Mission 3: Sitatha Canyons

Mission synopsis

Briefing

SCAMPS here. It's about time you all finally arrived. You assholes clearly don't have enough fun making my life hell if you have to take your sweet time doing it, too. In the interest of making your life more interesting, I have a particularly fun mission to give you, straight from up-top. You lucky sons of bitches actually managed to snag an elite mission this time, though HADES assured me that the brass think you can handle it. Just for the record: I laughed in his face. Even the smartest of you dumb shits can't even handle hypodermic needles properly, so I highly doubt you can take an elite job. And yet, HADES' word is law. I hope you retards know what you're getting into.

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Welcome to Sitatha. Isn't it lovely? The only more barren, dismal landscape you'll ever see is the inside of your own damn skull. The ice giant it orbits is far enough from its Class K parent star for Sitatha to freeze solid and lose its geological activity. As you might expect… it hasn’t. At first we guessed that the planet was nearing its Roche limit, and we also considered its resonance with its sister moons. Nope. When our astronomers took measurements, they discovered the moon was already inside that limit.

To give you an analogy even the densest individuals here can understand, the stuff happening to this moon is like if you'd decided to jump under a crash-landing battlecruiser. Your life would end - and it would be well deserved. Sitatha's life should've ended a long time ago too. It shouldn't even exist. …Yes, it's that kind of day again.

Of course, we wanted to know more. What was an earth-sized world doing inside its Roche limit? We sent a few probes to scout it out, and they found some very peculiar low-energy patterns… One of them emanated from a cave system beneath a mountain. That signal has since disappeared, but we planned on sending you guys down to investigate anyway. The other signal… well, that was where it really got interesting. It matches that of the Quantum Orb you found in Chilendorn, but we can't get close enough to verify.

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This is the last clear image we got from our drones, which seem to be in the habit of getting the crap blasted out of them. I'm blaming our shitty engineers. If you notice, there are what appear to be shields stretching their way across the holoimage - except those aren't shields. We don't have a fukcing clue what they are. Stranger still, this area is completely devoid of lava, and we've even found traces of water vapor. I don't even know how the hell that's possible, but my astrogeologists suggest it's the dome's fault somehow.

Given that this is a high level mission, you'll have multiple objectives to complete, and I expect you to fulfill every single one of them. First, figure out what the hell that dome is and why the damn moon isn't frozen solid. Second, if the artifact we've detected is indeed a Quantum Orb, retrieve it intact. That means you, Squidhead. None of that shit you pulled last time - we need the base of it too. To that end, thanks to Hema's scans of Mimir's specimen, we're providing each of you with a specialized toolkit for the job. And finally, as a side objective, up-top wants Dinosawer to touch the damn thing again, and for one of you to scan him while he does. I want a successful, deep-level scan of his brain, of the highest quality you can muster - and you only get one shot. If you get it, there may be something in it for you. If you don't… LAMBDA will probably pick apart his brain and that'll be the end of him.

At this point, I should probably mention that we already sent one veteran team down to investigate: Platoon 373, led by one of our finest lieutenant colonels. They got the crap blasted out of them just like the drones. The only transmissions I received were them screaming about limited visibility and some kind of attack. When the dust settled, their ships were scattered across the canyon like your brain cells on a Monday. It was a total wipe. I don't get many of those. Naturally, I was mildly unhappy about it, and strongly advised up-top that they should send a better team - optimally a multi-platoon, joint strike force led by one of our Major Generals. At first, that was going to happen. Then I got word from HADES there had been a change of plans - apparently because one of you shits decided to poke your nose in places it didn't belong. I'm sure you'll all want to offer Dinosawer your thanks.

We don't know what killed Platoon 373, or why. Our limited intel suggests there may be something in the skies. Keep on your toes out there and fly low. The tougher among you should probably take the lead. Tartarus changes course in 40 minutes for routine prisoner collection, and you'll ship out in 30. Some people might be willing to drag you around with them, but I'm sure as hell not. Anybody lagging behind gets used as fertilizer. Any questions? No? Good. Get to work.

Briefing discussion

Cha0zz: "SCAMPS, would it be possible to indicate the crash sites of the previous squad on that map you gave us?"
Wow, you morons are more demanding than most of the shits that come through here. We'll give you a map when you arrive. Don't worry about that. Crash site is in the rightmost canyon. Can't miss it, but it may be a little out of your way.
Foreigner: "I don't like the look of this place. It's perfect for an ambush by an enemy of any technological level, including a horde of barbarians armed with sticks and stones.
SCAMPS, we need an overlay of all the objectives on the map. And a coordinate grid, please."
What the hell? Fine! You want your damn map, you can have it. Do you even care that I'm monitoring over two hundred other missions right now? Fukc you people. And you know what - I'm keeping the grid. You don't need it anyway. Here's your damned map.
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Introduction

You leave the room and soon arrive at the hangar's entrance, where armed guards check your identity. They let you pass into an adjoining room where you suit up, and when that's done, you climb the ramps to the zero-G loading station where the dropships are waiting. Some of the brightly lit signs on the rough structural trusses mark out a section for Platoon 56, along with the names of each squad. They already have your CASKETs attached to the appropriate dropships - all they're waiting for is you.

You soon find your ship by following the names on the signs and the directions of the armed guards - it's clamped firmly to the side of one of the vessels, with a disposable heatshield firmly grasped beneath it. The guards motion for you to get in and buckle up.

After climbing into your cockpit, the canopy closes by itself. The controls in the cockpit are dark - you are helpless to command your ship until you arrive. It will be a long flight, too - Sitatha is well out of the direction Tartarus is traveling, and the dropships will have quite a long distance to travel, even at warp 15. The order comes to "PSI Off": You lean back into your seat and hear several soft clicks as your suit's PSI jacks lock into place. As the machines take over, your consciousness fades - and everything grows dark. Before long, everything blanks out, putting you into a dreamless sleep for the duration of the flight.

~~~

Your consciousness switches back on like a light. For a moment, you sit there, half bewildered, blinking as you try to adjust your vision to the darkness. It seems you're over Sitatha's dark side.

"Okay, wake up, assholes. You're five minutes out."

It's SCAMPS' voice - you'd recognize his harsh tones anywhere. Looking out your cockpit's canopy, you see the dark, crevassed surface of Sitatha below you, moving quickly - and up ahead, looming so large it seems to fill your entire view - the hulk of its mother planet, Aerevoh. So far from its orange-yellow Class K parent star, it seems rather dim by comparison of what you're used to. You can hardly see the dim lights of your sister dropships out on either side - the ones carrying the rest of your platoon.

SCAMPS doesn't give you much time to reflect. "The dropships are doing a flyby of the planet. They're not atmosphere-worthy, so they're going to drop you off and let you burn your way down. Quick recap for anyone that missed it: Your mission is to figure out why the fukc Sitatha hasn't fallen apart, find the source and reason for these domes, and bring back the Quantum Orb if it exists." Then he adds, "Pilots, you ready? Three minutes left to drop."

"Roger," you hear the pilots say in response.

"Good. To clarify, dipshits, as I heard some of you were confused… you are not going to the cave systems. That's where I would have sent you. Now the elite platoon gets that job, and you get theirs, on LAMBDA's orders. In case any of you idiots didn't know, they're our high-level labs for anomalous materials. Top secret shit. I think they're a bunch of fukcing retards, but I don't get a vote." He pauses for a few more seconds. "Two minutes left."

"Roger."

"Await my signal."

The seconds pass. The planet appears to turn as you orbit around it, heading to the side nearest Aerevoh. You'll be landing in twilight.

"Thirty seconds. Initiate retroburn sequence and prepare to drop."

As one, the group of six dropships begin firing their thrusters towards the planet. The plan is to throw you off into the planet's atmosphere without them having to enter as well.

Unfortunately, things never go as planned.

At that moment, your cockpit begins to flash with color as bright purple streaks light up the sky.

"SHIT! Receiving heavy AA fire!" one of the pilots shouts. "Trying to evade - oh FUCK!"

Out your canopy, you watch as one of the dropships takes a series of direct hits. It explodes, bursting into fragments and flinging its attached CASKETs in all directions.

"Dropship six is down! Repeat, dropship six is down!"

"Stay your course and get ready to drop! Only twenty seconds left!"

The AA plasma continues to stream past; your dropship shakes from an explosion underneath but stays its course.

"Dropship five under heavy fire!" another shouts. "Where the hell is this even coming from?!"

"SCAMPS, we need the drop order NOW! We're not going to survive another thirty seconds of this!"

There's a brief silence; finally, SCAMPS' voice comes through - shaky with static. "DO IT! DROP!" he shouts. "DO IT NOW and get the hell out of there!"

You hear the loud clash of metal and a sharp grinding sound - the dropship flings you from its side into the darkness, while it continues to rocket upwards and away. The comms fall silent; you hear nothing but your own breathing. The purple plasma continues to flash - but they're firing at the dropships, and not at you. The shots continue to stream past for a few moments, but then they slow to a stop. You check your controls; your ship has power.

Out beneath you stretches the vast, rocky purple-blue landscape of Sitatha. Suddenly, with a pop, a parachute opens above you - the vista rolls in front of you as your CASKET orients itself with the ground, your parachute fluttering in the thin atmosphere. All around you, you see your allies from your squad - and those from another squad - you drift into a close formation as you fall. The heatshields beneath your allies begin to glow, and soon blaze with a fury; your ship shakes, rattling your teeth as you begin to slow down in the dense Sitathan atmosphere. This lasts hardly a minute - the red-orange streaks from the heatshields soon fade as you slow down to more acceptable levels, and another parachute opens; it flips your CASKET upside down and rips the depleted heatshield away from your electromagnetic clamps. The first parachute turns you back upright as you continue your descent, and you use your RCS thrusters to finish deaccelerating.

Suddenly, the air about you changes - everything changes. Only too late do you realize you've fallen into the Quantum dome. You were never supposed to be here - you're falling too far north of the drop point. You start to try to correct your mistake, but then decide that at this point, you can't. You continue falling towards the ground, but put all your effort into making sure you slow down in time.

SQUADS 1 AND 4
The sky about you thickens with dust; you almost think you see some kind of shape through the murky fog - but as to how large it is, or how far away, you have no idea… and you soon fall into a narrow canyon with the rest of your squad.

The comms are dead. SCAMPS' usual annoying voice is silent… which is a pity. It would be nice if you knew what the hell was going on… and where the rest of your platoon was.

You bring your ship down to a hover near the ground, and then catch sight of another squad doing the same nearby. At least you have some friends to keep you company.

SQUAD 2
The sky about you thickens with dust. The terrain beneath you is far too rough for a landing - you shift your CASKET over to the side, following Hema's lead - and your squad all lands in a dark, kilometer-wide pit.

No sooner do you reach the ground, slowing to a stop just above its surface, than a dim bluish glow illuminates the area around you - you crane your neck upwards and see that another dome has formed up above. It looks like some kind of shield. You let your eyes drift downwards towards your surroundings and then realize - this is more than a pit. This is an entrance into some kind of dark cave to the north, lined with what looks to be some kind of structure… perhaps alien. In the very center of it all, not even fifty meters away, is some kind of small, shielded alien building, seemingly generating both shields.

The comms are dead. SCAMPS' usual annoying voice is dead… which is a pity. It would be nice if you knew what the hell was going on… and where the rest of your platoon was.

SQUAD 3
The sky about you thickens with dust; you almost think you see some kind of shape through the murky fog, but as to how large it is, or how far away - you have no idea. You soon slow yourself to a hovering stop just above the surface of a narrow, rocky ridge with the rest of your squad.

The comms are dead. SCAMPS' usual annoying voice is silent… which is a pity. It would be nice if you knew what the hell was going on… and where the rest of your platoon was. You thought you saw them fall somewhere to the northeast, but it's difficult to be sure.

Up to the northwest, though, far across the dusty, windswept ridge, you see something that catches your attention: some kind of small alien structure. It might be worth investigating… but then again, perhaps it wouldn't be wise to go alone.

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Just then, you hear a voice over the comms. "Did anyone else make it? This is Kalla - we've landed… God, I don't even know where. It's not on the maps. Can anyone hear me?"

Squads

Maps

Turns and highlights

Turn # System events Player action summaries
Briefing SCAMPS briefs Platoon 56 about the mission
Turn 0 Second blue dome appears The Platoon gets dropped; dropship five and six get shot at; drop is initiated prematurely; the squads land scattered over the map (or, in case of Squad 5 and 6, outside the map)
Turn 1 People start to move to the nearest interesting thing; Dr Cha0zz determines the quadrant of the map the AA turret(s) are in; People fail at computers
Turn 2 SCAMPS reinitiates contact; the planet starts to decellerate Dr. Cha0zz's and Dinosawer's squads explore the wreckage of Platoon 373; Francis got attacked (presumably by the sky-beasts) and crash-landed
Turn 3 Dinosawer's squad encounters a forest of spikes; Dr. Cha0zz's squad discovers more about Platoon 373's crash site; Squad 2 goes back to try to break into some nearby buildings
Turn 4 Hema's squad attacked by minidrones; Foreigner/Nequebah attacked by a hunter-seeker; Quackshot attacked by Giant Vine Monster; Squad 4 under attack by giant drones
Turn 5 Dr. Cha0zz's squad dives into canyon, attacked by skybeasts; Dr. Cha0zz breaks his arm; Dino and Squid defeat the superdrones; Quackshot escapes the vines but goes into shock from broken wrist; Blake rescues Francis
Turn 6 Trigger makes everyone regret bringing him along; Hema severely wounded and unconscious; Dr. Cha0zz and friends retreat into cave; Blake knocked from sky by skybeasts; Squidhead destroys a couple miniturrets
Turn 7 NPC warning from Kalla Squad 2 boldly battles the minidrones; Andrew and Payback bust into AA Megaturret; Dino and Squid stumble into huge fight with four superdrones; Dr. Cha0zz's squad is in deep shit
Turn 8 Dr. Cha0zz saves his team with an EMP grenade; BFett hacks an alien door; Squidhead and Dinosawer take damage defeating two of four drones; Payback-13 wastes a grenade; Foreigner severely pisses off a vine monster; Squad 2 finishes killing the minidrones
Turn 9 Foreigner's squad barely escapes an angry plant creature; Grimm gets her leg ripped up by Bugs; Hema's squad finds a cave-in; Andrew blasts a hole in the megaturret's central column with a grenade; Blake finds a Quantum Pillar
Turn 10 Unit 4965 heals his squad's wounds, only for them to stumble into a trap; Taepilus and Ysavva rescue Grimm; BFett gets attacked by a Bug; Andrew finds a hole in the megaturret's central control pillar; Dinosawer finishes off two megadrones
Turn 11 SCAMPS re-initiates contact Blake investigates the Quantum Pillar and gets mind-controlled, attacks Foreigner; Hema's squad gets attacked in their underground trap; Dinosawer enters the megaturret's darkest depths and blows the thing up around him; Squidhead fixes Dino's horribly mangled ship; BFett barely wrestles away the last Bug and Ysavva kills it, but BFett's faceplate is ruined
Turn 12 Squad 1 tries to not make people suffocate; Squad 2 valiantly fights their attackers while Unit4965 tries to find a way to shut off the shield; Squad 3 tries to find a way to destroy the mind-control pillar; Dino just escapes the collapsing turret and Squad 4 starts moving towards Squad 1
Turn 13 Stuff happens

Mission dialog

Mission Debrief

Surviving player characters.

Surviving NPCs.

Temporarily deceased characters

These players must choose whether to resurrect their character or create a new one. Credits from this character will be lost if a new character is created, and inventory will go to whomever brought the items back.

Squad evaluations

Squad 1 (Cha0zz)

Squad 2 (Hema)

Squad 3 (Foreigner)

Squad 4 (Dinosawer)

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