Prologue - The Story thus far
Eight years have passed from the destruction of Buenos Aires on Terra; and the great war between The Humans and Arachnids is still at rage.
Never before was the future of the human race threatened to such an extent.
Never before was the fragility of our existence so clear.
Reported Human casualties (KIA, MIA) : 73,065,600...
In the last 8 years the Terran Unity claimed numerous systems, defeated Klendathu bugs in hundreds of battles; - but every battle had casualties, and each dead human was a small victory for the bugs.
Enormous breeding rate of the Arachnids is the corner stone of their society. Even the most sophisticated weapons can not cope with that. Weapons are useless if there is no one to use them.
4 years ago it was noticed that the Arachnids started expanding to new systems much faster and more aggressive then ever before, contaminating even the planets they lost in previous battles. Intelligence reported obvious increase of the bug IQ factor; brain bugs have assimilated enough prisoners to understand some of the basic Terran strategies. In one incident they launched several waves of meteors to the heart of a human inhabitated system, and although every meteor was destroyed, bugs have managed to sneak couple of spores; infected two out of 5 planets and produce new colonies; thus producing fear in the general public. As a counter measure, Terran Unity established 24 hrs/day monitoring in hope to detect bug spores before they hit targeted planets.
That effort was, however, futile. Orbit bombardment was not efficient and the fleet losses were heavy.
The only way to take a planet is from the land. "Bug City", or the main colony, is always located under the ground surface. Destroying the colonies with seeking nuclear warheads is not effective, due to the specific design of the tunnel systems. Three years ago Terran Unity realized that the war cannot be won with these odds. Production rate of the insects is way beyond the human numbers and capabilities.
Decision was made: investing in new technologies and even more training for all MI members. Every man is important. Soon, first elite commando squads were tested, with encouraging results. Bugs can detect all large activities in the orbit of their planets and that results in increased defense measures. However, small crafts can pass undetected. Games and Theory tests produced this very useful strategy:
After the Skimmers drop the commandos, OA tactical bombers attack the main bug batteries. Commando units then locate one of the colony's ventilation tunnels and eliminate the patrolling warriors. At this point MI have around 20 minutes (or less, depending on the colony size and/or presence of the brain bug) before their intrusion is detected, so speed is very important. What follows is penetration through all "checkpoints" as close to the main chamber as possible. Depending of the mission briefing and on-field events, commandos either place the "bait", a sophisticated thermonuclear device masked with pheromones, onto the path of the bug drones, or at any of the surrounding tunnels. Drones, the workers, won't attack, and usually will not alert other bugs. However, they will detect the pleasant smell of the pheromones, misinterpret it for food and carry it back to their city.
Extreme caution and stealth is required because the inner tunnels are heavily guarded. All commando units have to use special pheromone-based sprays, which masks their scent with the scent of worker bugs. Somewhere around this point intrusion into the colony is detected and MI commandos will have to fight their way out and to the extraction point. Probability of success is much higher than all of the previous tactics could achieve. 80% of commandos usually survive. Timer on the planted thermonuclear device is usually set to 20 minutes. 10 kiloton detonation either heavily damages the colony or destroys it completely. After the detonation MI sweeps the ground, destroys all remaining threats, and terminates the colony if it is still active.
You play the roll of a veteran MI Trooper, promoted one week ago to the Elite Commando units. Your orders are to board a ship to the heavily infected KALIATHO star system and report to the temporary MI HQ.
Chapter I - Meridian Hell
You felt a sudden rush of adrenaline when the drop ship disembarked. A large and satisfied "clunk" from the electromagnetical locks was followed by sizzling noise while the oxygen was sucked out - the drop ship was launched. Sudden force pushed you upwards and your brain screamed, confused with the sudden change of the gravity pool and the immense pressure on the body.
This will be your final drop with the "Devilheads"; last week you've received a letter from the Elite Commando HQ about the transfer - and a promotion.
Internal heat increased as the ship hit the atmosphere. Deep sound from the engines could be heard now - quiet and calm at the beginning and suddenly ripping through your ears as the 02 level increased. Then, more roars as the other Skimmers followed yours on the way in.
Pilot's voice flipped in your comm: "KZZT - ETA 2 minutes and counting... Distance 500 clicks. Expect some shaking' - we gotta change the entry angle ..."
You take a look at your friends - eyes wide open, the empty stare - almost all of them aged veterans with over 50 battles behind, just like you... Devilheads never talked during a drop, this is a time for making piece with yourself. There are some rookies, to replace the ones killed - they are surprisingly quiet. Fear perhaps...
Why did ECU choose you? This is a big honor, but these guys are maniacs - you've heard the stories; everyone has. Refusing is not an option. Advantages are rare. Anyway, you have to report to Starship Sparta and then take the ride to Kaliatho - another hellhole of the galaxy you never heard of.
The orders didn't say to whom should you report on the Sparta though. ECU is mysterious as always.
"KZZT - Report from base station alpha boys; plasma battery opened at 120-12, 33-4; your mission brief was correct - for a change. ETA 1 minute"
Red light indicated that the Skimmer pilot prepped the disconnect system of the container - he must be in a hell of a hurry to get out of here. Wise man.
Your team is in the first wave, your mission is to find and close all bug holes in 500 m perimeter and secure the area for next drops, and then to eliminate Plasma batteries. Nothing spectacular, only hard work.
"KZZT - OK guys, 30 secs left. Get ready for contact."Pullback systems kicked in and nailed you down to your seat, whistle of maneuvering engines caused resonance noise of the plate -- to think; so much money spent on the Skimmers and they can't fix this goddamn noise.
Big clunk and shake again - Touchdown! Green lights lit up the space; counter of the door cooling system began the countdown as everyone stared at the large green numbers- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, then blinking "0"- laughing to everyone's fear.
Now it's your turn to do the talking.
"Go go GO GOD DAMMIT" Quick foot kick in the door - smoke and dust filled the interior in a matter of seconds. Red desert planet had two suns - both were high on the sky and as you took a quick look at your Skimmer - taking off already. Two more were landing near.
Suddenly, a scream broke out through the noise of engines; "Warriors! 3 o'clock!" - You turned right just in time to see several more shrieking jaws coming from the 1:00 FAST. Devilheads opened fire from their Liquifiers, but it was a split second too late, and the defense circle was penetrated, exposing everyone to the hideously sharp claws. One warrior caught Becker by surprise - and decapitated him.
"szzzZZ- WHAM!" - You pumped a round from the Corroder, it passed straight through Becker's bleeding body and scattered the Warrior to gory bits.
"Troopers die on order only - no more deaths in my platoon - do you get me!?" Your anger was sincere and embossed when another Warrior sucked a Corroder projectile, covering you with some green goo and still moving parts of the Warrior chitine exosceleton.
"Shit!" - you muttered and wiped off what you could. A lot of it didn't come off though.
Gorta smirked a little - only for a moment.
The immediate area was clear, but you've lost a men already. All of this happened in less than 15 seconds - the other teams were in now and the situation under control. Too late to be useful, as always.
You activated the comm - "HQ Dragons 5 here - main perimeter stat green, proceeding with phase two, over."
"kzzz- roger Dragons 5 green confirmed; commence next stage, over and out"- and then turned to your team; "Report!"
Gorta briefed: "1 dead, 0 injured, comm on place, nukes green and hot."
"OK guys time to kill some bugs. No feelings now - put your emotions to good use and revenge Becker. We are taking over NW approach. Set mission timer on 3... 1, 2; SET!"
Quick scan of the horizon; there they are, plasma bursts, leaving the atmosphere; that's your target. Once they're down, orbital bombers can take the position and make a nice flat valley out of those damn hills.
"swarm of warriors, no, make that two, confirm two swarms from 1:00 approaching, top ground speed - threat level red" - troopers scrambled.
This looks like another long day.
Chapter II - What's Kaliatho
You were standing in the line of Starship Sparta's troop bay when the ECU officer saluted and approached.
"You sure did take your time. Cabin 34-2, bridge 3. Takeoff is in 3 hours, report to the temp ECU HQ on planet 4 after arrival - just ask when you get there. More info once you reach the home base. All clear? Right."
"He didn't wait for your answer and disappeared from the bay in a matter of seconds. Typical ECU surprises.After leaving your stuff at the cabin, you decide to learn something more about this Kaliatho system. It never crossed your mind you could end up - there.
You approached the nearest terminal typed the query. Pale blue screen soon lit up with the information you requested.
FEDNET ARCHIVE LIBRARY REQUESTED DATA: KALIATHO COLONIZATION >> Colonization: Sector 12: Kaliatho >> ... Chapter 75
...thus, colonization of Kaliatho system is in a very early stage. As explained before, 2 planets are habitable, one of them, planet 3 has climate structure very similar to Earth. However, colonization was started before the planets were studied correctly.
Somewhat bigger than Earth, with temperatures varying from 25 - 40 degrees Celsius summer, planet 3 was found by Terraforming colonists to be very rich with important minerals, and suitable for agricultural purposes. Water was found at only one point in the southern mountain range, and base construction started 6 weeks ago.
Since the Kalitaho infestation was detected, system have been more carefully studied, and certain interesting conclusions have been found.
Planet 3 range has strong seismical activity, specially in the mountains. Once every 30 Terran years, planet 3 reaches a specific position with in relation with other planets, when seismical activity is reaching it's climax.
Thus, face of the planet is constantly changing, with new caves and tunnels forming constantly. Reports from planet 3 indicated the possibility of Arachnid infestation. Several tunnels of unknown origin were found.
One week ago, automated S.O.S. signal was detected coming from the planet surface. Intelligence reports indicate 75% possibility of increased bug activity due to increased seizmic disturbances.
Latest news in: Starship Sparta is currently on route to Kaliatho and will perform Orbital scanning of the planet 3.
Would you like to know more about: COLONIZATION? >> FEDNET service 24h/day
Thank you for using FEDERAL NETWORK archive library.
Great. Nothing about ECU - no surprise, they are still a top secret stuff. But what is ECU doing there anyway? This couldn't be good.
You returned to the cabin and some hour or so later dozed off while Sparta was preparing for the launch.
Chapter III - Aboard Sparta
Klaxons awakened you from a shallow sleep.
"Red Alert. Warning to all crew members. Warning to all crew members. This is not an exercise. Red alert. This is not an exercise."
You ran out from your cabin into the corridor and stopped nearby fleet cadet. "Whatta hell is happening?"
"Bug Plasma! They spotted us from the planet somehow! I don't think we can evade..."
You returned to the cabin for your gear when it happened. First it was a strong impact, then a slight pause; as if the time has stopped, then strong explosion again; somewhere far but god it was SO NEAR.
Evacuate lights turned on. The crash caused you to hit your head in something - and the world faded away...Blurred images in front of your eyes were out powered and focused by the noise of screeching metal mixed with the sharp pain in your head. Quick look at the timer - shit - you've just lost 10 precious minutes.
"Red Alert. Red Alert. Proceed to nearest Escape pod. Red Alert...."Your brain didn't register rest of the message, as you rushed to the doors...
...only to realize they are stuck. "Anybody out there?!" - only klaxons could be heard.
Everyone is off the ship, or dead. You have to find a exit, and an escape pod, before this whole ship becomes nothing more than handful of space dust.
At times like these, you know why you don't like starships - at all...
Chapter IV - The Game
It's up to you to discover what's hapenning in the Kaliatho... are the colonists still alive... Of course, to do so, you will need to escape off Sparta first.
Good Luck! You're gonna need it...