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Part Eight: Down Among the Dead Men...

Future Nemo Facility

With the pressure of thousands of tons of water suddenly unleashed into it the ruptured interior of Module 241's umbilical rent, tore, and finally imploded within seconds, crumpling like a paper cup.

However all was most certainly not lost. Even under construction (in fact, especially while under construction) Nemo had failsafes in place. The basewide network of breach sensors built into the walls wasn't online yet but each compartment still had a classic M-Division sentry ward up, and the ward was tied into a computer system in what had been the first private triumph of the base's staff. As the ward etched into the umbillicus' ceiling flared, alarms sounded in the fledgling monitoring station and automatic safety systems ensured bulkheads were sealed to contain the flooding. The bulkheads themselves were essentially thick slabs of armour dropped into place over the airlocks with explosive bolts - the loss of a module had been thoroughly anticipated and planned for, and the worst that the hubside module had to deal with was some minor electrical damage.

The outer module, on the other hand, only had a flimsy temporary door that was more for reassurance value than actual destruct-testing...and electrical problems dogged the base yet again, as Infidel's sloppy torch had partially cracked the watertight seals on the control cables. Short-circuiting microprocessors sent a barrage of conflicting signals to the immature base mainframe, which hesitated. By the time it declared the module breached, the firing system for the explosive bolts was flooded and pulverised, and the cold Pacific deep was pouring in.

* * *

Flyfish's first thought, as the cheery observation window built into the compartment door in front of him (the interiors of most of the secondary Nemo modules had been almost exclusively designed by Green architects, who seemed to think curved transparent plastic was God's gift to decorators everywhere) suddenly looked into wet darkness, was panic. Then calm, as he forced himself to remember his ticket out was well and truly punched. Then panic again as the compartment walls began to bulge and shouts from the depths of the module indicated the Blue Condition (flooding) was well and truly in effect. If that cracked...well, this compartment would be smooshed.

"Jeff..." He half-turned to his equally nervous assistant down here. "Shut everything off, get to the generator and shut that off too, then look into getting people out of here."

"Yyyyeaaah..." JeffL didn't sound happy at all, despite the fact that the worst that could happen to him was a RESPAWN headache. "I'll pack 'em into the mechs, shall I?"

"You do that. Don't let them panic."

Jeff nodded and shot off with fear-stimulated speed, rationality battering against the disturbing fear that RESPAWN might not work down here, that the sensors might not get a lock, that someone might have spilt coffee on the controls...that owwch! "Watch it, guys!"

"Jeff? What...what hit us?"

Green engineering party, carrying fire extinguishers and scuba air tanks, for all the good that would do at this depth.

"We've lost the umbilical and reception compartment, but the bulkheads are holding. We're safe for the time being..."

"Until we run out of oxygen!"

"[BMT]Don't Panic![/BMT]"

"What about Grazer?"

"No idea. Surface comms are thoroughly out and the power lines are flooded."

One of the engineers cursed violently at that. If an electrical fire started, or worse if the power lines weren't watertight like they were supposed to be...the current equilibrium relied on everything working, and since half of it wasn't installed yet...

* * *

Nemo's upper rig did indeed have a fully-in-place control centre, but the plastic was still on the monitors and Silver didn't have time for the usual Board network negotiation that would have been needed to add such a massive new system to the communications net. He and the Boardies topside were finding things out the hard way, using scrying to double for cameras.

"Looks like a compartment breach on that new module. How many people in there?"

"One hundred and sixteen. Is it, er...?" Laundreu flicked his eyes quizzically at Mater Draconis for an instant.

"Yeah, she'll find out sooner or later. Someone find me a Boardie who can portal!"

"Well...with the roster, we could maybe respawn eight...?"

Silver's eye-flares rippled out horizontally, a sure sign of his frustration as his magic-saturated body looked for ways to flare off the excess energy his adrenaline was calling on.

"Most of them are Green tech offence."

"Some taken." I have to admire their effort. I could just replace my personnel...

"Why the hell don't we have a mobile RESPAWN module down here? crazyfurries said she was sending one!"

More toys. I do hope my engineers are taking notes.

The mobile RESPAWN system had been designed during the "dark technology" period of Loweko's Directorship, for use in "the field" - i.e. ensuring collateral damage could be mopped up easier without resorting to the BIP, if you could somehow ensure no-one noticed the huge great land train it was mounted on. Boardies regarded them as unreliable and dangerously untested, and so like all so such technologies it had been inevitable crazyfurries had taken charge of it.

"Stay frosty, Silver. It's still crated."

"Like practically everything else, it seems!" Silver shanghiad a passing Kyrptonian. "Survival odds?"

"They've got the module's survival gear but they were installing it at the time. Half of it will be in crates. I'm heading down now with extras."

"Go! Where's CPOK's sub?"

"On its way. Give it a three hours...?"

"Have they got enough air?"

"ANONLA's S-Cavs can ferry gas tanks in...I'll send someone after Kum-El"

"How are they going to get IN, when their airlock's flooded?"

And amidst the chaos, a quiet feminine voice tapped into the Board's innate respect for a Person who talks like that.

"You know, it's lucky for you people I never build a vessel I can't escape from."

"Madam, please...we have a crisis here." Laundreu thought he'd worked out the Dragon's line of argument instantly, given the regular visits by her shipping company with raw materials. "Your divers can't get that deep."

"Yes, idiot, but if you take that freighter and look in what the blueprints say are auxiliary sump tanks you'll find one of my submersibles..."

There was a chorus of blinks. The Dragon allowed herself a chuckle as she swiped Laundreu's POST. "Now you've got a minute to tell me how these transmit voice messages."

* * *

High Earth Orbit...Again

News like RESPAWNs spread fast, but so does news like rescue operations. The atmosphere on the Funky Horror was one of calm competence in the industrial sections, and quiet support everywhere else. One made way for the Boardieborg and chattered with everyone else, and the station's myriad observation decks and lounges were filling with Boardies whose skills couldn't apply.

That, of course, and what is rapidly becoming known as the famous "newbie giggle". Never mind that the people who giggle it aren't newbies and the trend was popularised by a certain Director with 3 years under her furry belt, and that at least one of this crowd is enirely the wrong . When you hear the giggle, it means Boardies are out and about and in a good mood despite the tension. Ph34r.

This little congregation had been escorting the exhausted Wingnut somewhere quiet when the call came through, and Ahayweh had wished Omega luck as he'd pulled his multiple-instances together to get the Polygon on her way, and waved Jekyll on his way to Shen to get rescue gear portalled over, and hugged a worried Pseudowolf as he'd flopped off-watch..and even found a smile for Reatheran, even when he'd launched into his usual spiel on how wonderful it was to have the Dragon on-site, i.e. "I thought up this plan and will make sure you all know it", as Pseudo was rapidly classing it.

"...still going to mean I'll have to get Ter to stick ISBs everywhere."

Rath grinned. Over the last fortnight he had been almost insufferably smug, despite not even meeting his powerful beneficiary. He was saving it up for a moment when having the Dragon's gratitude might come in handy.

"Ah,'re completely up the wrong alley. Think about it. Having to keep an eye on her as a threat is no longer necessary!"

"Rath, I'll believe she isn't a threat to comicside operations the day she starts sending Chester birthday presents, and even THEN I'll be passing them through scanners." Behind Pseudo Ahayweh started thwacking her head into the couch cushions. In her eyes, the whole debate was stupid. If the Dragon wanted to join the funkiness, then yay for her. "I give her a week before she's requisitioning orbital weapons platforms and trying to get her rivals erased. She's going to be the mother of all protection-racket gangsters unless and until the ISBs get called in."

"So? So we crush a few uppity cabals. What will she be using to exert her newfound power? Us."

"That's what I'm afraid of!"

"No! You don't get it!" Ahayweh winced at Rath's tone in anticipation of the lecture he'd given to practically every Boardie over the last month, and her glowing orbitals pointedly began orbiting at head height. "What will she be using? Our equipment. Our engineers, our crews, our agents! Every piece of technology she swipes or technique she borrows pushes her ever-more firmly into the Goddess's arms."

"Now there's an icky mental image."

"Shaddup. This way, we don't have to mess around with speculating on her, we can cut down half our speculation on Mike and tune it to other things, we don't have to burn resources keeping a battle cruiser prowling her mansion, next time Mork pushes for more D&B assets we can push right back...." The Boardie stretched and grinned like a lion after a kill. "You people are still living in the past a bit. You're too used to being the silent, benevolent force, covertly doing good deeds with the wave of a the future, you'll see and appreciate how wasteful that approach was."

"Yeah, Rath. So wasteful. Now we're all enlightened by your beliefs we can take those troops and use them as nature hunt Waldo & Steve."

Heh. That got a twitch out of him.

* * *

ComicSide, An Apartment Block we're all highly familiar with: 4:03am Local Time

It was a delicate operation. Key. Take key. Insert key in door, rotate clockwise to appease the bolt, lest it stick out as the door opened and demand blood from one's knees. Sneak into apartment block with cunning stealth skills...throw grappling hook up stairwell, pull to test weight before rappelling up...

Roger doesn't know this, but he's being watched. The Board never sleeps, and the four indentations in the silent university quadrangle indicate a smallish ship is on-station.

"Well, well. What's a nice werecoyote like you doing out on a night like this?"

...say hi to the passing Boardie.

"Hi Flax...the Code of the Ninja forbids me from revealing my employer."

"Roger, you don't HAVE a ninja have a Cap'n Crunch decoder wheel."

"Silence, knowlessman! Ask Miles, he is wise in our ways and will tell you..."

Flax doesn't know this, but he, too is being watched. By someone whose vision flares and ripples around the cloaked shape of the Green Blade. By someone who finds the way Flax's "aura" still pulses with residual energy from his childhood as a half-demon...worrying. He, too, has slept less and less lately. The fatigue just seems to dwindle away.

"It's Waldo & Steve, isn't it?"

"Nevah! The decoder wheel has spoken!"

"Roger, it's Waldo and Steve, we KNOW it's Waldo and Steve, and we want to know where they suddenly got dreams of reviving SKID from..."

A ninja talking to a demon dead at night...this was not good. The watcher crept around the wall he was listening through to peek at a window in one of the apartment block's doors, the rippling coloured flares dancing in his eyes resolving into figures. The rustle of his movement meant he missed a few lines of conversation, but he was getting the gist.

"...overrun by Satan's Own Script Kiddies! And now they pack an arsenal that wouldn't disgrace a third-world nation..."

Well, that sounded pretty bad. People plotting in the dark was bad enough, but aliens and evil l33t armies? Whoa. Really bad.

"Roger, I'm not here to debate...I'm here to drop hints. Be elsewhere tomorrow." Flax's voice had turned hard-edged. "Because tomorrow Jordanis and Toxic are sending a fighter sweep to "investigate"...and there's a limited list of situations you can investigate with an assault carrier."

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