Mechwarrior PBeM Report 4b: Hair of the Dog (con’t)

This post continues the dramatized actual play report from the Mechwarrior ‘A Time of War’ RPG campaign ‘Hair of the Dog’ where PBeM Report 3 left off in its description of events as experienced by Velika ‘Blowtorch’ Kaldec. For details of the campaign and previous entries detailing the events therein, please start here.

Hair of the Dog

Scene III: Hand that Feeds (con’t)

The Dean leaves the three of you at the entrance and takes the small door which will lead him to the small set of stairs to the stage. From the entrance you can see that the students have already stopped talking amongst themselves and are awaiting the arrival of Dean Synnor ‘Saint’ Liscombe with a great deal of anticipation. Ranging in age from 20-22, the students represent the upper echelons of wealth or ability on Oliver… and rarely, they represent both. Today, they are sitting with disciplined pride, many in their full dress uniforms.

As each of you enters the room, the students take note, most watching Mad Dog… not from fondness, but… respect, maybe?

The Dean moves from the shadows at the edge of the stage, taking the podium and the attention of all with practiced ease. His first line says it all.

“Childhood is over. War is here to make men of you, or break you in the attempt.”

He pauses, to let his words sink in.

“As of now, all of you are graduates of Hanachi Military Academy. Your final grades have been logged, and your credentials will be updated at the proper time.”

He pauses again.

“The leaders among you will be asking yourselves, ‘When is the proper time?’ and answering yourself thusly, ‘When the cowardly invader is thrown off our world, and sent with his tail curled between his legs to his masters to coil and whine, licking the fear-spawned piss from his greedy paws!’

We are warriors, and war is calling us to defend our homeworld, our State, and our House. Are there any among you who will not heed the call?”

He scans the faces of the students. He scans the faces of the professors. He nods.

“Already we have found one thief in our midst, stealing secrets, and striking in cowardice, with the poison of an assassin. The targets survived, and turned the tables on the assassin. So shall we, whose home has been invaded by thieves in the night, turn the tables on our oppressors, and foil their plans to plunder and pillage the riches of this world to gild their own.”

He stands straighter.

“We will be operating as three divisions: Operations, Supply, and Intelligence. Each branch is of equal importance; each is necessary if we are to achieve our goal. Your assignments are as follows…”

As he begins calling students to each division, those at the front of the room near the stage for Intelligence, those to the side near you for Supply, and those at the back near Cool Hand and Mad Dog for Operations, you notice that the students respond with a calm, controlled order that would have seemed foolish to expect just two short years ago. There is something to be proud of here… even if it is just the death of innocence disguised as the defense of home.

Things suddenly change.

From the back of the room you hear someone, probably Mad Dog, shout something – just one syllable.

Soon after, you hear Cool Hand shouting at the top of his lungs, ordering everyone out of the Hall. The Dean barely misses a beat and takes up the order, directing students out the far exits.

The windows do not open. There is a fire exit in each corner; one is quite close to the coffee station. There is a small faculty lounge area next to the coffee station with a heavy door, but no exit. People are seated in the middle of the Hall, in front of the stage. The coffee station is about 5 meters from the seats.

You are near the midpoint of the room on the same side as the entrance, the coffee station, and the faculty lounge. The students were beginning to form a crescent-shaped mass around you. They are now unsure of where to go. The closest exit is the main entrance.

You can see that Mad Dog is rushing toward the coffee station. The students who are being sent to form up around Cool Hand were moving down both sides of the seats, some from the far wall, and some from the same side as you and the coffee station.

There are exits in each corner: stage, left, // main entrance (stage, right), // rear right, coffee station // rear left.

You can just make out the top of Cool Hand’s head, and see his waving arms. He seems to be moving after Mad Dog to direct students away from the coffee station and out the other exits, he has been shouting, “Everyone clear out NOW. Fire exits – Double Time! Orderly fashion!” but it is hard to hear him over the natural crowd noises of chairs scraping on the floor, and other movement noises.

The students are reacting with confusion, many stopping in their tracks and looking around them as the Dean echoes Luke’s cry through the PA,

Clearly you hear Rom yell at your lance mate, “Mad Dog, leave IT!”

The Dean keeps directing the students, “Out now – left exits! Go, Go, Go!”

In an emergency situation, clear direction is important. However, everyone is also taught to take the nearest exit when evacuating, and the nearest exit is right behind you, the opposite of where the Dean is telling people to go.

Taking a deep breath and drawing as many eyes to you as you can with the waving of your hand over your head, you bellow with all the force a career of screaming to be heard over heavy machinery has taught you, “Supply Crew! On Me!” and begin to lead them toward the main exit, and hopefully safety.

“SUPPLY CREW! ON ME!” you yell, continuing to wave one hand overhead while the other lunges for the main entrance door. The crescent of students and staff around you forms up and follows direction, passing you at the door as they head out into the lobby and toward the external doors with the frigid afternoon beyond them.

You hold the door open and bark an order, “YOU! Pickle! Hold open that door!” to get him to hold the other door open while your group goes running through. You pass the door duty off to Pickle, as he is closest and clingiest, so that you can step back and survey the departures. You keep waving people through, sometimes needing to snap at gawpers standing around stunned, calling them by name and yelling at them, “Come on, THIS way!”

Staunchly, you determine not to leave until the room is clear.

From your position, through the emptying room, you can see Mad Dog stretched out on the floor, with a hand over his mouth and nose, looking up and under the table from a good meter’s distance.

People are exiting with a good pace and the gym should be evacuated in about 2 or 3 minutes’ time.

What the Hell is Mad Dog doing? Doesn’t he know that when things look like they’re going to explode, they are only to be examined from behind a blast shield?

Admittedly, the technical ineptitude of the saboteur is a cause of wonder. What kind of moron plants a bomb that telegraphs that it’s about to detonate for five fucking minutes? Normally I curse incompetence, but this time around you’re actually pretty thankful there are incompetent idiots in the galaxy: As long as they’re on the enemy side.

Your hands are full trying to usher people out, making sure they keep going in order to make room for everyone else who’s leaving. You keep directing “traffic” towards the door but if Mad Dog doesn’t get up and get out on his own you know you are going to bark at him to get his ass away from the explosive device unless he wants it blown to bits.

Just before your incredulity and frustration compel you to bellow common-sense at MadDog, he gets up off the floor and begins to hustle toward you, with Cool Hand coming up behind him.

It looks like all the students and staff will be able to get out of the building without trampling one another, so it is time to see to your own safety.

As the three of you merge with the back of the line exiting into the main lobby, you all hear a sharp crack and a sound like the quick ignition of flammable liquid or powder.

From under the table comes a bilious greenish-yellow cloud which seems capable of expanding to fill the entire Hall.

Turning to face you and Mad Dog after closing the doors to the Hall, Luke asks, “Everyone is out?”

At your nod he continues, “Nice work, but I suspect this may have been a diversion.  Two possible targets would be the ‘mech bay and Goetz. Mad Dog, where is she being held?”

Winters concisely relays the location of the small disused office in the basement in which Westerlie Plantagenet and three of her security guards have Goetz under lock and key. As he nods and prepares to move to check on her, Mel stops him and requests, “With Blowtorch, I want to go to the mech bay, ASAP…”

Seeing the need for haste Rom nods and replies, “Go out the back way. I’ll meet you at the ‘mech bay in 10.  Assume something is wrong if I’m late.”

You and Mad Dog salute and CH:L nods to you both, heading down to the basement to check on Goetz. Members of the Security Team, wearing protective suits come in as you go out.  Other members of their squad are securing things outside.

After saluting CH:L, you and Mad Dog head out to the mech bay as requested. To get there means going out the front door of the building, and walking around the building through the evacuees from the Hall, or walking through the building and out the rear entrance. If you are to meet Luke in 10 minutes or less at the stable, it seems likely that avoiding whatever responsibilities will become obvious to you out front, or that will be thrust upon you in terms of assisting with the students and staff outside will be necessary if you are to do as he ordered. Should you have delegated this task, or should you have put someone in charge of your crews, or should you have reported to the Dean, or…?

You will have to get used to being leaders again… no one can do everything themselves.

Getting through the building and across the bitter cold of the yard takes you a few minutes. You can see a medical team treating a few students who are retching and convulsing from contact with the gas, and more members of Security sealing the doorways.

The mech bay is secured and undisturbed, just like it you left it before the meeting.

It occurs to you that one of the few locations where a side arms locker are kept is the mech bay. In light of the current situation, should you two, as officers of the rebellion, be armed?

You decide to suggest to Mad Dog that arming ourselves is a good idea but also want to get his support for securing the weapons until the issue with Goetz is sorted out.”

As your eyes adjust to the gloom, and fall across the weapons locker for which you have sole responsibility, you see on the young Lt’s face that he is thinking the same things that you are.

Jerking your head at the weapons locker you tell him, “Someone needs to secure that shit.”

“Blowtorch,” he says as he looks about the clean and secure mech bay, “CH should be here in 10 minutes as he said. I want you to stay here, get the weapons from the weapons locker, and secure this area.”

Raising his hand to his temples he continues as you open your mouth to add some spice to the conversation, “I think I need to run back and make sure that things were organized properly before we left. I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe they weren’t. I trust you know what I’m saying.”

Your talent with curse words is legendary, but he still keeps moving the door as you blast him with some of your best.

As he reaches out to open the door, it opens on its own, revealing a satisfied-looking Lucas Rom.

Stepping inside and looking at Mad Dog with a slightly amused, slightly questioning look, he starts to report on the status of things as he knows them, “Goetz is still secure.  We have more evidence of communications and possibly bomb making as well.” No doubt having heard your cursing, however, and now finally able to see your livid face, he stops to ask, “What’s wrong in the Mech bay?”

“We got here just a moment ago, but everything appears to be in order,” Winters says before you can reply, glancing back at the battlemechs while he rushes on to say, “What orders do our, er, troops currently have, Captain? Anything you want me to relay or organize?”

Rom seems to have been caught a little by surprise by the use of his rank, and he light-heartedly replies, “Sometimes a bomb is just a bomb, then. Let’s get the troops organized for the day so we can explore our possibilities below.  I think we should choose a few cadet leaders among the students, have the entire school under live ammo/wartime/sidearm protocols, Vel has keys to the rifles in the ‘mech bay; have everyone with the slightest training in ‘mech tech to sign up for shifts in the ‘mech bay – us included – even if it’s only to hold a wrench, and assign a guard/watch schedule with regular rounds. Day one will be organizing followed by one night of graduation celebration and beer.  There won’t be many more for a while….   Anything I’m forgetting?  I’m counting on you to keep me honest when (not if) I forget things…  After that the three of us arm, equip and hit the old stash.”

Mad Dog nods, looks at him for a moment, then replies, “I’d best go and carry that out immediately,” saluting as he does so. He turns away, but then pauses a moment to ask, “CH, any clues about who set the bomb…?” His face shows the troubled state of his mind clearly.

Startled by the salute, Rom replies, “Westerlie found a second powder on Goetz that could shed some light on the subject.  The cleanup crew may find more evidence.  Depending on the timer, we may have a second viper in our midst.  She also found a code wheel on Goetz -undated – so we may have gotten off lightly with no messages sent out.  They still likely know about the school though, as she was sent here in the first place. “

He pauses. “Oh, and a favor?  Let’s save the salutes for public occasions, ok?  In private, I need my friends to question my orders,” he smiles a little hesitantly. “Have you armed yet? If we are sending the message of combat readiness to the troops, best to lead by example.  Let’s chat with ‘Torch first, get equipped, and then make our announcements.”

Stepping closer, you comment, “If there is another mole in the school, then it is a bad idea to give them a gun. Only us three with weapons until we are sure.”

You see Rom pause for just a second, then seem to choose to voice his thoughts out loud, “Hmm, the upside of that is on-base security, the downside is showing lack of trust in our troops and increased ready-time in the event of an attack…..I’m leaning toward arming here.  Most, whether student or troops, will have their own firearm anyway.  We will play the odds and hope that 100+ competent and loyal armed troops are a match for a few, if any, armed moles.  Maybe we should put everyone through weapon safety re-certification before issuing live ammo?  Good practice and it will give us a delay to get things settled without insulting our troops too badly”

Nodding, Mad Dog glances at the door, “I share Blowtorch’s concern: patrols and squads should be large groups with orders to stay close—too many people to shoot in the back that way. We should make confirming and finding or denying the presence of a second agent top priority ASAP. I got a look at the bomb. It was one part real timer and explosive device combined with makeshift materials, namely a plastic container that looked like it could have been grabbed from any kitchen or janitor’s closet. Someone knew what they were doing but either obviously not well enough or they seriously fucked up. A crack had developed in the plastic container, leaking as the contraption’s chemicals ‘cooked’. That’s what gave us our warning.” Looking back at Rom, you press on, “I’ll ask the Dean for a recommendation for someone to head the investigation. I’ll create squads; assign temporary leaders, brief the Dean and all that. That should be done right away if you haven’t done it already, CH. Oh, and CH,” he says with a grin, “I know you’re telling me to relax with regards to protocol, but allow me to pass along the same advice. I didn’t Captain or Sir you and it was hardly a ‘parade’ or ‘snap to’ salute. You didn’t delegate this task which would normally belong to you—I just took it upon myself. I could have substituted it with a ‘by your leave’ or ‘if that’s your order’ or a much longer polite disclaimer but… Anyhow, if it’s made you feel weird the next first round is on me, alright? One of us should go if you haven’t done this already. I think leaving some high level planning to you at this moment is the best use of our time—I can handle shouting at that lot back there.”

Moving over to the weapons locker and looking back at you, whose responsibility this locker is, Rom nods and answers, “Heh, fair enough.  Protocol doesn’t bother me as much as risking losing your blunt advice.  Westerlie is currently with Goetz, but she may be the best investigator.  Set up the squads then give them a chance to organize and get to know the groups.  We’ve got work to do here….And I think it may be time for you and BT to get to know your commander a little better while we explore the tunnels”

Nodding to you, as he has you open it, he takes out a rifle, checks and safeties it, and then passes out side arms and rifles to you both.

“I’m going to grab some personal equipment as well, and meet you back here in 15,” he says in a tone that sounds almost like a dismissal.

Scene III continues (Target Range Control Room) 7pm

Scanning the room with your flash-light turns up a variety of control panels along the rear wall for fuses, lights, heat, doors, vents, and so on. Not all of them are wired to anything, and some are just empty boxes waiting for a panel to be installed. One such empty box *is* wired however, and the others do not seem to notice how odd it is. Their lights play across walls and floor methodically, but miss this obvious incongruity, which fairly screams at you: secret button here.

If you had to guess, judging by the size of the wires, and the rating indicated on their protective housing, the switch tucked away in the box, likely activates the elevator.

Dangling from the ceiling at various points are chain winches and pulleys for assisting with heavy lifting. There does not seem to be another way down to the lower levels Saint mentioned.

After a few moments, Cool Hand moves over to the rear wall and begins to methodically check switches and controls. It does not take him long before he finds something in one of the control boxes. With a ring of overhead lights on, the section of floor begins to lower itself quietly down roughly three meters, at the same time, a small section of the floor slips down and to the side, revealing a metal staircase along one wall of the elevator shaft. It appears as though a person can descend via the staircase, or the elevator. On the rear wall of the elevator shaft is a control panel with 4 options on it – obviously corresponding to the level to which one wishes it to go.

Cool Hand seems to be in fine cheer, and he seems to have a tale to tell you.

Lights are visibly coming on down below, slowing increasing in brightness as though on a timed dimmer circuit. The smell of dry, recycled, quality-controlled air – with a hint of oil and petroleum jelly wafts up as the elevator ceases its movement 1 level down.

As the light level improves, a dark blueprint-style map, etched in black and grey become more visible next to the control panel in the elevator shaft. It seems to indicate that the floors below are all the same size, roughly square, and that the bottom two are open, while the top one is divided into smaller rooms, also square, with a hall all the way around the outside, and dividing the floor into four sections.

The elevator is roughly 10 meters by 10 meters square. Judging by its size on the diagram for each floor, they must be at least 4 times larger.

Standing near the rear of the room, looking down into the shaft, Luke’s eyes are already scanning everywhere. He never stops looking, checking, probing.

You, already set on using the stairs instead of the elevator look down over the lip of the elevator and muse out loud, “I wonder what’s below…” while shining the flashlight around.

Mad Dog also moves to the edge, “Let’s find out.”

“Maybe we should take the stairs before activating the power here. Make sure the place is safe… wouldn’t want the three of us to get stuck on a broken lift, right?” you offer.

Mel, usually the hot-headed impulsive one, steps dramatically back from the edge and quips, “Sounds reasonable… “ falling in line to move along with you.

Rom heads over to the stairway, “Sounds good; BT, let’s save the lift till you have your tools and a few of your techs here.  Some things I’d like us to look out for.  Parts and mechs, of course, but BT, especially anything that you *don’t* recognize.  I’d also like to watch out for tunnels that may connect to mines.  If they don’t exist, we should build them.”

With a gesture he indicates that he would like you to fall into a standard marching order with himself up front with the torch, Mad Dog guarding the rear, and you in the middle.

Once you start down the stairs and out of earshot, he takes a deep breath and starts into whatever it is he has been wanting to tell you.

“So, can I tell the two of you a story?  Off any record, of course!  A little bit of my past dealings with the Lyrans that could become quite relevant in the months ahead…”

He pauses as the three of you reach the blueprint on the wall and give it a quick scan. “Ah, here it is.  So: 3 subfloors to search, but I suggest we stay together anyway.  Let’s continue on the stairs and avoid the platform elevator till we get a chance to check the mechanics.  The first floor looks like offices, so we’ll start here.”

As you near it, he continues to think out loud, “Hmm, the first floor is what, 3 meters tall?  Hopefully the lower ones are tall enough for a mech if this is the entry to the old plant.  Vel, do you think this elevator could handle a mech’s weight if it had to?”

This place is as quiet as the grave. For a while, the quiet drowns out the thunderous sound of combat boots on corrugated steel, and drowns out conversation.

Stepping out on to the landing reveals that the first basement level is being used for storage of munitions. Each section is clearly marked and the display panels for the environmental control units for each storage space are not far from the landing. All monitors report that status for each bin is within specified parameters. The tally of ammunition detailed on the monitors agrees with the list given to you by Saint.

The floor looks dust-free, and the lights increased as you descended to the level.

“So, I promised you a story,” he begins again, “I won’t bore you with too many details, but suffice it to say that I took a bit of an eclectic path to my life as a mechwarrior.  I’ll try to be a little less cryptic than usual, but old habits die hard.”

Looking around this floor, he speaks, not really making eye contact, “Military academy wasn’t open to me for reasons of Andurian politics which I’m sure Mel is familiar with.  I grew up thinking I would graduate military academy as a ‘mech jock, but my parents got involved on the wrong side of one of Anduria’s many rebellions, and I ended up an orphan.  After a bit of a twisted path through childhood I realized I could make some military career as an enlisted man.  Did my basic training before catching the eye of a few people in the FWL secret service.  Finished my training and was sent on various ops into Lyran space.  The details of the mission aren’t important, but a number of things came from this.  One:  I escaped with my life, the knowledge that I had a knack for ‘mech warfare, a very dangerous enemy and a Lyran Shadowhawk. That enemy is currently on planet and riding my old antique Hammerhands.  The Shadowhawk I ‘liberated’ during my escape is, of course, TLC, and has a few unique features that could make it recognizable by some in the Lyran forces.  I don’t think they are aware of my presence on planet, but once they are, it could get personal.  I’m trying to think of how we can use that to our advantage.”

Mad Dog suggests, “Dare him to trade it back…?” grinning slightly. “Tanks or mechs aren’t standard fare for a covert ops mission—must have been a lot more to the story as you just said. A Hammerhands…? One mech I know little about…” he drifts off for a second, the goes off on one of his tangents.

“Major Sturgeon’s involvement with Goetz has got me concerned. If he had contact with her, it’s hard to say who else he might have recruited. The enemy presence might have put a big blocker for that—assuming that he’d never stoop to security risks or treason. He’d do anything he thought was proper and justified so long as he thought he could get away with it. Still, if he were to ever send some spy or hired thug into enemy territory, there’s a chance the operative could fall into Lyran hands.”

Then he shrugs and changes the subject again. These men could never make good mechanics. Nothing would ever get finished.

“Back to the topic of your old acquaintance, can you think of any habits or weaknesses of command to exploit? Would he take unnecessary risks if goaded? Would he chase after TLC? For example maybe he could be lured to send some of forces out after you and a small lance—something that looks plausible. Stage it somewhere where the enemy thinks circling around and striking at their rear is not possible. Say, maybe extremely dangerous mountainous terrain, with do-or-die jump holes in cliff sides.”

As Mel warms to his subject his eyes take on a look that you have seen before in the eyes of glory hounds… You know few men in the Inner Sphere that can do what he can do with a mech, but that sort of bravado can get more than one person in a lance killed. “I could power up from a hidden position and have some fun; or get myself killed trying. Get out with much the same margin of error. You two could have another trap laid on your end at the same time.” He catches you both looking at him and trails off.

“Just a thought,” he says.

Getting no immediate response, he returns to the first question he asked, “Is he the type with an ego that will cause him to make mistakes if he suffers a few embarrassments? If so, maybe we can use that. ”

Nodding as your group nears the second sub-basement, Rom replies, “A trade is indeed in the works, we’ll just have to spend some time working on the terms.”

A slightly wistful look crosses his face, and he looks at both of you directly for a second, “The Hammerhands is one of the precursors to today’s Warhammer.  Similar design, but with AC10’s on the arms and jump-capable.  I got my handle ‘Cool-Hands’ while piloting that thing on the deserts of Devil’s Rock.  Other mechs were overheating when you boiled tea too close!“

His description, while a fair representation of the mech’s combat design, leaves out so much important information…  So few pilots really know their machines!

Reaching the second floor, the sense of regular use fades and the amount of dust increases. No lights greet you on the second basement level, and a visual inspection reveals it to be cold and empty of everything except office furniture, and terminals sealed up in waterproof bags.

Rom continues, “I’ve thought of using myself as bait in this matchup, and we’ll keep it as an option.  Axthelm is not stupid though, and may not be easy to provoke.  We may want to keep TLC as invisible as possible while we can though.  I’ve had some thoughts about training a few lances in mech Base Jumping for exactly the type of ambush you’re describing.  We should talk.”

As the others join you at landing of the second sub-basement, he changes topics, “So Major Sturgeon was the reason you ended up here?” He shakes his head as if considering something, “Hiring a foreign agent and being a foreign agent are two different things.  Let’s assume for the time being that he hasn’t passed any information along to the Lyrans.  Best evidence to date is that Goetz was unable to get a message out, but we should definitely keep an eye out for evidence to the contrary….”

Looking over at you, he changes tack and asks you slyly, “So Vel, does that make you the only person here who got this post on her own talent as opposed to being hidden here by pissing someone off?”

“When I piss people off it’s usually over something everyone is too hung over to remember the next morning,” you remark dryly, “I think I threw a glass at some pale-face deskwarrior once. Maybe twice, I wasn’t really counting. Not like you two. You piss off the most interesting people, in the most spectacular ways. A gift, really.”

Laughing, he nods and replies, “Get them drunk first.  I’ll have to remember that.”

Stepping away, he returns to business, “All right, on these office levels, I think all we may find is computer or file records.  Useful, but they’ll take a while to pour over.  Let’s just make a note of what we find and maybe try to log into a terminal if we find one.  It would also be useful if we find a way to work the lift from down here. Then we’ll move down the levels to where I assume the hardware and plant access is”

Finding no active computer equipment or access ports to a communications network, you return to the stairs and head down.

The third basement level is warmer, and a small supply of old ammunition loaders, and other robotic aids for mech maintenance, support, and repair have been stored here in clean bays, wrapped in plastic.

While inspecting the equipment, Mad Dog discovers a slightly incongruous mat in the corner, seemingly discarded. It reads ‘welcome.’  Underneath it is a sheet of wood over a roughly hewn, man-sized hole through the ferro-crete which comprises the floor. It goes all the way through to a dark pit underneath, wherein the faint sounds of dripping water and the unmistakable smell of leaked coolant can both be noted.

There is a tool locker on this level, and among the expected items stored away for the machines on this level are a great deal of rope, assorted spelunking equipment including body armor and helmets with lights, 4 rifles with IR scopes, and one heavy bore shotgun with grenade launcher and spotlight. 5 clips of ammo for each are thoughtfully arranged in belt pouches, with the shotgun ammo on a bandolier.

Rations and a water purifier are also stored away neatly. A small chip reader suitable for testing the integrity of IC chips and memory cores is also tucked away in the lockers.

Coils of wire are next to the lockers, stored in a climate and temperature controlled case. It looks to be the sort used for heavy-duty computing or data transmissions at high-speed. In your occupations, what you use it for most often are as the linkage between a neurohelmet and a mech or simpod. Stashed away in that case are a set of tools for cutting, stripping, and fashioning proper connectors for this type of cable.

Lucas states glumly, “I was hoping there would be a way to get mechs from the school down to the plant and back, but that welcome mat you found doesn’t look too promising.  Perhaps there is another exit once we get down there….It looks like these levels are pretty tame, and we can get your tech teams to start moving the ammo fairly quickly.  Let’s go through rabbit hole and see where we end up.  I suggest we replace the welcome mat behind us, and take the grenade launcher with us to blow the trap door open in case any more agents get an idea to trap us down there.”

“I suppose,” says Mad Dog, shining his small flashlight down into the darkness. He flicks it off suddenly and returns to the lockers to get a larger one, pausing to look more carefully at the weapons and armor as he does so.

Rom adds distractedly to no one in particular, “Oh, and we should take that IC memory tester/reader with us as well”

Mad Dog shines one of the lights down into the blackness of the pit, then grabs a set of the protective gear, complete with helmet and one of the guns, then drags it all over to the hole. He casts frequent glances at both you and Cool Hand as if wondering if he should take the time to put it on. As he divides his attention between the hole, the gear and the two of you, you finish your own examination of the equipment and lockers.  You recognize most of the vehicles as having been sold off by the school during the downsizing last year, although some of the pieces must have come from elsewhere. The storage methods are first-rate.

Cool Hand keeps poking around looking at various things, and taking some.

The lockers and the equipment they contain are all new – within the last month judging by the store-bought smell, and their placement and stocking show a very methodical mind. Even the ranges of size for the body armour and things like grip choice, and brand of ammunition suggests a lot of pre-planning, for specific people.

Cool Hand seems ready to head down below without the armor, carrying the chip-tester and a shotgun/grenade launcher. Mad Dog, seems to want to make use of the gear, but is self-consciously checking to see if you two are putting it on. Finally, he just starts putting it on.

Holding his rifle and the shotgun, Rom asks Mad Dog, “Do you see any stairs, or will we have to climb?”

Seeing Mad Dog begin to armor up, you interject, “I was just thinking that” as you grab body armor for yourself, and begin to don it. “Who knows what we’ll find down there. Be ready for anything, right?”

When you finish, you take a look over the rifles to compare them with the one you are carrying, but they seem to be different models of the same weapon. Gathering up your share of the climbing gear, you move over the rest.

Before you all, a rough-edged gateway into mystery and the past beckons.

Rom puts on the protective gear as well, commenting as he pulls on the chest piece, “Do the miners complain of any indigenous life?”

No one has an answer for that, but it looks like you will all find out soon enough.

Returning to his normal decisive self, Lucas states, “I’ll go last, cover our tracks and close up this trap door.  I recommend that we attach lights to our guns, not our helmets.  Enemies will fire at our lights in an ambush. I will inspect the way down to see if there are other offshoots from the tunnel before we hit the bottom, but my plan is to start at the bottom of the shaft and explore there first.  I will record anything valuable, interesting, out of the ordinary or suspicious. Keep your noses peeled for signs of fresh air!  Assuming there is anything of value down here, we will need to have a route in and out.”

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