Chapter Nine: Prairie Fire!

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Tapping into his Communications training, Mario asks, "Can we try to remodulate the radar to better penetrate the Red Cloud using our Advanced Electronics Warfare capability? The Broadsword might have the power to be able to punch through the disruption and guide our munitions to their targets with more accuracy."
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph asks, "Is there anything that we can do with Technopathy that might help? I don't know; I'm grasping at straws here."
 

Captain Hesperus

Harbinger of the End Times and Apostle of Ghan
Administrator
Supporter
Hercules glanced over at the veteran tanker's machine through his mecha's sensors then linked into the physical comms net.
"Can't really give ideas about that cloud until we have an idea how it's generated and how it functions, sir. I dropped MPAT within the cloud and tagged some targets, but the cloud didn't disspate for long. Whatever's generating it is either dispersed among the Zeki or they're all generating it individually. Either way, our current option is basically dumb-firing in the dark."
He didn't like to admit it, but this wasn't a variable he'd factored into his risk equation. He'd planned for the presence of a defense force, but he'd not figured they'd have strength enough to sally out of the ship's hull, nor that they'd have as superlative a defense measure as broad-spectrum ECM and visual obfuscation. His feelings of foreboding started to roll back in.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus Tag!

"Mass Effect Soundtrack - Therum Battle (Missing track) by Jack Wall and Sam Hulick"


"MPAT, eh?" Sharp replies and you can just about "hear" the nod in his tone. "Not a bad first plan." Sharp lines his VHT's cannon up with front of the cloud as it relentlessly advances on Adamantium. You see blasts from inside the cloud loosed skyward as First Flight, their rocket engines roaring, draw some fire away from the Special Forces team.

One of those fresh-faced pilots you didn't have the opportunity to meet for long comes over the general channel. "First Flight to Broadsword! Our missiles are useless here! Can you do something about that cloud?"

"Working on it," Piper replies about as calmly as you have ever heard her, but you can still hear the stress in her voice.

Tapping into his Communications training, Mario asks, "Can we try to remodulate the radar to better penetrate the Red Cloud using our Advanced Electronics Warfare capability? The Broadsword might have the power to be able to punch through the disruption and guide our munitions to their targets with more accuracy."
Captain Sharp puts this request through.

After some moments, Piper replies. "Good idea but nothing doing, sir. We can see why the Zeki named it 'Red Thunder.' That's just what it looks like over the radar band. We're also picking up a lot of sound from it. It's gotta be loud as heck down there, even with all of the Zeki and Mega-damage fire coming from it. Somehow the sound waves are messing with any electronically-guided munitions we try to send in there."

First Flight comes back. "We tried three times! Our missiles just veer away and explode outside the cloud. It's like the missiles are 'scared away!'"

Toph asks, "Is there anything that we can do with Technopathy that might help? I don't know; I'm grasping at straws here."
"Like what?" Mack seems as open to suggestions as anyone.

Captain Sharp comes over the comm again. "Troops, let's not look at what we don't have, but what we do. Even our Tri-Cannon," he points up at the massive three-barreled cannon on the Broadsword, "is of limited use without clear targets - all we need to do is solve this cloud."

"What are you thinking, sir?" asks Mack.

"Mack, I'm surprised that the Zeki have created something like this... technological barrier. I thought the Zeki focused on the biological while the Ura were mistresses of the technological. How could they make something like this?"

Cera informs. "Your statement is true, sir. They have either stolen this design or it is somehow biological in nature. Or both."

"Cera," Mack interjects. "You're our Zeki expert here. Who else on the Broadsword has had combat interaction with the Zeki?"

"You mean among the survivors that made it to your timeline?" There is a period of silence as the Broadsword's bright lasers fire down into the cloud. There are no secondary explosions.

"The Broo!" Cera says. "They encountered the Zeki before we Ura encountered them. They may know something."

"Wild Cards," Captain Sharp says with iron calmness. "Somebody get the Broo up on the horn."
 
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Silanon

Four Thousand Club
"Would there be a way to understand more about the cloud's effects on the missiles? Some way to understand what it's doing to them, exactly? Any electromagnetic readings, perhaps? Magnetic fields could cause deflections like that, maybe... could one traverse with a missile, fire, and then see what happens in detail? Never tried anything like that before." It's a riddle down there, and one that promises death if it remains unsolved. Better to find out what it does, then...
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus Tag!

Captain Sharp can be seen nodding along to Ylva's line of thinking. Mack appears receptive too, but then a thought hits her and she frowns.

Captain Sharp keeps his eyes on Adamantium. "Mack?"

"It's a great idea, but I don't think Adamantium has the time. We have to be near anything we're Traversing. Doing that one missile at a time, even if it works, this fight will be over before we've accomplished the task."

"Hmph. O.K.. What did the Broo say?"

Mack's hands are on the controls of her Mjolnir's radio. Then the fun begins. =)

Mac tools up her conversation on the squad-channel so you can see and hear everything that's taking place. Normally, this would be a wise decision. But sometimes, even innocent intentions don't turn out to be all that wise.

Shaman Bong's furry face fills the monitor. His eyes are closed and looks very businesslike as he adjusts an imaginary bowtie and addresses the caller. As always, his Beastie accent makes his broken English, well, even more dislocated.

"'Allo. You ha' reach Kill De Monsta 'Corporated. 'No monsta too smol, no fee too big!'* How we helping you?"

*
This is an homage to FASA Corporation's wonderful MechWarrior game based on their Battletech game back in the 1980s. Their mercenaries had a humorous saying which I believe went like this: "No job too small, no fee too large!"

"Bong! It's Mack! Hey, have you guys ever--"

"Ahhh!" Interrupts Bong with an enthusiastic smile, his arms wide. "Iz Mack! Mack likes Bora?" You recall Bora is the name of the hunky male Broo she shared a hug with just prior to mission launch.

"What?!" Shirley's facial feautures scrunch in confusion.

"I saaay, 'Mack likes Bora?'"

"I heard what you said, you--"

Bong tilts his head and scratches his ear. "Den why you ask 'what?' You like'a Bora or no?"

Shirley begins to blush. "What? Do I-- Bora? Right now? No! I mean, yes! I mean..."

"Hey!" Bong points. "Your face pinking!"

Mack catches herself with a fierce frown. The surfer-girl growls something fierce. "Bong! Stop that!!"

Bong cringes. "Ooh! Bong betta quit. Mack start look like Chief Faydra right now."

"Crazy Broo! Now I know how Piper must feel! Listen! What do you know about Zeki Red Thunder?"

"You mean bad red cloud?"

"So you've encountered it?"

"Yah!"

"The Zeki are using it! We need to know how to stop it. What do you know?"

"Red cloud in sex!"

Mac pauses of the she doesn't believe her ears. "Do what, Bong?"

"Zeki red cloud iz in sex!"

Mack tries and tries and tries, but finally strikes out. Captain Sharp shrugs. Even Cera slowly shakes her head.

"Guys?" Mack looks to you, her teeth clenching. "What is Bong saying?"
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario feels just as confused as Mack seems to. "Bong, we don't understand what you are trying to tell us. We are in need of stopping that cloud as fast as possible. Admantium is out there and under attack from the Zeki in that cloud, and we can't see anything in there to try and help them. We're firing blind and hoping to get a hit, and our people just don't have the time for us to do that. Spell it out clearly. How do we deal with the Red Thunder?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
"Red cloud in sex!"
Toph has a brief wave of sarcasm come over her when she thinks, So lets fuck it up! But over time, she has learned how to discipline herself not to indulge in idle whimsy like that in front of her superior officers. Instead, she waits anxiously for the Broo's reply to Mario's more direct question.
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario rubs his chin, deep in thought. "Bong? Do you mean, insects? Is that what this fog is?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Toph slowly nods. "The Zeki used Wargoths as guided munitions on us before; it would make sense that they turn to some other organic medium to disrupt our radar and visual systems. I would suggest a large can of Raid to stop them, but personally, I'm fresh out. Other than a large plasma burst to fry them, assuming that they are vulnerable to fire, I don't know of a way to kill them off without eliminating their source. Perhaps if we do some tandem fire? One person fires a plasma round into the mix, and if the Red Thunder is disrupted in an area around it, then the others can jump on the target that is now visible and kill it."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario says, "That might work, but we have no way of knowing if this Red Thunder is vulnerable to fire. Perhaps Iris knows something about these, since she's an insect herself." He shifts his mode of communication to the mental link. "Iris, do you know anything about this Zeki Red Thunder? There is a chance that it is some form of insect life. Are you aware of any means of disrupting it that we can try? The Zeki are on the heels of our people out there and we need some way of neutralizing their advantage."
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
"Insects sounds reasonable. One way to drive off bees and the like is with smoke, usually - takes away the air they need to breathe, pretty much. Got smoke missiles available, but they'd get deflected just like the others - could aim for a spot nearby and hope that Adamantium makes a dash for it." Ylva's Logan slightly shifts its position, preparing to go for it as soon as a call is made.
 

Captain Hesperus

Harbinger of the End Times and Apostle of Ghan
Administrator
Supporter
“All due respect, ma’am,” Hercules spoke up as he considered the options, “dropping smoke down there would only worsen the obscuring of the target, and we have no assurance that the bugs will be affected. Incendiaries, however…”
Hercules figured that even if the insects Bong claimed were creating the cloud were resistant to fire, the intense heat would cause the cloud to dissipate or risk overheating the mecha concealed within.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
"My thinking is that we've got people on the ground who might need a way out of there, in cover; igniting the air around 'em by accident won't solve their problems. Not completely, and maybe not in time, at least." Hard to say what'll help, really - otherwise, it'd be easy, right? Just do what one's supposed to do, and be done with it... maybe next time, they'll know better, but that won't save lives now.
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario says, "We could try laying down some smoke as cover for Admantium as they withdraw and give us some time to come up with an answer for this Red Thunder crap in the air."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Captain Hesperus Captain Hesperus Sherwood Sherwood Tag!

(Part 1 of 2)
Mario rubs his chin, deep in thought. "Bong? Do you mean, insects? Is that what this fog is?"
"Insects sounds reasonable.
"'In sex!'" Mack says. "I get it too! 'Insects!'"

"Yah, yah! 'In sex!'" complains Bong with an animal snarl and his thick accent. "Dat is what Bong say! Stoopid Pan-Galactic. You want I say in Broo? We call dem, 'zoon-zoon!' With the mercurial tendencies of an Earth-born house cat, Bong the Beastie Shaman goes from sounding (and being) annoyed to happily sharing his language while waving away imaginary insects in all of 10 seconds. But not everyone involved in the conversation is believing their ears just yet.

"Bugs?!" Captain Sharp shakes his head. "Do you mean to tell me these Zeeks are confounding some of the best sensors humanity has to offer... with a giant cloud of bugs?"

Cera comes over the radio. The military-minded Ura-Meltrandi sounds as if she is enjoying this conversation. "A logical conclusion, Warlord Sharp. The Zeki-Zentraedi are masters of the biological. Having traveled and fought across countless years in thousands upon thousands of solar systems, the Zeki have encountered more life-forms (and destroyed or enslaved them) than most other species. They have achieved in bending to their will the bodies and minds of those who have succumbed to their hostile ways. Humanity, if we are not successful, will be just one more to add to their long list."

Toph slowly nods. "The Zeki used Wargoths as guided munitions on us before; it would make sense that they turn to some other organic medium to disrupt our radar and visual systems. I would suggest a large can of Raid to stop them, but personally, I'm fresh out. Other than a large plasma burst to fry them, assuming that they are vulnerable to fire, I don't know of a way to kill them off without eliminating their source. Perhaps if we do some tandem fire? One person fires a plasma round into the mix, and if the Red Thunder is disrupted in an area around it, then the others can jump on the target that is now visible and kill it."
Mack comes over the polyphonic nexus and squadron radio so as to include Captain Sharp. You can hear and feel your squadron leader's enthusiasm when she says, "Hey! I like the sound of that, Toph!"

Mario says, "That might work, but we have no way of knowing if this Red Thunder is vulnerable to fire. Perhaps Iris knows something about these, since she's an insect herself." He shifts his mode of communication to the mental link. "Iris, do you know anything about this Zeki Red Thunder? There is a chance that it is some form of insect life. Are you aware of any means of disrupting it that we can try? The Zeki are on the heels of our people out there and we need some way of neutralizing their advantage."
The polyphonic nexus channel clears as everyone waits... and waits... and waits. But there is no response whatsoever from War-queen Taniya's favorite Scrath hunter-killer, Unit One. Mario is met with complete silence.

"Wild Cards?" Captain Sharp finally cuts in over your mecha's radios. "You still there with me?"

“All due respect, ma’am,” Hercules spoke up as he considered the options, “dropping smoke down there would only worsen the obscuring of the target, and we have no assurance that the bugs will be affected. Incendiaries, however…”
Hercules figured that even if the insects Bong claimed were creating the cloud were resistant to fire, the intense heat would cause the cloud to dissipate or risk overheating the mecha concealed within.
Mack doesn't hide her feelings on the matter; you can feel it before she gives voice to it, both over the radio and the polyphonic nexus. "We're here, colone-- uh, captain! Herc? Toph? I don't know any bugs in any place in America that enjoy fire!"

"My thinking is that we've got people on the ground who might need a way out of there, in cover; igniting the air around 'em by accident won't solve their problems. Not completely, and maybe not in time, at least."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Part 2 of 2)

Mario says, "We could try laying down some smoke as cover for Admantium as they withdraw and give us some time to come up with an answer for this Red Thunder crap in the air."
Mack replies to Ylva and Mario. "At the moment, the Zeki's Red Thunder hasn't caught up to Adamantium. The Broadsword is proving to be too big a distraction for them to completely ignore us."

As if on cue, dozens of big blue blasts of particle beam fire lance out from the gigantic blood-red cloud. Huge pillars of destructive light pound the hull of the time-traveling starship... except they stop short and do not connect at all. The mammoth tri-barrel guns of the battle-frigate above you and the hangar bays are also silent though they aim down upon the sickly crimson mass of oncoming danger far below all of you.

Not like you gals and guys don't know what it looks like, I'm just posting this here because I have another excuse to show really cool shots of the Garfish frigate! 8D
Garfish Frigate.jpg
(Image credit: AncientAngel (this is the closest link I can find to this artist's work; if anyone anywhere gets closer, please advise me so I can give proper credit?)

Captain Sharp is steely-calm as he stares out across the battlefield. The tiny running force that is Adamantium looks like a mouse being chased by a huge, ghostly cat across the bare ice of Antarctica. "Bridge. Status report?"

You hear Piper's familiar voice come over the channel. She sounds unworried but keeping her guard up. "Shields holding, sir. It's only mecha ground-fire. We can take what they're currently dishing out indefinitely."

"Any sign of life from that big mother of a Zeki command ship?"

"Cold as ice for the moment, sir. But if she powers up, she'll blow through us like a shotgun through tissue paper."

Captain Sharp takes a deep breath not liking that mental image. "Very good. Carry on."

"Aye aye, sir."

"Mack? What have you got?"

Mack replies, "I think fire is the way to go, captain! Wild Cards? We've got our Mjolnirs with Plasma rounds, we've got First Flight who might have some incendiaries, and we can request long-range missiles support from the bridge?"

Captain Sharp silently nods in full agreement to Mack's question.

Mack continues. "Plus, we have Ylva with smoke missiles! Adamantium is about 2,500 feet out from the Red Thunder. Ideas, team?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Mario nods. "According to my recollection, the Mjolnir comes standard with five plasma rounds. By firing in tandem, we should be able (I hope) to clear the Red Thunder from the area long enough for the follow-up attack from another member of the team. From what I've seen, Toph has some of the keenest eyes out there. If she can spot any possible targets in the cloud, she can lay down the fire with her plasma rounds and with any luck clear the bugs away long enough to get a shot through and kill us some Zeki. Boss lady? Lets give this a try. Admantium doesn't have much time."
 

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