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olopi

[IC] Milk Run

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DHR Station, Outer Asteroid Belt
Alda System, Sharahazad Sector

 

It hadn’t been a special request, and so far, it wasn’t that special of a mission. There was one thing that stood out about this one, compared to many others Starshot had been hired on. He’d been met on a station in a the neighbouring Tethron System, and had to leave his ship there. Him, and everything he’d felt was necessary were transported to the research station in a small shuttle.

 

He’d heard that the system was under quarantine, so when the pilot explained it, it all made more sense. In order to preserve what was in the system, more on that later, only the most necessary transport was allowed.

 

Once Oskar stepped off the shuttle, he was greeted by a middle aged Lor in a labcoat, most likely one of the head researchers at the station. The company owning the station, and thus in effect the system, had hired him to hunt down a Bortha, and they paid pretty well considering the threat level.

 

“Mr. Starshot, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for acting this quickly, time is of the essence. Are there anymore questions before we transport you to VI-A?”

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Starshot

 

Working with the Lor. As good a customer as anybody in the Galaxy. It made a change from dealing with scum and villains. The worst he had from the Lor was a certain ignorant air of superiority. Doing the right thing was easy when affluent and safe. Less so in the mud and ditches of life. 

 

The Xeno was on Thetron, in the unsafe hands of Gunmonkey. He had taken what he needed, or thought he might need. His old Jacket, stitched together, his helmet, his bandolier of grenades and devices, some survival gear. And most importantly, his gun. With an extra few clips of ultra-fibre shells. Who knew what he might be catching. It was a heavy load, but his cybernetic augmentation was up to the task. 

 

"You can fill me on the way" he answered. He was not exactly curt or brusque, but had a succinct way of speaking. "It will be teeth and claws if you called me in, I wager..."

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GM

 

The scientist pointed to a nearby shuttle. It was small, just about big enough to hold perhaps 4 people and some equipment. And judging by its surface, it held some cloaking technology as well. He got in, and soon after, it took off. It was rather cramped.

 

“The Alda system is a golden opportunity for society research. There are three separate species which have developed sentience in this system. This has led us to introduce a strict quarantine, you are one of only a few dozen individuals to arrive here per year. However, this quarantine isn’t perfect.”

 

“A small blockade runner, most likely a smuggler, appeared in the system not too long ago. We assume it was a mishap, as the ship was already damaged. It didn’t get far before crashing into some of the outer asteroids in the belt. Part of the ship survived, and crashed onto VI-A, or Androupo. This would not be a major issue usually, but since VI-A is one of the habituated planets, we need to destroy any trace of alien activity, in order to preserve our research. “

 

“We also know the ship was carrying lifestock. At least one Bortha has been seen, and its impact on the local ecosystem could be destructive. We need you to hunt it down and to scuttle whatever is left of the wreck. We’ll obviously provide the demolition charges that are required to do so. “

 

A Bortha. Starshot had hunted them before. They were dangerous beings, a favourite of crime bosses all around the galaxy. About 2 meters tall, muscular, and with far more teeth than any creature needed. Fortunately they were not particularly stealthy, instead relying on their sheer power and speed to hunt.

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Starshot

 

Teeth and claws as usual. 

 

"Easy enough to find a Bortha. It gets harder when you find it. Still harder to capture one alive" he answered. He still had a scar from the last time he tried that. And the offending Bortha tooth dangled on a chain above the Pilot's chair of the Xeno. Reminded him to never get cocky. 

 

The meaning of his words hung in the air. 

 

"So we best be clear. Do you want that Bortha alive?" he asked. 

 

"I can try to do that. But I need to know where your priorities are. And if you need to stop it, then I'd tell you to bring it in dead" he explained. 

 

He checked his plasma rifle. Fully charged. Locked and Loaded. Good, he would need it. And explosives too? This would be a heavy load...perhaps he should travel lighter. 

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GM

 

“No, no. There’s no reason to keep it alive. We have no use for it, and whatever profit could be made from selling it further is diminished by the transport. So, don’t bring it in alive, it’s only a headache. The main priority is making sure it doesn’t negatively affect the local eco-system. “

 

There was not much else that was worth saying. The scientist noted that the planet’s surface was rather cold due to its distance from the star, but he’d already supplied all the necessary equipment to survive for a long enough time.

 

Shortly after…

 

The shuttle cloaked upon approaching the planet, and swiftly dropped off Oskar and all of his equipment near the crash site. According to what reports he’d gotten, the Bortha had escaped from here (a broken laser-cage was visible), and then run off.

 

“Good luck. Once you’ve dealt with both the Bortha and the crashsite, activate your communications trigger and we will pick you up from this location. And again, try to leave no trace of alien activity whatsoever.”

 

The planet’s surface was rocky and covered in a layer of snow. There didn’t seem to be a lot of life in this area, only some spots of grass and the occasional bush in the distance. Tundra was what they called it back on Earth. One nice thing about that was the fact that tracks were easy to follow.

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Starshot

 

Starshot felt the heat generators in his bones fire up, warming his body. Still, no used in giving them a hard time. He was wrapped up warm under his Jacket. 

 

The snow could be a blessing if it wasn't snowing. Anybody could track anybody. Then again, that mean that anybody could track him. Which might not be a blessing. He wondered how smart the Bortha was. 

 

He shouldered his rifle over his shoulder and flipped down his helmet. The HUD popped up a display over the tinted monocrystal lens; a graphical relay of the surrounding area, ready to map. The cold would make heat signatures easy to read; an IR scan was next....

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GM

 

There didn’t appear to be any recent snowfall. It took a few moments to find the actual tracks, Bortha were rather heavy. They weren’t the smartest creatures out there, but they had a reputation for covering their tracks. And there weren’t actual tracks, but snow that had obviously been moved. Fortunately, the HUD was quick to highlight any such moved snow, which created a nice path to follow.  

 

There were only a few heat signatures as Starshot made his way forward, it appeared as though most flora on the planet created heat by itself, and whatever didn’t only grew close to sources of heat.As he continued to track, the area got more hilly, with a few mountains appearing on the horizon. Bortha usually stayed in caves during the day, and the scientist had told Oskar that the day would last for a while longer.

 

He made his way closer and closer, as more sources of heat appeared on his display. Some creatures were flying through the air. Most of them were small, but a few were either about as big as him, or a lot closer than they appeared. The mountains formed strange formations, shielding areas below them from snow and wind. Which was noticeable, as larger plants grew there, and Oskar could even spot a few animals. The tracks, however, led towards a cave entrance, stopping maybe 10 meters before the entrance thanks to an inconveniently placed rock formation above the entrance keeping the snow away.

 

However, something was off. Unless he was dealing with an exceptionally small specimen, there was no way the Bortha fit through the entrance…

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Starshot

 

This was pause for thought; a Bortha?

 

The tracks were that of a Bortha, but that didn't mean it was a Bortha. Either it was a mutated runt, there was another entrance, or someone has taking him for a fool. Wouldn't be the first time. 

 

Still, he had come this far, over ice and snow and rocks. He could hardly turn around now. He didn't, however, trust his IR sensors down there. They would show only a red blob of heat, not the detail...and something was amiss here. He needed to see what it was. 

 

He pulled out the Flare Gun strapped to his belt around the back. A quick check to see it was properly loaded...

 

Fzzzttt....a bright purple light flew into the cave, providing a rather pretty illumination. 

 

Gripping his gun tightly, he crept inwards...

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GM

 

Starshot approached the cave slowly, there were some animals off in the distance watching his movements. They looked friendly enough, if one could say such a thing about them. Getting in wouldn’t be too easy even for him, but he could manage it. He fired off the flare, and followed it’s movement with his eyes. It didn’t reveal too much of interest. There was some water, flowing down from the ceiling further into the cave, but other than that, it was simply a narrow path. He was already one arm into the crack, when he heard snow crack above him.

 

He managed to push himself backwards off of the rocks and into a diving leap just in time, as only moments afterwards, a Bortha was occupying the space he’d previously been in. It was covered in snow, and judging by what he’d noticed, had probably jumped down from higher up.

 

It stood about two heads taller than him, and it was a muscular one. It’s mouth was open, revealing multiple lines of fangs going its entire (rather long) length. And its eyes were focused on one thing, and one thing only…

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Starshot

 

A Bortha! But wait...the Bortha had laid a trap, it seemed. Hiding above the cave. Were they really that smart? He couldn't recall...it was hard to recall such intricacies when faced with endless rows of teeth. He even felt his scar tingle. 

 

But he had faced teeth, and claws, and all sorts of other hunters over the years. And they had been many years. He was not one to falter in the face of fear, for Instinct had taken over. He rolled to one knee, and brought his rifle to bear. At this range...I can't miss....

 

He fired a blast at the creature without thinking. And, at the back of his mind, he felt disturbed - he should be thinking. Something was eluding him. 

 

This is not what it seems?

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GM

 

The blast struck, right in the creature’s torso, between its arms. A Bortha could stand on just its legs, yes, but they hardly ever did. They were front-heavy, and in most cases used their arms to support themselves. Their arms were also specialized tools of killing, which only meant you had to watch out more when facing one directly. Large claws, probably meant to break through the carapaces of prey on their homeworld, but also not something one wanted to have crashing into them.

 

It didn’t act, however. It just stood there, eyeing Oskar, staring him down, looking like it would act at any point. But it seemed that the blast had done something, as it seemed discouraged from a direct attack, at least for the moment.

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Star Shot

 

Dead or alive? Dead would be easier...

 

Some instinct made him...what? Feel sorry for the creature? Feel something strange about the whole situation? What was it? Empathy? Respect?

 

Introspection was for moments of dark brooding, not for the blood of battle. But the will to act might bend, if not cease. Backing off, he pumped the under carriage of his plasma rifle, loading a web-shell. 

 

Without pausing for aim, but relying on guts and experience, he fired. The plasma flowed into the expanding net, that glistened and fizzed like an orange web as it flowered, opening up and ready to take the Bortha into it's caress...

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GM

 

The net opened, and even if the Bortha tried to escape, it was not fast enough. Not at this range, not without any previous momentum. The net struck the tip of its maw, and from there, engulfed it all around. It was a large creature, but the net was made to keep that in mind. It wrapped around, and soon the Bortha fell to the ground, the additional weight of the net having its effect.

 

And even if it looked like it was done for good, the Bortha didn’t give up just yet. It couldn’t move it’s body, but it’s jaw snapped forward, trying and failing to bite the net. It also seemed like it was still able to move some muscles, the net perhaps not lasting forever. But for now, it was essentially a free shot…

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Starshot

 

Starshot gritted his teeth and snarled back at the Bortha. 

 

"Grrrr Grrrr!"

 

He never knew a Bortha back down. But this creature, he wanted to understand it. Somehow, he felt he had to take it alive. 

 

"Grrr! GRRR!" he shouted, taking a few steps forward. He was slow but purposeful. Showing no fear. 

 

I'm the boss here, you shagpile!

 

Whilst he advanced, holding his rifle in his cybernetic left hand, full of iron grip, he pulled out the small sedative injector by his hip. Perhaps he could take this thing alive after all...

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GM

 

The Bortha didn’t seem to be impressed by Starshot’s snarling. It kept its eyes focused on him, and seemed to be sizing up the net’s strength. He got closer, and still it didn’t do anything but fail to bite the net. Then, suddenly, it managed to get it’s jaw in range, and bit through the net.

 

And before he’d fully registered it, it had gotten back up onto its feet, and was charging towards him. It was slow, not nearly as fast as it was out unencumbered. Something Oskar could be very glad about, as he managed to dodge it’s body moving towards him just in time, before it tripped over the significant chunk of net still hanging behind it, and fell over, planting onto the ground again.

 

The net was broken in some places, so the Bortha was still not operating at full efficiency. But it was deceptive, it moved faster than one expected.

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Starshot

 

Starshot dove to one side, the snow flying from his boots. However fast the Bortha was, he was still the faster. Nerves spliced with techno-organic fibres made his reactions fast. Very fast. And years of doing this...

 

Damned if I am going down in the snow, bleeding red over white....

 

He shouted again, and instead of - as the Bortha would be expecting - backing off, he jumped forward. 

 

Can't remember...Bortha anatomy....where did its blood flow?

 

Never mind...

 

Lessons in alien anatomy later. He jammed his sedative gun in to the fur and fat, and pressed the trigger. A sharp needle, four inches long, extended and administered a healthy bolus of Omnisom, numbing the flesh and the brain...

 

 

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GM

 

Oskar managed to find a good spot, one that looked unprotected, and one that probably would work. It was right underneath the Bortha’s arm, a spot that hardly ever was protected on these kinds of creatures, and one that historically made for a good target.

 

He managed to get the needle in all the way, the Bortha not quick enough to react. He pushed it in, and could feel the needle struggle to get through the thick hide. The Omnisom was drained and pushed into the creature.

 

But there was no immediate effect. And Omnisom generally worked fast. It didn’t seem to affect the Bortha much. It turned it’s torso slightly, which was enough of a sign for Starshot to realize what was about to happen, and to duck while the Bortha’s axeblade tail swung through the air where he’d been just seconds before.  

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Starshot

 

Starshot flung the injector to one side, its shot spent. He had a few spare capsules, but now was not the time. The Bortha weighed a ton, and it would take an age for the poison to knock the thing out. 

 

It was a noble beast, with all its teeth and ferocity. And cunning, it seemed. 

 

He grinned a bloody grin, and tossed his rifle away. 

 

Just you and me now, beast! Let's see how tooth and claw fare against sinew and steel!

 

He crouched low, then took a few steps, before launching into a arrow-like flying kick, both legs hurtling towards the back of the beast. 

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Starshot flew through the air, and managed to connect with his kick, striking right where the beast’s spine was. He felt the damage happen. It would not be enough to disable it, but it would weaken it. He got ready to strike again, but the Bortha was not done yet. It shook itself, trying to throw its attacker off its back.

 

But before it had really managed to do so, it turned its neck around, in the right position to reach part of the back with its jaw. Conveniently, the part Oskar was currently on.  It snapped forward(backwards?) fast enough that Oskar could only dodge part of the attack, some of the teeth connecting.

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Starshot

 

The teeth sunk into his boot, and he could feel flesh part and blood flow. 

 

Another scar...

 

He lashed out with his other boot to try and peel the beast of him. The Bortha only responded with a twist of its neck and body. 

 

Wotan! He is strong!

 

Starshot span across the snow, in a daze. He was thankful of the snow to cushion the fall. He felt the cobwebs creep into his eyes. The Bortha had thrown him a few dozen feet away. He felt snow in his nose and eyes, and was almost thankful, for it provided a sharp jolt of alertness. 

 

"Come on then, beast! That all you got?"

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GM

 

The Bortha stared down and circled Starshot for a few moments, allowing him to get back up onto his feet. Did it want a proper fight, or was it simply wary of him? He couldn’t tell. But it looked ready to charge and/or pounce forward at any moment, fully stable on the uneven ground, with what little parts of the net it had not yet gotten rid off trailing behind, not strong enough to properly encumber it.  

 

And then, it suddenly got up onto just its hind legs, the three meter long body towering over Starshot. A loud cry shattered through the tranquil landscape. And before he’d had time to process it, the Bortha’s man-size claws came down onto the ground, shooting forward a wave of snow and rocks, directly at him.

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Starshot

 

Starshot had a hand on the snow. If not, he would have fallen. He could feel the tremor vibrate up him. 

 

Stronger than me...not as fast...he told himself. After all, the beast was still a beast. Stronger, larger, and quicker than it had any right to be. But it did not have his experience or will. 

 

He stood up, and ran headlong at the beast, giving it a powerful shoulder barge just under its arms. He felt the first trickle of sweat down his brow. The first gasp of breath. He could keep this up a long time, but not forever...

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GM

 

The impact of Starshot’s body meeting that of the beast had some effect. It stumbled backwards a few steps, and Oskar could feel the damage he’d done. It was still a long way from giving up, but, much like him, it was starting to feel the effects of combat. The cold air didn’t help, it just made breathing painful.

 

It stopped for just a second, then jumped forwards once more, one claw striking straight downwards, the other coming in at an angle. They were fast, and there was no way he’d be able to get through the attack by standing in one place. But he didn’t have to, his reflexes were honed enough to see an open window, one where he could still react.

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Starshot

 

"Come on! Come on!" yelled Starshot, full of livid blood. By Wodin, he felt alive!  Maybe the salt of shame would hit him later, but not so much as perhaps it should. He felt like a vaguely oppressive and beautiful German Opera. 

 

He pounded one flesh fist into one metal one, and jumped again, swiping the Bortha with a right. It hit, but the real clanger was the follow up, a crushing thump with his cybernetic hand, straight into the chest. Even Starshot could feel the splintering impact there. 

 

""You put up a noble fight, but you never stood a chance!" 

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GM

 

It all felt like it happened in slow-motion. The claw came down, but Starshot stood his ground. Moving as fast as he could, he batted it to the side with one arm, a short application of kinetic force, and then had a great opportunity.  The first punch was strong, it had already made the beast stagger backwards. The follow-up was even stronger. It had to connect with some sort of organ or bone, because only moments after it connected, the Bortha collapsed.

 

It fell unconscious and its legs gave out, dropping it to the ground, the impact creating a bit more shaking. And then, everything was quiet again. The massive beast, with all of its new wounds, just lying there.

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