© 2000-2001 Strata Drake of NEWST.
With their phyrric victory over the Red Dragon's forces, it took an entire three months to re-assemble their forces. It might have required only one month had the scavenger clans been less timid of Project technologies and calibers. Sheridan should have expected that the "little people" would naturally be afraid of their big guns, but nonetheless, during those months, progress was extremely slow. It was further aggravated by a cold Siberian snowfall that dumped two feet of snowfall during one night before the teams started cleaning it up and preparing for an incoming winter.
Compromises were drawn, and after an entire three months, landbase Phoenix was now finished. Although gradually being assimilated with Project technologies, the scavengers still preferred driving their own vehicles, so a new tank chassis, codenamed the Dragonfly, was developed. Smaller and faster than Viper chassis, but thanks to enhanced armor schematics, no less durable than a Mantis tank, and capable of carrying heavy calibers of weaponry, such as a full-fledged Ground Shaker. Nigel headed the reconstruction of the airfleet, using Hawk and Wyvern schematics in the process. In memory of his old air team, he named the fleet "Phoenix"--not 'Fenix' as it previously was, but this time, the true firebird itself. Sheridan had lost his command unit during the war, but he had preserved its databanks by taking a data disk with himself for safekeeping and eventual retrieval. That time had come one month ago when the research team had set up a fully equipped research facility.
As a complement to their new home base, they set up quite a handful of defenses. Remote-drone technology was still beyond the research team's ability to refine, and its original datatracks were damaged beyond recovery during the Red Dragon war. Without drone units to send into combat, everyone knew that in future battles, every lost unit would mean one additional lost comrade.
Complementing their defenses were the battle groups. Using modified hover and jetboat technologies, the group assembled a fleet of thirty assorted watertanks. Falco codenamed his group the "Seadrakes", and with their enhanced hoverjet propulsions, the only thing that could outrun them were the VTOL airfleet.
Sheridan remained in command of the main battle group, codenamed "Raiden". Heavy combat tanks with moderate-caliber guns, cannons, and missiles composed the mainstay of their land army. Most were half-tracked or full-tracked units, but Sheridan's new command unit and the repair crew's vehicles were given hover propulsions for speed-efficiency.
Sheridan and Nigel, being high-ranking Project commanders themselves, were naturally the most respected officers in their forces. Falco was nominated to be the commander for the Seadrake group, a position that he accepted energetically. To help carry out their orders, each of the three new commanders had their own subordinate. Sheridan had Drake, his "miniature dragon" pet mech, and Aireus, although the latter two would never be seen in the same room with each other. Falco's subordinate was Lionel from the neighboring scavenger clan. With their neighbor's destruction three months ago during the Red Dragon War, Lionel's people had banded together with Falco's people, and the meld between the two clans could not have been any smoother. Falco appointed Shaera, his sister (and a strong soldier in her own right) to Nigel's airfleet, and she became--after a few flying lessons, of course--Nigel's direct subordiante. Surprisingly, she took to VTOLs like a bird to its wings, and after just three hours of training with Nigel & Falco, she was ready for true piloting.
It is now late October, year 2150. Red Dragon units, forces, and armies were all but memories. Ever since their victory, the Phantom units disappeared into the hillsides and were never seen again, even with their rebuilt Project sensors that easily saw miles in each direction. Not to mention that the white snowfall would camouflage the Phantom's silver tanks like sugar in water. According to a debriefing by Falco and Lionel, few scavenger clans were left in the area after the Red Dragon War. Lionel's base had been destroyed by the Sky Dragon and later abandoned in favor of Falco's home base (which, by the time the Sky Dragon was destroyed, wasn't much better). No interesting sites to explore or Pre-Collapse technologies within miles, which Sheridan expected because of the Red Dragon's destroyed lair in the nearby area.
Sheridan, dressed in a winter-strength blue command uniform, was walking across one of the guard walls with Drake. Drake was thermally shielded for protection against both heat and cold, but his visual sensors were still trying to make sense out of the large snowfall. Despite regular snowfalls at night, they managed to keep ahead of the snow; only the rooftops of their structures, the large greens, and the rec pond were covered by the snowfall. Still, the early winter was upon the area, and there was light snow falling around everywhere.
Sheridan looked up as their Phoenix fleet flew around for another patrol run. Even with Falco's knowledge of the land, they still could find no traces of other clans, much less groups of military power. Even Nigel had started complaining that there was no "action" on his end. Sheridan could relate. At least it was peaceful. Clear weather, spotless radar sweeps, and falling snow.
Aireus was standing at the far end of the guard wall. Sheridan walked over to him. Drake followed, but only to within 20 feet distance of Aireus. Aireus was scanning across the skyline. "Something up?"
Aireus slowly turned around. "Still no 'Pre-Collapse' establishments within view, cmdr. Sheridan? That is a pity."
Sheridan nodded. "And the falling snow doesn't help either. If it gets any deeper out there, it won't matter how we look, we won't find anything."
"Anything visible, you mean. Have there been any unusual readings from sensors in the past few weeks?"
"Not at all. Not even one stray energy signature. Why is that?"
Aireus pointed northwards toward the sea. "Most of our establishments have--that is, had--the same type of seminuclear power generators. Each one omitted a small but traceable radiation into the vicinity around the installation. That was why we almost lost our bases to Western Continental soldiers during the early Collapse. They knew where to find our installments."
Sheridan looked to the sea as best he could. "Except that your installment was smashed by the Nova Sea Dragon during the war."
"Maybe, but maybe not. The power generators were far enough below the surface to survive any outside attacks. That was why it was invaded. They couldn't shut the base down from outside, so they had to infiltrate it. Except for me, they would have succeeded."
Sheridan nodded. "Think it's worth a try?"
Aireus looked back. "Yes. But even once you've analyzed the power emissions from the generators, you'll still have to wait for the snow to melt."
Sheridan grabbed his transmitter. "Phoenix Leader, come in. Nigel old friend, you there?"
Nigel responded within a few moments. "Roger that, Sheridan. What is it now?"
Sheridan answered back. "Aireus thinks there might be a way to find Pre-Collapse installments a bit more easily. You should head back. We'll discuss it at HQ."
It was a bit quiet for a moment as Sheridan heard Nigel relaying orders to his subcommander, Shaera. "...one more sweep then you guys can all come back in. Sheridan has some possible intelligence to report..."
Sheridan walked back along the guard wall and Drake followed as they headed back towards the HQ. Aireus remained at his post on top of the wall as they left.
Back at HQ, Nigel was waiting for them. He looked at Drake, who was covered in a light layer of now-melting snow. Within moments, Falco and Lionel arrived from another doorway. Nigel sat himself down in his favorite chair. Sheridan and Falco followed suit, with Drake settling down on his pedestal next to Sheridan's chair and Lionel remaining standing.
Sheridan began. "Nigel, you've done a few sensor sweeps over the north sea, correct?" Nigel nodded while Sheridan kept speaking. "Aireus gave me an idea. The Pre-Collapse base we found him in; they used a specific type of seminuclear power generator to power it. According to Aireus, all Pre-Collapse power generators were built using the same schematics and produced the same types and amounts of energy radiation. If that radiation is traceable outside of the installment, there might be a way of locating more of the old Eurasian Continental Army's bases. Who knows but we might even locate some nuclear technologies."
Nigel nodded. "Right. That island's still intact. However, there's no word as to where its entrance is. Metal detectors and sonar scans aside, they'd probably be no more effective than those water-finding sticks I read about back home. Not to mention the snowfall."
Sheridan smiled, knowing exactly what Nigel was referring to. "Still, it's worth a try. Nigel, aerial recon should be quick enough. Falco, you can provide ground support as a safety. Any questions?"
Falco stood up. "Just one. When do we leave?"
Sheridan looked back. "I'm not going. Main battle group Raiden isn't built for water. Nigel, take group Phoenix and get there and dig up that entrance--use shovels if you have to. Falco, head that direction as well and prepare a digging outpost. I'll keep in touch."
Aireus entered through one of the doors. Nigel spotted him. "So you decided to join. We're might need you on this mission, Aireus. Pre-Collapse bases should undoubtedly be your specialty."
Aireus was surprised at the request but agreed to tag along.
Sheridan stood up. "Well, what are we waiting for? You guys get moving."
Nigel nodded and left through the doorway. Falco marched out after him and Lionel went along as well. Aireus remained in the room. Sheridan stood up and looked at him. "You have something to say..."
Aireus nodded. "We won't be packing light this time." He then left the room.
Back outside, just inside the factory-release doors of the Team Phoenix airfield, Nigel briefed his team about their goal. "Okay, firebirds. This may be a big one we've got up ahead. Some of you are still a bit rookie with your piloting skills, but don't let that scare you--if all goes well, this should be a quick trip. About ten miles north over water, we've got a Pre-Collapse establishment to check out. Falco and group Seadrake will be joining us and performing most of the digging; we're to help out. Manpower, firepower if need be...Sheridan wants that base dug up. I've convinced general Aireus to join these efforts--if that base has any security systems or lockdowns to get through, we're going to need his expertise."
One of the pilots spoke up. "Digging, sir?"
Nigel nodded. "Yes. Digging. Our previous army had a tussle with the Nova Sea Dragon on that island; and it buried the entrance. Perhaps ten feet under; five or three if we get lucky, but prepare for some digging. Falco's team will bring along their excavation units; we're here to keep an eye out for them. The island has only two entrances on it, so there isn't much space to put up a good sensor network.
Once we dig it up, I'll be accompanying Aireus and Falco underground. Once that happens, you have your orders to hold the position--and in the off chance that we find something hostile--you do have clearance to fire at hostile forces, provided they strike the first blow. Anything else?"
Shaera spoke up. "You sound like you're worried about something."
Nigel returned the comment. "Who knows what we might be finding down there. Three Nova Dragons, nuclear missiles, there could be anything down there. That's one reason why Aireus is coming along. He'll be riding with Falco's group.
"One more thing. Everyone, pack a level 2 flak jacket and pick your favorite rifle to bring along. Just in case."
Shaera looked around at the group. "You heard the commander--move!"
Without another word, the pilots grabbed their gear from the supply shelves and boarded their jets. Shaera grabbed her gear to and climbed aboard her Phoenix-class flyer as Nigel climbed into his Wyvern-class command jet. Nigel opened the outside doors by remote, and one by one, the group activated their jets and taxiied outside to the airfield.
Falco had just finished a similar briefing with his own group, and they were already loaded up by the water's edge and waiting for Team Phoenix. Nigel gave Falco a quick radio chat before both groups took off--Falco's Seadrake group at full waterspeed with Team Phoenix flying above at half airspeed.
Ten minutes were but a short time to pass before the two groups arrived at the island. Even with the snowfall, the island was unmistakable, especially with many pieces of debris still lying about from the Novadragon fight four months ago. Falco's two excavation units began scanning the area for what would most likely be the collapsed entrance to the base. Nigel jogged his memory to help out with the excavation, performing his own aerial scan of the island's interior. Two construction units in the Seadrake group used some carried supplies to construct a small repair facility and sensor towers. Team Phoenix found suitable spots out in the open and landed their jets. Nigel grabbed his radio link and gear, slinging his flashlight rifle over his shoulder before climbing out. Falco was watching the action right next to his tank, and Aireus was standing on the tank's hatch for a good view of the action.
It took five minutes for the excavation crew to hit the mother lode, as they uncovered some dented metal framework. The excavation crew kept up work with one group watching and the other on patrol. A few minutes later they uncovered the base's sealed door. Falco ordered the crew to stop right there and began radioing his troops for volunteers. Nigel did similar and grabbed his link. "Shaera, everyone who wants to proceed underground; come with me, Falco, and Aireus. Everyone else stays here to watch. Over..."
That got a reaction from his team. One pilot of Team Phoenix and Shaera climbed out of their jets and prepared their gear for the dig. Falco had mustered no troops of his own, though. Altogether they had four men, one robot (Aireus) with them. In one group, they headed towards the base door.
Aireus examined the door, produced his metal sabre and carved the control panel open. Reaching inside, he found the mechanical controls for the door and with a twist of his arm, cracked the door open. To open it further, he wedged his sabre in the door and used it as a lever. Even still, the reinforced door was slow to open.
Aireus forced the door completely open and placed his sabre back in his shoulder-mounted sheath. He looked at Nigel. "This is just a personnel door. All of our old military bases had several entrances; the largest of which were for the military vehicles and tanks. Follow me."
Aireus switched on his headlight and led the way into the dark old base, with the others following him. Unlike how they lhad eft it, the power was off--as though the generators were switched off or somehow shut down. They headed down the corridor to the first intersection. Aireus pointed to the left, towards the control room. Within another minute, Aireus sliced the control room's door open and they entered the room.
Despite being sufficiently underground, the control room was a wreck. Using their flashlights, they examined the room. All computer monitors were off-line, the radar screens shattered, the key consoles smashed, and the central tactical radar screen was broken cleanly in two. Aireus shook his head. "This will not do at all."
Falco nodded. "Nigel, this where you found Aireus? Sure don't look like much...."
Nigel shook his head. "This is it, all right. But I do wonder who has been here? It's taken quite a beating."
Aireus looked around. "Correct. Whoever was here before us buried their traces under ten extra feet of mountain rock. And, judging by this chamber..." Aireus unlocked and opened the EMP-shielded chamber they had first found him inside of. The inside controls of the chamber were no better than the rest of the control room--wrecked. "I doubt they liked Pre-Collapse technologies."
Nigel smiled. "Either that, or they had something against Dr.Nexus and his projects."
Aireus motioned back to the door. "The lift to the lower levels is in the generator room. We should head there next."
Nigel led the way this time as the group followed. Within another minute they reached the generator room. Compared to the smashed control room, the generator room was intact. It had seen some action, though. The upper catwalks running along the generator were broken and fallen, and the stairway leading down to the floor was broken as well--except for Aireus, who jumped fifteen feet downwards to the floor, the group had to climb down carefully to avoid falls and bad landings. Aireus walked over to the power generator and tried to activate it--with no success.
Falco looked around. "End of the line? Pretty drab place you lived in, Aireus..."
Aireus turned back to Falco. "Watch it. If your base had endured an invasion, the Collapse, and another strike, I doubt it would look any better." Nigel smiled. Aireus walked around the room and found a set of double-doors leading further in. "This was only a minor generator. Our old generals followed the Iceberg model for all underground bases. Two control rooms, two generators--essentially, two different bases. A good strategy to fool any invaders and keep them from penetrating the base. Combined with armed soldiers and inner security systems, only the Collapse itself could destroy one of our bases." Aireus shoved open the doors and led the way.
The next hallway was a bit wider, but without the lights, it felt just as small as the others on the above floor. At the end was what appeared to be a lift. Aireus forced open the lift doors, revealing a large shaft that went at least ten floors further down. He forced the doors shut again. "Forget about the elevator. It's on the bottom floor, and without power, there's no way we're getting it up here." Nigel nodded. Aireus pointed to their left. "This way."
The hallway to the left led to what appeared to be a large target range--by underground standards, of course. There were pedestals on one end and perforated targets on the other. Various electronic devices were attached to the ceiling; most likely sensors and tracers for the assorted weapons systems that the old military would have tested. It reminded Nigel of the testing area in Preybird base before the Sky Dragon's attack. The floor was covered in a fairly thick layer of smoke-colored dust. Aireus pointed to another doorway on the firing end of the range. Shaera stopped to examine the pedestals at that end. She grabbed a handle on one of them and quietly withdrew a military-caliber attack rifle. Falco looked at the rifle. "It's empty, Shaera."
Aireus stood at the doorway and watched. Shaera examined the rifle. "Old weaponry, all right." She put it back into the pedestal. "If this were a casual visit, I'd try one of those out for size."
Falco shook his head. "Wouldn't do much good. We've a target range back home to practice in." Nigel stepped in. "Soldier training grounds. Nothing less." Nigel looked at Aireus. "We should continue onwards."
Shaera nodded. Aireus led the way by opening a doorway into another hallway. It was perhaps 100 feet long, and a good 20 feet wide--almost large enough to roll a small tank through. Aireus pointed straight ahead. "This should be one of the old research labs." They walked down the hallway towards the other end, ignoring a larger passageway that led to the left. Aireus sliced through the lock on the door and opened it. The lab was spacious inside, with several intact stations, chambers, computer systems, and a lot of old paperwork cluttering the table. Falco looked at one of the computer terminals. A padded chair, table lights, a crinkly old 2075 calendar hanging near the monitor, and a stack of data disks were all lying by the terminal. Falco looked the terminal over. "Hm., cozy. They could almost live here, back then."
Nigel spoke up. "They did. According to historical files, military security was so tight that the employed researchers could scarcely even leave the complex."
Aireus found a small portable generator on one of the tables and activated it. One terminal lit up with power. "Nigel...hand me that stack of disks."
Nigel grabbed the stack of disks--eight in all--and handed them to Aireus. Aireus placed one of the disks into the terminal, and with a few keystrokes on the terminal, accessed the data. The terminal projected a few schematics onto a wall screen. "Just as I thought."
Nigel looked at the projection and then at Aireus. "What is it?"
Aireus pressed a few keys on the terminal and flipped a few pages down to a screen with a large research report. The schematic displayed next to the report looked familiar. Nigel looked at it. "Is that...?"
Aireus nodded. "Yes; those were my schematics. Still accurate, as well." He paged through a few more screens of the report to the bottom, complete with a date and signature. He pointed at the upper signature. "That was mine." Pointing at the lower signature, he said, "And that was Dr.Nexus."
Nigel read through some of the lines in the report. "Aireus...you were one of their research team?"
Aireus switched off the display and removed the data disk. "Formerly. Commanding officer preferred using the term, soldier with too much brains to be of any use. So they had removed me into their research team." He grabbed the second disk from the stack, inserted it into the terminal, and displayed it on the projector. There were a dozen pages of schematics, none of which looked familiar, but when he flipped to the last page, Nigel instantly recognized the image on the display. "Nova Sea Dragon!"
Aireus nodded. "Its exact schematics. Hmmm..." Aireus examined the projection. "The armor compound isn't mentioned. That would be quite the find for your research team." He pressed another button and switched to a military video. As the video came into action, Aireus informed them. "This was classified video during the Sea Dragon's testing." Nigel and the group watched as the video played, showing the Sea Dragon firing its assorted weapons, enduring countless barrages from emplacements, launching its undersea missiles and drone, and to Falco & Shaera's astonishment, a demonstration of its EMF generator. Shaera spoke up. "Hard to imagine fighting an enemy with that shield in its possession."
Aireus switched off the vid, retrieved the disk, and tossed it in Nigel's direction. "Keep that...the research crew should see it." He grabbed another disk from the stack and accessed it. Contained within were schematics for the Nova Land Dragon and the military video of its field test. When the video was finished, he withdrew it as well and tossed it to Nigel.
Aireus grabbed the fourth disc. By now, the projection display was starting to dim as the portable generator showed its first sign of slowing down. That disc contained the schematics of the Nova Sky Dragon and two videos of its field-testing. When that was done, Aireus switched off the generator, grabbed all remaining discs, and handed them to Nigel. "The generator would've run down in a few more minutes anyway. We should continue."
Nigel stashed the data disks in his pack. Aireus took one more look around the research lab, picking up a few more data disks from the terminals and handing them to Nigel before they left the lab as a group. Returning down the hallway, they took a right turn down the large branch. At the other end was a large sealed doorway, a good 30 feet wide and 20 feet tall. Aireus walked over to one side and opened a control box. He grabbed a manual control wheel and began turning it clockwise. The wheel turned silently, and he motioned Nigel to the other side to operate a different control panel. Nigel opened it and found a similar wheel. He grabbed it and turned it counter-clockwise.
After two minutes of cranking, the results of that endeavor became apparent as the large sealed door opened, sinking slowly into the floor. Aireus spoke up. "Most doors of this size open to the sides. But in cases of emergency, its mechanisms can be removed and then gravity itself will open the door."
Nigel shone his flashlight inside of the new room. They had hit pay dirt.
The new room was one level of a missile silo. A grated-steel floor, proceeding several layers down, a few catwalks extending into the center, shielded control rooms, and best of all, a genuine, intact, nuclear missile. It was eight feet wide and at least three, perhaps four floors tall. Attached to the missile's flank were a few smaller--but non-nuclear--missiles (four in number) positioned in pairs on opposite sides of the missile.
Aireus identified it. "Long range high-payload ICBM. Capable of entering geo-stationary orbit for delayed launches or extensive-range strikes, powerful enough to destroy a few Laser Satellites if they needed it. Missiles of this size could create an explosion one hundred miles diameter leaving nothing alive in their wake. And surprisingly, one of the few to survive the nuclear strikes during the Collapse."
Nigel shuddered at the sheer size of the missile. He had read the records of the Nexus war and the missiles Nexus used to annihilate Alpha Base, the Collective, and Beta Base. "A missile like this...it's a good thing we stepped in when we did. They already had the three Novadragons in their arsenal. If they had located the missiles, they'd have used them."
Aireus shone his light towards the left. A second nuclear missile was visible in the light's reflection. He viewed the rest of the room. "There are only two missiles in this base, of four total." He looked at one of the control rooms. "It may be a good idea to check this out."
The group worked their way over to the control room. A faint light was visible reflecting off of the walls. Aireus located a switch and pressed it. A few dim lights activated and provided some--albeit insufficient--illumination of the room. One terminal booted up. Nigel looked around. "There's a generator on-line somewhere?"
Aireus accessed a power grid. "Negative, Nigel. Power generators leave too much of an energy signature. They're tapping power from the missile's uranium warhead core. Whomever may be down here, they don't want anyone to find them."
Aireus switched screens. "Interesting. The uranium core of this missile is 70 percent depleted. The other missile is a blank--no uranium core stored inside. And..." Aireus looked at the screen as it displayed a map of sorts. "...They know they're discovered--Arm yourselves!" Aireus activated his minirocket launcher and drew his sabre. He stood up and aimed out into the room. Nigel almost instinctively drew his laser rifle and charged it up. Falco cocked his rail rifle, Shaera armed her laser rifle, and the pilot grabbed his sniper rifle and took aim.
They could hear it approaching with each clank on the metal grid floors in the missile bay. Cla-clank, cla-clank went the sounds as it approached closer. Then, even before it was visible to them, it attacked. They took cover, and the firefight began . . . .
(click and drag to reveal answers)
How exactly, does the emergency mechanism for opening a Pre-Collapse reinforced blast door (such as the one near the actual missiles) work??
Why did the nuclear missile have four smaller missiles attached to its flank?