SG: Aurora #43 - Old Friends II - Part One of Five
frobozz at eyrie.org
Wed Dec 29 19:58:38 PST 2004
The Ninety Second Recap
Aurora -- a Canadian organization dedicated to protecting the public
against supernormal threats as well as interfacing with existing
superguys and providing essential services to them -- has just recently
investigated the Changeling Society, which is a fellowship of survivors
of the Days of Hell(tm) on Earth. Though initially suspected of having a
sinister agenda, the Society's spiritual leader was found to simply want
to make a grand statement to the world at the end of a march on Aurora's
headquarters: a surface-to-orbit Beanstalk which is located in southern
Tensions ran high on both sides, as confrontations normally do, but
the march seemed to be a peaceful one until an unknown third party
assassinated the Reverend from afar. This was a spark struck in an
oxygen-rich environment, which caused both Aurora's troops and the
Changelings participating in the march to take up arms against one
Meanwhile, inside the Beanstalk, Arthur Doyle -- Computer
Personality and current head of Aurora -- was locked down from his own
computer systems. He was then captured and tortured by an unnamed
assailant and his own lady-love, Colleen.
Outside the Beanstalk, Al Peterson has assumed control of Aurora's
power-armoured troopers, splitting them up into two squadrons, both of
which will attempt the Beanstalk's highest levels separately in the
hopes that their change of tactics will confuse these far-too-prepared
invaders. The troopers use a transponder system to allow themselves
through the otherwise-impenetrable shield which blankets the Beanstalk,
but destroy said transponder once inside so that no one can use the
system to get back out again. Cut off from the outside world, the
troopers make their initial foray, which is to raid the day care level
of the Beanstalk and remove the children still there back to the first
level, where a few of the troopers stay behind, guarding the children in
a reasonably secure location. Meanwhile, the two squads have split up
and begun their individual climbs. Peterson's squad has been making good
time up the 'stalk, but not as good as he'd like. During a sleep-break
from the climb, he lost three companions to unknown forces and had to
resume the climb without them.
Arthur Doyle remains in his captors' custody, subjected to torture
in the hopes that he will turn his coat and join with the enemy. His
silent partner, Xenophon (and also a Computer Person), has managed to
slip Doyle's bonds on several occasions and render help. Peterson and
company engaged in their first fire-fight with the enemy, who had
managed to ambush them via the elevators. Outside, Rae has been able to
communicate within the supposedly impenetrable shield, informing those
within of their enemy's identity.
Meanwhile, inside the Beanstalk the as yet unidentified enemy is
tentatively identified as hailing from the Superguy altiverse
001SUPERGUY, with which Aurora had brief dealings some time ago. Worse,
it is revealed that the first head of Aurora - one Nicholas Treis - was
left in the care of 001's Aurora counterpart, Strike Force Borealis, to
recover from an assassination attempt. Peterson calls a halt to their
ascension in order to give his troops a fast party, in the hopes that it
will keep their spirits raised for the trek ahead. Sentries report that
Borealis is moving towards their position. Aurorean troops set up a
defensive line and successfully hold off the opposing forces, but due to
a quisling in their ranks, Peterson takes a disabling wound. Following
protocol, DeVrai is put in charge of the troops and continues upwards,
while Peterson and Chambers (who has herself sustained significant
armour damage) stay behind.
Nicholas Treis wakes up in his prison in 001 and realises that he's
been a bird kept in a gilded cage for too long. Despite being an old
man, he overcomes his physical limitations and makes an escape attempt.
Meanwhile, in 000, Peterson and Chambers hear someone headed for
their position. They draw weapons and prepare to make a final stand...
only to discover that they've been found by Clark, leading the other
half of Aurora's troops. They exchange supplies, but Clark is forced to
move on while Peterson and Chambers remain behind, as Peterson's wounds
and lack of fully functional powered armour would just slow down the
Meanwhile, Langely -- a trooper who had been captured during a brief
sortie some time earlier -- is subject to mind-breaking torture, until
finally the promise that one of her command has been killed for her
intractability, which causes her to break and agree to her captors'
terms. The troops under DeVrai's command climb upwards, pausing to rest,
whereupon they discover the long-lost and somewhat changed Doug deep in
meditation, patiently waiting for his chance to hook up with the rest of
Aurora to do some damage.
In the virtual world, Xenophon realises that something big is about
to happen in the computer networks and begins to unpack the computer
intelligence that he both created and slew, BARD, knowing that he is
going to need some help in the storm to come. And Doyle's will is
finally broken by his captors, giving them access to the Beanstalk's
Which is where we last left our intrepid adventurers...
Chris Angelini/Frobozz Magic Productions
Mademoiselle Muse Inc
-in association with-
'We Didn't Mean To Colour The Sky Pink, Honest!'
Industrial Special Effects and Magic
The Overworked and Underpaid Lisa MacDougall (producer)
"Old Friends II"
'Keys to Ascension'
If it looks like a trap and smells like a trap and quacks like a
trap, the odds are good that it's either a trap or else a very
This was an old bromide that had tended to prove truer than one might
expect in almost every situation involving the retaking of a
surface-to-orbit skyhook from hostile forces under extreme supply
conditions. Considering that this situation has come up exactly once in
the history of Earth, it's a testament to the adaptability of the good
troopers of Aurora that they had been able to survive the rigorous
testing that this chestnut required.
The codicil to this particular saying is that sometimes, through the
whimsical grace of the dear lady Murphy (with whom all soldiers are
acquainted by professional understanding), what looks like a trap
actually turns out not to be a trap after all. When the exception proves
true, it tends to leave those who experience it reeling in stunned
DeVrai, current acting commander of half Aurora's armoured troops,
watched in stunned disbelief as his men marched yet another prisoner out
of the command post that they had taken not ten minutes prior. The
soldier resisted the urge to pat himself down to feel whether or not his
body felt any lighter for no longer possessing a soul, only a pact with
Hell(tm) could possibly have delivered a strings-free coup like this
into his lap.
"Wish they c'd all be tha' easy," remarked Doug, as he passed by
DeVrai, leading a now very intoxicated prisoner towards the improvised
detention centre that had been tricked up to kennel their POWs. Though
utterly impractical for much else, Doug's mystical sword Kegtopper was
absolutely fantastic for both incapacitating enemy combatants for later
capture, and for the aprez-sortie kegger party. With the power to pass
through solid matter and increase the blood-alcohol level of its
victims, Kegtopper made for a devastatingly effective weapon against
armoured foes... provided one factored in the difficulty of getting a
soft-target like Doug into sword range with an armoured target
mid-battle. The Auroreans had experimented with a form of Booze Tactics
in today's battle, keeping back a two-man screening force to protect
Doug until the battle's tempo ebbed in Aurora's favour, at which point
they moved him forward to pick off a few choice captives. Sadly, though
the rest of the battle had been a complete success, use of Doug in this
way had been a dismal failure - for though he had managed to capture all
but one of his targets, this hadn't really made up for what DeVrai would
have gained by committing those two armours to the battlefield from the
beginning. It would all become so much easier if he could only get Doug
into some sort of hard candy shell, and the sooner the better...
Still, Doug was right. Despite that one tactical flaw, the battle had
been a rousing success, and that was not one equine endowment that
DeVrai was going to look in the mouth.
"You and me both," replied DeVrai, surveying the battlefield. "How
many captives is that all told? No one's summed it up for me."
"Six," replied Doug, after a moment of thought and finger-counting.
"Yeah, six. Four crocked t'th'gills, 'n two all shook up. Doc's lookin'
at onne've those, 'n he ain't sure he's gon' pull through."
"Tell him..." DeVrai sighed, at a loss for what to say. Their medic
was called 'Doc' strictly as a strained courtesy at this point - he was
the trooper who had pulled the highest rating in their First Aid
orientation course. No one had anticipated being this long away from
medicine, care and backup, so the mission had become a creative study in
the art of Making Do. Sadly, there was only so much that a man with
extensive knowledge of splinting could do for more than light wounds
taken during a battle. At least the Tornado armour that the troopers
wore had on-board emergency health systems, though those only shifted a
little of the load off of human shoulders and did nothing for the men
and women that they captured from the other side. "Tell him to do his
best," he finished with a sigh. "We're not barbarians. We'll keep them
alive if we can. Just make sure we he does everything he can."
"Y'gots it," replied Doug, giving DeVrai's armoured shoulder a beefy
pat. "'n' don't worry... I been givin' the guy wit' th' worst o'it a few
tastes o' the keg!"
"You--" DeVrai opened his mouth to chide Doug for his flippancy, then
closed it again with an effort as he saw the sincerity in the man's
expression. It was hard to accept that Doug was actually... thinking...
these days. Admittedly, he was not thinking terribly well all the time,
and he still pulled off a major bone-headed mistake or two, but he
actually seemed to reason things through before committing to a course
of action. If he was intoxicating the man, reasoned DeVrai, then there
might be a reason why. Rather than exploding at Doug, it was more fair
to ask him to explain himself and -then- explode. "--are? Why?"
"On 'count of he's in a whole lotta pain," replied Doug, with a shrug
and an uncomfortable look. "'n we're gettin' real low on those general
drugs, 'n the doc's not sure we c'n do anything for'm but makin' him
more comfort'ble. So... y'know, why not? I mean sure he'll g'off to the
Afters wit' th' biggest hangover this sidda Bangkok or Bangor or
wherever, but s'better'n spendin' yer lasts dead-sober wishin' you wuz
"Yeah," replied DeVrai, untangling that, knot-by-verbal-knot. "I
think you're right."
"'sides, I accidentally nicked 'im wit' the sword when I was passin'
by, oops, gotta get this guy t'the stockade!"
And with that, Doug hustled his prisoner past, leaving DeVrai behind
to sigh. Doug was still the Fool of Fate, but at least he was on their
side. There was no telling what would happen if he had started working
for the enemies. For one thing, the opposing side's parties would be a
Hell(tm) of a lot better than Aurora's. And that just couldn't be
allowed to happen.
"Sir," called a voice to DeVrai's left. He turned to see one of the
two scouts who had discovered this outpost approaching. Oh good, this
ought to be interesting, DeVrai thought as he moved to meet him. When
the troops had reached this level with intent to bed down for the night,
he'd sent out the scouts same as always to recon for enemy presence.
They'd returned with an interesting story playing out on their
tell-tales and camera logs: they had found a small garrison sitting here
on low-alert, looking at a guess as though it was being set up as a
jumping off point to move troops quickly to nearby levels should trouble
break out there. They could see plenty of communications equipment
laying around, just waiting to be set up. They could see plenty of
repair and resupply facilities being assembled. And best of all, they
could even see that the base was painfully under strength.
Immediately, everyone was positive that this was a trap. But after
some discussion, it was realised that if this base had been meant as a
trap, it was perhaps the most expensive trap possible for the least
likely return: after all, there was no guarantee that the troops would
stop on this particular level come break-time. Was the enemy committing
small troops and large amounts of materiel to levels all over the map,
hoping that Aurora would blunder into one of them?
No, that was not terribly likely. In fact, what was far more likely
was that there were traps on nearby levels, and this was meant to be the
place from which they would be sprung. If the enemy assumed that the
troops were still climbing up elevator shafts to reach their
destinations, they might well have decided that they had another few
days to get this jumping-off point set up before the enemy arrived in
Well, the enemy's loss would be Aurora's gain. DeVrai and his troops
had managed to set up a reasonable facsimile of an attack, taking the
invaders almost completely by surprise. Knowledge of ductwork and ready
floor-plans were at times far better weapons than all the rifles and
missiles in the world, when surprise was a factor. DeVrai didn't
entirely trust this lucky break to be as good as it seemed, but as long
as it had fallen his way then he was going to take advantage of it for
so long as it would last.
"Go ahead," DeVrai answered the scout with a nod.
"I've been playing channel-tag with the commos we've captured," began
the scout, his voice sounding both amused and pained. "Got the good news
and got the bad news for you."
"Good news first," replied DeVrai, hoping against hope that the scout
was just lying about the bad.
"Yessir. Not a whole lot gets transmitted on the clear by these guys.
Not that we expected anything different."
"But you can learn a lot from what does get said and what doesn't.
Me'n a couple of the boys, well, we can't tell you what exactly anyone's
actually saying, but we've got a decent idea some of the patterns of
check-ins and call'n'answer going on. The better news is that if you can
get one of our prisoners to spill the proverbial beans about the codes,
we're all set to gain ourselves an intelligence coup like you wouldn't
"You had good news for me," replied DeVrai. "I already don't believe
this, but as Elvis is my witness, I'm grateful for it. Anything after
that's gravy. Now that I'm buttered-up, what's the bad news?"
The scout sighed, reaching behind his head to scratch his neck in an
unconscious gesture that had become the de facto standard of sheepish
gestures ever since the forelock had gone out of style.
"The bad news, sir, is that I believe, but can't be certain, that
we've had three calls directed our way and no way to answer 'em. Regular
pattern, but if the pattern's as regular as we think, it's just gone
quiet this time 'round..."
"All the other patterns are unchanged?"
"Regular as my dog after mistaking the metamuscil for his food, sir."
"Stow the folksy responses for the duration of this mission," DeVrai
snapped, then sighed. "That's a warning to us that we wouldn't have
otherwise had. Good work, soldier. You know what the reward is for that,
"Yessir. The reward for good work is more and harder work, sir."
"You've got it in one, trooper. I need you to spread the word down
the line: no settling in. Everyone's got to be ready to bug out at a
moment's notice. That means that we need to figure out what to do with
the prisoners, and intel needs to be packed and ready to go yesterday."
"Yessir. Anything else, sir?"
"Get the other scouts together. I've got a sentry job for you.
Dollars to doughnuts that we're going to have visitors sooner rather
[[CONTINUED IN PART TWO -- NOW WITH LIME!]]
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