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Post by thunda »

From his station Gan leaned over his console and peered at Zen’s viewscreen. After digesting the limited information that was given he waited for one of his teammates to ask the obvious question, but if no one else did then he would. He realized most of his questions and statements were obvious but he also realized others may be thinking the same thing and it was important for everyone to be on the same page. Gan didn’t do it out of crassness or stupidity but out of duty. He believed it was a necessary and important contribution to the team. “The planet Ceros, Blake?”

Blake turned from the visual to address the crew. “Over one hundred and sixty degrees in the day and minus eighty degrees at night. With winds up to 200 kph.”

“Another delightful planet.” Vila sighed from behind his control panel.

“It’s also home to one of the Federation’s main bio-weapons research facilities,” continued Blake. “ Biological toxins, infectious agents, bacteria, viral, entomological, fungi, every type of living organism that can be weaponized by the Federation is produced there. And the most dangerous of them all, Thanatos.”

“Thanatos.” Avon glanced at his hand held computer while he sat on Liberator’s flight deck couch. “It took decades to create it. Colorless, odorless, tasteless. It can spread by air, by touch, by water, by animal, by insect. It’s DNA is capable of mutating to infect any living species and it brings death within hours. There is no cure, there is no inoculation. So dangerous that even the Federation hasn’t used it. Aptly named after an old world mythological god of death.”

“That sounds horrible. Even a god shouldn’t have a weapon like that.” Vila looked disgusted.

“Certainly not the Federation,” said Blake. “The facility won’t be easy to get into, naturally, it’s a triple A security installation.”

“Another one? What else is new?” said Vila.

“The fact that you haven’t complained yet?” Jenna chimed in from her pilot’s perch.

Cally on the couch across from Avon grew a bit impatient. “So, we are to destroy this Facility?”

“We’re going to destroy the installation... after we get the Thanatos,” Blake replied.

“After we get the Thanatos, Blake?” asked a puzzled Jenna.

“Surely if it’s as dangerous as you say it should be destroyed,” added Cally.

Vila cocked his head in confusion.“Are we going to sell it back to the Federation?”

Cally seemed a bit annoyed Vila interjected himself and didn’t hide it. “Don’t be foolish, Vila.”

“So what are we going to do with it, Blake?” Gan took another one for the team.

“Yes, what logical reason would you have to keep it, Blake?” Avon asked it the way a professor poses a question to his class.

“In the right hands Thanatos could be used as an effective threat,” said Blake with added emotion. “We’re going to use it to force the Federation into meeting our demands.”

“And if they don’t meet...our demands?” Avon had put extra emphasis on the word ‘our.’

“Blake wouldn’t actually use it, Avon. It’s just a bluff.” Cally’s usually calm voice had a tinge of uncertainty in it.

Jenna descended from her station and positioned herself near Blake. “It’s nothing short of what they deserve, but I don’t like bringing something so dangerous aboard the ship.”

“I sometimes wonder what is worse, naivety or ignorance.” Avon rose from the couch and studied the faces of the crew before looking squarely at Blake. “The Federation didn’t gain control of three quarters of the galaxy by giving in to bluffs. What are you going to do if they call yours?”

“Gan, Cally, get kitted up...and Vila, I’ll need you and your operating tools.” Blake spoke to everyone but stared at Avon. “Jenna will teleport us down,” he added before disappearing off the flight deck.

“Me? But I get sick easily,” protested Vila. “And all those germs, so small and disgusting.”

“Then you should feel right at home,” said Avon.

“Come on, Vila. Blake has a better chance with you down there.” Gan tried to cheer up his frowning friend. Although never truly in doubt, Vila got up reluctantly and threw a scowl back at Avon. Gan didn’t particularly care for his sarcasm or lack of comradery but he never denied the man’s intellect which made Avon a valuable member of the team. Gan also made note of the fact that Blake never answered his question.

“Down and safe,” Blake whispered into his bracelet.

After a making a brief survey of the area Blake motioned with his head to follow before he and Cally bolted across the terrain while Gan hurried behind Vila. They caught their breath at the installation’s entrance allowing the thief to perform his usual magic, who showed a proud smile after bypassing all the locks and security systems. Blake led them through the corridors while directing Gan and Cally to plant timed explosives at key points along the way. Security was lax, it was apparent the Federation believed the planet’s environment was a sufficient enough defense. Gan promptly dealt with the one guard they encountered.

“Here,” Blake halted the procession, “this is the laboratory.” He stepped aside to let Vila open the door then bolted in triumphantly.

“Vila, inside this vault is what we’re after, the Thanatos”

Gan watched his friend nervously take a knee and begin removing the necessary tools. His hands were trembling so much he clumsily dropped one.

“Careful, Vila,” Blake hissed. “If the laboratory’s alarm goes off we’ll only have seconds before containment procedures are initiated.”

“Containment procedures?” Vila beat Gan to the question.

Blake looked down at Vila who had stopped what he was doing. “The laboratory will be sealed to prevent exposure and everything in it will be incinerated.”

Vila looked like he would rather be back on Cygnus Alpha than here.

“Perhaps it would be best if we...” started Cally.

“Cally, Gan, keep watch,” Blake said sharply. “Concentrate, Vila. You can do it.”

Gan assumed a spot at the lab’s doorway across from Cally and scanned from side to side. He resisted the urge to peak behind him and concentrated on performing his job. Out the corner of his eye he could see Cally uncharacteristically squirming. He was about to make a reassuring comment when he spotted movement. “Look out!”

Within a heartbeat Cally’s gun flashed leaving a black garbed figure at the end of the passageway lying prone with smoke rising from his torso. As grateful as he was to be of help Gan realized for Cally not to have noticed the trooper first meant Vila wasn’t the only one unsettled by this mission.

“More guards are coming, Blake,” Cally said.

“Gan, help Vila. We’ll cover you,” barked Blake.

Gan grunted his displeasure while he complied. He had his weapon out yet was fully aware it was useless to him with his limiter installed. All his confidence in his physical attributes meant nothing in a situation like this. He just wished he were close enough to get his hands on one of those troopers.

The sound of plasma bolts scorching walls resonated inside the lab while the sour smell of ozone hung heavy in the air. Blake and Cally traded shots with Federation troopers, their weapons shrieked repeatedly as System technology challenged the might of an empire.

Behind them a nervous Vila finally deciphered the vault’s locking mechanism allowing Gan to rip open the last obstacle to their objective. Vila stared transfixed at the glass cylinder with a terrified expression on his face. He gripped his bag of tools tightly to his chest as the blaring scream of the facility’s alarm nearly drowned out the battle.

Crouched at the entrance Blake paused firing and swivelled his head. “Hurry,” he yelled over the chaos. “The laboratory will initiate sterilization within seconds.”

Gan pushed past a frozen Vila, halted at the table and looked down at the phial of death. His meaty paw reached, pausing centimeters away. The intermittent bursts of red light combined with the ringing of the laboratory’s alarm gave a surreal effect as emergency panels started to slide shut. Gan thought back to what Vila had said earlier.

“Liberator, bring us up. Bring us up now,” Blake screamed into his bracelet.
Within moments, Blake, Cally, Vila and Gan, breathing hard, materialized in the teleport bay greeted by Jenna at the control panel who gave a relieved look while Avon stood impassionately to her side.

“Do you have it, Gan? Do you have the Thanatos?” Blake was wide eyed with anticipation.

“Sorry, Blake. I couldn’t get to it in time,” replied Gan, “but the important thing is the Federation no longer has it.”

Blake stood unmoving, his demeanor draped with dejection. Avon approached and stood in front of him. “That is the important thing, isn’t it, Blake?”

Blake’s jaw tightened as he turned and locked eyes with Avon. “Yes, that’s the important thing.”

Gan and the rest of the crew returned to Liberator’s flight deck and assumed their normal stations, all looking far more relaxed than before the mission began. All, save Blake, who had a disappointed look stretched across his face. Gan could live with that. He settled into his position and monitored the sensors with his usual scrutiny and felt satisfied with how events unfolded. Even a god shouldn’t have a weapon like that.

“Jenna, get us out of here,” said Blake.

“Course already plotted and laid in,” said Jenna. “Taking us out, standard by six.”
"Women, food, and inflicting pain -- in no particular order."
- The Fifth Legion
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