The group meets back up with Ari, and notices that the repairs to the Albatross are coming along. Likewise, Ari has had a chance to refit the Light Accelerator Cannon so that it is back in service. Without much specific to do, the group relaxes and goes to sleep.
In the morning, the Blazemaster, thoroughly cleaned, buffed, and waxed is ready, and the group puts all the spare gunnery mount weapons in it’s cargo space, piles in, and takes to the off-road back to Ripple HIlls. About halfway there, coming over a small rise, they see a spiger feasting on something, but swerve and avoid the half-ton beast, as it leaps away in surprise. With no loss of control nor an impact, the drive continues.
After a 10 hour drive, they settle in for a short nap until the sun sets and the bat swarm leaves the caves, then gear up and head back into the ruins. Following the SOP, they have no trouble scattering the drop beetle swarms, proceed to the spiral stair, and descend, past the crack to the Wincher Ledge, and into an obviously manufactured “cave” of the ultra-tough concrete material.
Looking like a concourse of some sort, the long wide hall has several large gaps in it’s floor dropping past a 4’ thick concrete floor with prior made channels into rubble strewn pits – possibly another floor or story of the ancient building – though the rubble, dried mud from prior washouts, and lichen make access to it unlikely. Using flashlights and one of the hover drones, they are able to make out what looks like a rubble filled staircase on the far end of the concourse, but no easy way to reach it directly.
Passages exit their part of the concourse to the left and right, and they do notice several beetles, similar in shape and size to the drop beetles, but with metallic colored, patterned shells trundling across the floors and rubble.
Heading left, they follow an ancient passage, it’s floor covered with musty mud and detritus sluiced down from storms. Along the walls are 10’ wide alcoves, equally as deep. Strange pegs and glassy material just from the corridor edge of each alcove, as if something was once long ago meant to be attached and extend from one wall of the cube-like rooms. Holes in the walls and floor open into the channels which run through the concrete. Most are effectively empty, though strangely the walls are in fairly good repair.
The third, though, contains an odd and grisly find. Half-ball like secretions reminiscent of bee hives hug the wall, with chunks of material sticking out of them – amidst the damp mud and pieces of broken concrete is most of the remains of a human body, stripped of clothing and flesh. Most of the leg bones up to the thigh have been cleanly removed, , and similarly the arms to the elbow. Scraps of cloth in one of the secreted storage containers reveal a name tag, “Bellcasi”, marking the body as likely belonging to the missing professor from the Albatross’ last ill-fated crew.
Cracking more of the “containers”, they find most of the parts of bone, cloth, and gear, mostly severed neatly into small chunks, one would expect to find on a spellunker. Of interest, is the remains of a small mass effect pistol, it’s power core suspiciously missing from the salvage.
Which is when the clicking sound from the hall raises their attention…two of the patterned beetles stand in the corridor, bodies upraised and mandibles out in some form of display. The group quickly clinks them into specimen jars, and continues examining the scene while considering the oddity.
Only minutes later, an odd scraping sound comes from the specimen kit – where it is found the beetles are making impressive progress cutting through the reinforced glass containers. Ari’s ability to stun the creatures is brought to bear, but it’s clear that keeping them unconscious for a full 10 hr drive that way would quickly waste her store of omni-gel in her omni-tool, and also tire her out from constantly re-adjusting the shock so as not to kill the beetles. Either permanent stun field needs to be generated, or some other way needs to be found.
Leaving the remains of Bellcasi, the group hoofs it back to the surface, and makes contact with Dr. B’asiri at Cardinia looking for a way to transport the live specimens. A few minutes later, she transmits information gleaned from her study of the original drop beetles, and Milo is able to create a drug which, when misted into the containers, sedates the beetles, causing them to curl up into a defensive ball and sleep.
Roger informs the Doctor that they will be back tonight with the live samples, and that they should discuss how she should prep a communique to her patrons, since these finds will likely be enough to catapult her to great importance in the Xenobiology field and be benefited by a significant increase in grant money.
The group piles back in, and sets off back to Cardinia with Ari at the wheel…
About 2 hours out from Cardinia, there is the flare of vehicle lights, and over the rolling terrain, a multi-wheeled vehicle vaults over the ground, moving to intercept the Blazemaster. Then the staccato of gunfire is heard as a gun mount is fired in their direction…
End of Run