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What happened to Training Flight 19?

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  • What happened to Training Flight 19?

    Some short segments from Chapter 1 and 2 from a story I have written about Flight 19 and the flying boat sent to look for them that vanished off the coast of Ft Lauderdale in December of 1945. The names have been altered in the fictional part of the story.

    The following events are fiction based upon known facts of what happened during the last moments of contact with Flight 19.

    A hint that something was not going to be normal, happened in early October of 1945 when Captain Powell was flying on a training mission, off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. During that flight, he noticed that something strange was taking place outside of his aircraft and made an evasive maneuver to fly away from a strange glowing object that had just appeared. “Belvelto,” he yells to his gunner, “what the frack was that we just saw? Belvelto!” Looking back to find out why Belvelto wasn’t answering him, Captain Powell is shocked to find that the cockpit door for the Gunner’s position is missing along with Michael Belvelto and his parachute.

    Even though a naval air and sea search was imminently launched to look for his missing gunner no trace of Belvelto was ever found.

    An investigation is soon taking place as Captain Powell, now facing the possibly of court marshal and a long stay in the Brig, is grilled over what had happened to his gunner during that flight.

    During the investigation, the aircraft itself is subject to a through inspection. The Flight mechanic inspecting the plane finds that there were no defects, or signs of sabotage to the cockpit door, seat belts system, or anything else out that appears to be out of place. With collaborating testimony from the other pilots and flight crews of the strange glowing light they observed that day and a strange sealed order hand delivered by a security detail from the Pentagon, the investigation is suddenly concluded with all charges dropped. Everyone involved is order to remain silent about the details of Belvelto’s disappearance or face court marshal. Captain Powell is then ordered to be returned back to duty.

    Two months later, things would get even stranger off of the coast of Ft. Lauderdale when an entire squadron of torpedo bombers, with Captain Powell as one of the pilots, would vanish along with one of the search aircraft sent out to look for them.

    Just before the briefing for the training flight scheduled for December 5th., Captain Powell receives a strange phone call from his wife. “I have this strange feeling that something is very wrong. Is everything OK?” she asks him. He reassures her that all is fine that it may have been the pressure of the court marshal that has her worried that something else may happen if he goes flying over the same area where he lost his gunner two months ago.

    “I’ll see you after the debriefing,” he tells her. “The training flight will be completed in in plenty of time for us to go out for dinner with the kids.”

    About that same time, Corporal Kosner has asked his commander for permission to be excused from the training flight for some unreported reason. His request gets approved by flight command.

    The actual texts used as a reference for this chapter is taken from an article in of the disappearance of Training Flight 19. With the exception of selected paragraphs copied from the source above, italicized, and marked by an *, the rest of this chapter is fictional.

    It began as nothing more than a routine training flight. At 2:10 P.M. on December 5, 1945, five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers took off from a Naval Air Station in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The planes—collectively known as “Flight 19”—were scheduled to tackle a three-hour exercise known as “Navigation Problem Number One.” Their triangular flight plan called for them to head east from the Florida coast and conduct bombing runs at a place called Hens and Chickens Shoals. They would then turn north and proceed over Grand Bahama Island before changing course a third time and flying southwest back to base. Save for one plane that only carried two men, each of the Avengers was crewed by three Navy personnel or Marines, most of whom had logged around 300 hours in the air. Their flight’s leader was Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, an experienced pilot and veteran of several combat missions in World War II’s Pacific Theater.*

    The flight has proceeded normally as the five aircraft fly in formation to their target point of Hens and Chicken’s Shoals to simulate their training runs on the lightship that is anchored there. Then, things seem to go horribly wrong while they are making their change in course to fly over the Grand Bahama Islands as a weather front hit them. “Damn, my compass is not working,” Lt. Tylor, the squadron commander says to himself as he sees both of them now spinning strangely in opposite directions. Then the rain and fog from the storm front rolls in on the flight resulting in the pilots having to rely on their instruments for flying.

    “I don’t know where we are,” one of the pilots says over the radio. “We must have got lost after that last turn.”*

    There is just enough visibility for the other four pilots to keep together in formation with the lead plane as Lt. Tylor tries to figure out where he is and what direction the flight is now heading.

    Lieutenant Robert F. Cox, another Navy flight instructor who was flying near the Florida coast, was the first to overhear the patrol’s radio communications. He immediately informed the Air Station of the situation and then contacted the Avengers to ask if they needed assistance.“Both my compasses are out and I’m trying to find Ft. Lauderdale, Florida,” Taylor said, his voice sounding anxious. “I’m over land, but it’s broken. I’m sure I’m in the Keys, but I don’t know how far down.”*

    Hopelessly lost and thinking that the islands he now has spotted are part of the Florida Keys, Lt. Tylor turns the flight group towards a North East heading. Some of his pilots now seem to have recognized that he is making a mistake. “Dammit,” one man griped over the radio. “If we would just fly west, we would get home.”* Heading further to the Northeast in the heavy cloud cover and poor visibility, it soon becomes apparent that there are no more islands visible down below. “We should be flying over the Everglades by now,” Lt. Tylor says to himself.

    Eventually, the flight group turns to head West, but then later, turns East with Lt. Taylor thinking that they were now flying over the Gulf of Mexico. “We didn’t go far enough east,” he said, still worried that he might be in the Gulf. “We may as well just turn around and go east again.”*

    The flight continues, seemingly flying in circles in the inclement weather with its low ceiling and heavy clouds. Lt. Tylor and the other pilots remain unaware that they are actually flying further away from Florida in their effort to get back home. He now tries to home in on the radio signal from the airbase, but is unable to get a bearing due to some unknown interference that is making it impossible to get a direction of the radio tower. The flight continue heading further East into the Atlantic away from Florida, as it is getting late in the day. Soon, it has become apparent that all five aircraft are now running low on fuel. “We better find land soon or we are all screwed,” Lt. Tylor tells the flight crews.

    From the last radio transmission sent, the following was heard, “All planes close up tight. We’ll have to ditch unless landfall…when the first plane drops below ten gallons, we all go down together.” A few minutes later, the Avengers’ last radio communications were replaced by an eerie buzz of static.*

    Lt. Tylor has now ordered everyone to fly close together as he leads the way descending down to the surface of a very rough sea. The weather front has become strangely glowing as the five aircraft, now almost out of fuel, have closed into a tight formation as they descend to ditch the planes in the sea. Radio communication between the aircraft soon become impossible due to something that is now jamming all reception. The sea itself is glowing like a lighted landing field in spite of the very rough conditions 50 mph+ winds, have created on the surface. The glow gets brighter as the five aircraft descend towards the stormy surface. A strange noise sounding like a high pitch whine fills the cockpit of each plane as it reaches the point of being painful. Their electrical systems soon fail resulting in the engines shutting down. Then, suddenly, a blinding ball of light engulfs all five aircraft rendering everyone unconscious.
    “Breaking News,”

    “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”

  • #2
    Chapter 2. The Portal

    In a flash, Lt. Tylor and the 13 other crewmen of Training Flight 19, find themselves lying face up on a rusting metal floor inside a gigantic alien looking hanger. Its floor is littered with grass and strange plants of all kind. There is no signs of their aircraft or any signs of a crash landing. Their flight suits are missing along with all personal items that they had on them. They find themselves naked as the smell of burning electrical wiring hangs in the air. A massive electrical shorts crackles like lightning around the three huge rings that form some sort of tunnel in that giant hanger. They quickly go out leaving strips of color in each ring that are glowing in red, green, and blue.

    In the corridor way down in the distance, an explosion lights up the chamber like a giant spotlight, then dies out as debris is seen falling down from that direction. The ground starts shaking as bits of stone, crystals of various color, and pieces of wood hit the metallic floor around them. Then, all is quiet save for the sound of the wind echoing through the cavern above, the hum of some strange alien machinery, and the sounds being made by several strange prehistoric creatures in the distance.

    The weather in this massive cavern turns out to be quite hot and sticky. Giant trees, huge mushrooms, and vines of various types are seen growing along the rusting metallic walls down below this raised ramp like structure. Unfamiliar plants, tall bamboo, ferns, grasses, heavy moss, and smaller mushrooms are growing everywhere among and between the rusting metal plates and support beams. A glowing firefly, the size of a house cat, goes flying by. Other alien looking creatures, some with glowing spots on their sides and spike plates, are seen walking in the distance. In spite of their being naked, the crews of Flight 19 soon find themselves sweating profusely due to the stifling heat and humidity.

    “What the frack just happened?” ask Gunner George Daryol from Lt. Tylor’s crew as he gets up off of the still shaking floor. “Where’s my clothes and flight gear? Where in the fracking hell are we? How did we end up in this weird fracking place?”

    “How the frack should I know!” a naked Lt. Tylor answers back in frustration. “All I saw was that strange fracking light coming towards us when I glided my plane down to the sea after its electrical systems went to hell and the engine died.”

    “Maybe, if you had flown your fracking plane West as you were ordered to, we would be home by now,” shouts a naked Captain Powell in anger as he gets up off the still shaking floor.

    “Just how in the fracking hell could we have been over the Florida Keys as you claimed?” asks an extremely pissed off Captain Shrivers. “Our target area is completely in the opposite direction from Ft. Lauderdale.”

    “My muther fracking Compass was screwed up after we reached Hens and Chickens Shoals!” Lt. Tylor shouts back at them.

    “As the experience flight leader, you’re suppose to know where the hell you are going.” yells Ensign Bossman. “If your fracking compass were screwed up as you claimed, why didn’t you pass on flight leadership to Captain Powell? What was your navigator doing? Sleeping on the job?”

    “I heard the radio message ordering you to fly West,” yells Private Grobbal. “Why did you continue to fly East when you were ordered to change course?”

    The argument continues to intensify until it is suddenly interrupted by a loud blood curdling scream from some creatures running towards them from behind. Turning to face the sound, the 117 flight crew find themselves under attack by three prehistoric bipedal predators that are over twice their size.

    “What in the fracking hell are those---Ayyyyy...!” screams Sgt. Gulliver as a large bipedal predator leaps on top of him, pinning him to the ground. The huge lizard bites off his hand when he tries to protect his face, then disemboweled him with a claw hook on its foot and starts eating him alive.

    “RUN!” Scream Captain Powell as he gets over the shock of seeing Sgt. Gulliver being ripped to pieces by one of the huge lizard. “Head for those trees!”

    “Get the frack out of here!” shouts Captain Shrivers in a panic as he desperately looks for something to defend himself with. “We’ll hold these fracking devils off as long as we – Aieeee!”

    “Die, you mudder fracker!” Pvt Grobbal shouts as he punches one of the attackers in the face as hard as he can breaking his wrist in the process. It staggers for a moment before it pins him to the ground and rips off his head.

    With the delaying tactic working, due to the sacrifice of the three Marines of Flight 117, the eleven remaining airmen race down the rusting metal ramp into the woods where they seek shelter among the boulders and brush, hiding out of sight of the three attacking predators that are now feasting on the remains of the three dead crewmen.

    “We’re so dead! We’re so dead!” Private Ledfoot is screaming at the top of his lungs as he is running for cover.

    “Shut the frack up before we all end up dead!” Sargent Thomas yells back at him in a panic as everyone runs for the cover of the nearby trees, rocks, and bushes.

    “What in the fracking hell are those things?” Private Ledfoot asks as he is shaking in fear and out of breath when they finally reach the boulder strewn brush to hide in it.

    “They look like some sort of Utah Raptors,” answers Sargent Thomas in a breathless frightened voice. “They and those Stegos thing that I saw, while everyone else was arguing about getting them lost, are suppose to be extinct.”

    “How do we fight those frackin things without any weapons?” ask Private Ledfoot who is still shaking in fear. “What in the fracking hell are they doing here anyways?”

    “I don’t know,” answers Sargent Thomas. “We had better get our $hit together and find something to defend ourselves with before we all end fracked up like the 117 flight crew.”

    “Do we have to worry about those Stego things attacking us?” ask Pfc Ledfoot with concern as he starts catching his breath.

    “I don’t think so,” answers Sargent Thomas. “According to my high school biology textbook, they are plant eaters. So long as we don’t threaten them, they should leave us alone.”

    A nervous looking ostrich like bipedal creature, three times their size, comes crashing through the brush as it runs by the group. It has the look of being scared out of its wits. Everyone dives for cover.

    From the direction that it came from, an unseen battle is now taking place. There are roars of anger, loud crashing noises, the sound of bones being shattered, and screams of intense pain. Then, all is quiet other then a moaning of something suffering from extreme pain that soon dies out as well.

    “I need someone to go out there to see what the frack just happened,” orders Captain Powell.

    “Are you fracking kidding?” Private Ledfoot says while still shaking in fear. “Those frackin raptor things are still out there waiting to frack us up.”

    “I’ll do it,” answers Lt. Garber.
    “Breaking News,”

    “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


    • #3
      Crawling out through the brush that has been flattened by the fleeing bipedal herbivore, Lt Garber approaches the open area near the alien hanger. It seems like an eternity before he returns.

      “We’re safe for now,” reports Lt. Garber as he comes back from a quick recon. “Those Stego things fracked up those three raptors with their spiked tails when they were attacked by them.”

      “Excellent,” answers Captain Powell who has now officially taken over command of the remaining survivors. “We caught a fracking break on that one. I’m going to declare this mission a crash course of survival. Lets figure out what we have to do to get some weapons to defend ourselves against any future attacks by those mudder frackers.”

      “Maybe, we can start by figuring out what these things, embedded in our left wrist, are for.” answers Lt. Garber. “When I picked up a stone to throw at those mudder frackers, it vanished into something called my inventory. Then, this strange message flashed in my head when I looked at it, saying that with a wood and ten thatch, I can craft a pickax.”

      “This is so frackin scary,” reports Captain Powell as he access his Specimen Implant database. “This thing displays a serial number, then the message, ‘Survival Quotient undetermined.’”

      “That’ sounds like whatever brought us to this fracked up place is betting that we will not survive for long,” answers Sargent Thomas.

      “Then, we had better get our $hit together so we can prove them wrong,” answers Captain Powell.

      “Why am I getting this message in my head that says hit this to harvest?” questions Sargent Thomas as he walks close to a tree. He smacks the nearby tree with his fist getting some wood and thatch. “Ouch! That fracking hurt.”

      “Where in the frack did you find a pickax?” ask Lt. Garber when he sees that tool suddenly appear in Sargent Thomas’s hand.

      “This Specimen Implant, as it is called, allowed me to make one once I had the stone, wood, and thatch needed for crafting it.” answers Sargent Thomas. “Save your fist, I will gather the wood and thatch you need for a pickax with mine.”

      “A level up?” questions Sargent Pasenna as he continues to gather materials and pick berries. “What the frack is that for? Oh, we can learn more skills and apply points to what’s called our stats. I think we had better apply those stats to fortitude so we can better resist this fracking heat and humidity before it kills us from dehydration. Lets spend these Engram Points on the spears and hatchet so we can craft something to defend ourselves from those mudder fracking raptor.”

      “Shit, I’m getting so fracking thirsty,” complains Radioman Baluck who is sweating like crazy from running around as he is gathering the materials he needs for the spears. “Isn’t there any water at all around here?”

      “No,” answers Gunner Bossman. “Slow down before you die from heatstroke. Pick some of those colored berries and eat them for their moisture.”

      “Are you sure that it is safe to eat those berries?” ask Private Ledfoot.

      “According to my Specimen Implant, it says that the colored ones are safe to eat.” answers Captain Powell.

      “If you say so,” Baluck answers back as he starts to gobble down a hand full of assorted berries in an effort to get hydrated.

      “Ackkk,” gags Baluck after eating several handfuls of berries. “What the frack! Those white ones, they are poison. I’m dying from thirst!”

      “Eat some of those aquatic mushrooms,” orders Lt. Garber. “Then eat only the colored berries.”

      “Yummy, the black ones, they taste sooo goooooood……” There is a lout thud as Baluck falls to the ground unconscious.

      “What the frack just happened to Baluck?” ask Captain Powell in alarm.

      “Those black berries must have put him to sleep,” answers Lt. Garber as he examines him.

      “A warning to everyone,” orders Captain Powell. “Don’t eat any of those fracking white berries, they will dehydrate you. And, especially, don’t eat the mudder fracken black ones. They will knock you out.”

      “Baluck will be all right,” reports Lt. Garber as he continues monitoring his condition. “The black berries are helping to counteract the dehydrating effect of the white ones. He will be awake soon.”

      With the excitement now over, the 11 surviving marines and navy reservist start to settle down to learning how the Specimen Implant works. They start to craft up clothing and weapons for their survival.

      “It looks like we can now build a camp fire to cook up raw meat,” reports Sargent Thomas after he examines the crafting requirement for one he has purchased from another level up. “What do you think roasted raptor would taste like?”

      “Lets go find out,” answers Lt. Garber. “Help me butcher those dead ba$tards that killed the 117 crew.” Heading over to the dead raptors, the crew members proceed to gut, then skin and cut them up with their stone hatchets.

      “This is frackin excellent,” reports Sargent Thomas as they proceed to butcher one of the three raptors. “I getting lots of quality hide off of that mudder frackers. My implant says that we can use it with fiber and stones to make bolas. If we can tangle up their legs in one, we should be able to immobilize them and take them out.”

      “Spears, bow and arrows, now Bolas. Excellent, it looks like we finally have the weapons we need to defend ourselves from those mudder frackers.” reports Captain Powell.

      “This is more frackin good news,” reports Sargent Pasenna. “At 20 fortitude while wearing these thatch clothes, I am no longer sweating my a$$ off. It’s getting a lot easier to stay hydrated on the berries alone.”

      “Lets finish crafting up everything, set up some torches, and get a shelter built for the night.” orders Captain Powell. “There is no telling what the fracking hell is going to show up around here when it gets dark.”

      “This is really interesting,” reports Private Ledfoot as he continues experimenting with crafting as the wooden shelter gets constructed. “I can use the mortise and pestle to make something called spark powder from the flint and rocks to use as a fuel for the fire pit and standing torches. That will allow us to save up the wood we need for finishing our shelter and a security fence.”

      The ground has started shaking again with a rumbling sound that echos throughout the cavern. “Whatever the frack that has happened in here is making this fracking place highly unstable,” warns Lt. Garber. “I hope that nothing fracking big decides to fall in on top of us.”

      “Pick up those items that are falling to the ground,” orders Captain Powell. “A lot of them looks like they may be quite useful in the near future.”

      “I found some crystal,” answers Ensign Bossman. “Excellent, According to my specimen implant, I can make a spotting scope with these.”

      “Green gems, flint, wood, obsidian, a blue gem. It looks like everything here might have a use in the future,” reports Lt. Garber. “Lets place that stuff in a storage box until we can learn what they are used for.”

      “Where did that fracking spear come from?” ask Baluk. “It just dropped out of the sky right in front of my feet.”

      “There must be a settlement up above us,” answers Ensign Bossman as he continues gathering the gifts that are falling to the ground from above.

      As everyone is busy picking up the loose items falling down from above, a loud shreak is heard coming from up on the metal platform along with the heavy sounds of claws running on the metal surface. “Look out, here comes another one of those fracking raptor,” warns Private Ledfoot as the earthquake starts to settles down.

      “Sargent Thomas, Sargent Pasenna, team up with me and lets go kill that mudder fracker,” orders Captain Powell. “Bola, then spear that ba$tard to death!” The three marines bola the charging raptor which immobilizes it. It screams in pain and anger as they use their spears to kill it as it struggles to get untangled.

      “Ooo-Rah!” shouts Sargent Thomas. “That’s one down for Captain Shrivers and his crew.”

      “Good Job Everyone!” shouts Captain Powell. “We now know how to defend ourselves against these fracking feathered green devils. We might just be able to get the frack out of here in one piece.”

      “Lets butcher that fracking thing, get the security fence finished, and set up a guard rotation for the night. In a day or two, we should be strong enough to start exploring this fracking place and find a way to get back home.”

      As the night quickly approaches, everyone has gathered together with Captain Powell who lead them in a prayer for the souls of their three dead comrades and a blessing to ask for their survival and escape in this strange alien world now known as Aberration, The Lost Ark.
      “Breaking News,”

      “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


      • #4
        Chapter 3. The Unexpected Reunion.

        “Wow, what a strange fracking place this is,” comments Sargent Thomas to his crew mates as they pull the first night watch in their camp. It is strange indeed as the giant mushrooms pulsate with light. A stegos walks by in the distance, it’s bony plates on it’s backs are glowing. A mammal like creature the size of a small cow, known as a Moschop, walks close by with glowing spots on its side. A giant firefly flies by lighting up the terrain in front of them. “I can’t believe how quickly it got dark out here. Even in the tropical Pacific, it never got that dark so fast.”

        "Doesn’t it ever cool down around here at night?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

        Apparently not,” answers Captain Powell. “Most caverns will maintain a constant temperature the year around, day or night. Given that it is this warm in this frackin place, I hate to think what the surface temperature must be like during the daytime.”

        “Just what do you think this place is?” Sargent Pasenna ask Captain Powell as they are pulling the first night watch.

        “It must be some kind of an alien portal that found a connection to our world,” answers Captain Powell. “It must have somehow intercepted us as we were about to land in the sea, brought us to this fracked up place, then shorted out as soon as we appeared.”

        “Then, how will we get the frack back home if this machine is now broken?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

        “We will have to learn what makes it works and find some fracking way to fix it.” answers Captain Powell.

        “I don’t know if we going to have the means to repair it,” answers Sargent Thomas. “When we first arrived here, that explosion looked like it did an awful lot of damage to the machinery in the distance.”

        “Then, we’ll need to go over there in the morning, inspect the damage, and see if there is some way can frackin fix it,” answers Captain Powell.

        It is 0600 when the daylight suddenly reappears. “Wow, that’s fracking weird,” comments Baluck who is now on watch with Ensign Bossman. “It’s like something just turned on a giant light switch.”

        “It might be just the way the sun on the surface is reflecting down into the holes in the roof,” answers Ensign Bossman. “Anyhow, time to wake up the others and get prepared for today’s mission.”

        “I now have crossbows for everyone,” announces Sargent Gullivar who has been working all night on the forge as the rest have gathered the metal ore for him to refine into metal.

        “Excellent, they will perform a lot better then these primitive wooden bows. Lets get going then,” orders Captain Powell. “I want to check out how much damage was done to this machine that brought us here.”

        Assembling the ten other survivors and making sure they are all stocked with weapons and berries, the group of eleven, with Sargent Pasenna on point, proceed up the ramp and start walking the center of the portal to the tunnel that they can see that is far ahead.

        “What’s the frack is this?” Sargent Pasenna ask when he finds a metal box as he is walking point.

        “It’s contains something inside it called an explorer’s note,” answers Captain Powell as he opens it to see what is inside. “Damn, it’s all in fracking Japanese. Did their scientist actually have the technology to build this frackin place?”

        “That’s seems highly unlikely,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “They should have won the war if they had actually invented that kind of technology. It is most likely that a group of them got trapped here like us. I wonder if they are still here with us somewhere in this underground world.”

        “I hope not,” responds Captain Powell. “They might not know that the war is over. Then, we would have to deal with them as well as the predators that inhabit this place.”

        “Here’s another one of those frackin Explorer’s Note,” answers Captain Powell. “This one is written in English. It reads;”

        I fear that even with the unwitting aid of Miss Walker, I still cannot completely control the machines in the starlit sanctuary. I believe they sent us to the correct ARK, but I was unable to control precisely where we arrived on it. Alas, that means the location I saw in the sanctuary is beyond my reach for the time being, along with the molten Edmunium I saw there. Confound it all!

        Naturally, I cannot confirm that molten substance was indeed Edmunium until I have inspected it with my own eyes, but it simply must be! It looked exactly like my samples did when I attempted to melt them down.

        Imagine! An entire cavern of the most potent element known to man! The wonders I could create...

        Sir Edmund Rockwell.

        “What in the fracking hell is Edmunium?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

        “I haven’t the fogyish idea,” answers Captain Powell. “It sounds something like that Uranium and Plutonium our scientist used to make a super powerful explosives used in those atomic bombs that ended the war. Just one of those bombs leveled an entire Japanese city in seconds. A cavern full of anything like that could vaporize this entire world if it were to go off.”

        “Here is another note.”

        Things have gone sideways in a hurry, and I mean seriously FUBAR. Destroying that platform didn't just weaken the barrier trapping us here, it took out the whole freaking sky, or at least the giant hologram that was posing as it.

        So yeah, turns out this entire landmass and everything on it is orbiting the Earth like some kind of artificial space island. Wild right? I'd appreciate the sheer insanity of that a lot more if this place didn't feel like it was falling apart.

        We're taking all we can carry and making a break for that cave system we discovered a while back. If the atmosphere's thicker underground, then we've got a shot of pulling through.

        Looks like we made it just in time. I backtracked to take a peek at the surface, and it's just one big fire. That's not a metaphor, I mean it's actually burning.

        Diana’s Log

        “What is that all about?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

        “It sounds like there were others here before us that were trying to return to Earth,” answers Captain Powell. “We must be inside some kind of an alien asteroid orbiting the Earth. They tried to use the portal to escape, but were being prevented by something controlling it on the surface. Then, they royally fracked up everything by blowing up that alien control platform.”

        “That is not good at all,” answers Sargent Panessa “It explains why where you can see up into the daylight, the sky looks like it is on fire. The atmosphere must be really fracked up on the surface. If it is, that would explain why day and night come so quickly down here. Do we even have a chance at attempting to repair the damage they did if the surface has indeed been turned into a hellish wasteland on fire?”

        “It seem impossible for now,” answers Captain Powell.

        “Raptors!” warns Sargent Pasenna who is in lead.

        “Lets take them out!” orders Captain Powell.

        There is a yelp of surprise as the lead raptor in the pack of three gets several stone arrows into its head. It goes down as it’s buddies get their legs wrapped up in bolas and are killed by the combined attack of the 11 airmen.

        “Good Job,” reports Captain Powell as the rest of the crew butcher the dying raptors and recover their spears and arrows. “We have proven to whatever brought us here that we can now take out a pack of these mudder frackers.”

        Continuing on, the patrol finds two wall size devices displaying static laden TV images of the surface of the Earth and one of Aberration. A nearby control panel appears to be functional. “Sargent Pasenna, see what you can do with this control unit,” orders Captain Powell. It is several minutes of studying the panel before Sargent Pasenna is able to find out what it does.

        “We have a communication device that appears to be functional,” reports Sargent Pasenna. “I’ve tapped into the Western Union wireless network. I’m going to try to send a message to flight control using Morose Code.” As Sargent Pasenna completes sending his first message and starts working on a second, there is a flash of electrical generated light, then a loud pop, as the console goes dead.

        “Did it work?” ask Captain Powell.

        “I’m not sure what the frack just happened,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “I can confirm that a message has just been sent to my parents, but there is no way one can be returned to us now. This transmitter fracked itself up before I could finish sending a telegram to flight control. I have no idea what fracked up or how to fracking fix it.”

        “Hopefully, the military will find out what has happened to us through your parents to let them know that we are OK.” answers Captain Powell.

        Continuing on, the patrol starts up, then down what looks like a monorail rail track that travels through a giant metal tunnel. It then opens up into a huge cavern with the biggest trees anyone has ever seen. The rail line, now elevated, continues on towards a dark blue cavern area. But, the patrol can go no further. “Whatever the frack caused that explosion, when we had arrived, ended up destroying this portion of the rail line,” reports Sargent Thomas. “We can go no further from up here.”

        “I see an awful lot of fracking debris down below us,” reports Sargent Pasenna. “Does that look like a pond with water down there?”

        “It looks like a lake with a river system to our left,” reports Sargent Thomas. “That would certainly solve our need for drinking water.”

        “If we can find a way to get back to ground level from this track, we might be able to find a path to get down there,” reports Pfc Ledfoot.

        “Lets do it,” orders Captain Powell.

        The patrol reverses course back through the tunnel, past the giant displays, and turns left to head down the ramp. “Hit the deck!” orders Sargent Thomas. “I see a thatch hut with strangers up ahead.”

        Placing the spotting scope on it, Captain Powell observes three individuals out chopping on boulders with metal picks. They have three raptors resting nearby with saddles on them. There is a refining forge processing metal ore. Looking astonished, Captain Powell gets up and shouts down to the three individuals. Everybody then rushes down to hug the three strangers in celebration.

        “Captain Shrivers, Sargent Gulliver, Grobbal, how did you three manage to survive being fracked up by those raptors?” ask Captain Powell.

        “We didn’t,” Captain Shrivers answers. “We were eaten alive by those fracking devils as you were making your escape. Somehow, we ended up back down here all together, exactly like when we first appeared way back up on that platform. Believe me, being ripped apart, then eaten alive by those mudder frackers, is not my idea of a having a good time. It was pure fracking hell. I never want to go through that fracking experience again.”

        “What the frack are you doing with these fracking raptors with saddles on them?” ask Captain Powell.

        “When these attacked us, we bola them, then knocked them out with stones on our slingshots.” answers Captain Shrivers. “That’s when we found out that we could tame them. They have turned out to be very loyal pets. It was sure quite a contrast from the ones that fracked us up, then ate us alive.”

        “This is sure one strange fracking place,” answers Captain Powell. “These creatures that fracked you up, then ate you for their meal, are now your pets that even allow you to ride on them like horses?”

        “Strange, isn’t it,” answers Captain Shrivers.“They even love having us petting them. Where have the rest of you been camped out?”

        “We are camped down at the other end where we ran for cover when you were attacked,” reports Captain Powell. “We were able to craft up weapons capable of taking out those fracking raptors that later threatened us. Have you found a source of water other then from the berries and aquatic mushrooms?”

        “No, we haven’t,” answers Captain Shrivers.

        “We saw a river system with a pond beyond the damaged section of the portal rail,” answers Captain Powell. “We might be able to get down to it if we continue around the structure where you are camped. Damn, it is already getting too late for traveling.”

        “You certainly don’t want to travel around here after dark without a torch,” answers Captain Shrivers. “Grobbal stepped into a frackin red mushroom patch and nearly died from it’s effects. It engulfed him in some kind of red spores. It fracked his mind up so bad that he was talking in gibberish and running around in circles. Then, he turned blue from heaving his guts out and $hitting all over the place. Those mudder fracking red mushrooms appear to be hiding in some of the berry bushes, so be careful when you go to pick them. It made him very sick for much of the day.”

        “Don’t go anywhere near those mudder fracking purple gas jets like the one you see over there. Sargent Gulliver was killed by one when he stepped on it. He reappeared back here naked on what we now call a spawn bed. He said it was no fun not being able to breathe. Strangely enough, he was able to recover all of his stuff from his dead body which then vanished several minutes later.”

        “While exploring above on the portal, we found three Explorer’s Notes left by other survivors.” answers Captain Powell. “According to them, this place, they call the Aberration Ark, is an alien artificial world orbiting the Earth. The author’s of one of those notes are apparently responsible for the fracked up conditions we are facing down here when they blew up a control platform in their effort to escape. They did an awful lot of damage to this Ark during that escape attempt. I don’t even know if it’s possible for us to repair it. Sargent Pasenna found a working communication terminal. He managed to send a telegraph message to his parents back home before the frackin device went to hell.”

        “If we are actually in orbit above the Earth, that could explain why gravity appears to be so much lighter down here,” answers Captain Shrivers. “Do you think that the military can get us the frack back home?”

        “I don’t know.” answers Captain Powell. “I believe that the Navy has been experimenting with stealth technology near Hen and Chicken Shoals. It would explain why my court marshal over the disappearance of my gunner Belvelto was suddenly ended by orders from the Pentagon with orders for us to remain silent and all evidences of that disappearance stricken from the military records. It is possible that they were testing out some extremely powerful electromagnetic equipment at the same time we were conducting our bombing run. If so, it could explain the weird things that started happening with our compass, our radios, that piercing high pitched noise, and the electrical failure we had with our aircraft before we ended up here.”

        “I’ll send some of the guys back to our camp to retrieve the rare items we have stored there. Then we’ll stay here with you for the night. At first light, I want to break camp and head down to where we saw that river system past the broken portal. We’ll build down there once we can find a suitable area for a more permanent camp.”

        “Excellent,” answers Captain Shrivers. “We should have our crossbows ready by morning. Save the spoiled meat, narcoberries and black mushrooms so we can make more Narc Arrows. We found them to be a lot more effective in dealing with the fracking raptors then stones on slingshots. That’s what we used to knock out these other two raptors for taming.”

        “Lets get our berries picked for the night, set up the guard duty, and get some rest so we can get started finding a more suitable area to set up a more permanent camp in the morning.”

        “Breaking News,”

        “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


        • #5
          Note, the forum software is now removing quotes from the posting of this fictional story.

          Chapter 4. The Mushroom Valley.

          It is early morning on the third day with Training Flight 19, trapped on the Aberration Ark, when another tremor shakes the campsite waking up everyone not on guard duty. “Everyone, get outside and pick up what has hit the ground before it vanishes,” orders Captain Powell. A bunch of odd items have fallen from high above this time. An old journal is found among the scattered crystal, flint, stone, wood, tools, and a bundle of cold light flares.

          “There must be an abandoned camp site or village up there,” comments Sargent Thomas. “That fracking stuff has to be coming from somewhere up above every time this place starts shaking itself apart.”

          “We would need to get some specialize climbing gear to even have a chance to get up that fracking high to find whatever is up above us.” answers Sargent Gulliver.

          Looking through the old journal, Captain Powell gathers everyone together to report to them what is written in it. “Someone by the name of Helena Walker has put together this journal of all of the creatures living down here.” he announces. “She has also mapped out and described the various areas of this cave system. According to her, where we are headed for today will be relatively safe, but, we need to build our camp up on the cliff sides to stay away from the dangerous predators that live down by the river. She warns of predators such as Spinos, Giant Crabs, Carnos, and packs of Ravagers.”

          “What in the frackin hell are Ravagers?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

          “According to this description by Helena, they are a wolf hyena like creature the size of a grizzly with a disposition about as bad. They run in packs of three or more with an Alpha leader. Interesting, she says that they can be tamed like your raptors, by tangling up their legs with a bola, knocking them out with narc arrows, then feeding them a favorite food such as raw prime or mutton.”

          “Mutton? Doesn’t that come from some fracking sheep?” ask Private Grobbal.

          “Apparently, those sheep must exist down here somewhere,” answers Captain Powell. “They must be hiding from the predators in the remote spots in the cave system which is why we haven’t seen them so far.”

          “I thought that I saw one yesterday when we were out on patrol,” reports Private Ledfood. “It looked weird with that glowing wool.”

          “Helena warns us to be very careful when exploring the Blue Cavern and its red neighbor below.” reports Captain Powell. “She says that we will need a light source from something called a Bulb Pug or a Shine Horn. Bulb Pugs are easily tamed with aquatic mushrooms. She says that the dark areas down below hide vicious creatures called Nameless that will attack on sight from underground. The light weakens them and scares them off. She also warns of a flying squid like creature called a Seeker. The light attracts them and makes them stronger. Our biggest danger she says are going to be from the Rock Drakes. They look like dragons without wings. They can be very hard to see since they can blend into the surroundings terrain making them nearly invisible.”

          “Does that mean that there are actually dragons living down here?” ask Private Ledfoot. “Maybe, we should just stay out of those dangerous areas.”

          “Unfortunately, if we are to have any chance of repairing The Portal, we are going to have to go down there to gather those rare materials such as that Edmunium Rockwell talks about in his explorer note.”

          “Helena also warns us about a blue fungus that will sap us of our warmth as if we are standing naked in 100* below zero weather. She also warns us about the deadly radiation in the Red Zone where we need to get red crystals in order to make a weapon that can kill something called a Reaper. She says that they are found on the surface at night and sometimes can appear down in the cavern when the Nameless call for them. She says that we will need to go up to the surface to gather certain rare resources if we are to escape to Earth. She confirms that it is a burning hell in the daytime and a reaper infested nightmare during the night.”

          “That sounds like it’s a living nightmare down there as well as on the surface,” answers Private Ledfoot.

          “She has given us a list of a bunch of items we will need to craft, including a device to capture the gas from that purple jet over there to create the hazard suits we will need to protect us from the radiation in the Red Zone. We will soon be able to make climbing picks, zip lines, and wing suits to make it easier for us to get around down in these caves.”

          “She tells us to take advantage of taming the strongest predators for our use and protection. She says that a high level pack of Ravagers would be a most ideal tames given that, in a pack, they are powerful, can carry a lot of weight, and can go up and down on zip lines with ease.”

          “The strongest creature of all that we can get will be the Rock Drakes. Unfortunately, we cannot tame the adults, we’ll have to steal one of their eggs, hatch it, and raise it to an adult. She says that we need to feed it something called Nameless Venom as it grows up. Worst of all, we need to place the egg in a freezer that can go down to over 100 below zero in order to hatch it. Those blue mushrooms won’t work for that.”

          “That sounds like we got our work cut out for us even before we can even attempt to repair The Portal,” answers Sargent Thomas. “How in the frackin hell can we hope to make a freezer in this heat that can reach the temperature of dry ice?”

          “Can we even hope to make one that will produce regular ice?” ask Private Ledfoot.

          “She says that we can raise those fracking Rock Drakes from their eggs,” answers Private Grobbal. “Has anyone else noticed any nest or youngsters among the other creatures we have seen around here so far?”

          “Come to think of it, I haven’t,” answers Ensign Bossman.

          “That is must unusual,” answers Gunner Icelander. “It must have something to do with this artificial environment where only the adult creatures are present. If that is the case, what keeps them from all going extinct?”

          “Something must be replacing them as they get killed off,” answers Ensign Bossman. “The three raptors, Captain Shrivers and his group tamed, must have been the replacements for the three that attacked them, then were killed by the Stegos, then later were killed by us at the rail line.”

          “Wow, this is really scary,” warns Captain Powell as he continues reading the journal. “Helena says that one of their tribe members managed to obtain a Reaper King. They are reported to have got it when a tribe members was impregnated by a Reaper Queen during a battle with one. It killed six of their tribe members and half of their Ravagers pack. 12 days later, the baby burst through his chest killing him. They had to keep it locked up for days with raw meat in a stone cage before it would settled down long enough for them to approach it without being attacked. Eventually, it accepted them as their parents and became a loyal tame as an adult.”

          “Stealing a Rock Drake egg sounds dangerous enough,” answers Captain Shrivers. “I don’t think that any of us wants anything to do with raising a mudder fracking Reaper King, especially if you have to die to give birth to one.”

          “Agreed,” answers Captain Powell. “We need to put all of our effort into making a weapon that can take them out before we even think of going up to the surface. Lets travel light for now, head down to the Mushroom Forest, and find a secure place to build our base. We can come back later for these supplies when we have built a collector for that gas vein.”

          The patrol starts off heading towards the gas vein, then to the right of the huge metal portal until it opens up high on the plateau over the Mushroom Forest. “There is a pond down there,” reports Sargent Gulliver who has taken point. “Should we try jumping into it from here?”

          “No, it looks too high up,” answers Captain Powell. “Besides, we can’t see what might be down in there waiting to have us as its meal. Lets follow the cliff to the right. When I was up on the broken rail line, it looks like we could find a path down to the water from there.”

          Heading right, they are able to get a good look of the portal tunnel as they reach the huge cavern. “Wow, look at all of that fracking damage.” reports Sargent Thomas.

          “There’s no way we are going to be able to fix that kind of damage, even with heavy equipment from a Seabee Team,” answers Ensign Bossman.

          “It might be possible to get the portal to work without having to totally repair it,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “This damage looks like it had been there for years. We made it here as we were about to ditch into the sea. It’s still possible that we can patch it up. It only has to hold together long enough to get us back home. Then, it can fracking blow itself up along with this place once we are out of here.”

          “Great! Here’s that path down to the water,” reports Sargent Gulliver.

          As the patrol heads down the steep path to the pond below, they can see giant mushroom trees of all sizes to the left. There is wildlife also down there, and predators. “Oh, oh,” warns Captain Powell when he places his spotting scope on the wolf like creatures in the distance. “Those must be those frackin Ravagers down there in a fight with that giant spinosaur. Wow, they must have ripped its throat open, there’s blood flying everywhere. So, that’s what makes them so dangerous as a pack. I count five of them after that Spino. They give a new meaning to the phrase ‘Devil Dogs’. Lets get down to the water and get the frack out of here before they decide to head over here to frack with us.”

          “That was an apex predator those creatures took out with ease,” reports Sargent Thomas. “If they are as tamable as your Helena reports them to be, these ‘Devil Dogs’ would make for excellent protectors from whatever the frack is living down here.”

          “We’ll attempt to tame us a pack of those ‘Devil Dogs’ once we are established and have saddles for them,” answers Captain Powell. “I’m really impressed with how well they worked together to take out that dangerous predator.”

          “What are these gold colored rocks?” ask Ensign Bossman.

          “Use your pick on them and find out,” answers Lt. Gerber.

          “Metal ore!” answers Ensign Bossman in excitement. “They are nearly pure metal ore. We won’t need to break up rocks all day just to make up more metal tools.

          “Excellent,” answers Captain Powell. “Lets take some of that ore with us before we head back up on the ridge to find a camp site.”

          “Water, real water,” Private Ledfoot says as he jumps in it to drinks his fill, then starts swimming in it.

          “I hope that water was safe to drink,” answers Lt. Tylor.

          “According to Helena, the water is safe to drink,” answers Captain Powell. “We just have to be aware of any predators that may be living in it.”

          “Aaaaaa!” Yells Private Ledfoot as he scrambles to get out of the water. “That fracking fish took a chunk of flesh out of my leg!”

          “What the frack are those things, Devil Fish?” warns Sargent Gulliver as he stabs the one that has beached itself with his spear coming after Private Ledfoot. “Look at the teeth in that thing!”

          “Those look like a giant version of South American Parana.” warns Sargent Pasenna. “You don’t want to mess with them.”

          “What an unusual plant,” comments Private Ledfoot as he limps over to sit down on a rock near it. “Oh! $hit! Not those fracking red mushrooms!”

          “Stay away from that plant!” warns Captain Shrivers as Pvt. Ledfoot, who is now under the hallucinating effects of the mushroom spores, wanders over and bumps into it. It starts to glows as a red tongue rises high into the sky out of its center.

          “What the frack are we going to do?” ask an alarmed Sargent Gulliver.

          “It’s all right,” answers Pvt. Ledfoot after a moment standing next to the unusual plant. “This plant is actually counteracting the effects from those frackin red mushroom spores. I feel fine now. Even the chunk of flesh that frackin devil fish took out of my leg has healed up. My health went back to normal just like that.”

          “He really is fine unlike the other day when Private Grobbal ran into those spores,” answers Captain Shrivers after examining him. “That plant could be a most useful first aid kit if we ever need it in the future.”

          “Oh, it just spit out a seed,” answers Pvt. Ledfoot.

          “Helena’s notebook says that this is a healing plant,” answers Captain Powell. “Bring the seed with you. We can find a place to plant it when we get our camp built.”

          Back up on the ridge, the patrol continues heading away from the damaged portal to search for an ideal place for building a more permanent camp. “This looks great!” reports Captain Powell after making a quick tour of the area. “We have this overhang above us, and the cliff below. The view from up here is excellent. It appears to be quiet around here with only some small herbivores. It’s narrow enough that we can easily fence off both ends to keep out any of the major threats. There’s plenty of building materials nearby. Lets clear this area and get started with the construction before it gets dark.”
          Last edited by SRV Ron; 11 Jan 19, 06:54.
          “Breaking News,”

          “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


          • #6
            Chapter 5. Getting established.

            As the construction gets started on their new location, a stone foundation is soon laid down for the house and refining forge. “Lets continue to use spark power to fire the forge,” recommends Ensign Bossman. “We can get charcoal later for gunpowder when we can find a reliable source of wood.”

            “Keep an eye on that Ravager pack when you head down to the pond for metal,” warns Captain Powell to Captain Shrivers. “Your raptors are no match for them if they should attack you.”

            “Lt. Garber, Ledfoot, go find and tame up some Bulb Pugs so we can have some biological lighting when we need it. Helena says they are a passive tame so you only need to give them aquatic mushrooms when they are hungry. The rest of us will gather materials so we can get this fortification constructed.”

            Coming back from a metal run with the raptors, Captain Shrivers makes a reports to Captain Powell. “Did Helena's journal say that a Stego makes a good berry and mushroom harvester?”

            “Yes, she did,” answers Captain Powell.

            “There is a nice high level one down near the pond by the cliff side. I’d like to tame it if we can. Can we make a saddle for one yet?”

            “Yes, we can,” answers Captain Powell. “Craft up a saddle and leave your raptors here so they don’t attack and get fracked up by it. Take your group down there, drop it with narc arrows, then tame it with mejoberries. See if you can harvest some of those red mushrooms with it once you have it tamed.” Armed with narc arrows on the crossbows, Shriver’s group head down toward the pond to confront the lone Stego.

            “Narc arrows to the head,” orders Captain Shrivers as the first volley of three are fired. The stego, with three narc arrows in its head, staggers in confusion, shakes them out, then charges the threesome.

            “Grobbal, Look out!” warns Sargent Gulliver as the stego takes off towards him “We really pissed it off.” The spike tail just misses as Pvt. Grobbal ducks out of the way. Two more narc arrows find their mark. The stego staggers, then falls down unconscious.

            “That went better then I though,” Captain Shrivers tells his men. With mejos on the Stego, the taming process is under way.

            Five minutes later, Sargent Gulliver spots trouble as the taming process continues. “Oh $hit!” he tells the others. “There are two of those frackin Devil Dogs heading this way.”

            “Are they part of that pack that killed the spino,” ask Captain Shrivers in alarm.

            “No,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “These appear to be loners.”

            “Lets get up on those rocks, bait them over there, and take them down before they kill our stego,” orders Captain Shrivers.

            “We don’t have any regular arrows with us,” warns Pvt. Grobbal.

            “That’s all right,” answers Captain Shrivers. “Bola them, then use your Narc Arrows when their legs are tangled up in them. Aim for the head. Narc arrows will drop them a lot faster then regular ones.”

            Now up on the rocks in a safer position, Captain Shrivers yells at the nearest Ravager to get it’s attention. It comes running to him, gets tangled in the bola, and earns three narc arrows in the head before falling down unconscious. It’s buddy comes running getting three narc arrows to its head. “Go after it!” orders Captain Shrivers as it changes direction and starts running towards the downed Stego. But before another narc arrow is fired at it, the Ravager slows down, staggers like it is drunk, then collapses.

            “Now what?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

            “We tame them,” answers Captain Shrivers. “Go get the raptors and bring them down here. We need to find raw meat for these two for taming.”

            Back at the camp site, it is several minutes later when Captain Powell notices the three raptors are missing.

            “Has anyone seen Captain Shrivers’ raptors?” Captain Powell asks.

            “Sargent Gulliver came back for them,” answers Pvt. Ledfoot who has just returned with a bulb pug drooling all over his shoulder.

            “Wow, those things look like pug dogs with lanterns on their heads,” answers Captain Powell. “I guess Captain Shrivers must have needed his raptors for protection or hunting. Lets get this fracking wall finished before it gets too dark to see what the frack we are doing.”

            “Back to where the Stego is being tamed, Captain Shrivers and Private Grobbal are out hunting with the raptors while Sargent Gulliver babysits the taming process. He is getting worried that the Ravagers may wake up before they are tamed as he scrambles to find more naroberries to keep then under. Then the Stego wakes up tamed. “Lets see if you can get some narcoberries for me,” Sargent Gulliver tells him as he saddles him up. “Excellent!” he tells the Stego after three tail swings later. “You just saved my day. “A stack of narcoberries is placed on each of the Ravagers and Sargent Gulliver soon has the both of them sleeping soundly.

            “Great, the Stego is awake,” Captain Shriver comments as he comes back after a successful hunt. “What the status on these Ravagers?”

            “It’s a good thing that Stevie here got tamed first,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “These Ravagers were about to wake up on me. They have a long ways to go yet. I would have been forced to kill them had Stevie not been able to get a bunch of narcoberries for me in time to keep them under. It looks like that It’s going to be dark before these guys are finally tamed.”

            “How’s Steve’s harvesting ability?” ask Captain Shrivers.

            “Check out his inventory,” answers Sargent Gulliver.

            “Wow! He got all that!” answers Captain Shrivers in astonishment.

            “It was just three tail swings,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “He even got stuff from those red mushrooms without getting sick from them.”

            “Outstanding,” answers Captain Shrivers. “That was well worth the effort to tame him.”

            “We should find him a girl friend,” Private Grobbal chimes in.

            “We’ll do so once we have the time to find a suitable mate for him,” answers Captain Shrivers. “Lets go do some more hunting until our Devil Dogs are tamed up.”

            It is soon night out as the rest of the group gets ready to set up watch. Strangely, it is nowhere near as dark in the Mushroom Cavern as it was in the Portal one. “We must be getting a lot of ambient light from the mushrooms and other glowing objects down here,” comments Sargent Thomas as his group starts first watch. There is a knock on the dinosaur gate, then it opens.

            “We tamed ourselves two Devil Dogs,” announces Captain Shrivers as his convoy of pets are brought inside.

            “Were they part of that pack I saw in the distance?” ask Captain Powell.

            “No, these were low level strays,” answers Captain Shrivers. “We had better have raw prime or mutton on us when we take on that high level pack of yours for taming. These two took a long time to tame on just raw meat alone. It is why were were so late coming back with the Stego.”

            “Devil Dogs, what an appropriate name for these two creatures.” answers Sargent Pasenna as he examines them up close. “They really do look the part. We should have saddles ready for them by morning so you can try them out.”

            “How was the Stego for harvesting?” ask Captain Powell.

            “Outstanding,” reports Captain Shrivers. “We got tons of narcoberries and black mushrooms from him.”

            “Excellent,” answers Captain Powell. “That will give us the narc arrows we will need to drop that high level pack when we are ready to go tame them.”

            “Those red mushrooms gave us most of the black ones,” answers Sargent Shrivers. “Stevie can harvest them with his tail while we are safely away from the spores. He also got something called biotoxin. It must be what made Grobbal so fracking sick when he ran into them the first time.”

            “Lets place that in storage,” orders Captain Powell. “Helena says that we will need it to make anti toxin to protect us if in case we are bitten by those Nameless things. We can use the black mushrooms for taming in place of the narcoberries.”

            “We should have climbing spikes and zip lines by morning,” announces Sargent Thomas. “That will make it much easier for us to get up on those cliffs and up into the trees.”

            Everyone is about to settle in for the night with the first watch going on station when the ground starts shaking violently. “This place is getting on my nerves,” complains Private Ledfoot.

            “Lets spread out and start gathering those gifts from above before they vanish,” orders Captain Powell.

            “Aiaaaaa.” shouts Icelander as he lose his footing on the shaking ground and falls off the camp side cliff.

            “Captain Shrivers, take your group on the raptors and go get him,” order Captain Powell in alarm. They quickly mount their raptors and go flying out of the gate to get down below.

            “There he is,” Private Grobball alerts the other as he sees Icelander running towards them. “What the frack is that things chasing him?”

            “Kill it!” orders Captain Shrivers. A giant scorpions is taken down with narc arrows, then ripped to pieces by the raptors.

            “What the frack was that things chasing me?” ask a frightened Icelander who is all out of breath.

            “It look like something called a giant scorpion,” answers Sargent Gulliver.

            “Thanks for getting that mudders fracker off of my a$$,” answers Icelander.

            “How did you survive that fall?” ask Captain Shrivers.

            “I just remembered my parachute training for landing,” answers Icelander. ‘Still, it knocked the wind out of me for a moment until I saw that evil eye ba$tards coming after me.”

            “Thank whoever created this place for the low gravity,” answers Captain Shrivers. “No one has ever survived a jump from that height without being badly injured. Lets get back to camp before something else comes after our hide.”

            “Breaking News,”

            “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


            • #7
              Chapter 6 Day Four on Aberration. Note, this forum editor is removing all open and close quotation marks from the posting.Its pulling apostrophes from words such as weren't.

              It is early the next morning when the new climbing tools are finally ready for testing. Sargent Pasenna has been busy crafting Zip lines and climbing picks for everyone. A pair of Ravager saddles have been crafted up as well for the two new tames.

              “We’ll have to use these climbing picks carefully and carry spares with us” reports Sargent Pasenna. “They wear out quickly when you use them. If they breaks while your climbing, you will fall for sure. They are just as tiring to use as a grappling hook, so, you had better be in good fracking shape when you start using them for climbing.”

              Captain Shrivers and Sargent Gulliver proceed to saddle up the two Devil Dogs to take them out to test out their abilities. “Helena says that they can climb zip lines as well as slide down them with ease, Lets go check that out. Lets see what they can do on one placed across this small gorge.” A zip line is placed, using the crossbow, to form a connection across the gorge.

              “This is great!” Sargent Gulliver tells Captain Shrivers as their ravagers cross the zip line. “These guys are natural tightrope walkers. We can travel both up and down on the zip line with these creatures.” On the other side, they spot a low level parasaur which is quickly killed and ripped to pieces for food and hide. “They make good hunters too.”

              “Oh Frack!” warns Captain Shrivers as he spots something dangerous ahead. “There’s that frackin pack of devil dogs and they are coming this way. Hurry, Get back across the zip line, now!” The pack spots them, then gives chase as Captain Shrivers and Sargent Gullivar race their Ravagers across the zip line to the other side of the gorge.

              “Are they going to try to follow us across?” ask Sargent Gulliver with concern as the pack reaches the zip line, then stops at the edge of the gorge to start sniffing it.

              “It doesn’t look like it for now,” answers Captain Shriver. “Just to be safe, we should cut the zip line.”

              “I think that they are more fracken curious about us with our two tames.” answers Captain Shrivers. “Otherwise, they would be charging the frack across after us. Lets leave the zip line intact for now and report back to Captain Powell.”

              “You’re back early,” Captain Powell says with surprise. “Did you run into some fracking trouble?”

              “That high level pack of devil dogs spotted us as we were testing out the zip line,” answers Captain Shrivers. “We weren'’t sure if they were going to frack with us or not. They seemed to be most curious about us riding on two of their own kind.”

              “Where in the frack are they now? Ask Captain Powell.

              “They are over across the ravine by our zip line,” answers Captain Shrivers.

              “Head back out to the zip line with your Devil Dogs but don’t cross it.” orders Captain Powell. “Keep them curious about you but don’t frack with them. The rest of us are going to scale the ravine behind them, take them down with bolas, and knock them out for taming. When they are all down, you can come across and help us out.” Armed with narc arrows, bolas, and climbing picks, everyone heads out to the ravine. Spotting the devil dogs near the zip line, Captain Powell sets out the five teams to their target Ravagers sending them across the ravine down new zip lines, then up using the climbing picks to scale the cliff side to the top.

              As they climb up the ravine to get behind them, the high level pack is surprised by the sudden appearance of the 12 marines and Navy personnel. As they turn to attack, they are promptly taken down by a dozen bolas. The Narc arrows are next. A low level is the first to drop which Private Grobbal is assigned to tame. The other three of higher level, take another volley of narc arrows before they go down.

              “Get another bola on that alpha,” orders Captain Powell as she starts to gets free and tries to run away. Two more bolas tangle up her legs as another salvo of narc arrows finally does the job of dropping her. She is a Level 150.

              “Captain Shrivers, Sargent Gulliver,” order Captain Powell. “Take your Devil Dogs and go kill those two sheep up on the ridge.” A zip line is fired so the sheep can be reached quickly. The freshly harvested mutton is placed on the five unconscious Ravagers. A mid level lone female has been dropped near the sheep before the two can return. Sargent Gulliver stays to tame her as Captain Shrivers takes the mutton down to the others.

              “Do we have enough resources to make six ravager saddles?” ask Captain Shrivers.

              “That won’t be a problem,” Sargent Thomas answers in return. “I can easily get the fungal wood required for crafting them from the giant mushrooms trees nearby.”

              With the mutton, Private Grobbal’s low level ravager is tamed in minutes. He is off riding him with the new saddle that Sargent Thomas has just crafted up with the rest of FT-117 helping him. It takes the better part of the day to tame up the rest of the high level pack especially the Level 150 alpha, but, she turns out to be well worth the effort. “Racy is awesome!” Captain Powell tells the others as he takes her out for a test run. “We will need to find six more higher level Devil Dogs for the FT 28 and FT-3 crews.”

              “We are going to have to enlarge the pen if our pack grows to 14 or more of them,” Sargent Thomas tells Captain Powell.

              “I’ll assign FT 28 and FT-3 to work on that while the rest of us go exploring this area of the cavern.” answers Captain Powell. “If we find suitable Ravagers for them, we’ll tame them up and bring them back with us to the base.

              Heading back towards the damaged rail line, a zip line is set so the eight riders can head up to the top. The pack climbs the line with ease. “It is amazing that something so simple as a crossbow fired string line can become strong and stable enough for eight Devil Dogs with riders to climb up it at once. This is quite an unusual place.”

              On the portal rail line, the group continues traveling on it for quite some distance until they are forced to stop when they find that the monorail has broken off. It has fallen into a deep blue cavern forming a spine like that of some huge dead creature. “That is a long fracking ways down to where that rail line fell,” reports Sargent Thomas. “It’s too far down even for a zip line or our climbing picks. We’ll need to find another way to get down there.”

              “Then, lets head back to that brightly lit forest to see what is over there,” orders Captain Powell.

              “Wait a minute, I though I saw something moving down below there.” Sargent Thomas answers. Placing the spotting scope on it, a message comes up. It reads, “Rock Drake, level 40, male.” “That’s strange, I can’t see anything there. Oh, now I do. That Rock Drake has camouflaged itself with the terrain. It’s like a shimmering distortion when it starts moving.”

              “What is a Rock Drake?” ask Private Grobbal.

              “It is a mystical creature from the mid evil times,” answers Private Ledfoot. “It is a four legged dragon that doesn’t have wings for flying.”

              “Dragon?” questions Private Grobbal. “There are no such fracking things as dragons.”

              “Neither are these Devil Dogs or the Bulb Pugs,” answers Sargent Thomas. “Yet, my spyglass is definitely showing what looks like a dragon with feathers on its forehead, its front legs, and its tail. So, they must fracking exist, even if its only in this place.”

              “Lets get off the rail line and head towards that lighted area of the Mushroom Forest,” orders Captain Powell. “We need to learn more about these Rock Drakes before we go into their territory and end up in a confrontation with one.”

              Back down below, using a natural zip line to get to a hill off of the rail line, the group continues towards the brightly lit forest. It is rich in mushroom trees and other unusual plants. Some of the giant trees reach towards the bright sky that shows through in spots. There are metal nodes and crystal that can be seen up on the hilltops.

              “What is this piece of alien machinery?” ask Sargent Thomas as he rides by a device that looks like a radar antenna.

              “It’s called a Charge Node,” answers Sargent Pasenna after they stop for him to examine it up close using his Specimen Implant. “You can charge up something called charge batteries in it or craft up something called Elements from Element Ore. That will be useful for the Charge Lanterns once we can craft them.”

              Continuing on, the group finds the steep terrain getting ever higher and brighter. It opens up into a chamber filled with bones from several large creatures. “What are those strange skeletons?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

              “Those look like the bones of some flying dragons,” answers Sargent Thomas. “They are another creature that is not suppose to exist.”

              “I wonder what happened to them?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

              “I don’t know,” answers Sargent Thomas. “It looks like they were trying to escape from something up above and were killed in the process.”

              “I can see the entrance to the surface. I should be able to get a zip line up there.”

              “Go for it,” orders Captain Powell. A zip line is soon set up from the base of the cliff to the top of it.

              “Wow, is it ever starting to get hot up here,” warns Sargent Thomas as he takes lead up the zipline. “****, my Devil Dog doesn’t want to go any further up the rope. Something is spooking her.” Continuing up, Sargent Thomas manages to get a peak of the surface outside as they are exposed to the brilliant sunlight. “Aguuuh! Get the fracking hell out of here! That fracking surface is on fire!” Everyone is jumping off the zip line getting out of the way of a flaming Sargent Thomas and his flaming Devil Dog. They rush to his aid to put out the fire with canteens and spare clothes. Both Sargent Thomas and his devil dog have been badly burned just from that brief exposure to the sunlit surface. A temporary camp is set up so the two of them can recover from their injuries. Thankfully, they have brought along Medical Brew that was crafted from a recipe found in a supply drop. A healing plant is located nearby where the two are taken to get healed up faster.

              “That Explorer Note was right,” Sargent Thomas reports as he and his devil dog are recovering from their burns. “Those people really did royally frack things up on the surface. It looked like the inside of a blast furnace. The rocks looked like they were melting. The flat area was a sea of towering flames. It must be what killed those dragons when they tried to escape the fires by coming down here.”

              “Then, we will have to come back after dark if we want to explore up there and be sure we leave well before the sun rises,” answers Captain Powell. “Lets head back to base before it gets too dark out. Grab some of this metal ore so we can start crafting those Long Neck Rifles. Place it on the Devil Dogs. It seems to weigh far less on them then it does on us.”

              “Doesn’t it seem like the days have been getting longer with the nights getting shorter?” ask Lt. Gerber as they harvest the rich metal ore rocks.

              “Yes they have,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “My engram is registering 90% day, 10% night. I suspect that this Ark is in such an erratic orbit that we could soon see a 10% day and 90% night cycle. If so, that would be the most ideal time to go explore that fracked up surface.”

              As they start back, another gas vein is noted and marked on the makeshift map Captain Powell is carrying. “Since those charge lanterns and hazard suits are going to need a lot of congealed gas balls once we can craft them, we’ll start gathering congealed gas balls as soon as we can make the collectors,” he tells everyone. “Make a mental note of where this one is located.

              On the way back, a mid level pack of three Ravagers is found near the bright area, They are quickly taken down with bolas and narc arrows. With their left over mutton, the taming process goes quickly. “Three more of these mudder frackers and we will have a devil dog for everyone.”

              Back at the camp, the pen has been enlarged for the additional tames. Lt. Taylor’s group has found a pack of three high level Ravagers way up on the plateau as they were mining wood and boulders to craft the expanded wall. It has taken them much of the day to tame them given that there were no sheep in the area. Parport brings up the saddles just as the Alpha has tamed up. It is 2200 and still daylight as they ride along the plateau looking for a way down.

              “Lets see if we can get a zip line down from here,” orders Lt. Tylor. “It takes several tries to get one to take. It leads them down to an area where they can safely return to base as darkness falls around 2300.

              “This is like the land of the Midnight Sun,” Daryol says to the others.

              “No doubt, it will soon be the other way around soon when we have to contend with it being dark for over 22 hours,” answers Parport.

              “Good, the others are back,” reports Lt. Tylor. “They got three more Devil Dogs. That means Ensign Bossman’s group have their rides as well,”

              “We brought back a ton of metal ore,” reports Captain Powell to Lt. Tylor. “We found rich metal nodes over in the bright area. The Devil Dogs are able to carry a lot more of it on them then we can.”

              “That is excellent,” answers Lt. Tylor. “We should have Long Neck Rifles crafted for everyone by 0800.”

              “I saw a Rock Drake down in the blue grotto,” reports Sargent Thomas. “What does Helena’s journal tells us about them?”

              “She says that they are very intelligent and have the ability to cloak themselves making them invisible in the surroundings.” answers Ensign Bossman. “She says that because of their intelligence, the adults cannot be tamed. One can steal an egg and raise it to maturity but that will **** them all off. Even then, we would have to create some place super cold to hatch it, then feed the baby something called Nameless Venom.”

              “I feel that together, with our Devil Dogs, we should be strong enough to take on a couple of them at once if we are forced to.” answers Captain Powell. “Still, I don’t want to risk getting everyone killed and losing all of our tames on a mission to steal an egg, then have to worry about them constantly attacking us should we be forced to kill some of them. Lets just leave them alone but make up some tranc darts for the Longneck just in case we end up in a confrontation with one.”

              “That sounds like the logical thing to do,” answers Sargent Thomas. “Especially after nearly getting my Devil Dog and myself killed by stepping into that intense flaming hell up there on that surface.”

              “Lets get this ore melted down using wood as fuel so we can get the charcoal we need for gunpowder,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “Then, we can have tranc darts for everyone before we head out to do any more exploring.”
              “Breaking News,”

              “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


              • #8
                Quotes just don't show up on the editor. They do show up in the post.

                Chapter 7 The Rock Drakes.

                On the morning of Day 5, as promised, Long Neck Rifles have been crafted for everyone along with a dozen rounds of ammo and a dozen tranc darts. More wood has been gathered to burn down to charcoal for the additional gunpowder needed for more ammo. Another stash of rich metal ore has been located nearby and is being processed in the refining forges. The plan is to get more ammo and tranc darts crafted up before the trip is made to go down into the Blue Grotto to locate and harvest blue and red gems. But for now, the group will be searching along the edge of the Blue Grotto looking for a path they can use to get down there and back up.

                It is 10:00 when Captain Powers has assembled the patrol to go search the perimeter of the Blue Grotto for a path down. FT-81 is staying behind to secure the camp and continue with improvements that include installing a rope ladder to the river below, constructing a water pipe to bring water to the camp, planting Species Z seeds to get them growing, and securing the cliff above from any surprises that may fall in on them.

                Before the patrol can cross the stream to the other side, a giant crab suddenly appears from behind a rock outcropping and starts to attack them. “Tear that fracker up!” orders Captain Powers when it grabs Sargent Pasenna off of his devil dog. The Ravagers make short work of the giant crab.

                “I got Organic Polymer and lots of it,” Sargent Pasenna reports as he gets back on his ride.

                “So did I,” several others report to Captain Powell.

                “Lets head back to camp and craft up that much cooler Gillie Armor,” orders Captain Powell.

                Lt. Garber is surprised by the quick return of the patrol but quickly gets the Smithy busy crafting Gillie Armor for everyone. “I’ll make some spare sets with what is left,” he tells Captain Powell. “Organic Polymer won’t keep for more then an hour at most.”

                “At least, we know where we can get more if we need it,” Captain Powers answers back. “Those fracking giant crabs don’t stand a chance against fourteen Devil Dogs.”

                Heading back out, the patrol reaches the edge of the Blue Grotto and heads to the left to look for a path down that doesn’t involve using zip lines. “This Gillie Armor is so much cooler then hide or even cloth,” comments Sargent Thomas. “It sure beats sweating like hell all of the time in this heat.”

                “It makes good camouflage as well,” answers Captain Powell. “Too bad we can’t dress our devil dogs in this as well. Lets go see what’s in that yellow loot crate that just appeared over there.”

                As they head over to where the yellow loot crate is located, the Devil Dogs suddenly go on alert. “There’s something unseen up ahead that is bothering them,” warns Sargent Thomas.

                “Everyone, have your rifles ready for action,” orders Captain Powell. “Load them with tranc darts.”

                Suddenly, with a loud shreak, the foliage up ahead shimmers, then dissolves to reveal a rock drake staring right at Sargent Thomas. “Oh $hit!” he says frozen in fear as the rock drake flares it’s war bonnet, then lunges towards him with its mouth wide open, ready to take a bite out of him.

                “Tranc it!” orders Captain Powell.

                There is a squawk of surprise as eleven tranc darts hit the drake in the neck. It staggers for a moment as if it is drunk, then collapses to the ground in front of Sargent Thomas.

                “Wow, that is one beautiful mudder fracker,” Captain Shrivers comments as he examines the unconscious rock drake up close. “I wish that we had the ability to tame him even though my Specimen Implant does not show a taming bar.” Sargent Gulliver proceeds to recover the eleven tranc darts still in the rock drake’s neck as Private Grobbal has gone to the loot crate to check out it’s contents.

                “Where did you get that Rock Drake Saddle?” ask Captain Powell as Private Grobbal returns from the yellow loot crate that has now vanished.

                “It was in that yellow loot crate,” answers Private Grobbal.

                “That is most interesting,” answers Sargent Gullivar. “It is as if whoever placed that loot crate there, want us to use it on this guy.”

                “Should I put it on him?” ask Private Grobbal.

                “Go ahead,” Captain Powell tells him. “Lets see what it looks like on a rock drake” Private Grobbal and Sargent Gulliver proceeds to place the saddle on the still unconscious creature.

                “That is most interesting,” Sargent Gulliver says as the saddle is placed on the unconscious rock drake. “There is a place for two riders to sit on it.”

                “It’s so hard to believe that rock drakes actually exist.” Private Grobbal answers back. “Lets go sit on him,” The two men climb on board the saddled unconscious rock drake.

                “I wish that I had my camera with me,” Ensign Bossman comments. “You two look so majestic on board that fantasy creature.”

                As they are sitting on the Rock Drake, he starts moving as there is a groan heard from him that sounds something like, “Oh, my head.”

                “Oh $hit!” yells Sargent Gulliver as the rock drake stands back up with a loud shreak of panic as everyone scrambles for cover. “He just woke up.”

                “Hang on!” yells Private Grobbal as the rock drake, now realizing that he has been saddled with two humans riding on him, takes off running in a panic towards a ravine at full speed. “I have no frackin control over him.”

                “After them!” orders Captain Powell as the rest of the patrol scrambles to their Devil Dogs to give chase.

                “Grobbal, Watch out for that drop off,” warns Sargent Gulliver.”

                “I can’t stop him. He’s grabbed the bit in his mouth.” warns Private Grobbal as the rock drake takes a flying leap off of the drop off. “Wow! He can fly.”

                “Oh Crap!” complains Captain Powell as their Ravagers slide to a stop at the edge of the ravine. “That thing is flying. We’ll never catch up to them in this terrain.”

                On board the flying Rock Drake, Private Grobbal continues in his struggle for control over this badly frightened creature.

                “Good, I’ve got him turning back towards The Portal. Whoa! Pull up buddy!” The rock drake pulls up at the last second, slams into the cliff feet first, and starts scrambling up the vertical cliff to the top of the main portal as fast as he can run. He takes off again and lands in the plateau of The Portal by the remains of an abandoned camp. There, totally out of breath, he lays down to rest. “He’s completely exhausted,” reports Private Grobbal as the two riders start to catch their breath after that exciting ride. “Get some rest buddy while we figure out what we should do with you.” Private Grobbal soon finds himself patting the exhausted rock drake on the neck.

                “Did you hear him say something about a fracking headache before he took off in a panic?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

                “Yes, I did,” answers Private Grobbal. “I have read where dragons were very intelligent, that they could actually talk to people, but those were in those fantasy books I read as a kid. I’m wondering if this one can actually talk to us.”

                “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask him,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “He seems to be calming down the more we talk about him.”

                “Here. Take the reins and let him have his head when I get off of him,” answers Private Grobbal.

                “Please don’t hurt me,” the rock drake ask Private Grobbal in an exhausted voice when he comes around the front to see him.

                “We won’t harm you as long as you don’t try to harm us,” Private Grobbal answers back, then proceeds to pet him on his neck.

                Dismounting but with the reins still in his hand, Sargent Gulliver ask the rock drake, “Do you have a name?”

                “What is a name?” ask the rock drake.

                “I’m called Sargent Gulliver and this is my friend Grobbal.” Sargent Gulliver answers. “Can we call you Rocky?”

                “Rocky sounds like a fine name,” answers the rock drake.

                “Then, Rocky it is,” answers Sargent Gulliver.

                “Can you take that thing out of my mouth?” ask Rocky. “It is very uncomfortable.”

                “You promise not to take off and abandon us here if we remove the bit from your mouth?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

                “I won’t take off on you,” answers Rocky.

                “If he is anything like the dragons in my fictional books, he will keep his word.” answers Private Grobbal as he goes to remove the bridle from Rocky’s head.

                “Thank you so much for taking that uncomfortable thing out of my mouth,” Rocky answers.

                “Why did you attack us back near the Blue Grotto?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

                “I was afraid that you humans had returned to steal our eggs again,” answers Rocky.

                “I can understand why,” answers Private Grobbal. “According to Helena’s journal, the former tribes that escaped from this place had been hunting rock drakes to steal their eggs. No wonder you attacked us. You thought that we were part of a tribe that had stayed behind. We only arrived here by accident a couple of days ago.”

                “How did you knock me out without hurting me?” ask Rocky.

                “We had just crafted something called tranc darts.” answers Sargent Gulliver. “It is fired from our long neck rifle and injects a tranquilizer made from the black mushrooms and berries. We’re sorry about the headache you had when you woke up. It is the first time we have ever used them to stop a creature from attacking us.”

                “I’m sorry that I attacked your tribe,” answers Rocky. “I was so afraid you were going to try to kill me when you showed up with such a large pack of Ravagers as your tames.”

                “Where did you get the saddle to put on me?”

                “That’s what is so strange,” answers Private Grobbal. “It was in a yellow loot crate that appeared just before you surprised us. It is as if it was given to us so we could use it on you.”

                “That is most interesting,” answers Rocky. “The humans so long ago had to craft them for use with their rock drakes they raised from our stolen eggs. Those egg tames were so stupid.”

                “Then, it appears that whoever place that saddle for us to find must want us to become friends instead of bitter enemies,” answers Sargent Gulliver.

                “We can certainly become friends,” answers Rocky. “I never knew it felt so good to be petted by a human.”

                “I’m happy to hear that,” answers Private Grobbal. “I really didn’t want to be getting into a fight with you and your friends just because of how you have been treated by the others in the past.”

                “How will we be able to establish a truce with your friends so they don’t attack us?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

                “We can go to the Blue Grotto and talk to them,” answers Rocky.

                “Before we go, can we check out this abandoned camp that is up here?” asks Sargent Gulliver.

                “Yes,” answers Rocky. “It used to belong to the tribe of Helena.”

                “That explains how her journal ended up down below for us to find it during one of those earth quakes,” answers Sargent Gulliver.

                “Here’s another one of those Explorer’s notes,” reports Private Grobbal as he is searching through the campsite. “It’s contains a Rockwell recipe for protecting the devil dogs from radiation poisoning.”

                “Ackkk!” yells out Rocky in a panic as he nearly takes off. “Sir. Edmund Rockwell is a monster. He wiped out an entire village of humans and most of their egg tames. Then, he killed several more of us just for his entertainment!”

                “We know,” answers Private Grobbal. “Helena’s journal tells us all about what happened to him. He was a scientist that invented many of the recipes we have found useful, even lifesaving. Then, he became obsessed in his research over something he called Edmunium. It literally took control of his mind. He kept injecting himself with that frackin $hit in his quest for more power. That stuff eventually turned him into what we called a Mr. Hide, a hideous monster that destroys everything around him in a fit of rage.”

                Another tremor starts shaking the ground as the threesome are talking. More bits of stone, wood, and crystal come shaking down from above.

                “I will be happy when the day comes that we can get this portal repaired so we can leave this frackin place,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “I fear that this place could start falling apart at any moment.”

                “You are probably correct,” answers Rocky. “These tremors keep getting worse every day with Rockwell’s meddling with the machinery that is holding this Ark together. I fear that he is going to have to be killed before he does something that causes those machines to explode.”

                “Can you help us to get prepared to kill Rockwell if we have to confront him once we are able to repair the portal for our escape?” ask Sargent Grobbal.

                “Yes,” answers Rocky. “Please, take us with you when you can get the portal working. I’m certain that this Ark is going to be destroyed once The Portal is activated again.”

                “If our commander, Captain Powell, and your friends can come to an agreement to help us defeat Edmund Rockwell, then we have a deal,” answers Sargent Grobbal. “Lets go find your friends and have a talk with them.”
                “Breaking News,”

                “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


                • #9
                  Chapter 8. The Conference.

                  “This is so much better riding on you, when you are so relaxed, then when you were in such a panic” Private Grobbal tells Rocky as he glides and climbs on his way to a flat area way back on a butte in the Blue Grotto. “I’ve read that dragons could be ridden bareback. I just don’t think that I could hang on to you when you are climbing up these rock faces if we were to ride you bareback.”

                  “This is actually quite enjoyable having you two riding on me even on this saddle,” answers Rocky. “You are correct about the dragons being ridden bareback. I used to see them on the surface with the humans riding on them before they were killed by the fire when the Ark shield was damaged. It’s so much easier for me to have you use the saddle. I don’t have to worry about you trying to hang on me when I am climbing up the rock walls.”

                  “I’m so happy that we decided to become friends.” Sargent Gulliver tells Rocky.

                  “You are one remarkable creature,” Private Grobbal tells Rocky. “I never knew those fantasy books I read about dragons ever had any facts behind them in those stories of the Mid Evil times.”

                  “Here we are at our destination,” answers Rocky as they land on top of a butte just inside the Blue Grotto. “I’ll call for my friends to come up here where it is safe for you. It’s too dangerous down there for humans where they are now living.” With several chirps and rumbles from Rocky vocalization in dragon speak, a couple of shimmering shapes come up the side of the butte to face them. The first shape to reveals itself is a female rock drake.

                  “Oh No!” she says in shock while in tears. “How did those humans capture you to make you their tame? How will I live without you?”

                  “Oh my,” Sargent Gulliver whispers to Private Grobbal. “It’s his mate and she’s really upset that we are riding on him.”

                  “It’s OK!” Rocky tells her. “These are my friends. We’ll still be together.”

                  “But you have that egg tame saddle on you!” the female rock drake answers in tears.

                  “It was more comfortable for me to bring them here wearing it,” answers Rocky. “Otherwise, they could have easily slid off my back when I am climbing up the rock faces. As you can see, they took the bridle off of it for me.”

                  “So they have no control over you when they are riding on you?” she ask.

                  “I’m in complete control,” Rocky answers. “Come over here and let them pet you on the neck. It feels surprisingly good.”

                  “It’s all right girl,” Private Grobbal tells her. “We won’t harm you.”

                  “They really can talk to us!” the female answers back in shock. “I never knew that.” Cautiously, she comes over by Rocky so she can get petted. “You are right.” she says as she regains her composure. “That does feel good.”

                  “Do you have a name?” Sargent Gulliver ask her.

                  “No, I don’t,” she answers. “What is a name?”

                  “It is something we call ourselves when we want to talk to each other,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “I’m Sargent Gulliver, Private Grobbal is sitting in front of me, and we named your mate Rocky.”

                  “What would you like to call me?” she ask.

                  “How does Lady Rocky sound?” Sargent Gulliver asks.

                  “That sounds wonderful,” she answers.

                  “What do you think Rocky?” Sargent Gulliver ask.

                  “I like it.” he answers back.

                  “I’m glad that we got to meet Lady Rocky so you two could get back together,” answers Private Grobbal. “We really miss being without our wives and girlfriends.”

                  “Why didn’t they come with you?” ask Lady Rocky.

                  “We were out on what we call a military patrol, away from our wives, girlfriends, and families, when things went totally FUBAR.” answers Sargent Gulliver. “Somehow, 14 of us ended up stranded in this place without them. We think that we can get back home if we can repair the portal that was used to bring us here in the first place. Rocky tells me that he is afraid that this Ark may destroy itself if Rockwell keeps screwing around with the machinery. If you and your friends are willing to help us, we will try our best to repair the portal, get rid of Rockwell, and get you off of this Ark to a safer place.”

                  “You would really do that for us?” another rock drake ask as he makes himself visible.

                  “If our leader, Captain Powell, agrees to it, the answer would be yes.”

                  “That would be so wonderful,” answers the new rock drake.

                  “Are you their leader?” Sargent Gulliver ask him.

                  “Yes, I am.” he answers.

                  “Can I call you Mayor?” Sargent Gulliver ask him.

                  “What does a mayor mean?” ask the new rock drake.

                  “A Mayor is an elected civilian leader of a community where humans live,” answers Sargent Gulliver. We use titles such as commander, Sargent, and Captains, because we are in the military service.”

                  “That sounds fine by me,” answers the new rock drake.

                  “Then Mayor it is,” answers Sargent Gulliver.

                  The rest of the rock drakes soon reveal themselves. There are now 12 of them on the butte with the two military personnel.

                  “You’re an excellent leader,” Sargent Gulliver tells the Mayor. “First contact with the unknown is always such a dangerous situation. Had we not identified one of you the other day when we were up at the broken end of the rail line, we would have found ourselves totally unprepared when Rocky showed up earlier today. It would have been tragic for all of us when he attacked us had we ended up killing him instead of just knocking him out with tranc darts. We would probably have ended up killing each other off by now.”

                  “I think that whoever constructed this Ark wanted us to get together in spite of the fact that Helena’s Journal states that your kind cannot be tamed as adults. That saddle Rocky has on was deliberately placed in a supply drop for us to find when he found us. Someone or something out there wanted us to get together and become friends.”

                  “That is most interesting,” answers Mayor. “There are now so few of us left after the last showdown we had with that Rockwell monster. Lets travel back to your base so I can talk to your leader.”

                  “I caution you to use your cloaking device like you did when you first met us.” answers Sargent Gulliver. “Rocky scared us all when he first appeared. “I would hate to see any of you get hurt if we screw up our first contact with the rest of our group. Follow my lead when I ask for Captain Powell to step outside.”

                  “Can you ride on me to your base,” ask Mayor. “I have an egg tame saddle that we salvaged from the village that Rockwell destroyed.”

                  “I’d be delighted to” answers Sargent Gulliver. “When I put on the saddle, I’ll remove the bridle so it is more comfortable for you. Captain Powell already knows what Rocky looks like. He will recognize that you are not him when you uncloak. You don’t need to wear a bridle. I can just tell you where to go.”

                  It’s mid afternoon as the remainder of the patrol returns to their base camp after a fruitless search for their missing comrades. “Did Sargent Gullivar or Grobbal show up back here?”

                  “No,” answers Lt Garber. “What happened to them?”

                  “They took off on an unplanned trip riding on a wild Rock Drake,” answers Captain Powell. “We gave chase but that ba$tard outran us like we were standing still. It went gliding over the ravine, then, it scrambled up the side of the portal like it was running downhill and disappeared over the other side. I have never seen anything that big move so fast.”

                  “Apparently, it has not killed them.” answers Lt. Garber. “None of the spawn beds have registered any activity.”

                  “I hope so,” answers Captain Powell. “With these frequent tremors and strange happenings, nothing appears to be reliable around here any more.”

                  Suddenly, there is a growl of alert by the Alpha Ravager as she and the pack run over to the main gate to start looking around. There are several thuds heard outside. “What’s out there!” Captain Powell asks Private Ledfoot who is up on the watch tower.

                  “I don’t know,” he answers back. “I heard the noises, like the thud of several heavy feet hitting the ground, then saw some puffs of dust out front. But now, everything looks clear. Oh wait, Sargent Gulliver just appeared out of nowhere.”

                  “Captain Powell, can you come out here and talk to us?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

                  “Where’s Grobbal?” ask the Captain.

                  “He’s close by,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “Mayor needs to talk to you about getting out of this place.”

                  “Who’s is this Mayor?” ask Captain Powell as he steps outside the compound.

                  “Go ahead Mayor, show yourself,” Sargent Gulliver answers back. A rock drake now materializes just behind Sargent Gulliver.

                  “My God!” answers Captain Powell in shock. “No wonder we never saw that Rock Drake this morning until we were on top of it, They have the ability to make themselves invisible.”

                  “Wait a minute, that doesn’t look like the rock drake you two were riding on.”

                  “He isn’t,” answers private Grobbal as he and rocky become visible.

                  “How did you manage to tame two of them?” ask Captain Powell in disbelief.

                  “We didn’t,” answers Sargent Gulliver. “They chose to become our friends, all 12 of them,” as the other ten start to uncloak themselves.

                  “I understand that your group wants to try to repair the portal so you can get back home.” Mayor tells Captain Powell. “Can you help us to escape from here if we help you with the repairs?”

                  A stunned Captain Powell has to sit down for a minute to get over the shock of talking rock drakes. Then he tells Mayor, “Yes, We can most certainly use your help in obtaining the rare materials we need to repair that Portal. If it’s at all possible, we’ll take all of you back with us. There’s plenty of remote places in our world where you can remain hidden from our civilization. Lt. Tylor, Lt. Garber, Ensign Bossman, Captain Shrivers, get out here. We need to talk to this Mayor to formulate our plans for conducting this upcoming mission.”

                  “Thank you,” answers Mayor. “It will be so good to work with you humans instead of fighting each other. There are so few of us left after what happened to us when Rockwell turned himself into that hideous monster.”

                  “Everyone, come out here and find yourself a rock drake to become friends with,” orders Sargent Gulliver. “They love to be petted on their neck. Give them a name if they don’t have one yet. It seems to be missing from their culture.”

                  The five pilots spend over an hour talking with Mayor as they talk about the underground cave system, what happened at the village, and ways to deal with Edmund Rockwell when the time comes to escape. Everyone else is enjoying being with the wild rock drakes who are now enjoying all of the unusual attention as they get used to each others presence.

                  Private Grobbal has taken the saddle off of Mayor so he can place it on Lady Rocky. Being curious about her mate enjoying having humans riding on him, she wants to take some humans riding with her before it gets dark. Private Ledfoot, Icelander, and Baluck go with Private Grobbal on this latest adventure.

                  “We’re going to need a much bigger pen,” Sargent Thomas tells Captain Powell as evening approaches.

                  “Rocky and Lady Rocky want to spend the night with us,” answers Captain Powell as he gathers the rest of the group together. We have just enough room in here for them. Mayor and the rest of the rock drakes are headed back to their home in the Blue Grotto for the night. In the morning, I’ll assign a detail to enlarge the pen so they can all stay with us.”

                  “Even more amazing, they are bringing six rock drake eggs back with them. We are going to place them in the preserving bins for the time being. Even though they have never been able to get their eggs to hatch in this environment, they don’t want to leave them behind. We could attempt to hatch the eggs for them ourselves, but, that would only delay our trying to escape from here. Besides, there is the risk that they could become dumb egg tames if we were to do so. That would be a disaster for them and for us. If we can get our rock drake friends to Alaska when we get back, they should be able to find an area near the Arctic Circle that is cold enough for their eggs to properly incubate and hatch.”

                  “Sargent Pasenna is going to take Mayor with him in the morning to inspect the portal so he can find out what is needed to repair it so we can get the frack out of here.”

                  “As soon as we can get saddles made for them, the rest of us are going to use the Rock Drakes to gather up the rare resources we need to complete this mission. We’ll go get the blue and red crystals we need for the gas collectors, bio suits, and charge weapons. That will allow us to collect the resources we need to repair the portal and confront Rockwell so we can all escape from here.”

                  “I know, It’s a super busy schedule, but, we need to get this done before this place falls apart leaving us stranded here or worse. Even Mayor doesn’t know how much longer this place can hold itself together.”

                  “Breaking News,”

                  “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


                  • #10
                    Chapter 9. The Oath.

                    “That was so enjoyable,” Lady Rocky tells Rocky as they return to the base. “I never knew taking these humans for a ride would be such a pleasure.”

                    “We had a great time on that ride,” Private Grobbal answers as he removes the saddles from Rocky. “Just remember that you two are not our tames. We like you just the way you are, as our friends.”

                    “That was a great ride,” answers Private Ledfoot as he removes the saddle from Lady Rocky. “She was so gracious, so kind. Those two make a great couple.”

                    “It’s going to be so great to be working with the rock drakes,” answers Captain Shrivers. “They are going to be such a big help in getting us out of this fracked up place.”

                    “Captain Powell has just called all of us for an important meeting concerning our Rock Drake friends,” reports Sargent Gulliver. “Rocky, Lady Rocky, come join us. This meeting is about our concerns about your future, as well as ours, once we return to our world.”

                    “What is this all about?” Rocky ask Private Grobbal with concern.

                    “I think that it has something to do with your ability to become invisible with us riding on you.” answers Private Grobbal as everyone gathers for the meeting in the commons area.

                    “I wish this could wait until morning when Mayor and the other rock drakes are here,” reports Captain Powell. “I just know that I would not be able to get any fracking sleep tonight until I know how the rest of you feel about our new rock drake friends.”

                    “I’m extremely concerned that our superiors are going to frack with them once they find out about their cloaking ability. Can you imagine how useful a living cloaking device would be in the upcoming confrontation with the Soviets? A dozen cloaked rock drakes, fully capable of carrying up to 24 well armed marines into a Soviet base unseen, climbing over walls, down cliffs, gliding in for a landing, intelligent creatures capable of defending themselves, as those marines conduct their business of sabotage, stealing Soviet secrets, or even taking out key Soviet leaders.”

                    “Rocky, Lady Rocky, I’m frightened by the fact that if my superiors find out about your cloaking ability and take you away from us, they will force you to become their tames to do their bidding. You could resist them all you want, but in the end, you would either be forced to submit to them or die trying to resist them.”

                    “I wish that we could just leave you here for your own protection, but I’m as certain as Mayor that the days we can remain down here are numbered before this place turns into a death trap for all of us.”

                    “As a Marine, I feel that its my sworn duty to protect our rock drake friends from our superiors, even if it means sacrificing my marriage, my career, or my life.”

                    “How do the rest of you feel about this?”

                    “I’m with you sir. So am I. Count me in. We’re all in this together,” the rest answers.

                    “Then, it is settled,”Captain Powell reports.

                    “Rocky, just to let you know that we don’t take being killed and reborn in this world lightly, a death in our world is permanent. We cannot be reborn again as has happened to several of us on this Ark. We now swear an oath as Marines to protect you and your friends from our superiors no matter what the cost to us.”

                    “You’re crying,” Private Grobbal says to Rocky as he goes to pets him on the neck after the meeting.

                    “It’s just so overwhelming to see how you humans have just pledged to protect us with your lives, knowing that you could never be reborn.” answers Rocky in tears. “No humans have ever been so concerned about our well being, even those that had their egg tames.”

                    “Before we ended up here, we had finished fighting a vicious war over world domination,” answers Private Grobbal. “Millions died in that fight. This emerging conflict with the Soviets threatens to start it all over again. With your special abilities, you could certainly help us out in that conflict, but you should do so of your own free will, not through the use of threats or torture. We are pledged to protect your freedom as we have pledged to protect the freedom of the citizens of our country.”

                    “I think that I now understand the sacrifice you are making to protect us,” answers Rocky. “You really are true friends.”

                    “Lets get some rest,” answers Private Grobbal. “We have a very busy day ahead of us tomorrow.”

                    It is the following morning when Captain Powell hands out the work assignments for the day. Mayor and the rest of the Rock Drakes have arrived to help out. Thy have brought the six eggs with them which are promptly placed into the preserving bins labeled with the name of the parents they belong to. “This is the safest place we can keep them for now until the time comes for us to leave.” Captain Powell tells them. “When we reach Earth and can relocate you in the remote wilderness of Alaska, you should be able to find the conditions you will need to hatch them. There are plenty of wild animals living up there that you can catch for your food.”

                    “We brought two additional saddles we had salvaged from the village that you can use on us when we go exploring for resources,” answers Mayor.

                    “Excellent,” answers Captain Powell. “We found a blueprint for a Rock Drake Saddles in a drop early this morning. We won’t have to wait to level up so we can obtain the engram for one. We can craft the other eight saddles as soon as we can obtain the crystals needed for them.”

                    “I’m sending you out with Sargent Pasenna so you can help him with inspecting The Portal. I’ll take five other people with me on Rocky, Lady Rocky, and whoever wants to volunteer to carry two more of us to gather resources. The rest of my team is going to enlarge this base so all of you can have a comfortable place to stay for the night.” With the teams picked out, they all proceed on their mission with Captain Powell riding on Mary, one of the rock drakes that Sargent Thomas had made friend with the night before.

                    Sargent Pasenna is riding on Mayor who stops up on the high Portal Platform to asks him a question. “I’m really concerned about what might happened to us when we travel back to your world,” he asks.

                    “Let us talk about your concern before we continue,” Sargent Pasenna answers. He gets off Mayor so that he can face him up close and personal.

                    “After you left yesterday to return to the Blue Grotto, Captain Powell called everybody together, including Rocky and Lady Rocky to discuss what we should do in case our superiors were to take an interest in your cloaking ability to use as a weapon of war. Where I come from, we had just won a war over three oppressive nations that were fighting for world dominance. Millions died in that war before we were able to defeat them. We are currently facing a foe that wants to enslave all of the nations on our world. They have already taken advantage of the destruction from the last war to enslave a third of that world.”

                    “Because we fear that our superiors may want to take advantage of your cloaking ability against your will, we made a decision last night that we would sacrifice our careers, even our lives, to prevent that from ever happening. We all swore an oath to protect you from them, no matter what the cost to us. Unlike this Ark, death is permanent on our world. We are all willing to lose our lives if that is what it takes to protect your freedom.”

                    Rocky is now looking at Sargent Pasenna with a stunned look. “I didn’t know that humans would ever do such a thing to protect the lives and freedoms of others, even us.”

                    “For a Marine, it would be the greatest of dishonor to ever break such a pledge of loyalty.” answers Sargent Pasenna as the ground starts shaking again.

                    “Lets get back to work,” Mayor answers. “I don’t know how much more this place can withstand this shaking before it completely falls apart. If we lose that portal because of these quakes, as you marines would say, we’re all screwed.”

                    Landing at the origin point, the two of them visually survey the aiming point of The portal. “It looks like three of the rings along the rail line in the distance have tilted out of alignment,” Sargent Pasenna reports to Mayor. “Lets go check out the control panel to see if it is possible to remotely activate it before we see if it is possible to pull them back into alignment.”

                    “Good, very good,” Sargent Pasenna says to himself. “Excellent.”

                    “Mayor, we now have access to crafting a remote control device. I can fit it to this console to activate it once it has been programmed to our destination. With a charge battery, I can activate the remote from the origin point.”

                    “We need to be careful that Rockwell doesn’t find out what we are doing,” answers Mayor. “He could disable the portal or cut the power to it.”

                    “I agree,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “Lets go check out those bent rings and see what it will take to pull them back in alignment.”

                    “Do we need to bridge this gap so the portal sled can cross it?” Mayer ask Sargent Pasenna.

                    “I’m not sure.” Sargent Pasenna answers. “We should be able to craft a stone tower for a support, then, if we can find enough metal ore, craft the floor plates needed to connect it back together.”

                    Crossing the gap, Mayer takes Sargent Pasenna down to the bent rings. “Damn, I wish that we had some heavy equipment. This is going to take a lot of effort to pull them back into position without it.” They move on to the end of the rail line.

                    “$hit, this last one is really bent and embedded into the ceiling. I see no way we can ever pull it back with it hanging so far into the Blue Grotto.”

                    “Oh Crap! We’re screwed! There are a dozen more of them laying at the bottom in the shape of a spine. Even if we had the heavy equipment, we’ll never be able to get them back into position.”

                    “Can you make it work with what is there?” ask Mayor.

                    “I think that it’s possible,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “It got us here before the bridge was cut in two by an explosion when we first arrived. If we can cut that last ring loose with explosives, we will have a straight shot for the accelerator. I’ll just have to push the portal acceleration way into the red in order to reach an escape velocity. Once this machine has sent us on the way, it can go ahead and blow itself apart.”

                    “You better wait until we get rid of Rockwell before you cut that ring,” warns Mayor. “The explosion is sure to tip him off to what we are doing.”

                    “I agree,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “Lets repair what we can of the portal, prepare it for action, go kill Rockwell, then get the fracking hell out of here as fast as we can.”
                    “Breaking News,”

                    “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


                    • #11
                      Chapter 10. The Injured Rock Drakes.

                      Sargent Pasenna and Mayor start heading back from their survey of The Portal when they hear a moaning sound up on the cliff above. “What is going on up there?” ask Sargent Pasenna with alarm.

                      “It sounds like one of my friends has been badly hurt,” answers Mayor. “I’m heading up there.”

                      “Be careful,” warns Sargent Pasenna. “We could be stepping into an ambush.”

                      Cautiously, Mayor scales the cliff face to have a look. They both find a pair of injured rock drakes that Sargent Pasenna hasn’t seen before. “They’re badly hurt,” he tells Mayor after a quick visual inspection of their condition. “They desperately need our help.”

                      “Oh NO!” moans the male in pain as he sees Sargent Pasenna on a saddled Mayor. “How did that human tame our leader?”

                      “It’s all right,” answers Mayor. “I’m not a tame. We are here to help.”

                      After a quick inspection of the two badly injured rock drakes, Sargent Pasenna tells Mayor to go back to the base to get help. “Leave me all of your raw meat,” he orders. “Bring back some narcs, medical brew, another first aid kit, and two armed marines so we can better protect your two friends. And, hurry! I don’t want to lose them to something stupid like a frackin raptor.”

                      The female rock drake is so scared of Sargent Pasenna as he approaches her to check her over, but she is too weak to get away from him. “I’m scared,” she says while crying. “It hurts so bad. I don’t want to die.”

                      “Lie still,” he tells her softly. “I’m here to help. Eat some of this raw meat to start the healing process. Take these Narcs, they will help ease the pain until Mayor can return with the medical brew and first aid kits.” He rubs her neck to help her calms down a bit, then she does what he tells her to do. She is soon unconscious sleeping comfortably.

                      Heading over to the male, he assesses his condition. He is a bit more alert then his mate but still very frightened. “What happened to my mate?” he asks in alarm with a pain filled voice.

                      “I gave her something to ease the pain so she could get some rest.” Sargent Pasenna answers. “Eat some of this raw meat, It will help start the healing process.”

                      “I wish that I had more narcs on me but your mate needed them so badly. Give me a minute to go find some black mushrooms. They will help to ease your pain.”

                      “I’m so tired,” the male tells Sargent Pasenna after he eats three of the black mushrooms that were found. “Where did our leader go?”

                      “I sent him back to our base to get more help and our medical supplies,” Sargent Pasenna answers as he strokes the male’s neck. “I wish that I could have put you to sleep for a while until you have healed up a bit. I don’t want to risk using a tranc dart on you in your weakened condition. What in the fracking hell happened to you two?”

                      “That feels sooo good,” answers the male. “We tried to take out Edmund Rockwell. It didn’t go well. He beat the crap out of us, then grabbed us with his tentacles and flung us up against the chamber walls. Somehow, we ended up back here.”

                      “Mayor and I believe that we are going to have to kill this Rockwell monster if we are to escape from this Ark before it falls apart on us.” answers Sargent Pasenna. “Is there anything you can tells us about Rockwell and the weapons he was using against you?”

                      “Rockwell is now a hideous monster about the size of those huge portal rings. He lives in a pond filled with a toxic liquid he calls Edminium. His huge distorted body sits in the middle of that pond where a metal ramp leads up to the front of him. While he can no longer move out of that pond, he fights with his giant tentacles that can reach way outside of it. We were able to bite some of them off, but then, he called in those Nameless and Reapers Kings to attack us. We became so busy fighting them that he started hitting us with glowing balls of acid. Somehow, we managed to take out all eight tentacles. That’s when he dropped down into the pond exposing his innards. We were about ready to move in to attack when he regenerated his tentacles, grabbed the both of us with them, and threw us into the chamber walls. That’s when we ended up back here.”

                      “How did you get over to where he lives?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

                      “Down way below, in the Cavern of Souls, there is a portal that can be activated that will take you to the chamber where he now lives.”

                      “Thank you for that information, It is going to help us a great deal to formulate a plan for taking him out without getting killed. There are 13 other professional soldiers in my flight group. We have Mayor and all the other Rock Drakes with us that are being leveled up for strength and endurance. We also have 14 loyal tamed Ravagers, two tamed stegos, and three tamed Raptors allied with us. Once we can obtain charge weapons, rocket launchers, and high powered assault rifles, we should be strong enough to take down Rockwell and get the frack out of this place. Mayor and the other 11 rock drakes want to leave Ark with us to go back to Earth. We have pledged to protect them and find them a home in Alaska where they can hatch their eggs and live in peace. You are more then welcome to join us as equals once we are ready to fight Rockwell. The harder we can hit him, the safer it will be for the rest of us. I’ll try to bring you all back with us when The Portal becomes operational again.”

                      “I now understand why our leader has decided to become allies with you humans” answers back the male.

                      “Sargent Pasenna,” Lt. Garber ask as he and Private Ledfoot arrive on Mayor. “What’s going on here?”

                      “I need you two to protect these injured rock drakes until they are strong enough to return to the base with us,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “They have some very valuable intel on how we can defeat that Rockwell monster.”

                      Private Ledfoot goes over to check on the injured female. “It is a good thing that you put her to sleep,” Private Ledfoot answers back as he applies the medical brew to her wounds, then binds them up with supplies from the first aid kit. “This girl is in really bad shape.”

                      “Her mate is not much better,” reports Sargent Pasenna. “Don’t give him any more narcs. He wants to remain conscious so he can talk to us.”

                      “I brought along a large canvass bucket for water,” Lt. Garber reports. “These two are going to be quite dehydrated as a result of their injuries.”

                      “Take Mayor down to the pond to fetch them some water,” answers Private Ledfoot. “These Aquatic mushrooms will help until you can get back.”

                      Coming back quickly, the male, who has now been named Daryl, gets a drink from the canvass bucket. “That was good,” he tells the others. “I feel so much better now. I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable around you humans.”

                      “If you don’t mind, we would like to call your mate Darlene.”

                      “That sounds like a good name,” Daryl answers back.

                      “Ohhh!” Darlene says as she starts to wake up. “Awkkk!” she says as she spots the three humans with Daryl and Mayor.

                      “It’s all right” Daryl tells her. “These humans are our friends.”

                      “Water, thank you so much,” she answers as she drinks the rest of the bucket from Lt. Garber.

                      “We’d better stay here overnight until these two have regained enough strength to return with us,” reports Lt. Garber. “This looks like a secure area. I’ll check above what is at the top of the cliff. If it looks secure, we should have a quiet night.”

                      “Mayor, lets go get them some more raw meat and water before it gets dark.” orders Sargent Pasenna. “Those two are going to need it before we can return to camp with them.”

                      The cliff above turns out to be part of the ceiling making it secure from any threats that could come from that direction. Being high up and on the edge of the open world above, the light of the planet in the sky shines down illuminating the surrounding area so that the three solders can verify that the area is safe. They take turns holding watch and comforting the injured rock drakes as they continue to rest comfortably.

                      “Why did you try to attack Rockwell?” Private Ledfoot asks Darlene as he is stroking her neck to comfort her.

                      “That monster sent out his Red Devils to steal my egg out of my nest, then he smashed it into the force field when I tried to get it back.” Darlene answers back.

                      “That’s awful,” answers Private Ledfoot. “Soon, the day is coming when you will get your revenge. Get some sleep so you can have the strength to come back with us in the morning.”

                      “I like you,” Darlene tells him. Then she is sound asleep.

                      By morning, both rock drakes are feeling a lot better. Overnight, they have formed a strong bond with Lt. Garber and Private Ledfoot. “Is this what it is like to become a tame?” Daryl asks Lt. Garber.

                      “No,” answers Lt. Garber. “This is what it is like to become our friends. Do you feel strong enough to glide back to our base?”

                      “Yes,” answers Daryl and Darlene. “How will the three of you get back? Mayor’s tame saddle can only holds two humans.”

                      “I brought along a wing suit,” answers Lt. Garber. “I can glide back with you. Follow Mayor back to our base. You can land inside where it is safe with your friends.”

                      The short trip back is made with no issues other then the two new rock drakes are very tired when they finally arrive. The other 11 are so happy to see them. “I thought that we had lost you forever,” Rocky tells Daryl when he sees him again.

                      “It’s a long story,” Daryl answers back. “We’re just so tired from having survived that horrible ordeal with Rockwell.”

                      Where did you find those two?” ask Captain Powell. “They look like they have gone through hell and back. I though that all of the rock drakes were accounted for.”

                      “We found them up on the cliff near the portal,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “They tried to take out Rockwell and got fracked up by him.”

                      “We have a feeding tray over in the corner stocked with raw meat.” Captain Powell tells the newcomers. “You can get a drink from the tap if you are thirsty. Get some rest. When you have your strength back, I want to know everything you can tell me about that frackin Rockwell monster. It will help us prepare to do battle with him when the time comes.”

                      “Sargent Pasenna, what is the status on the portal?”

                      “I’m puzzled as to how it works. At first, I thought that we had to be at the end of the chamber where we first appeared on this Ark. But now, I believe that all we have to do is gather at the top by the sled where the control panel is when we are ready to use it. Now that I think about it, the damaged sections of the Portal may have nothing to do with its operation at all. Those appear to be part of a transit system that terminates at the control panel. There is no reason to even attempt a repair that rail line. Besides, it is scattered all over the place in the Blue Grotto and beyond. Even if we had access to the heavy equipment, and the Seebees to man it, it would take us years to repair that kind of damage.”

                      “Rocky has just confirmed what you suspected,” answers Captain Powell. “That frackin rail system is found all over this Ark. It is now in pieces as a result of all of those earthquakes. There is a station point where all the rock drakes were living. The fact that the rail line is not required to power the portal is good news. It means that we now all stand a chance of getting the frack out of here when we activate it.”

                      “Do you think that it can transport all 14 of us, all of our tames, and our rock drake friends at the same time?”

                      “If we can all get close enough together, yes,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “We are going to have to all go at once. I fear that this machine will no longer be capable of sending anyone else back once we have used it the first time.”

                      “Take Sargent Thomas with you and run a complete diagnosis on that Portal control,” orders Captain Powell. “Ride Mayor out there. I want to be sure that we can all escape before we take on Rockwell. When they feel up to it, I want to debrief Daryl and Darlene about the confrontation they had with Rockwell. See if you can set up some secure storage in the transport pad so we can move the rock drake eggs over there. Once we have defeated Rockwell, I have a feeling that we will have to get the frack out of here just as fast as we frackin can.”

                      “We’ll head over there right now,” answers Sargent Pasenna.

                      Inspecting the portal control for the second time, Sargent Pasenna confirms his second though about how the portal functions. “It does indeed look like that the rest of this structure is just a rail line that leads to this terminal. This must have been a central hub for sending people to other locations and bringing them back here.”

                      “Good, this console is functioning properly. The overhead displays are showing the locations of other arks and the Earth.”

                      “You mean that there are other Arks besides this one?” ask Sargent Thomas.

                      “Yes,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “I just as soon get back to Earth then visit any one of them. We can let our scientist figure out what they are when we get back.”

                      “Is everyone going to fit on the platform?” ask Sargent Thomas.

                      “If we sit on the rock drakes and place the devil dogs underneath them, we should have enough space for everyone. Lets get the storage shed off of Mayor and place it nearby so their eggs can be moved to here.”

                      Heading back, a report is filed with Captain Powell. “Good news,” reports Sargent Pasenna. The control panel is functioning properly. The diagnosis test indicates that the portal is fully operational. We have it set for Earth. We can head back home once we know Rockwell can’t cut the power to it.”

                      “That is excellent news,” Captain Powers says. “Our two new rock drakes friends are mending quite well. I kept Lt. Garber and Private Ledfoot with them so they can become bonded together. They are getting along quite well with each other. We should have saddles for them by tomorrow.”

                      “Sargent Gulliver and Private Grobbal are out with Rocky and his mate looking for shine horns. At least, they don’t drool all over your shoulder like these bulb pugs do. Everyone else is out gathering the supplies we will need for saddles and charge weapons.”

                      “In the morning, take Mayor out with Margaret and go collect congealed gas balls from the six collectors we got set up this morning. Margaret can show you where those collectors are located. We should be able to craft up some hazard suits later in the day.”
                      “Breaking News,”

                      “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


                      • #12
                        Chapter 11. Preparation and training.

                        Sargent Thompson and Pasenna are headed out that morning to check on the new gas collectors that have been running all night. “Margaret makes a wonderful mate for Mayor,” Sargent Thomas comments. “I so miss my girlfriend. I had planned to pop the question to her on our next date.”

                        “Hopefully, you will all be back home soon,” answers Margaret. “I’m looking forward to seeing your Alaska wilderness and the ability to properly incubate my egg so it can hatch.”

                        “We’re all looking forward to that day,” Sargent Thomas tells her.

                        “Here is the first gas collector,” reports Margaret as she walks up by it. “It is showing 95% full.”

                        “That working faster then we thought they would. How do we collect the gas balls?” ask Sargent Thomas.

                        “You can use your Specimen Implant to access the machine, then transfer the gas balls to your inventory,” answers Margaret. “The congealed gas balls are light, very compact, and stable.”

                        “I’m showing that this collector has suffered some minor damage,” answers Sargent Paesnna as he collects the first batch of congealed gas balls. “I can’t repair it here. Should we take it back with us?”

                        “No,” answers Margaret. “Ensign Bossman told me that the damage is normal wear and tear. Just let the machine function until it wears out. He says it is too dangerous to remove one after it has been put in place.”

                        “Hopefully, they will have served their purpose long before they have worn out,” Sargent Paesnna tells Margaret. “Lets head over to the next one.”

                        “99% full,” reports Sargent Thomas as he collects the gas from the second machine. The rock drakes continues on to the third collector.

                        “100%,” reports Sargent Pasenna as he goes to access the third machine. Then, the pressure valve activates. “Don’t go near it!” gaps Sargent Pasenna as he starts choking for air.

                        “What the frack just happened?” ask Sargent Thomas in alarm as he goes to render aid to his friend.

                        “There is a congealed gas ball laying on the ground next to it,” answers Mayor.

                        “I’m all right now,” Sargent Paesnna reports as he regains his breath.

                        Sargent Thomas goes to access the machine which returns to the empty state as he collects a full load. He then picks up the stray gas ball. “When this machine became full, it must have ejected the excess as a congealed gas ball. We’ll have to be careful that we are not near them when they read 100% until the safety system ejects one.”

                        With that warning, the other three gas collectors are visited with their contents removed safely. “Take the rest of the morning off,” orders Captain Powell after he hears about the accident with collector three. “Then, you two can go work on some flying tactics with Mayor and Margaret on our new combat trainer.”

                        While they were gone, Captain Powell has ordered Lt. Garber and Private Ledfoot to take their new rock drake friends over to stand by a healing plant near their camp. Captain Powell debriefs both rock drakes about their attacking Rockwell as they finish healing up.

                        After the healing session and debriefing, the two new Rock Drake saddles that have been crafted, are assigned to Lt. Garber and Private Ledfoot to try out on their new rock drake friends.

                        “I never knew that the strange bulbous plant with the long red tongue had the ability to quickly heal one’s injuries,” Lt. Garber tells Daryl as he goes to saddle him up. “We should have taken you two directly there in the morning instead of back to our base.”

                        “That was amazing standing next to that thing to get fully healed up,” Daryl answers back. “As you marines would say, I feel ready for action.”

                        Back in the training area, Lt Garber and Private Ledfoot prepare their new rock drake friends for their first training session.

                        “I’ve never had a saddle placed on me before,” Darlene tells Private Ledfoot as he goes to put the new one on her. “It frightens me.”

                        “That is quite all right,” Private Ledfoot tells her. “As of a couple of days ago, no wild rock drake on Aberration has ever had a saddle placed on them, “Rocky was the first one when Private Grobbal found a saddle in a supply drop and Sargent Gulliver put it on him as a joke while he was unconscious. No one was prepared for Rocky to suddenly wake up and take off in a panic with those two riding on him. You can imagine our surprise when they came back with Mayor and all the other rock drakes as their friends.”

                        “You only need seven saddles for us to take everyone of you with us,” answers Daryl. “Why are you going to all the work to make one for each of us?”

                        “They will provide armor protection for you when we are ready to go to confront Rockwell.” Lt. Garber answers.

                        “Then, are you are doing this for our protection when we go back to do battle with Rockwell?” ask Daryl.

                        “Most certainly,” answers Lt. Garber. “And, so we can fire ranged weapons from a stable platform while you are doing the aerial and land maneuvering for us. Lets try them out and get you two leveled up for action. Captain Powell wants us to toughen you two up for endurance in rapid climbing and gliding from point to point. He wants us to train in using our ranged weapons while riding on you. We’ll place a training dummy on a rock peak or on top of a tall mushroom and get familiar with how fast you can climb, glide, and do maneuvering. It will be just like our air combat training, but you will be our plane and the pilot and we will be the gunner. We’ll leave the bridle off so you can have complete control of the situation at all times.”

                        “How does that feel?” Private Ledfoot ask Darlene when the saddle is put into place.

                        “That feels quite comfortable,” she tells him.

                        “Are you ready for me to sit on it?” he ask.

                        “I guess so,” she answers nervously as he gets on the saddle in the driver’s position. “Oh, that is not as bad as I feared. It actually feels quite enjoyable.”

                        “Lets take this one easy step at a time,” Private Ledfoot tells her as he strokes her on the neck. “Just walk around for a bit, then we will try some running, climbing up some rock faces, then do some gliding. Since we are not using a bridle, you can take a direction cue by reacting to my body weight while we are on the ground or while gliding. That leave both hands free for me to use a ranged weapon from you. It will be like riding a horse for me. Besides, you don’t need the bridle when I can just tell you what I want you to do. Lets start off at a walk. Just follow my cue for turning until it becomes second nature, then we’ll try it at different speeds.”

                        “Where did you learn horseback riding?” ask Lt. Garber.

                        “I learned it at the local stable near the base,” answers Private Ledfoot. “The riders that performed best in competition riding were the ones that trained on the same mount every day.”

                        “You’re method for training rock drakes sounds quite logical,” Lt. Garber answers back. “I’ll have Daryl follow in kind.”

                        “If we all train on our own rock drake, they will be more in sync with us when the big showdown takes place.” answers Private Ledfoot.

                        “I’ll have to agree,” answers Captain Powell. “Private Ledfoot is correct on having everyone train on their own rock drake. It will become second nature to them both when speed and precision is needed for that final showdown with Rockwell. I’m putting Private Ledfoot in charge of rock drake training as we get the saddles crafted for all of them. I’ll set up the target over here. You two can hit it with crossbows starting at a walk, later at a run, then try hitting it during a glide.”

                        “What about all of these mushroom trees when we try gliding?” as Lt. Garber.

                        “Pretend that they are Rockwell’s arms,” answers Captain Powell. “Learn how to avoid them when running and gliding. Use blunt tipped arrows. Try not to hit each other or your rock drake friends with an arrow while you are training. And, if you think that the two of you are going to get in each others’ way, wait until we start training with 14 rock drakes at once.”

                        “What did Captain Powell mean by using 14 rock drakes at once on a target?” ask Daryl.

                        “He wants all of us to be able to engage Rockwell all at once,” answers Lt. Garber. “It is like hitting the enemy with overwhelming force in order to defeat him.”

                        “I now understand why he wants us to train all together,” answers Daryl. “It is so Rockwell doesn’t get the chance to beat us up again.”

                        “Exactly,” answers Lt. Garber. “Lets get started at a walk, then a run.”

                        “Excellent,” reports Captain Powell as both men nail the target while riding. “Now, try it coming from both directions at once.”

                        “Why are we doing it this way?” ask Darlene.

                        “It makes us harder for Rockwell to hit us and harder for our target to avoid us,” answers Private Ledfoot. “This is why when we fly torpedo planes, we try to hit the target ship from three directions at once.”

                        “But we could run into each other once we start gliding to the target from opposite directions,” answers Darlene.

                        “This is where your training comes in,” answers Private Ledfoot. “It is going to be your job to avoid colliding with each other while we attack Rockwell with a ranged weapon. I would suggest that one of us climbs at the last moment while the other dives. That will give both of us the chance to take a shot without one of us getting in the way.”

                        “Daryl, when we go running towards each other, you jump over Darlene as we take the shot. Then, we’ll trade places so we don’t end up setting up a pattern that Rockwell could use against us. We’ll try the same tactic while gliding.”

                        The first run by is made but the two rock drakes do a side by pass. Captain Powell pulls both of them to the side. “You can’t do it that way,” he scolds them. “One of you will accidentally hit the other instead of Rockwell. If not, the one further to the side is going to get a blast of rocket exhaust in the face once we start using rocket launchers.”

                        “I now understand the tactic,” answers Daryl. “Let me jump and Darlene duck.” They make a second run by pass. Two blunt end arrows now hit their target.

                        “That went much better,” answers Lt Garber. “I didn’t have to worry about Daryl colliding with Darlene which allowed me to concentrate on hitting the target. Now, lets try gliding.”

                        In the glide attack, the training goes well, but then, on a faster gliding run, both rock drakes pull up and collide with other. “Are you all right?” Private Ledfoot ask Darlene as she recovers having the breath knocked out of her.

                        “I’m fine,” she answers. “What went wrong?”

                        “May I suggest something,” answers Captain Powell. “Lets set up a flight rule for head on attacking. The rock drake that has Rockwell on the left will climb while the one with Rockwell on the right will dive. The last thing we want to have happen is having both of you getting knocked out to become an easy target right in front of Rockwell.”

                        “On the left, climb, on the right, dive. I’ve got it!” answers Darlene.

                        “Good girl,” answers Captain Powell. “We’ll make an honorary Marines out of you yet.”

                        Private Grobbal and Sargent Gullivar start training next with Rocky and Lady Rocky being officially assigned to them. “Excellent,” remarks Captain Powell after the four of them have made several practice runs. “Lets take a break for a minute.”

                        “What would happen if we were to attack Rockwell while cloaked?” ask Sargent Gulliver.

                        “Would the rock drakes still be able to see each other when cloaked?” ask Private Grobbal.

                        “Yes, we can still see each other while cloaked,” answers Rocky. “The Nameless and Reapers cannot see us while we are cloaked.”

                        “What about Rockwell?” ask Captain Powell.

                        “I believe that Rockwell can still see us.” answers Daryl. “His acid ball attacks kept hitting us when we attempted to hide from him by cloaking.”

                        “Then, you should only use your cloaking ability to confuse the reapers and nameless,” answers Captain Powell. “I’ll have Sargent Thomas and Sargent Pasenna join you with Mayor and Margaret. As soon as there are saddles crafted up for them, the rest of us will join in on the training. Later, we’ll construct a mock up of Rockwell in the pond so we can train how to avoid falling in it. We’ll have eight target tentacles set up for you to attack at once. The good news is, like the Japanese battleship Yamoto, Rockwell is going to be a big fat stationary target. Very dangerous? Yes, But if we can keep from getting hurt by his weaponry as we keep pounding on him with ours, we will eventually sink him like we did the Yamoto.”

                        “Lets get back to work.”

                        “Breaking News,”

                        “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


                        • #13
                          Chapter 12. The Expeditions.

                          As the training continues at a level better then expected, Captain Powers calls for a break for the day to gather everyone for a meeting. “The six of you are doing very well,” he tells the rock drakes in training. “However, we have a problem with crafting the additional saddles and the hazard suits that we will need. There are no more red gems available in the Green Zone to craft any more saddles. We are going to need 85 more per saddle and 80 for each charge lantern. Also, the crafting requirement for the hazard suits uses 83 blue gems per suit. We did get two sets of those made in spite of the rest of us having pi$$ed off every roll rat we have been stealing those gems from the past several day. Mayor, can you and your friends help us go down into the Blue and Red zone to gather the crystals we need?”

                          “We can easily take you to where the blue crystals are in the Blue Zone,” answers Mayor. “It is just that whoever we take down into the Red Zone will have to wear a hazard suit. Be aware that the Nameless are hiding under the ground in both areas. They don’t like the light from the bulb pugs or shinehorns, so bring them with you. You will need a hazard suit helmet for your glow tame to protect them from the radiation in the Red Zone.”

                          “Does the radiation in the Red Zone represent a hazard to you when you are down there?” ask Captain Powell.

                          “No, we are immune to it,” Mayor answers.

                          “Then, lets do the following,” orders Captain Powell. “With the hazard suits we already have, I want you and Margaret to take Sargent Pasenna and Sargent Thomas into the Red Zone on a red crystal run. We should be able to make two more helmets for their bulb pugs. Sargent Pasenna and Sargent Thomas, be especially careful that you are not swarmed by those Nameless creatures. You lose any piece of that hazard suit and you could be dead in minutes. Place all the red crystal that you have gathered on Mayor and Margaret. Throw out anything else that you may have gathered down there. They can bring it back here should something happened to your hazard suits and you end up in a spawn bed. I’ll call you the Red Team.”

                          “Sargent Gullivar, Private Grobbal, Lt. Garber, Private Ledfoot, take your rock drake friends and the new shine horns down into the Blue Zone. Let them show you where the blue crystals are, what the frozen mushrooms look like, and how to avoid them. Your group will be called the Blue Team.”

                          “I’m placing the rock drakes in charge of both expeditions. They know that area far better then us, so do what they tell you to do.”

                          “Stay in your teams of two for your protection when gathering the crystals. Don’t overburdened your rock drake friends with resources that we can find up here. Bring only the assigned crystals back with you and nothing else.”

                          “Sargent Thomas and Pasenna, your mission is most critical. It will allow us to make up saddles for the rest of our rock drake friends. Be careful down there. Our next trip will become much easier when more of us can venture down there at once where we can have protection in numbers and some more powerful weapons to deal with any of the threats down there.”

                          With the expeditions prepared for the two missions at hand, the rock drakes take charge as the teams set off into their world deep below.

                          “Are there any other dangers we may be facing down in the red zone?” Captain Powell asks Mayor

                          “No,” he answers. “Only the Nameless are a hazard if they have a chance to swarm us and manage to call in a Reaper.”

                          “If that happens, can you cloak yourself and sneak out of harm’s way?” ask Sargent Pasenna.

                          “Yes,” answers Mayor.

                          “Then, lets plan to do that if they become an issue,” orders Sargent Pasenna. “This crystal is not worth any of us getting badly hurt by them.”

                          As the two teams get started, Mayor tells the others, “Margaret and I are going to glide down directly into the red zone. It’s a long ways down to where we have to go. We’ll probably be the last ones back to base.”

                          “Sargent Pasenna and Sargent Thomas, leave the light off on your bulb pug until you dismount from us to harvest the red crystal. They have a limited charge capacity. You don’t want them to run out if we run into the Nameless. Only their bulb light weakens them. Your torches and flares won’t work.”

                          “Thank you for that advise,” answers Sargent Pasenna as Mayor steps off the top of the cliff into the Blue Grotto.

                          It seems like it is taking forever as Mayor and Margaret are gliding, even diving, through a forest of giant tree roots, blue sparkling vines, even a long stretch of the broken rail line that forms an eerie near vertical ribbed tunnel. Eventually, the color of the crystals and surround area changes from blue to red as they start to get near the bottom.

                          “How are you going to get back up once we are done here?” ask Sargent Thomas.

                          “We are going to do a lot of climbing,” answers Margaret. “Stay out of the red water down here,” she warns them, “It is pure acid.”

                          “I don’t doubt it,” answers Sargent Thomas. “My engram is already warning of the high radiation level down here. This place looks like a frozen hell of red.”

                          “There’s some red crystal formations over there,” Mayer alerts them as they both land near them.

                          “Bulb Pugs on,” orders Sargent Pasenna as the two men get to work in the spooky gloom with the strange noises coming from under the ground and surrounding area.

                          “$hit,” curses Sargent Thomas. “Only the smaller formations are giving us what we need.”

                          “Keep only the red crystal,” orders Sargent Pasenna. “Dump everything else you are getting.” The two continue harvesting as their rock drake friends stay close behind them. “Three stacks so far” Sargent Pasenna comments as he places them on Mayor, then continues to harvest some more.

                          Suddenly, both Mayor’s and Margaret’s head bonnet displays in a full feather war dress. “Get on us now and turn off your light!” orders Mayor in alarm. Both Sargents are quickly on their rides, dumping the stone and white crystal they have collected as both Mayor and Margaret activate their cloak, then climb up the close by vertical rock face as fast as they can.

                          “Can I ask what just spooked the two of you so badly that you did that feather display?” ask Sargent Thomas when they finally stop to rest.

                          “We detected four reaper kings and two queens approaching us,” answers Mayor. “The Nameless must have called them in while remaining hidden from your light. I’ve never known them to do that before, or, for that matter, to have so many reapers show up at once.”

                          “That fracking Rockwell must have know that we’re down here and send them in to attack us,” answers Sargent Thomas. “Sargent Pasenna, how much red crystal did you get?”

                          “About four and a half stacks.”

                          “I got about the same,” Sargent Pasenna answers back. “Mayor, we have more then enough red crystals for those eight saddles. We don’t need to stay down here any longer. We can come back down later with a much stronger force and the weapons we need to take out those frackin reaper things. Lets just get the fracking hell out of here.”

                          The climb out is long and spectacular. It takes them all night. Nearby is a pinkish waterfalls that seems to go down forever. At the top of a high cliff, they rest for a minute, then take a leap to a tree root that forms a natural bridge. There are glowing blue crystals, huge mushrooms, and a large blue lake below where strange creatures are seen swimming in it.

                          The following morning, things start to look familiar as the end of the broken rail bridge starts showing up from above along with the spine of the long vertical segment in the cavern below.

                          They make it back to the base with everyone exhausted from the long ordeal. “Good job you four, take the rest of the morning off to get some rest,” orders Captain Powell. “Then, I’ll debrief you on your mission.”

                          While the red crystal mission was taking place, Rocky and the blue crystal mission had their own unusual adventure. They take down the path that the Marines were looking for when they first ran into Rocky. “It sure is interesting down here,” comments Private Grobbal.

                          “Be on the lookout for the predators,” warns Rocky. “They seem to be quite abundant down here.”

                          “They are definitely around here,” answers Sargent Gulliver as he sees several snakes, carnos, a pack of Ravagers, and some giant scorpions nearby.

                          “At least they have the respect to leave the rock drakes alone while we are riding on them,” answers Lt. Garber.

                          “Still, once we find the blue crystal fields, we may have to clear them out of our way,” warns Private Ledfoot.

                          “You are right about that,” answers Darlene. “Don’t waste any trancs on the big snakes, they are immune to it.”

                          “Save the tranc darts and narc arrows,” orders Lt. Garber. “We kill whatever tries to attack us.”

                          The four rock drakes continue down, often gliding over the dangerous predators, and on to where there is a protected flat area rich in blue crystals. “Shine horns on,” orders Lt. Garber as they dismount and start gathering crystals. The rock drakes stay close behind, keeping a watch on the nearby predators which keep their distance. The plateau is soon cleared as the foursome get back on the rock drakes, dump the white crystal and stone, and transfer the blue ones to their rides.

                          “Earthquake,” warns Lt. Garber as the ground starts shaking.

                          “Are those Red Gems?” questions Private Ledfoot.

                          “Grab them, and any blue ones that fall down from above,” orders Lt. Garber.

                          “Oh Crap! I’m freezing to death!” warns Private Grobbal when the shaking ground causes him to stumbles into a hidden patch of blue mushrooms.

                          “Eat some aquatic mushrooms, now!” orders Sargent Gulliver. Private Grobbal has soon recovers enough to get on Rocky.

                          “Nameless,” warns Rocky as several suddenly show up to attack.

                          “Shoot those frackers!” orders Lt. Garber. Four are quickly dropped with rifle fire as the rock drakes kill the rest, then eats them.

                          There is some quick conversation among the four rock drakes, then Lady Rocky reports to Lt. Garber. “We got ten nameless toxins off of them. You could try hatching some of our eggs for us before we can leave here.”

                          “I’m honored that you would trust us to do something so personal for you,” answers Lt. Garber. “I think that the rest of us would be in agreement that you should be the ones to hatch and raise your eggs once we can return them to Earth. If we try to hatch them here, we would have to wait until the youngsters are old enough to follow us to The Portal. It’s going to be a tight fit as it is to take all of us back at once. The quicker we can get rid of Rockwell, the quicker we can get out of this frackin place. We can keep the toxin in storage if you so wish.”

                          “That won’t be necessary,” answers Lady Rocky. “Only you would need to use nameless venom if you were to hatch and raise our young. We can produce drake milk for the hatchlings.”

                          “Your milk must provide them with the nutrients needed for intelligence.” answers Private Grobbal. “Feeding them nameless toxin must be what made the egg tames so dumb and unable to reproduce. That would be so wrong to condemn your young rock drakes to a life of being someone’s sterile pet when you are proof that they can be so much more.”

                          “Thank you for your honest opinion,” answers Lady Rocky. “It gives us more faith in your concern for our well being then ever.”

                          “There is another patch with blue crystals nearby that you can harvest,” reports Rocky. “Lets head there.”

                          The next patch of crystal is reached in short order and harvested with no issues from the environment. “We have more them enough blue crystals for the hazard suits we need,” announces Lt. Garber. “Lets head back to base before more of those frackin nameless things show up.”

                          Captain Powell meets the Blue team as they return back to the base and start unloading the blue crystals they have harvested into storage. “How did it go?” he asks.

                          “Everything went smoothly,” answers Lt. Garber. “We only had one accident when Private Grobbal got too close to a patch of blue mushrooms when a tremor hit. Those aquatic ones worked in counteracting their effect. We ran into several Nameless when that happened. They are fast but easily taken out with the long neck rifle when they are being exposed to the light of our Shine Horns. The Rock Drakes got some Nameless Venom off of them. They offered us the opportunity to raise some of their eggs with it. Private Grobbal told them it would be better for their young ones for the rock drakes to raise their young themselves on drake milk. Anyhow, we may be able to use the venom to make an anti toxin. It is extremely beautiful, but dangerous down there. During that earthquake, we managed to gather enough red crystals for a charge lantern.”

                          “Take the rest of the day off to rest and recover,” orders Captain Powell. “We’ll get to work crafting hazard suits and spares for everyone.”

                          “When do you expect that the red team will be coming back?” Captain Powell ask Rocky.

                          “They have a long ways to go to get to their destination,” answers Rocky. “Even if they don’t run into any trouble, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t make it back until morning.”

                          It is noon on the following day when Captain Powell is able to debrief the Red Team. “Thanks to your expedition, we now have a rock drake saddle for everyone as well as four charge lanterns. Did you run into any trouble while you were down there?”

                          “Mayor and Margaret got spooked when they sensed a pack of reapers approaching us from under the ground,” answers Sargent Pasenna. “I’ve never seen them display a war bonnet before. It must be some kind of an alert system they use for visual communication of danger ahead. After they told us to get on them so they could activate their cloak and scramble up the cliff to safety, we determined that we had more then enough red crystal for the saddles we needed. So, we made the decision to return back to base with what we had.”

                          “I suspect that Rockwell must have known that we were after red crystals. Mayor told me that he has never heard of so many Reapers coming in to one place to attack at once.”

                          “Sound like we had better be armed with rockets along with charge lanterns the next time we go back down for more red crystals.” answers Captain Powell. “It will need to be a hit and run raid before Rockwell have a chance to hit us with dangerous numbers of Reapers.”

                          “Lets get back to training with more of our rock drake friends with their new saddles.”

                          “Breaking News,”

                          “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


                          • #14
                            Chapter 13 The Discovery

                            By early the next morning, eight new Rock Drake saddles have been crafted. All the crew members that have not been assigned to one now have a Rock Drake friend to work with. They are saddled up as Captain Powell leads them on his new Rock Drake friend Mary. “Can I ask you a question?” ask Mary. “Why did you pick me for your mount when as a commander, you should be riding on Mayor.”

                            “I picked you because it diversifies the leaders to separate commands,” Captain Powell tells her. “Besides, Mayor was already working with Sargent Pasenna so, they became the logical pair for bonding with each other. Don’t worry, you will be a good choice for my war mount when it is time to defeat Rockwell. We’re just going to spend the rest of today getting to know each other while we explore this vast underground system of the Green Zone.”

                            “That sounds like it could be fun,” answers Mary.

                            “Lets just work as teams of two for today,” announces Captain Powell. “Everyone pair up with your rock drake friend and their mate for today’s familiarization training. That means that Manor and Parport will be with us.”

                            This paring of the other six ends up becoming Lt. Tylor and Daryol on Davy and Doris, Ensign Bossman and Icelander on Micky and Minnie, and Baluck and Captain Shrivers on Ricky and Ronda.

                            It’s an odd arrangement, but it works out well as it separates senior officers to rock drakes that are basically of the same capabilities as any other, even Mayor their leader.

                            “Our mission today is to explore all of the Green Zone.” announces Captain Powell. It will give you a chance for you new riders to bond with your rock drakes while riding on them for the first time. Each team will take a sector and fully map it out the best they can. Look for charge nodes, gas veins, unusual ruins, rare resources, paths to the surface, paths down below, and any survivors from the Helena tribe. Stay away from the surface and the blue and red zone. Above all, stay away from anything dangerous. Don’t go into any dark places where Nameless or Reapers could be hiding. Take a bulb pug or shine horn along with you just to be safe.” With that set of instructions, seven teams of rock drakes and their riders take off to explore their assigned quadrant.

                            By mid afternoon, all the teams are back except for Lt. Garber and Private Ledfoot. They are all sharing the new places and discoveries they have made in their sector of the Green Zone as they fill in the missing sections on the master map posted on the wall outside of the command center.

                            “Where could those four be?” ask Captain Powell. “I sent them into what should have been the safest area to the Northeast of The Portal. It is where Mayor told me where Helena’s destroyed village is located.”

                            “Should we go look for them?” ask Mayor.

                            “No,” answers Captain Powell. “Lets give them another hour. They might be poking around through the ruins looking for any salvageable items.”

                            “Here they come,” reports Sargent Pasenna. “Ho ly $hit! They have other survivors riding with them! Did they find the survivors from Helena’s tribe?” There is a bit of concern among the air crews and their rock drake friends over the sudden appearance of newcomers.

                            “Who is Lt. Tylor?” ask the rider sitting behind Lt. Garber on Daryl as they glide into the base.

                            “I am,” answers Lt. Tylor who is standing in front of Davy.

                            “I’m Lt. Jerry, pilot of PBM 49 that was sent out to look for you after you reported your flight group was running low on fuel. My co pilot, Lt. Combs, is riding on Darlene. For whatever reason, all 13 of us on board our flying boat, ended up stranded here in this strange frackin place when we flew to the coordinate of your last known position. I’m am now left wondering, who is rescuing who? I’m still in shock to see Lt. Garber and Private Ledfoot finding us while they were riding on these two wild rock drakes. Wow, 14 of them, one for each member of your flight crew. You are so lucky to have such wonderful creatures working with you as your friends. I was so shocked to see these two rock drakes actually find us. I’m so glad to see that they made it back alive. We certainly didn’t. Those devils that Rockwell called up to defend him handed us back our a$$ when he paralyzed all of us with an electrical discharge. We ended up naked back on our spawn beds. We lost everything in that fight, our tames, our weapons, and our lives.”

                            “Is it possible that your rock drake friends can bring the rest of us back here to your camp? It is a long rugged hike from here.”

                            “We can bring your flight crew back here on the rock drakes,” answers Captain Powell. “While we are conducting this ground mission, I am in command. Ride behind me on Mary so we can talk about what happened when you and your crew confronted Rockwell. We believe that we can get back to our world through the portal, but we need to get rid of Rockwell so he doesn’t try to stop us. The sooner we can take him out, the quicker we can get out of here before this place falls apart from these fracking earthquakes. It has gotten so unstable that even our rock drake friends want out of here. The more we can learn about Rockwell and his tactics, the better prepared we can be to take him out.”

                            As they head towards the abandoned village, known as the fallen nexus, Lt. Jerry tells the story of what happened to his flight, how he ended up on Aberration and their fatal confrontation with Rockwell.

                            “It all got started when we were flying towards your last known coordinate when the sea ahead started glowing in the dimming twilight of darkness. It made an eerie sound that got louder as the glow got brighter. Our radios and navigation systems went dead from the interference, then both engines quit running when we suffered a total electrical failure. I wasn’t sure if our flying boat was going to be able to land in such a rough sea. The next thing we knew, I and my entire flight crew, found ourselves naked in that destroyed village in this cursed place.”

                            “It took us several days, along with several of us getting killed by those fracking predators until we learned how these implants worked. We soon learned how to craft clothes, a shelter, and weapons to defend ourselves against the frackin raptors and those devil dogs.”

                            “In the village ruins, we found a notebook left by that frackin freak Edmund Rockwell. It describes how we could tame the creatures in this world, the various recipes he had created for healing ourselves, and resisting the hazards of the poisonous plants and bites of the various predators.”

                            “A couple of days ago, while looking for blue gems to make hazard suits with, we found a portal that would take us to where Rockwell was living. We decided to pay him a visit to see if he could help us escape back to our world. That was a royal fracking mistake.”

                            “I don’t know how Daryl, Darlene, and those other two rock drakes managed to come along with us. They must have been cloaked when they followed us in there. Anyhow, the second that frackin monstrous freak Rockwell saw us, he started screaming about how superior he was and started throwing those frackin acid balls at us. We returned fire with our crossbows and spears as our tames attacked him, but they seemed to have little effect on him other then to draw some green blood on his tentacles.”

                            “Darlene grabbed one of the tentacles with her teeth as she was screaming at him about his stealing her egg. She managed to bite it off as Daryl and those other two rock drakes went after the others. Then, those fracking red devil started showing up.”

                            “Rockwell ducked back into the pond to reemerge with all of his tentacles intact, grabbed both Daryl and Darlene with them, and flung them into the wall by the portal control.”

                            “I managed to get back to the control panel to return them out of harm’s way before Rockwell grabbed me around the waist. After he slammed me into the ground breaking my back, he paralyzed all of us with some kind of electrical discharge. We were powerless to defend ourselves as those fracking red devils poisoned us, our tames, and those other two rock drakes that were still there with us. Then, they killed us all by eating us alive.”

                            “We lost everything in that battle, our armor, our weapons, our tames, and our lives.”

                            “I’m surprised that Daryl and Darlene never mentioned anything about your air group when we found them so badly injured up above The Portal.” answers Captain Powell. “Then again, they were so scared of us when we found them up above the Portal area that they failed to mention anything about you in their fight against Rockwell.”

                            “Tomorrow, we are going to continue training on the Rock Drakes to develop tactics we can use against Rockwell. We can use you and your crew as tail gunners on our rock drakes. Right now, we are just using crossbows with blunt arrows for the training sessions. When we are ready, we will introduce you to assault rifles and rocket launchers.”

                            “Those red devils you referred to are called the Nameless. Their bite, as you already found out, is poisonous. We have already developed an antitoxin for it. They, and their Reapers friends we have been warned about, are weakened by our bulb pets and especially, by something called a Charge Lantern. We plan to send an expedition back into the Red Zone for more crystal so everyone can be armed with Charge Lanterns as soon as we have hazard suits made up for all of you. That area is radioactively hot. We can use your manpower to conduct another hit and run raid for red crystal before Rockwell can call in the reapers to attack us. Before we do so, we will need to gather more blue crystals and congealed gas ball to craft up 13 more sets of hazard suits with spares for you and your crew.”

                            “That’s sounds like an ambitious mission,” answers Lt. Jerry as the abandoned village comes into view.

                            “This place looks like a war zone,” Captain Powell tells Lt. Jerry as they glide in to land.

                            “Rockwell trashed it, killing everybody and everything living there before he relocated himself into that poisonous pool of smoking metallic liquid he calls Edminium.” answers Lt. Jerry. “We found a note from Helena explaining what had happened to him before he destroyed everything here. He must has gone completely insane because of that stuff he is living in. How do you plan to kill him where we failed so miserably?”

                            “We plan to do what our air power did with the Battleship Yamoto,” answers Captain Powell. “We keep hitting him hard from all directions while avoiding his defenses. Eventually, like the Yamoto, he will go down. Lets pick up your air crew before it gets too dark to find our way back to base.”

                            Landing at the edge of the ruined village, Lt. Jerry orders everyone there to find a seat on a rock drake and climb on board. Everyone there is only dressed in cloth armor. Having lost everything, they only have basic primitive weapons. “We just haven’t had the chance to gather the resources to get rearmed and equipped.” Lt. Jerry tells Captain Powell

                            “Lets hold a general meeting when we get back to base,” Captain Powell answers back.

                            “I do not seem to have a passenger.” Daryl tells Lt. Garber.

                            “That is OK,” answers Lt. Garber. “As the PBM flying boat only carries a crew of 13, you can pretend that Corporal Kosner, my tail gunner, who didn’t come along with me on the training flight, is sitting behind me.”

                            Returning back to base, Captain Powell calls a general meeting with all of the newcomers. “As you may or may not know, the Navy is rumored to have been conducting experiments in stealth technology off the Florida Coast. It is possible that they were actively conducting such a test in the evening that opened up some sort of a portal that sent us into this fracked up place. All I do know is that our superiors would be more then interested in how our rock drakes friends can make themselves invisible along with their saddle and us riding on them. A couple of days ago, we swore an oath as Marines to protect them from becoming a part of that experiment against their free will. Are you navy personnel willing to do the same?” There is several minutes of discussion among the PBM crew members before the answer comes back as yes.

                            After swearing in the oath of protection, Captain Powell orders the PBM crew members that rode back on the rock drakes to go get to know them personally. “Starting tomorrow, you are going to become their tail gunners. You will be their protection from getting hit by those acid balls Rockwell will throw at them when they do their attack runs.”

                            “Lt. Garber, I’m going to use you and Daryl to train in delivering the kill shot. We may soon have the ability to make something called a rail gun. It is a futuristic weapon that is the size of a bazooka with the hitting power of a battleship’s main cannon. I’m assigning you two in training how to use it at the right moment. You and Daryl can have the honor for revenging the stealing and destruction of Darlene’s egg. When the time is right, you two can sink Rockwell for good.”

                            “Now, all you newcomers, go get to know your new rock drake friends. We commence with training in the morning.”
                            “Breaking News,”

                            “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


                            • #15
                              Chapter 14. The Final Preparations.

                              “Do you know why Captain Powell wants the three of us to spend so much time together,” Darlene ask Private Ledfoot.

                              “He is pairing us up to train together as a bomber crew.” Private Ledfoot answers. “You are the aircraft and our pilot, I am the bombardier, and Lt. Combs is going to be our tail gunner. “He wants everyone training as a team so that we will look out for each other when we go in to get rid of Rockwell.”

                              “It’s a very good tactic under these unusual circumstances,” Lt. Combs tells Darlene. “No one in the Navy would have ever believed that the aircraft carrier would ever replace the battleship until that day arrived when they sank two of the biggest battleships ever built using carrier aircraft alone. “I’m amazed that I am saying this, but you are one remarkable creature. I’m so glad that Lt. Jerry was able to get you and your mate out of Rockwell’s lair before he ended up killing you.”

                              “It was touch and go there for a while,” answers Private Ledfoot. “Rockwell beat those two up pretty bad. Had Mayor not found them when he did, they might have not made it back to be with us.”

                              “In the morning, we have plans to gather more blue crystals to make hazard suits for your PBM crew. When that is done, we will conduct a hit and run raid into the Red zone for more red crystal. We also need to find Element Ore if we want to make and power some Tec rifles and that Rail Gun. Captain Powell feels it would be safer to head to the surface after dark for element ore when we are in the 10% daylight phase rather then looking for it deep in the Red zone where Rockwell can see what we are doing and send in the reapers to threaten us.”

                              “Don’t go up on the surface,” Darlene warns them with alarm. “There are Reaper Kings and Seekers that live up there.”

                              “That’s why we won’t go up there until we have the weapons to deal with them,” answers Private Ledfoot. “We’ll do a hit and run raid when we do go up there after that element ore.”

                              “Such a lovely night,” Daryl tells Darlene as he and Lt. Garber joins them. “We’ll take advantage of the 90% day cycle to gather and craft everything we can in preparation for our attack on Rockwell. Then, we can make the surface raid when the daylight cycle goes back to 10%.”

                              It is 0600 when Captain Powell calls everyone together with the plans for the day. “I’m sending Sargent Thomas and Pasenna with Mayor and Margaret to harvest congealed gas balls from the gas collectors. Lt. Jerry, Ensign Eslander and Alvin are staying with me. We need to plan our strategy and tend to housekeeping until the supplies arrive to craft the hazard suits. I’m sending the rest of you to get blue crystals. Lt. Garber and Daryl will be in command of that mission. Tame some more Shine Horns if you can while you are after the blue crystals.”

                              The new Blue team is split up into rock drake pairs for the gathering. Given that Mary doesn’t have a rider but wants to be with her mate Manor, Marty volunteers to ride on her for the expedition. It doesn’t take long to gather the needed blue crystal and several more Shine Horns with everyone out as teams in the safe spots gathering crystal. The Rock Drakes keep watch for trouble of which it gets avoided this time around.

                              Back at the base, a load of congealed gas balls has been returned. As they are being processed with the newly harvested batch of blue crystal, Mayor is taking just the flight crew down for a hit and run raid in the Red Zone. Lt. Jerry rides with them on Mary. Captain Powell is taking the rest of the PBM crew out on the Devil Dogs to check out a cave one of his men found hidden by the lake at the damaged Portal rail line during the survey flight a day ago. He has placed Mayor in charge of the red crystal mission.

                              In the briefing for the cave exploration, Captain Powell lays out the mission. “I’m arming everyone with pikes and crossbows with narc arrows,” he tells them. “I’m not expecting any major opposition, but, just to be safe, we will take some Bulb Pugs and antitoxin with us. Due to the small entrance that we will have to crawl through, we will be unable to take the Devil Dogs with us for protection and transport. We’ll leave them at the cave entrance and proceed from there. If it looks like it will become extremely dangerous in there, we won’t go any further inside.”

                              It is an easy trip over to the south shore where a zip line is shot for the Devil Dogs to descend down to a beach at the cave entrance. “This looks good,” Captain Powell tells the PBM crew. “There is crystal here we can take back with us. There’s plenty of room where we can leave our Devil Dogs sheltered in safety.”

                              “Here’s that tunnel entrance,” reports Lt. Combs. “It looks like that it opens up into a large chamber beyond. I can see ambient light up ahead.”

                              “It must be from the mushrooms inside,” answers Captain Powell. “Our survey flight never found any other entrance into this cave.”

                              “Check out these gecko like creatures,” reports Ensign Eslander. “They look rather cute.”

                              “Glowtails,” reports Captain Powell as he examines one with his Specimen Implant. “They should be an easy passive tame. I don’t know what kind of mushrooms will work, so, lets place all the varieties on them to find out what they will eat.”

                              “They like the black ones,” answers Ensign Archer.

                              “It didn’t fall asleep after eating it?” ask Captain Powell.

                              “They must be immune to the narcotic effect,” answers Lt. Combs. “Oh, she like riding on my shoulder. She is a good light source too.”

                              “$hit! I spotted some wild Devil Dogs down here,” warns Carpool.

                              “Keep an eye on them,” orders Captain Powell. “If they come looking for trouble, we’ll just tranc them.”

                              “What is this strange looking loot crate?” ask Zorweiski as he goes over to inspect it. “Interesting, it contains something called the Artifact of the Depth.”

                              “Lets take it!” orders Captain Powell. “Everyone, watch out for trouble. Be ready to run back out of here if we have to.” The artifact is retrieved with no issues as the Glowtail taming continues.

                              “Wow, there is some real nasty stuff way down below in the blue water,” warns Jordy as he looks over from the top of the cliff where they are doing the taming.

                              “I see no need to go down there or anywhere else in this cave,” reports Captain Powell. “Lets leave as soon as everyone has tamed themselves a Glowtail.”

                              “What should we do with these four bulb pugs?” ask Lt Combs.

                              “We’ll bring them back to the cave entrance and let them wander in there,” answers Captain Powell. “They should be safe there from any predators. We can always come back for them later if we still need them.”

                              Leaving the confines of the narrow tunnel into the cave, Captain Powell and the PBM flight crew arrive back in the entrance. “Good job everyone,” he tells them as they all mount a Devil Dog for the ride back. It is up the zip line, around to crossing above the waterfalls, and back to base.

                              Back at the base, the additional hazard suits have been crafted up by Sargent Thomas and Pasenna. “We can have charge lanterns for everyone as soon as we get the red crystals,” Sargent Pasenna reports. “We have a dozen charge batteries ready for every rock drake that will be armed with one.”

                              “That’s great,” answers Captain Powell. “We can make a surface run as soon as the 10-90 daylight cycle hits. Let the red expedition get some rest when they get back, then, we can get back to training.”

                              Earlier, at the top of the cliff of the Blue Cavern, Mayor is conducting a meeting of the upcoming raid. “Everyone will follow me down the old rail line to the Red Zone. Be sure that you have your hazard suits on and a helmet on your shine horn. Stay out of the red water, it is poisonous. If one of us displays a war bonnet, stop what you are doing and get on us as fast as you can. Reaper kings and queens are known to be living down there. We can detect them long before you can. You don’t want to be attacked by a Reaper Queen. If she doesn’t kill you outright, she will impregnate you with a parasite called a chest burster. If you are quick, you will have all the red crystal we can carry before they show up to harass us.”

                              “When we reach the bottom, we will split up into teams of two to go to where we know there is red crystal. Only go after the smaller nodes, the large ones only give you stone and will alert the Reapers that we are down here. Take only the red crystal and nothing else. When your team has harvested 400 pounds of red crystal, dump any stone and white crystal you may have gathered, head back up the cliff, and get out of there as quick as you can.”

                              “I can’t fracking believe that I am taking orders from a Rock Drake,” Lt. Tylor comments as Mayor conducts his briefing.

                              “Actually, it makes a lot of sense,” answers Daryol. “He know this place far better then we do. We’d best do what he tell us to do if we want to get in and out without ending up in a fight with those Reaper things. They have to be some fracking nasty devils if the Drakes are frightened by them.”

                              With the meeting completed, the rock drakes start down through the vertical rail line into the Red Zone. Reaching the bottom, the group splits up into seven mated pairs that quickly land in the crystal rich areas. Everyone is rapidly gathering red crystal as it continues to be spooky with the red glow and the strange noises coming from the ground down below them.

                              “Lt. Tylor has just completed gathering his second batch of 100 red crystal when Davy suddenly activates his war bonnet. “Oh $hit!” Lt. Tylor shouts in fright when he turns around and finds himself up close and personal with a Reaper King. He craps his pants as the thing growls at him spraying his hazard mask with its spit. In an instant, Lt. Tylor turns around making a mad dash to get on Davy who races to his aid, goes into stealth mode, and scrambles up the side of the cliff to join his mate Doris.

                              “That was close, too close,” he tells Davy as he hangs on tight to the saddle. “I will never, ever, question a rock drake giving me orders again!”

                              “That even surprised me,” answers Davy nervously. “I’ve never seen one get so close to us without us detecting it.”

                              “Do you think Rockwell called him in on us?” Daryol asks Doris after they have stopped to rest for a bit.

                              “No,” she answers. “I only detected that one just as it surprised Lt. Tylor. It was probably one of the loners that was hiding motionless, under the ground in the area. That is likely how he escaped our detection.”

                              “I think that we have more then enough red crystal for the day,” answers Lt Tylor. “Lets just get the fracking hell out of here.”

                              Back at the base, the teams of the hit and run raid are coming back in with their precious cargo of red gems. Sargent Thomas and Pasenna are being kept busy fabricating the Charge Lanterns and additional charge batteries for them. “We’ll soon have one for every rock drake on the team,” he announces.

                              Lt. Tylor and Daryol are the last ones to come back on Davy and Doris. “You look like you saw a ghost,” Captain Powell tells Lt. Tylor. “Your hazard suit is a mess. What’s that awful smell? Did you just $hit your pants?”

                              “I saw one up close and personal!” Lt. Tylor answers while still shaking in shock. “It was the devil himself. I was face to face with that frackin Reaper King thing. It just appeared out of nowhere from under the ground. That thing is as big as a rock drake standing on its hind legs. It flung a poison ball at us with its tail just as Davy went stealth and scrambled out of its path. I though that those Spinos down by the river were nasty, this thing is far more terrifying. I now know why the rock drakes are frightened by them. I just hope that those new charge lanterns can take those frackin things out.”

                              “We may soon find out,” answers Captain Powell. “After we complete some additional training with the rock drakes, I plan to head to the surface to collect element ore. Mayor tells me that reaper kings will show up after dark, so we want to be ready to fight them if we can’t get away from them. We’re going to train to use the Charge lantern along with the new assault rifle for taking out the poison balls, those Reapers, and their seeker friends. It’s going to be a balancing act given that the light of our glow creatures weakens the Reapers but it attracts the seekers making them stronger. So, we’ll train with our glow tames to get them to switch on and off as needed.”

                              “Go get cleaned up and get some rest, we will commence with training in another hour.”

                              “Breaking News,”

                              “Something irrelevant in your life just happened and now we are going to blow it all out of proportion for days to keep you distracted from what's really going on.”


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