bird is dead. Also the rock is a brick of plastic explosive. As the ship rumbles and shudders, Adhar keeps her on course, plummeting toward the dark surface with her vented beak pointed still toward certain destruction. Through his visor, however, Adhar can see the topography overlaid upon the dark out there, sees craggy mountains and massive canyons. Knows that if he kriffs this up they're all as good as dead. But not yet...not yet...

In the back, Tannex and B'losh have their harnesses gripped with knuckles white beneath their armored shells; though one cannot read their thoughts, dear reader, I will share with you the general gist of it: 'Oh by the gods he's a madman, we're going to die and I will haunt him forever if we do oh gods protect us oh gods....'

Well, it's a bit like strapping yourself to a bird, who's tied to a rock, which is on fire - and the bird is dead. Also the rock is a brick of plastic explosive. As the ship rumbles and shudders, Adhar keeps her on course, plummeting toward the dark surface with her vented beak pointed still toward certain destruction. Through his visor, however, Adhar can see the topography overlaid upon the dark out there, sees craggy mountains and massive canyons. Knows that if he kriffs this up they're all as good as dead. But not yet...not yet...

In the back, Tannex and B'losh have their harnesses gripped with knuckles white beneath their armored shells; though one cannot read their thoughts, dear reader, I will share with you the general gist of it: 'Oh by the gods he's a madman, we're going to die and I will haunt him forever if we do oh gods protect us oh gods....'

Q was less scared and more annoyed. See, he wasn't the type to get scared even though he really, really should be sometimes. He just got indignant. On the journey down, he found solace in saying such things as, "If this man kills us, I shall be most upset," and "Truly a remarkable pilot. Never allow him to teach your children to fly."

Believe it or not, Adhar is /not/ a bad pilot - in fact, he's a pretty gods-be-damned brilliant one, not that you'd ever know it; as far as his crew knows, he's a smuggler who maybe used to fly his ship but hasn't since he's gotten a crew. Even Bar'duur hasn't seen him do it. Months away from a transport yoke or a fighter stick can make you rusty, and rusty can get your killed - but if this is rusty, you lot can't tell.

As the ship plunges farther and faster into the darkness, Adhar stays true; he keeps the stick laser straight as he begins to pull the Voidhawk's nose upward, ever so gradually, the seconds ticking by as altitude plunges, shuddering like mad, as if the whole ship were about to fly apart at the seams and then--

Then the ship is braking, the power coming on, all bone-rattling fading away as the Voidhawk finds its grace as it plunges into a massive canyon, descending into the great ravine as if suddenly riding on silk. "All right," Adhar says over the intercom, finally allowing himself to to speak and move outside of his former death-grip on the ship's yoke. "That wasn't so bad, was it? We are heading toward the landing site now, so put away your seats and get your gear together."

As Tannex and B'losh undo their seats, they look at each other again - and one of them, though their vocoders render their voices flat and identical, speaks. "When we get home," the voice says, breathless with adrenaline, "I am going to kiss that man."

"That was not required information," commented Quentin with distaste as he pushed his chair back into its upright and locked position. Crash chairs, yo. There to protect you if the pilot has a lapse in sanity. Or is showing off. He checked his blaster to make sure it was still in the shoulder holster, then adjusted his coat around his collar. "Affairs of science must come before affairs of the heart." He walked to one of the workbenches that had been set up, pulled a draw open, and removed a medpack satchel and a couple of environmental analysis tools. "Come, guards. Let us determine the mysteries of this planet." And with that, not even waiting for his lovestruck meatshields, he was out the door.

Well, it takes a bit to get to the spot in question, a landing clearing roughly ten kilometers from the mining site. On the horizon it can be seen, a vague glow on the horizon As Quentin tries to leave, one of the guards stop him, digging out of a stowage compartment a suit of light armor - that is, indeed, black. "Put this on, sir," they say, gesturing to the refresher. "You'll need its visual systems to be able to move easily in the low light." It'll keep you from getting horribly murdered a bit, as well.

Adhar emerges from the back, followed by Bar'duur, helmeted and prepared for the journey. "We'll head outside," he says, gesturing to the rear hatch. "C'mon, Bar, let's see what we can find. Doctor, Tallex will help you."

Well! It's Tallex who proclaimed the smoochy.

Quentin Haslett took the armor, looked at it, and started to hand it back when he realized the words 'low light' were said. He was a bespectacled Hapan. If anything was going to incapacitate Hubris Incarnate, it was low light. Curse you, low light! May you and your family be thrice-damned to the pits of hell! With a sigh, he removed the highly expensive cashmere overcoat, folded it carefully, and lay it down on the desk. Then with no small amount of consternation he put on the three pieces of armor. Finally, he looked at his helmet, took off his glasses and looked at them, then looked at the helmet again. "Blast," he said quietly, and put the helmet on.

Well, the good thing is that it's extremely light; not a huge amount of protection, only chest and shoulder plating and thin enough as it is, plus the fiber undersuit is light and is studded with many useful attachment points for your gear. So there's that.

The air outside is thin, thin enough to require autocompressing breather tanks and masks; where the others with their full helmets can connect lines to their helmets, Quentin has to wear a mask thanks to his helmet's lack of a facemask. Dark as it is, however, the pale green field of the low-light visor allows easy navigation across the landscape - and what a landscape it is! Towers of dark stone stand hundreds of feet over the blasted plains, like columns holding up the fragile ceiling of its paltry sky. The stars glitter overhead, all too visible. Adhar starts his trudge toward the horizon, his rifle shouldered, gesturing for the lot of you to follow.

<< All right, Doctor, >> he calls over the commlink, << Welcome to Planetoid Aurek-4227-Besh-1. Barely charted, officially unexplored. Except for those lads a while away, of course. Where do we need to go? >>

"<<This place could well have been lifted from an Elomin artwork. It accounts for the uniqueness of the minerals.>>" Doctor Q, in helmet, facemask, light armor plate, and blaster, looked uncomfortable outside of the known features of his lab. "<<We need to head to a significant crystal concentration. I trust your cartographical skills are not wanting.>>" He turned to address the two meatshields accompanying him. "<<Companions, I require atmospheric and soil samples. Please obtain them every fifty metres.>>"

<< Not mine, >> says Adhar. << I took these from someone who worked for the outfit. They should be current up to the end of the month, when they do the next exploration crawl. >> In the dim, light, Adhar's armor seems to possess a kind of soft halo in places, where the pallid witchfire rays of the distant star pick up the inlays on his plates, scattering sparks of acetylene blue. The soil is soft as you walk across it, and as you travel a few miles across the plain, Tannex - who is carrying a scanner keyed to the proper resonance frequency of the crystal, pauses as it begins to emit a soft squeal.

<< Captain, we've got a green light here. Doctor, concentration is at sufficient concentration for samples as you've laid out. We can collect here. >>

"<<Collect a sample and let's proceed. I require a significant amount. Do be sure to also collect a matching one where the concentration is at its minimum. Comparisons must be made.>>" When tackling a problem, look for all angles. Quentin didn't stand out in the din, his thin and lanky form, significantly less imposing now that he lacked the regality of his coat, almost blended into shadows without him wanting to. He was going to need to wash both his pants and his shoes upon his return home. Oh what he wouldn't give for a laundromat right now. "<<Captain, give me the most accurate chance of stumbling upon hostilities.>>"

<< Fair to middling, Doctor, >> Adhar says, unlimbering his rifle. << Fair to middling. >> The weapon is impressive, with a targeting scope that looks as though it came from a blaster cannon and a business end as thick as a pipe, ion sheathing and whatnot making it look like some sort of krayt-killer gun as he loads a power pack and thumbs the charge button. << Get the samples and let's move on. >>

The troopers begin doing just that, moving with practiced swiftness undoubtedly learned from the tutelage of whatever professors either dealt with before somehow falling into the security forces of this so-called smuggler. Once done, you all move on again.

"<<Now a crystal deposit is required for examination. Preferably of significant size and far from any roaming patrols. You understand.>>" Quentin always moved cautiously, allowing his meatshields to lead the way. They had their role but he was sure that their knowledge was nothing compared to his encyclopedic wisdom. His blaster was always drawn and ready.

The five of you walk for a while, following the telltale veins of crystal in the earth - it's everywhere, in thin concentrations, like capillaries in flesh. The concentration grows more steadily as you go, but every step takes you closer to that persistent brightness, which resolves itself into a forest of glow lamps and large, flat pyramids that suggest industrial structures. Closer and closer to the krayt's den you go...

<< Get down. >> Adhar hisses it, dropping to one knee as he looks out in the direction of the complex. << Speeder. Bar, do you see it? >>

Bar'duur moves cautiously, watching his step, but also looking around, it's so nice having night vision along with the other bonuses of wearing this heavy armor, he had forgotten how useful such tools are. He's not told Adhar much about it but he doesnt use a lot of tech when he goes on his own little 'hunting trips'. When the captain speaks he drops down and looks, trying to find what the other man is talking about. "Nope." He says simply, turning his gaze briefly to the others in the group including Quentin, as if to ensure everyone is keeping up and following the lead.

Quentin Haslett dropped into a crouch as soon as he heard. He saw nothing in the distance, the added low-light vision almost completely offset by his lack of glasses. This was not going to be a fun journey. At least he was harder to spot than the glowing armoured guys. "<>" he asked.

<< Looks like we've got a speeder, yeah. >> Through the visor of his helmet, Adhar engages its macrobinoculars, tracking a distant shape as it travels across the horizon, dust kicking up in its wake. << Looks like...a truck...open bed...probably a

<< Looks like we've got a speeder, yeah. >> Through the visor of his helmet, Adhar engages its macrobinoculars, tracking a distant shape as it travels across the horizon, dust kicking up in its wake. << Looks like...a truck...open bed...can see two people in it. I think...ah. Yeah. That's a technical, all right. Looks like a repeater in the back, manned. Wonder where it's going? >>

"Huh, so we just let them go along their way right? No reason to cause trouble unless we need something they have.." Says Bar'duur, probably over the comms as he's speaking quietly and they are being stealthy. "Is it headed away?"

<< Looks like it. I think they're going... >> Adhar pauses, squinting through the visor, noting down the direction. << East-Northeast, toward that pillar. They're not in a hurry, though. B'losh, what's your meter say? >>

<< I have the meter, sir. >>

<< Sorry, Tannex. >>

<< No trouble, sir. There's a significant concentration of the raw rock crystal in that direction, if this is correct. Maybe they're securing a mining operation. >>

<< So we could go there, >> Adhar muses. << But that doesn't sound all that fun. Any alternatives? >>

<< Well, if we move around, we might be able to find one, sir. But that's all I've got in this position. >>

Adhar turns his head to look at Bar. << What do you think? You know terrain better than I do. >>

Bar'duur is silent as others speak, scanning his surroundings a bit he emits a little grunt when Adhar speaks to him directly. "I think.. we should head West." He says, looking back to Adhar. "There's another set of pillars, from what I have seen, it is the best chance to get what we need."

"<<I would advise steering clear of any hostiles, not merely because I value my life, but because I would prefer not to deal with local contamination. A pure strain is best.>>" That was Doctor Quentin's two cents on the matter. He still remained crouched down, just in case there were any other nasties and miscreants about.

<< Well, that's the plan, >> Adhar says with a snort. << C'mon, Doctor, let's head over to where it's safer. >>

In the meantime, now that the danger seems to have passed, the troopers shovel in more soil samples. The three of you move on, watching the horizon as you go - Bar'duur leads the way, being able to read the traces of the spice crystals in the soft earth that point the way to someplace hopefully safer. As you go, the stone pillars overhead tower, their shadows long and black, dwarfing even the feeble light that shines in from the atmosphere. So feeble is it by the time you get to the edge of the cluster of stones that even your low-light filters are struggling to let you move without falling on your ass. Adhar and the rest box you in, keeping you protected as they remain unimpeded.

<< Hold. >> Adhar's voice is low and warning.

<< I see it, sir. >> B'losh, whispering over the link. << I see it too, >> replies Bar'duur.

<< I can't. >> Tannex apparently has the wrong sighting angle. << What is it? >>

<< I can't be /sure/, >> says Adhar, << But I think it's...alive. >>

Indeed, ahead of the group, you can barely make out something through your visor; a large block of something like pearly blue stone, which you recognize immediately as a particularly large sample of the drug's raw crystal. The view, however, is milky - as if something were covering it, or perhaps it just...pulses like that on its own. You just can't tell. << What do you want to do? >> B'losh again, curious. << It looks...fascinating. I just...it's so... >> B'losh goes to take a step, only to stop and shake his head. << What was that? >>

<< I don't know, >> says Adhar, << But don't look directly at it. Doctor? Can you come up here, please? >>

Quentin Haslett was already making his way up. Fascinating! Utterly fascinating! "<<Curious! There's the implication here that the material itself is alive!>>" he explained, showing something close to appreciation for the first time this trip. "<<I can see why it would be utilized in mind-altering substances.>>" By this point, he'd reached Adhar's position. "<<I am assuming you wish to know where I want to survey. I require a smaller sample of the crystal itself as well as the soil it resides in, stored in a sealed container with the atmospheric conditions. I want it alive.>>"

Staring at the thing for a long moment - whatever /it/ is - you are able to make out a faint outline of something shimmering over the crystal mass. Almost as if it were a membrane stretched over the thing, there is a definite organism there, nearly transparent, and only at all visible thanks to the faint light the massive nodule radiates from deep within. You've heard of these things; it's not a specific creature, really, rather a specific class of theoretical invertebrates that are sometimes seen near certain types of mineral spice. Kessel has its so-called 'energy spiders' which weave the webs from which glitterstim is gleaned. This thing, however...you have no idea what it is, only that you know it is alive and must be connected to the mineral crystal. But taht doesn't matter now, not with the euphoria that begins to fill you as you view the thing, the joyous shape of it, the movement of its gossamer body. And that light! It's just so...warm...that light...and beautiful....perhaps if you --

No! You shake the thought out of your head even as your foot is in mid-step; whatever that thing is, its directly affecting your mind to look at it. Or perhaps it's actively projecting some kind of signal, telepathic or otherwise, or just some strong form of pheromone. Whatever it is, you get a strong feeling that one cannot exist without the other. No drug without whatever mechanism that thing has to give this crystal its power.

"<<No,>>" the good (lol) doctor added. "<<There's something else. An invertebrate membrane over the top of it. Be careful, as it can have a euphoric effect to even look at it.>>" Q had shrugged off the effect simply by being obsessively curious about the scientific implications of the thing. Once again, his pigheadedness had saved him. "<<I need a crystal and its attached membrane. Undamaged. And do try to keep your heads intact, please.>>"

<< All right, >> Adhar says, slinging his rifle and drawing out another - yes, the Captain has an Imperial E-11 holstered on his left leg, compact enough to be work that way. It looks as though it has been heavily modified, with a larger barrel cowling and some kind of tank mounted over the power cell port that feeds directly into its exciter. Adulterating tibanna gas? Interesting. << So can I stun this thing, or what, Doctor? >>

"<<I would advise against. Who knows how it might react? Companions, can you determine for me where the membrane ends?>>" instructed Quentin. He didn't want to come all this way just to provoke some strange membrane into a fight. Or kill it. That would destroy the data he could get from researching it.

<< ...here, Doctor. >> B'losh removes your helmet, drawing his own over your head while removing your mask in one swift motion; air from his own tank fills your lungs through its internal vent, and you can suddenly see the creature very clearly now. Through the nightvision visor, you can see the clear envelope of the creature, which not only surrounds the nodule but has tendrils that spread across the ground, perhaps some ten feet or so. It isn't covering the stone, it's /hovering/ over it. Around it. Very strange.

As you squint at it, you realize that the thing is inserting filaments /into/ the nodule, and that is...extracting something from it. Only then do you realize the light is starting to fade. The thing, whatever it is, is /eating/ that crystal. Your sample!

"<<Aha. The crystal is the drug itself. This membrane is sucking the essence from it. Captain, if you may, please terminate the membrane,>>" explained the doctor, gesturing towards the crystal and taking a good step back. "<<The reason it can only be obtained here is because the only crystals that make it off-planet are sucked dry.>>"

<< ...if you're sure. >> Adhar fires his rifle at the creature multiple times; the bolts are not read but searing yellow-white, and though at a close range teh creature's transparency somehow makes firing difficult. Where the bolts land, plumes of fire hiss and roil, smouldering away - and as the third shot hits the thing, it looses a horrible sound as it begins to burn, flailing its gossamer tendrils at Adhar in an attempt to strike him.

Regardless of his heavy armor, the thing's tendrils, slashes through the durasteel as if it were cardboard. He lets out a scream as the thing's tendrils slice into his flesh, and blood splashes the ground in a hot gush. He falls back, grabbing at his torso, as Bar'duur raises his rifle and calls out the order for the others to fire.

"Get away from the tentacles! Get back!" called out Quentin, not caring if he was over comms. He lifted his blaster and fired, though his inexperience with the weapon showed and the shot went wide. He was more focused on retreating away from the crazy horrible... fascinating... creature of doom. Perhaps one day he would find a small one, study it, experiment on it, but for now, his own posterior was what needed to be saved.

The creature's body seems to be incredibly hard for the others to hit; Bar'duur is down at Adhar's side while the guards fire, but for all their skill they just keep missing the thing's nearly transparent body. Adhar's wounds continue to gush, blood made black in the planet's light, and he fires again - two more searing projectiles snap through the air, and one strikes true; the thing shudders in eerie silence as its wound also bursts into flame, and the thing slumps off the node, burning in earnest now. The air is filled with the smell of smoke, blood, tibanna and something very close to burning petroleum.

And that's also a lot of noise.

"Get the sample, quickly!" Doctor Haslett had his priorities in order. He waved the soldiers over towards the crystal, then moved with pace over to where Adhar and Bar'duur were firing. "I often say that I'm not that kind of doctor, but as it were, I also am that kind of doctor," he explained. Just don't ask him about his medical license. He shrugged the medical kit off his shoulder and pulled out a bacta patch, which he slapped roughly on to the most exposed wound he could find. It was messy, it was painful, it would stop the bleeding.

Adhar is already getting out his own medpac as you work on him, letting out a hiss of pain as you probe his wounds. << Kriffing shavit, >> he hisses through the helmet, somewhat drunkenly - he is losing /so/ much blood, and looks very close to death from the volume, but using the bacta patch seems to staunch a great deal of the bleeding. Bar'duur finds the medpac on its mount at the small of his back, pulls out more bandages, and binds the wound under his armor as best as possible before closing it up and putting it back where he found it.

<< Doc, >> Adhar hisses, << I sure as shavit hope you can...nnngh! Make something happen from that...mother...kriffer! >>

"Whether or not I do is irrelevant if my employer is dead. A challenge is a challenge, but payment is payment," explained the doctor with the bedside manner of a thrown brick. This was why he didn't normally work on people. That and he kept suggesting cybernetic upgrades. "And if you lose limbs from this ordeal, then I can replace them with top-of-the-line implants." Oh there it was. "Wait." That sound. Repulsorlifts. They weren't alone. "Captain, if you have a quick way of getting out of here, now is the time. We have company."

<< I've had...worse, >> Adhar says, and amazingly that sounds like no bravado. << Now get behind cover. >> Bar'duur lingers a moment, as do the guards, but when Adhar hisses << /Now/! >> the lot of them scatter, leaving him there on the ground in his own blood. With, you know, the rifle in his hand.

At the edge of the clump of pillars, off to the east, two voices can be heard. "Grace of Thannia," one breathes, ostensibly male. "Did you /hear/ all that noise? Sounded like Jakku all over again or somethin'."

"Oh yeah," says the other, a deep, bored voice. Also male. "If this is one more of Vaj's idiots got caught by a float-saw, I'm quitting. This kriffing rock, ain't nothing worth /those/ things."

"Hey," says the first voice. "You see that over there?"

"Oh, hey!" The second voice. It actually sounds excited. "That's a kriffin' hunka Blue! Look at the size of that damned thing. I bet --"

"No, man, over next to it. By the blown float-saw."

A moment's pause. "Oh...yeah, who is that lying down over there?"

"I don't know. You think it's one of Anfar's men?"

"Maybe. Look at that armor...oh, shavit! You think that's a boss?"

"What, here?"


Into the clearing, two humans in mismatched armor and carrying blast rifles approach, one tall, the other positively towering. They creep up to where Adhar lies; one turns on a light, shining it down upon his fallen body. Lit up like that, the rents cut through his armor look even more horrible.

"Kriff, man. That's just not...man, who /is/ that?"

<< ....gentlemen. >> Adhar's voice wheezes out of the helmet's voxgrille, tight with pain. << Thank Fortune that you lads found me. My name i-is...Danar Koolen. >>

<< Koolen! >> The shorter of the two crouches down, looking at the fallen man. << Boss, where you been? We heard you vanished up north. >>

<< Yes...I was...kidnapped. Brought here...to die. By...Aline. >> He coughs wetly, blood licking around his neck seal.

<< Ah, that bitch! >> The taller man crouches down now. << Boss, she ain't nothing but poison, you know that! Come on, let's get you up. >> Both men reach down for Adhar's armored body, and aim to pick him up - only to see the muzzle of that rifle come up to meet them.

<< I need your speeder, >> Adhar hisses, and both men's lives end in a flash of searing white.

Wounded though he is, Adhar drives the speedertruck back to where the ship awaits, Bar'duur in the passenger seat, the rest of you in the back - along with the remains of the creature, two fresh corpses missing most of their skulls and a very large nodule of mineral crystal. He drives fast, which makes the seared tongue of one man flap like a flag, the entirelty of the rest of his skull gone from the palate up. It's a horrible thing, and yet...fitting. At least, if you're as bloodthirsty as one imagines.

The truck, the bodies, the spice - all of it goes into the Voidhawk's cargo bay, and Adhar insists on flying out; despite the pain, he manages to get the lot of you off that rock without tripping sensors, and he only gets up to rest once the ship is out of hyperspace. Twelve hours...that's a long trip back...and a lot of pain. But he weathers it, even once he's out of his armor and the horrific extent of his injuries can be seen. But these will heal; he's stable, and he's resting. And there are bacta tanks back on Nar Shaddaa.

But for you? There's science to do. Go forth, mad doctor, and dissect!