"Per fas et nefas."
- 'By right or wrong.' <By any means necessary.>

200 - 1122.

Jimi Ray gets together the band members, and they go outside to check out the area. They're looking for a rangers' station, and a gift shop, in hopes of finding some maps of the inside of the caves. They hack their way through the blackberry brambles to the gift shop, and find a plastic covered map on the wall. They take the map back to the cavern, and examine it.

According to the map, the cavern goes on for miles! Jimi Ray puts Joe, who has prospecting, with Vlickelplesterb and a couple of band members, to study the map. Subadai decides that leading calisthenics for the band members at least, would be a good use of his time, when he's not playing doctor. Jimi Ray takes a few band members (after acquiring some camo to replace the dress maroons) out to inspect the ranger station.

Jimi Ray sets up someone to observe the mine, using the abandoned ranger tower. Boy, there are a lot of Vargrs there! And a lot of action - ships coming and going, etc. Jimi Ray is concerned that there are too many Vargrs (like 5 or 6,000) to make any kind of action against them doable, but that will remain to be seen after the close-quarters recon team (Jeff and Ezbeki) come back with their intel.

Over by the Vargr camp with Geoff and Ezbeki, the Vargrs have set up concertina wire, tanglefoot, a 500m kill zone, GSR, and mines. Anybody coming up over land would be in for a big surprise. Geoff decides to try to create a clear path of disarmed mines, to create a lane of ingress and egress that won't be expected. Ezbeki doesn't have demo training, but Geoff does. Ezbeki gets to hand him tools, so he can't be too far away. Geoff marks the disarmed mines with different colored dirt as he replaces them.

Joe begins to explore the interior of the caverns looking for a connecting route to the mine. He discovers some serpentine rock that frequently has useful mineral deposits in it. The serpentine connects with the limestone, and there's a large wall of it where the limestone has sort of washed away. Joe feels the wall, and there are some vibrations. He follows the serpentine, and finds a big semicircular wooden door like thing. There's a sign on it: "Danger! Keep out! Vera Cruz Park and Recreation" Joe makes a small hole in the door, and he can hear a lot of noise. He goes back to the camp, reports, gets a pry bar off the deuce and a half, and a couple of other Marines, to go back and make a large enough hole to sneak a peek through.

Geoff spends literally all day disarming mines up to the tanglefoot. Once there, Ezbeki squirms eel-like through to the edge and sets up in the loops of concertina razor wire to observe. Geoff is waved forward, and he does eventually manage to get through to Ezbeki's position, but it's painful.

Joe and the other Marines spend hours working on the barrier. This is definitely harder than PT. Just in case, Joe is also able to find a couple of emergency exits, in case they need another way out. The exits are chained up, but they can be removed eventually. Maybe. Subadai finds out about the chains when a Marine comes back to be medicked for the rock chips in his face (you can't actually shoot locks off like they do in the movies). Subadai might be able to help with the locks because he has a 12" prybar.

Geoff has lightly shredded himself and his clothing on the way to Ezbeki's position, but now he can see what's going on at the camp. There is a big central bowl (almost a kilometer long, and 400 meters long) that's been scooped out and shored up. It has a huge ramp for the enormous ore trucks, and there are several of them in the bowl, but they're not currently being used. There are six barbed wire pens in the middle of the bowl, containing humans in uniforms. There's a total of 40 or 50 armed guards (either on guard or moving around) near the prisoner pens. As Geoff watches, a couple of the guards take a man in a Marine uniform out of one of the pens, and towards a building. There are apparently no civilians among the prisoners in the pens, and they have apparently been separated into separate groups of officers and enlisted. There are several ship's boats parked in the area, and some smaller trucks, and a large pallet off to one side with some kind of complicated machine or engine. There are some Vargrs in lab coats around the engine (oh-oh). There is also some kind of observation platform just above the mine bowl, sort of like box seats (glassed in). The base is very well set up, with neat rows of tents, two mobile hospital units, etc. Ezbeki takes out his digital camera, says "Ah, no, I've got to save that one", puts a little digital card into his pocket, replaces it, and takes pictures.

Subadai goes back with the Marine, and uses his own tools to cut through a link of chain, and then uses his Rabbit tool to pry open the door. Good thing too, as the door was seriously overgrown. Subadai lets the Marines hack a tunnel out from the exit - but not so some one could look directly down to the door.

Subadai then takes his Rabbit tool over to the big door in the walled off section of the cave/mine, and uses it to calmly and easily pop off the heads of the bolts holding it onto the wall of the cavern. The Marines, who just spent eight hours working on the thing, glare at him. Joe goes into the tunnel, carefully, to take a look.

200 - 1122.

As Geoff crawls carefully through the tanglefoot, someone in front of him says "Psst". Ezbeki is behind him. After a brief moment of panic, it turns out that it's the two Army snipers. They were entertained watching Geoff and Ezbeki crawl through the wire. "That must have been painful."

Joe listens in the tunnel, and he can hear activity, but it's not real close to the old side tunnel. Then he hears a klaxon sound, and he knows what that means, so he backs off right quick. All he's hit by is dust when the explosion goes off, so that's just annoying. When he emerges from the side tunnel, he's coated with dust.

The snipers ask Geoff "What's hanging?" They've been watching the camp for a couple of hours today, and were there a few days earlier, but they haven't seen anything earth shattering. The snipers agree to go back to the cavern with Geoff and Ezbeki, and are a bit surprised to see all the new 'friends'. Ezbeki: "Hey, Geoff, you don't look so good. You've got to not let those wires cut you." Geoff: "I'm not the shrimp you are. I can't fit between the coils." Subadai patches Geoff up, gives him a tetanus shot, and recommends rest. Geoff's into that.

The discussion turns to what happens next, so everyone goes to brief General Marx. This gives some additional options. Marx: "Navy - you can fly?" Max: "A ship's boat, yes ma'am." Marx: "And there are ship's boats there." Geoff: "I can also fly ma'am. I'm qualified to pilot ship's boat and jump capable." Marx: "But you're a Marine." Geoff: "I cross-trained with the Scouts, ma'am." Ah. Arguments ensue about whether or not the prisoners can be broken out. Marx feels that if they can "raise some hell and break some troops out", this will give the prisoners a chance to break out for themselves, which they will take. Geoff suggests using one of the big ore trucks to at least get some people beyond the minefield and wire, not to mention running over some stuff.

The best time to hit would be at 3:00 a.m., since the camp will be less active. Marx: "One of the things we have to realize is that there are going to be casualties. Probably significant ones, since we will be working inside a shooting gallery." Geoff figures the band members can be sent after any medical supplies they can lay their hands on in the hospitals. The idea is to set up some people above ground to distract, and then the main force comes up from the mine "like angry ants".

Subadai will go with the band members, under the command of Jimi Ray, to make sure the appropriate medical supplies are taken. Marx: "Okay, first thing - you two <indicating Geoff and Max> go for the drop ships and see if you can get them powered up. As soon as you have a load, you take off." Each of them will have a Marine back up (Geoff will have Ezbeki, since there's no getting rid of him). The snipers are (in theory) attached to the 62nd Armored Cavalry unit. If they can make contact with them at some point, that would be very good. Until then the snipers will help with this plan. Geoff makes sure that one of the fire teams goes to the explosives bunker that he spotted too. That should make quite the diversion. Marx to Viktor: "Don't take this the wrong way, but you're now a fire team leader. We need you more as a rifleman right now. And some one needs to get me a rifle too." Ezbeki grabs someone else's rifle, hands it to Marx, and says "Here you go ma'am. Ezbeki, Corporal Ezbeki." Marx: "Ah. Thank you." (She takes the rifle rather distastefully.) Max gets clarification on where to take the ship, assuming he or Geoff gets one, and if they should target the other two ship's boats to take them out of the fight if they do? A rendezvous is arranged for the ships, and yes, the other two ship's boats are prime targets. Also, Geoff and Max have to use their own judgment, because if one of them doesn't lift within a certain amount of time, that ship also becomes a target, as it has to be assumed that the pilot has been compromised.

Subadai takes an emergency med kit with him. The camp is set up for a fast escape. The two Army snipers, Jones (and a loader) will be up on the ridge directing fire downward. One fire team will be going for the explosives magazine - that's Viktor's team. The band group will be going after medical supplies. Delayed charges will be placed in the mine to start a fire in the uranium, afterwards. Other surprises are put in place, just in case.

201, 1122.

A report comes in from the sentry, that a really big, fancy shuttle has come in. It doesn't look like a troop carrier. Well, that's one more distraction, so it's time to go. The two sentries in the ranger tower (walking wounded), will be left in place, to provide a rear guard at the cavern entrance.

Joe leads the first few men into the mines - as the resident prospector, he's in the lead (and he's still dust covered, so he blends). Joe rounds a corner and comes face to face with a very startled Vargr who is placing an already wired demo charge into a hole in the wall. Joe piths him with his pickaxe, and then the party goes booking down the tunnel towards a door that looks like it's made of rubber door mats - that would be the blast door, so there will be people on the other side. There are some very surprised Vargr miners on the other side, about twenty of them in olive drab. The front men (Jenny and the sergeant Joe decked earlier, and Geoff) with suppressed SMGs fire on the miners, and Joe takes out one of them with his pickaxe again. Geoff takes the pistol off one of the dead Vargrs and passes it to a Marine. There's a brief delay as Joe pries his pick out of the rock behind the miner. Jenny and her sergeant, and Geoff, do a fine job, and it's not long before there are no more functional miners. The phone line is cut at the receiver, and the group continues.

Further into the mine, there's another miner in a little electric vehicle, pulling about fifteen ore cars. Three quarters of the men can ride the ore cars and the others follow closely. Subadai deliberately takes the last car. The miner doesn't see the men, as he's using headlights, and it's pretty dark. The cars are backed into an elevator, one at a time, last one first. This is not what Subadai had in mind. The ore cars are taken up, one by one, then the ore and the people are dumped into a hopper that feeds into the crusher. Geoff clambers up the side, then helps others up and out. Only one man is lost to the auger, but he doesn't scream, and he tosses out his weapon before it's too late; that was one of the band members, who proved himself to be a true Marine. Now there's a man who deserves an SEH.

It's well lit, but so far no one has noticed the infiltrators. It's so early, and so noisy, that it's not going to be obvious. The fancy shuttle is there, looking like a Lear jet among Cessnas. It's got a gloss black paint job, and a red wolf's head on it. It's heavily armored. Viktor's team heads for the demo bunker. Jimi Ray and his team head for the medical facilities. The big black ship is between the good guys and the other ships, so Geoff and Max and their backup take the long way around, along the wall, behind the power plant, being sure to walk, not run.

Geoff sees twelve Vargrs in combat armor come out escorting about twenty people in civilian clothing, toward the big ship. One of the civilians is a female, and she's holding some sort of 'bundle' to her chest. Geoff's thought is "There are orders, then there are orders." He's going to try to prevent them from getting to the ship. Geoff's thought is to demo the power plant leads to kill the power to the outside lights, but he sees a Vargr handling some material with a purple trefoil on it. There are other Vargrs in lab suits. They are definitely handling radioactive fuel rods here. Geoff lobs in a grenade, which bounces and falls into some kind of water. Then there's an unearthly bluish glow, then a boom, then alarms go off and all hell breaks loose. Everyone runs. It looks like some one has shook the bee hive. Geoff lobs another grenade at where the power leads come out of the power station. A fire begins burning at the power plant, but the external lights don't go out.

Geoff and Ezbeki then go for the Vargrs in combat armor, firing, and the civilians prisoners scatter. That's good, since they're in the line of fire. Since the firing has started down below, the snipers and Jones on the ridge start shooting. Geoff yells "Androchev! Here!!" at Katerina, hoping she'll hear and run toward him. Subadai and his people are heading for the medical supplies, Max and his Marine are headed for the nearest drop ship,

As Subadai's group head to the medical buildings, a couple of Vargrs in lab coats come out, looking confused. The tuba player from the Marine band puts his shoulder down and just charges. That works. Inside Subadai directs what to grab, and supplies are snatched. As soon as the group is in, Jimi Ray breaks off and heads for one of the big Komatsu ore trucks. He gets up to the top of the ladder and has to break the window, but he does get in.

Viktor gets to the bunker and encounters a Vargr out for a smoke. He's very surprised, especially after Viktor shoots him. The team closes on the bunker.

Knowing that the guys in combat armor are too much for him by himself (and since he's succeeded in breaking the civilians loose before they are put onboard that ship) Geoff is now running for a ship's boat, trying to get to it before the pilot is able to close the boarding ramp. The pilot manages to shoot Geoff in the shoulder with a 7mm pistol as he does. Geoff leaps up and manages to reach over and shoot the pilot just before the door slams shut. On Geoff's rifle. Ezbeki is sent around the side for the external lever. Geoff hears a couple of small shots inside before Ezbeki opens the hatch.

Over by one of the other ship's boat, Max and his backup are approaching when the pilot drops out of the hatch under the cockpit, intending to help the other ship's crew against the intruders. The pilot takes out his stainless steel pistol with ebony grips, planning on shooting the "wild monkey". Max, who's behind the pilot, shoots him in the neck. The pilot drops like a rock, his round missing Ezbeki, who turns and sees Max, with a gun. Hmmm.

Max is heading into the cockpit where the other Vargr is trying to lift. Max fires at him but hits the armored pilot's chair. The Vargr pilot fires a flare pistol, inside the cockpit, as the ship lifts with Max hanging onto the ladder. The flare has started a fire, and the ship banks into the wall of the mine pit. Max bails, down the side, heading for another ship. The Marine who was with him has shot the pilot in the new ship, killing him, and that ship is now hovering just above the ground. Max heads up into that ship.

Ezbeki has managed to open the hatch, and he and Geoff get in and start to lift. Ezbeki goes into the gun turret, and Geoff tells him to fire on the fancy black ship. Ezbeki fires, hits right in the middle of the black ship, with the chin-mounted fusion gun. The middle of the ship blows up. Oh. Ezbeki is about to fire on the ship Max is trying to get into, when Geoff radios to find out where Max is. Ezbeki is redirected, and blows the other ship.

Viktor runs into trouble, and ahead of his Marines. They do catch up, and although Viktor is injured (not unexpectedly), the bunker is demo'd, and the Marines head out. Jimi Ray's ore truck needs realignment, so it ends up heading back down the hill, as Jimi Ray bails. That truck ends up perched on top of the demo bunker, and goes up in the explosion. The ensuing shockwave flattens pretty much everyone and everything not permanent on the ground is flattened. Max's ship, which he's flying without instruments, since the instruments were shot up, manages to ride up the side of the wall on the blast wave.

Jimi Ray got to be on the world's only pogoing ore truck, then gets in, pulls over near the prisoner area and drops down a rope from the walkway around the side of the truck. Luckily, no one is flattened by the falling engine and transmission from the other truck that was blown up. Geoff lands near Jimi Ray, drops the rear door, and has Ezbeki cover the door. Geoff observes a weird green smoke rising from the area of the burning power plant. He radios to the other Imperial units to stay clear of the green smoke it's radioactive and toxic. Max is heading back for pickups, after reminding the Marine who is supposed to be acting as a gunner, that he's supposed to be trying to shoot things on the ground. Oh yeah. Max lands, dropping the loading gate as the odd green fog settles. Not good. Geoff is full up, and takes off.

Subadai has been blown into the elevator by the huge bunker explosion, and is on his way down in one of the mining cars; he has other Marines following him, since he "jumped", and they came with him. It's dark, with only flashes of light at the floors as he passes them. He gets to the bottom, and hears water. He holds his breathe, and after getting rinsed off with the ore cars, they head back up. The ore cars are being hooked up to the vehicle driven by the same Vargr. Subadai shoots him in the head with tranq, and leaves him off to the side. They head back out, setting up people to keep escapees moving out along the correct paths. Subadai heads for the original camp in the cavern, to get to the medical stuff, and the truck to leave, driving the ore vehicle with people in the cars. As they drive through the boobytrap that went off early. No one in the cars are injured, and the mine is sealed off. Subadai gets to the trucks, picks up the two injured rear guard sentries, loads up and they head for the rendezvous point.

Viktor sees the green cloud drifting across the bowl, people gasping and falling to the ground. He buttons up and goes overpressure. He is so far the only person who has seen the silver grey Vargrs who are trying to escape with some human shields (civilians); they're heading into some offices (or something) below the "sky boxes", near where the party first came in. Viktor figures he needs to get away from the cloud, so he and one of his Marines get into one of the remaining two-person tanks and heads out after the ore truck driven by Jimi Ray.

Joe steals the huge loader, and acts as cover for additional escapees. He gets as many people out as he can before they succumb to the toxic gas. He is able to assist some walking wounded all the way out, so he has some people with him.

Viktor gets out of the bowl of the mine area before getting high-centered on the ore truck's ruts. He fires the main gun towards the bowl, but damages the tank in the process, so the tank is abandoned. They head for the rendezvous, on foot. As they are leaving, a canopy drops to the ground, revealing a small Vargr ship (jump capable, not a ship's boat) under cover. Viktor radios Geoff and Max, telling them to take out the Vargr ship. Both of them answer, and they're sent after the Vargr ship. Ezbeki fires several shots at the ship, doing some minimal damage.

A Vargr's voice comes over the radio: 'This is Grand Commandant Norrgoervuldz. I suggest you cease firing, if you don't want the civilians we have on board to be killed. I don't think General Androchev would be pleased if anything happened to his wife and child." Max flips to another commo channel and informs Viktor of the situation. Viktor's orders are to fire to disable the ship. This message is relayed to the respective gunners, who fire on the ship. The Vargr ship is smoking, and moving erratically. Suddenly, the Vargr ship, which has gravitics, takes a sharp turn and books. Geoff tries to duplicate the turn, but damages his ship in the process. Max take a wider turn, giving the Vargrs more of a lead, but keeping his ship intact. Besides, the smoke trail makes the ship easy to follow.

Geoff: "Max, I'm going to have to land, you're on your own." Max: "Roger." Max follows the Vargr ship as closely as he can, into the jungle, to it's landing site. Viktor tells Max he is to set down within a couple of clicks of the Vargr ship, and deploy the troops to monitor the Vargrs' movements, then Max is to pick up Geoff's men (there's more of them, and they have more weapons and bring them back to the same site.

Viktor: "Max, I want you to give a message to the Commandant. If he does indeed have my wife and son, and something happens to them, there is not planet big enough to hide him. I will hunt him down and skin his mangy hide." Max finds out who the ranking officer is, and it's Col. Petri. Max relays Viktor's orders, and Petri tells him to "do it".

Viktor looks for Jones, and finds his body, and that of his loader. Viktor takes their dog tags and the machine-gun. He also finds a boot print heading off with blood in every other print. Viktor follows and finds one of the snipers, bled out (artery hit). Viktor hands the machine-gun to his Marine, and takes the sniper's gun and tags. That means there's still another sniper out there, hopefully alive. They head towards the rendezvous point.

Joe discovers he's got General Marx with his group of walking wounded. She's only slightly injured, and limping. Marx: "I don't think those Vargrs will be pursuing us. But we'll have to get out of this area before they send some one down from the planetoid. Quite the butcher's bill."

Geoff has discovered, to his dismay, that he has the Governor on board. The idiot starts demanding to give the orders, until Geoff orders Ezbeki to deploy duct tape. This he does, with abandon. Then Geoff just has to try to land his damaged ship, easier said than done.

Max lands, and the troops deploy. Geoff has managed to control the gliding crash in a very impressive fashion, and radios Max with their position. While he's waiting for pickup, Geoff checks to make sure no one has been further injured, and does a head count. No one in the group is an armorer, so he can't get his dented rifle fixed. Max arrives to fetch Geoff, and after a couple of hours they manage to take two broken ships and make one fixed one (fuel, instruments, windshield from Geoff's ship). This includes transferring the plasma gun to Max's ship.

Geoff makes sure that all weapons are distributed. Also, some parts of the salvaged ship can be used as weapons as well. Geoff is down to a pistol and a cutlass, and his bent rifle. Then it's off to drop off more Marines for Petri. Max makes the drop, checks in with Petri, and then heads for the rendezvous; he leaves the tools and the spare plasma gun with Petri.

Geoff meets up with Col. Petri, and they set to determining who's really in charge. Geoff listens to Petri for a while, and decides that Petri really does know what he's doing. Men with wilderness survival training are sent out for supplies. Geoff's concerned about not being able to prevent the ship from lifting, but Petri can't see how to do this with what they have available. The officers are called together to brainstorm. Geoff points out that if the ship is left alone, they'll at the very least be able to radio for help. Many more vargrs would be very bad. Someone will be sent to shoot off any external antennas, as soon as it's discovered whether or not they have any functional ship's weapon. The ship does have a chin gun - it can't fire to the rear, and it's probably a laser, so it's not great within atmosphere.

Petri has a large man pick up the plasma gun, minus the battery, so it can be carried. A second person follows with the battery. The plan is to shoot up the chin mount first, then go after the antennas. They lug everything that way.

Max is heading for the rendezvous point, going NOE, since there are other aircraft up, probably looking for the ship. No rush, and for a change (with new instruments and everything) so they take the long way, and then land. The gunner has found a coffee machine, and offers to make some. Good idea!

A few hours later, Viktor and his Marine arrive all bedraggled, to find the squid sitting around , working on his third cup of coffee. But he got the ship, and it even looks better than when he left. Max: "Coffee, sir? The creamer's gone bad I'm afraid." Viktor: "Yes, thank you. And a medic."

Joe brings up the rear of the limping bunch of people, as they head for the rendezvous. Joe checks out the General, and gives her an antibiotic, whether she wants one or not. Her leg injury was a through and through, so it's not too bad.

Over the next few hours, more people do straggle in to the rendezvous point. Viktor makes contact with Col. Petri, to get an update. Petri: "We're about to make sure the ship doesn't go anywhere." Viktor: "Carry on." When the people at the rendezvous point make up a "boatload" of armed people, Viktor wants first to set up patrols. They've got tired and hungry people, and about half a pound of coffee. And some food does arrive with other Marines. A soup/stew is concocted, containing protein at least, and they have a lot of rice and beans. Pretty much the last group in will be Joe and General Marx. They picked up a couple of other people along the way, including a few who are coughing their lungs out; they'll last a few days, maybe a week, even with Regen™.

Viktor checks out his 'troops', looking for familiar faces besides Joe and General Marx. Jenny is there (hot and a bit scratched up, and the sun is making her freckles show more), but no sign of McLafferty or Vlickelplesterb. Viktor: "Is there any way to check for aircraft in the area?" Max: "Only with binoculars. I don't want to turn on the radar." Viktor sets up spotters.

Back at Petri's group, they need to get to within 50 meters of the laser turret to hit it, and they'll need to be right in front in order to do any damage. Geoff and the man who's carrying the plasma gun sneak up, using incredible stealth, and low crawling while dragging the gun up. A couple of times the laser gun moves slightly, but evidently the Vargrs haven't seen them. They get about 40 meters away, set up, and Geoff has the other Marine leave after giving instructions on firing. Geoff doesn't want anyone else getting shot or irradiated if it can't be avoided.

Geoff fires the gun, getting 'sunburned', and it feels like an electrical charge has been run through his body. One of the laser guns has been damaged, but not the other. Geoff waits impatiently for the plasma gun to recharge, because the laser gun is tracking toward him while firing. The two weapons' 'beams' hit their targets simultaneously, taking out the turret and exploding the plasma gun, sending Geoff flying through the air briefly (further irradiated).

The troops close, and the medic gets to Geoff, who does eventually regain consciousness (not that he really wants to right now). Doc: "Don't worry, you're going to be okay. It's not as bad as it feels." The doctor takes the Colonel off to the side, then Petri comes over and tells Geoff that he did a good job, and not to worry.

Ezbeki comes over to Geoff, who is in really bad shape, what with blast damage and the radiation burns. Ezbeki: "Well, I've been saving this..." Ezbeki injects Geoff first with neo-morph, then Regen2™. Oh, much better. Geoff goes night-night. Petri <over the radio>: "Sir, we have the Vargr ship in a disadvantageous position. How would you like us to proceed?" Marx: "I'll take over here General. You go take command." Viktor: "Max? We're leaving." Viktor takes half the armed Marines, and tells Max to get there fast. What, fly faster? Joe managed to get some medical gear out with him, including most of the antibiotics, but no Regen™. Joe medics Viktor, and goes along.

Since no one else wanted it, Joe gets the copilot seat. So, he gets a great view while as Max (perhaps overly excited about having instruments again) avoids other aircraft by flying low and incredibly fast, along what appears to be a game trail. The other Marines are blissfully unaware, in the back. Joe will have to be pried off the chair, especially since the pilot does not appear to even be looking out the window; he's not - Max is using instruments. The landing is perfect, the troops pile out, and Joe is levered off the armrests.

Viktor goes up and bangs on the door of the ship. Viktor: "This is General Androchev. I want to speak with the Commandant." Voice: "This is the Commandant." Viktor: "You can surrender now, or roast in your ship." Commandant: "I won't roast alone." Viktor: 'Torch! I'm not kidding, Commandant." Commandant: "Neither am I." There's a woman's scream inside the ship. Viktor will try to keep the Commandant distracted while the other try to gain entry to the ship. They start by trying to hack off the tiles, then the now conscious Geoff offer to blow off the tiles. This helps, but the cutting torch is running low on fuel. Then Geoff suggests sending someone in through the laser turret. Good idea, but it will have to be some one fairly small, like Jenny. Geoff: "Or Ezbeki."

Ezbeki is not exactly happy, but he is told that he'll be going in too, after Jenny volunteers. Ezbeki <to Jenny>: "Honey, you better wait here; you don't look old enough to see this. But if you're lucky, maybe I'll tell you about it later." He winks. A shaped charge is set off near one of the hatches, blowing off a bunch of tiles, and providing cover for Ezbeki. After a few minutes, several sharp reports, probably pistol fire, are heard from inside, then the door blows off on it's explosive bolts from the inside. Viktor leads the charge into the ship, and the Vargrs (all these silver ones are very large) defend. It's a mess. The first two Vargrs are taken down, then Viktor charges through the next hatch. There's a Vargr in the room, sitting on a couch. He's a big silver Vargr, wearing a green uniform with red facing, silver braid. He's reclining casually, smoking a hookah. Viktor looks inside the room, and there's a familiar-looking human female in the room. It's Marie (Katarina's maid, in one of the countess' dresses).

Viktor walks over, aims his weapon at the Vargr, and orders him to stand up. Commandant: "Oh, I suppose you're going to shoot me down like a dog?" Viktor: "I might." Commandant: "But that would violate your rules of law." Much posturing, jockeying for the 'alpha dog' position; Viktor is getting really tired of this jerk. Viktor: "Get up." Commandant: "When it suits me." Viktor shoots the hookah. Viktor: "You're done, get up." Commandant: "Only because it pleases me to do so." It's apparently "annoy the unhappy man with the gun" day or something.

Viktor has the Marines remove the commandant, so Viktor can speak to the woman. Viktor: "Is there anyone else here?" Marie: "No sir. Thank God you're here." Viktor: "Are you all right? Were you hurt?" Marie: "No sir. I was well-treated." Viktor: "Do you know where my wife is?" Marie: "The last time I saw her was when the Vargrs came to raid the house. I traded clothing with her so the Vargrs would think I was her. She was taken with the other servants, and the last I saw they were being hustled off in trucks." Viktor: "Colonel, see that the lady is taken care of."

In the aftermath, someone has been forgotten. Geoff: "Sir? Corporal Ezbeki?" Viktor: "Where is he?" A brief search reveals that Ezbeki is in the bridge, with three dead Vargrs. Ezbeki has been pretty chewed up, and has been shot several times. He'll make it, but he looks even more worse for wear than usual.

Viktor <as he exits the ship>: "I want that Vargr tied, bound, and tie-wrapped, and anything else you can think of." Petri: "I take it sir, that we will be ignoring some of the conventions? <brief pause> Yes sir." Petri turns to his men: "You heard the General!" The Commandant is taken out of the ship, into the clearing, and is tied up very securely, so that the rope around his throat tightens if he tries to struggle. (This is decidedly against regs.)

Viktor tells Petri he wants a few moments alone with the prisoner. Petri: "Yes sir. <to the Marines around them> All right, let's find something to do! Back to the ship, see what we can salvage!" Viktor goes over to the Vargr, lifting him up so that they're face to face, and the ropes are strained a bit. Commandant: "Yes, this is a typical human behavior when confronted by a superior intellect." Viktor: "The only way you're going to survive this is if you cooperate." Commandant: "Oh come on, we both know that there's no way I'm going to survive this. But I'm going to deprive you of the satisfaction." The Vargr does something (breaks a fake tooth, in fact), twitches, and dies, as Viktor shakes him. Damn.

Viktor drops the Vargr's body and looks up. He sees Jenny standing on the edge of the clearing, looking at him with very wide eyes. She turns and leaves. Viktor calls Petri over, telling him to "Pick that up." Petri: "Yes sir. <to his men> Okay, I want that buried, and I want the grave camouflaged. I don't want anyone to be able to tell anything happened here. Nothing happened here, understood? Nothing."

Max was sitting in the ship, and he sees Viktor apparently go over, choke the Vargr to death, and then the Marines dig a hole and drop him in it. The grave is covered up and camouflaged, very carefully.

Viktor returns to the main group, to speak with Marie. Viktor: "I appreciate what you did. And I hope that nothing too uncomfortable happened while you were in the Vargrs' hands." Marie assures him that not. Her concern, as Viktor's, is that Katarina and Vasilli are well and will soon be found.

Before leaving the area, the damaged Vargr ship is gutted for as much in the way of supplies as is possible, loaded with wood, and set on fire inside as well. It will take several trips to get everyone back, Viktor takes the second trip, and everyone gives him space. Jenny takes the offered copilot seat. It's a quiet trip back, for a number of reasons.

On his return to the main camp, Viktor goes to see Marx, for his debrief. The taking of the Vargr ship is detailed. Viktor: "None of the Vargrs survived." [??] Marx: "Well, that's to be expected. I'm sorry to hear about your wife, I received a briefing from the first group. If she's with the servants, she should be fine though. The Vargrs will need, if not the tacit approval, at least the cooperation of the locals." Viktor will be in charge of contacting Taylor, and 'harassing' the Vargrs as much as possible. Marx: "Something will need to be done about the buffered planetoid, since it gives them definite air-superiority." No ideas what, though. They will keep a mobile HQ, maintaining radio contact on a set schedule.

Marx: "Make contact with Taylor and the other locals, get as much in the way of support and supply as you can, and we'll try to link up with the armored cav unit. Don't confuse unconventional war with banditry. You're still a soldier, and your men are still soldiers. Keep a short leash on them." Viktor can take five men of his choosing. He wants Max, Geoff, Jenny, and the two Vargrs from Jenny's troop. The Vargr sergeant that Joe decked is much better. Joe will be staying with General Marx for now. Viktor can have some medical gear, but not one of the vehicles or ships.

Geoff has been informed that he probably took enough radiation damage to kill him. If he's lucky, he'll last a couple of weeks. Geoff is hoping that maybe he will be lucky enough to find some AnaRad on the way. Geoff decides to break out the bottle of brandy Ezbeki "requisitioned" at Dickie's place, and takes Ezbeki off to the side to drink it with him.

Ezbeki: "What shall we drink to, sir?" Geoff: "Your re-enlistment." Ezbeki: "To dead comrades." Geoff: "The bottle isn't empty yet." They sit around and get a major drunk on, toasting all the people they know who have died. They eventually finish the bottle. Everyone is fed, medicked, and gets sleep before heading out in the morning.

202, 1122.

Geoff's first concern is that he'll lose his hair before he dies. On the other hand, if anyone can find AnaRad, it will be Ezbeki, who is incredibly hung over.

Marx does make sure that the party is armed - everyone gets a rifle, and one hundred rounds of ammunition. Max figures he's carrying it as a spare for one of the others. Viktor had written a letter to his wife during the night, and he gives it to Marx for Katarina, should she find her. Marx: "I must say, General, that I envy you your marriage. I quite frankly never had the time."

Marx <to Geoff>: "Captain, good luck. I want you to know that the General asked for you personally." Now Geoff knows who to blame. If things go badly.

The smaller group heads out, towards Dickie's hunting lodge. A general, two captains, a lieutenant commander, a sergeant, and two corporals. Viktor has gotten all emotionally repressed. And yes we are heading in circles.