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MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
(Kursed, I think you may get a reference to an earlier post to Operation: Tanned Part II with what's about to be explained.)

Tuz'iin sighed, then began to explain, "Look at the first letters of Marauder One's codename: M O. It's an initial I knew well; Maria Osborne."

"The records show that during an op on New Cuba, she went MIA. Went out for a drink and never came back," Ricca said. "She resurfaced on Corneria and attempted to assassinate a Cornerian military leader - General Peppy - but she was compromised before she could."

"As with before, she just upped and disappeared," Tuz'iin continued. "No one knew what happened to her."

"Wait a second," Leigh interrupted, "Wasn't General Indari with General Peppy on that day?"

"He was," Tuz'iin responded. "He was negotiating..." Tuz'iin stopped, and comprehension dawned. "That's why she needed Cortosis armor!"

"She's not trying to start a war," Leigh gasped. "She's going after Indari!"

"But remember the part where she's hit multiple territories to get what she wants," Ricca added. "She wants the galaxy to turn on the Corps; each of the territories hit had a number of upgrades to be fitted to a ship or set of armor. She wants to kill General Indari, and to cripple the Marauder Corps."

"But why?" Leigh asked. "It makes no sense. Why would she turn on the Corps?"

"I'm guessing we'll find answers in this outpost," Tuz'iin said. He grabbed his own M41A and loaded it. "Ricca," he stated, "Jump in."

There was a brief pause as the AI transmitted herself into Tuz'iin's armor, and Tuz'iin walked to the boarding ramp, pausing as he lowered it. Beyond the brightly-lit confines of the Insurrection Alpha, a dark hangar awaited.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Tuz'iin muttered as he stepped out of his ship.

* * *

Marauder One kept watch over the Insurrection Alpha from her high perch, cloaked in adaptive camouflage.

"They've followed you this far," Foxtrot said. "How much further are you going to take them?"

"As far as they need to go to see the monster the DMC and it's leader has become," Marauder One replied. "Perhaps then, they will know why I must do this."

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
(Uhm... Shamen... the M41A Pulse Rifle isn't a beam weapon. The original model is not even an energy weapon; the M41A is a ballistic weapon that fires 10x28mm caseless bullets. Here: M41A Pulse Rifle Info The modded models Tuz'iin and Leigh keep in stock are modded to fire hardened titanium-tungsten AP rounds accelerated by a nanoscale accelerator coil in the barrel; the grenade launchers of these versions have been converted to fire Kadgeron Disruptor Pulses. Just FYI.)

Tuz'iin looked to Zack. "I'm not certain," he told him, "Otherwise I'd tell you; but the person I'm thinking of is smart, likes to stay in the shadows, and she makes Leigh look like an amateur in terms of survival."

"I heard that!" Leigh called out from the armory. She returned moments later with two M41A Pulse Rifles, and handed them to Zack and Valtozaz.

"I am of a mind with Tuz'iin," Ricca agreed with Tuz'iin. "She definitely fits the pattern."

"Question is," Tuz'iin asked, "Where has she been for the past twelve years?"

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
(Ah, here after all. Very well.)

"This is... strange," Ricca commented. "I'm reading... full atmosphere inside Eridanus Secundus."

"I thought this station's life support was partially off-line?" Leigh asked.

"It was," the AI responded. "But recently, parts of the station's power grid have been sacrificed - rerouted to life support. We can all go inside safely..."

"What parts, specifically?" Tuz'iin asked.

"Some of the lighting, all of the security systems, and... hold on..." Ricca paused, then continued, "And the computer core. I can't get into the station."

"Actually, you can - just not directly," Leigh suggested. "You once told me you could reside in Tuz'iin's armor, no?"

"Yeah," Ricca affirmed. "Serena, Argo, can you two do the same?"

Tuz'iin began passing out orders. "Valtozaz, Zack, Krystal, Alex... you're coming with us. Leigh, get my extra M41A Pulse Rifles and give one to Zack and Valtozaz; their sniper rifles will do no good in the confined halls of this outpost."

"What do you suppose Marauder One wants us to see here?" Leigh asked before she left.

"I don't know," Tuz'iin muttered, unaware if anyone could hear him, "But if Marauder One is who I think he is... we'll have a hell of a time dealing with him."

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
(Wait a sec - where's Shamen?)

"Well, fuck," Tuz'iin growled. "That makes our job harder."

"There's a serviceable hangar bay with atmosphere," Ricca said, lighting up the aforementioned hangar on the Insurrection Alpha's HUD. "We could land there."

Tuz'iin took the ship in for a landing, landing the Insurrection Alpha in the hangar.

"Serena, Ricca," Tuz'iin said, "See if you can probe what's left of the outpost's security system and tell me where Marauder One has landed."

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
The Insurrection Alpha dropped out of translight speed at Eridanus Secundus, and the cockpit shield lowered, allowing everyone a clear view of the asteroid outpost.

"Ricca, are you reading any life-signs in there?" Tuz'iin asked.

"Negative," Ricca answered. "If Marauder One is in there, he's laying low."

"Or that armor of his blocks sensors from picking him up in there," Leigh added.

"What about his ship?" Tuz'iin queried. "Serena, was it you or Argo that tagged his ship before he left?"

(Just FYI, FF, I'm waiting for someone to post on LL in AMCA before I post the next chapter.)

Dragon'taan: Heart of the Marauder Corps
(FF, you do know it's your post in The Hunt for Marauder One, right?)

Kyle simply laughed at Lidia as he shook her hand. "Zu'u norktada wux renthisj fin xanalre do fal dov; Mu itrewic lauth fevekic wen zul renthisjic hesi ooble," (I am impressed you speak the language of the dragons; We get few guests whose voice speaks our tongue.) Kyle told Lidia.

(That was a mix of both dovah and draconic, since the guide I have on Dovah doesn't cover the whole language.)

"So," Kyle asked, "What brings you to Dragon'taan?"

Dragon'taan: Heart of the Marauder Corps
Kyle heard the group walk into the bar, and turned to greet them. "Welcome to Dragon'taan," he said, "Homeworld of the Dragon-Shifters and Heart of the Dragon'taan Marauder Corps." He offered a hand to shake. "I'm High General Kyle Indari of the DMC... with me is my son, Drake."

Drake turned to face the newcomers. "Drem Yol Lok... greetings. It's good to see Dragon'taan still gets visitors."

"I would introduce you to my brother, Mathayus - otherwise known as Darth Faasnu - but he left, not long ago," Kyle continued. "But, unslaad krosis, I digress. You would be...?"

(In case you're wondering, FF, "Drem Yol Lok" means "Peace Fire Sky" in Dovah, the language of the Dragons. It is often used as a greeting by dragons, and by extension, dragon-shifters.)

Dragon'taan: Heart of the Marauder Corps
Having sent his operatives off on their mission, Kyle headed to the Bellator Bar and sat down at the bar. The usuals to the bar were already inside, talking, eating and drinking the time away.

"Hey, Jerry," Kyle requested, "Give me a bottle of Romulan Ale, please."

"Coming up," Jerry said from the back. Kyle rubbed his temple, and felt Drake's presence as he entered the bar. Kyle said nothing as Drake sat next to him.

"There was a disturbance in the Force, father," Drake said.

"I felt it, too, son," Kyle responded.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
"Similar armor, perhaps," Ricca corrected Argo, "But not the same. This armor was crafted using a hybrid metal mixed with a cortosis weave; this armor can withstand lightsabers, and is damn resilient."

"But I am of a mind with Serena," Leigh said. "What would Marauder One need such armor for?"

"Well, one thing is clear, now," Tuz'iin said. "Marauder One is expecting to be against a Jedi."

"Or Sith," Ricca added.

"We'll only know for sure when we get to Eridanus Secundus," Leigh said.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
When Kursed asked what Marauder One was after, Tuz'iin sighed.

"I don't know - as I said, his pattern seems familiar, but I can't place where I've seen it before."

"Let's back up," Leigh suggested. "Marauder One has hit multiple territories, but we've yet to ask why he hit them."

"Wait a sec," Ricca interjected, "Yeah... At Cairn, Marauder One seemed to be after a set of armor being developed there!"

"Perhaps those territories hit had something of value to him?" Leigh surmised.

"I think so," Ricca said. "I'll compare the reports of all the places he's hit - they may tell us something of what he's doing."

"One thing still doesn't add up," Leigh said. "Why is Marauder One headed to Eridanus Secundus? There's nothing there."

"My guess would be that there's something there he wants us to see," Tuz'iin said.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
Tuz'iin looked at the signal Serena brought up. He stared intently, then said, "Eridanus Secundus..."

"You know that place?" Leigh asked.

"Eridanus Secundus was an Insurrectionist Stronghold, dating back to before the Human-Covenant war," Tuz'iin explained. "Marauder One must be heading to Universe 04-Bravo; it's the only 'verse that the facility itself survived in."

"How do you know?" Ricca queried.

"Because that's what I'd do," Tuz'iin said. "Marauder One... his pattern seems familiar, but I can't place where I've seen it before."

The TDIG Rift opened, and the Insurrection Alpha sailed through. As the cockpit shutters closed, shutting out the light show, Tuz'iin turned to Valtozaz and Zack.

"If you two have armor suits that can tolerate zero-gee and space environments, I'd suggest you go get them," he said. "Otherwise, you'll have to wait here; you can provide intel and hack the security systems if you don't tag along."

"Assuming there are security systems left to hack," Ricca mumbled.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
After everyone boarded the Insurrection Alpha, the boarding ramp shut and Tuz'iin headed to the cockpit. "Can you fly us out of here fast?" he asked.

"Was that a rhetorical question?" Leigh asked. The XG2M1 backed out of the hangar, turning as it's lateral wings folded down, and the engines cut in.

Just as the engines cut in, however, there was a jolt that knocked Tuz'iin off his feet. "REPORT!" he exclaimed. "What the hell was that?!"

"Imperial Hammerhead-class Attack ship, dead astern!" Ricca announced. "It was derelict when we flew in!"

"That's the trap Marauder One left for us," Leigh growled. "He activated a program he planted on that ship - it's being flown from remote! That first shot took out our shields generator and our MASRA armor control!"

"That's not all," Ricca added as Leigh began evading turbolaser shots. "These asteroids are highly volatile! Enough of these get shot, the whole field goes nova in an explosion so big, it'll make the explosion that took out Peragus II look like a firecracker!"

"Fuck," Leigh cursed. "If they hit us, we're dead - but if they keep missing us, we're dead - that's great odds; Now, either they hit us and destroy us, or they hit one of the asteroids and make this whole field go nova!"

"Can you jump to light speed?" Tuz'iin asked.

"Not with all these asteroids around us," Leigh answered. "We'd enter translight speed in pieces! We'd have to clear the field first!"

"Thing is," Ricca added, "If we clear the field, that Hammerhead will have a clear shot at us!"

"We don't have a choice!" Tuz'iin shouted. "Do it!"

* * *

The Hammerhead kept firing at the Insurrection Alpha, hitting smaller asteroids as the ship tried to evade the turbolaser fire. The Insurrection Alpha dodged behind a large asteroid, which took a barrage of turbolaser bolts... and ignited. One explosion, then another, and another, as one asteroid exploded after another, making the whole field go up in one giant explosion.

Far away from the scene of the battle, the Unseen Predator sat cloaked, watching the display.

"So much for the Marauder Corps' best," Marauder One said. "Set course for Eridanus Secundus."

* * *

With all the massive explosions, it was difficult to detect a translight jump. At the last second, the Insurrection Alpha made a flash-jump, appearing well outside the blast under cloak.

"A little too close for comfort, Leigh," Tuz'iin said.

"Ricca, Argo, Serena... scan for anything that might be Marauder One leaving the area," Leigh requested.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
Tuz'iin and Leigh boarded the Insurrection Alpha and began to power the craft up. "Let's hope that trap Marauder One left wasn't a tractor beam, or this'll be a real short trip!" Leigh said.

"Valtozaz, Alex, Krystal! Get aboard now, we're leaving!" Tuz'iin exclaimed.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
(Sorry for my lack of posts. Ever since that last storm blew through here, my Internet signal's been unstable.)

"Everyone, back to the Insurrection Alpha! Now! Haul ass!" Leigh shouted.

As everyone ran, Tuz'iin spoke to the AIs. "Ricca, Serena, Argo - someone! Track Marauder One's ship! I want to know where he's going!"

* * *

The Unseen Predator was ready to move even before Marauder One stepped inside. As soon as he did, Marauder One shut the boarding ramp and headed to the bridge. "Alright, Foxtrot! Hit it!"

The Defender corvette lifted off, sank through the MagCon field in the floor of the docking bay, and blasted off.

"Foxtrot, did you put the one program in the docked ship on Cairn?" Marauder One asked.

"I did," the AI answered.

"Engage the cloaking device and send the activation signal. I think Tuz'iin is in for a surprise..." Marauder One chuckled.

The Unseen Predator cloaked, and a narrow-beam signal went to a docked ship... but nothing happened.

Let's see the famous Tuz'iin Do'Vokun walk away from this, Marauder One thought.

(An image of Marauder One's ship:

Posted Image

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
Tuz'iin and Leigh followed Valtozaz, keeping to the crates and boxes as they progressed to the higher levels. Ricca then came over the radios.

"Ricca to Argo," she said, [/i]"I've got a ship in the docking bay, just beyond the Factory; can you identify? Looks like a Defender-class Light Corvette, but I'm getting no response from the main computer. Either it's locked down, or shut down. Strange... I think... hold on..." There was a pause, then Ricca sent a signature example to Argo. "Argo, scan for this on that ship - it's the unique energy signature left by active or inactive Kadgeron weaponry on that ship. I need to get into Cairn's files - that signal we found just disappeared."

* * *

"Foxtrot to Marauder One," Foxtrot radioed, "The download is finished."

"Then let's get the hell outta dodge," Marauder One growled. He made his way through the bowels of Cairn, and came out on the side of the docking bay opposite to his ship - the Defender-class Light Corvette, the Unseen Predator.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
"Dammit," Tuz'iin cursed. "Valtozaz, take point - we'll cover your back!"

* * *

Marauder One kept moving through the superstructure of the Cairn Installation. Tuz'iin and his team sure didn't give up easy, he gave them that.

"Foxtrot," Marauder One said, "Can you see any survivors?"

"None," Foxtrot replied. "The data still hasn't finished transferring to the ship, however. ETA 10 minutes."

"Do the other AIs suspect?" Marauder one asked.

"Negative," the AI droned. "They're too busy trying to decipher the signal I left behind. If they do detect the data transfer, they will assume it to be transmissions between survivors of the facility. By the time they figure out what it really is, it'll be done and we'll be long gone... speaking of which, what's our next target?"

"Eridanus Secundus," Marauder One responded, "Universe 04-Bravo."

"The old Insurrectionist outpost?" Foxtrot queried.

"Whatever's left of it," Marauder One answered as he entered a room with a strange kind of armor on display. "It'll be the perfect place to test this out."

The armor heavily resembled the MJOLNIR MK VI armor, but was much more lightweight, built with a very resilient alloy mixed with a cortosis weave. It also had a built-in energy shield and an acquired Dragonarian PCD.

"Indeed," Foxtrot said. "I look forward to it. You're certain Tuz'iin and his team will follow you there?"

"Oh, I'm fairly certain. If he doesn't follow us, however, Eridanus Secundus will serve as an excellent place to... lay bait," Marauder One stated with a chuckle.

(Data on Eridanus Secundus: Eridanus Secundus )

(In Universe 04-Bravo, the rebels were killed, but the facility itself survived - more or less.)

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
The team came into a warehouse area, just shy of the factory. It was massive, with boxes and crates easily three to four times the size of the team. As soon as they entered, however, they immediately came under fire. Tuz'iin and Leigh dove behind some barricades, and saw the shooter - a wounded Stormtrooper NCO, missing his helmet.

"Hold your fire!" Tuz'iin called out, "We're here to help you!"

"BULLSHIT!" the stormtrooper yelled, firing again.

Tuz'iin opened a private channel. "Zack, Valtozaz, see if you can't find some high ground and flank our Stormtrooper with the automatic weapon. Krystal, Alex, Leigh, keep his attention on--"

A disruptor discharged, and a white energy pulse lashed out from an overlooking ledge, striking the stormtrooper in the back and killing him instantly. Tuz'iin looked up and saw the armor-clad assassin - Marauder One. Marauder One headed through an open doorway, and the door shut behind him.

"Marauder One sure isn't leaving any witnesses," Leigh said.

"No shit," Tuz'iin said. "Zack, Valtozaz, can you see a way up to that ledge?"

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
Tuz'iin and Leigh led the team through the winding corridors of the Cairn Installation, all of which were eerily-silent and spattered with blood. Sure, there were stretches that were completely untouched, but now and then, they would enter a hallway covered in blood, bullet holes and carbon scorching, all telling of a hard-fought running gun battle.

"Marauder One seriously fucked this place up," Leigh commented.

"Ricca," Tuz'iin asked, "Can you find Marauder One anywhere?"

"Negative," Ricca replied. "Marauder One's AI has shut down the station's security systems. I can't see shit. Furthermore, the AI is no longer present in the system. Strange... I am detecting strange signals in the system. Serena, what do you make of them?"

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
"No shit," Tuz'iin responded to Alex's comment. He readied his M41A and headed for the hallway. "Serena, Ricca, if you detect anything you think we need to know, don't be shy. Argo, let us know once you're inside the mainframe. Zack, Valtozaz, Krystal, Alex - let's get moving. No telling what other surprises Marauder One has in store."

* * *

"Marauder One to Foxtrot," Marauder One said from a factory terminal.

"Go ahead, Marauder One," Foxtrot answered.

"Go ahead and lower the security barriers - I've finished the download," Marauder One commanded. "Once the barriers are down, upload the programs and jump in - let's make our AI friends think you've left the house."

"Understood," the AI droned. There was a momentary passing of time, and the AI could be felt inside Marauder One's armor. "We leaving?"

"Not yet," Marauder One replied. "We need to sweep the area for survivors."

"Tying up loose ends, eh?" Foxtrot queried. "You're certainly tenacious, I'll give you that."

"I don't leave witnesses," Marauder One said.

"I can tell," Foxtrot responded. "What do you plan to do with our Marauder Corps friends?"

"Oh... I have my plans..." Marauder One answered with a grin.

MARAUDER, EPISODE I: The Hunt for Marauder One
"Damn it to hell," Tuz'iin cursed. "This computer's no good. Marauder One's AI must have severed it from the main hub." He and Leigh walked outside the control room, and looked down to the hangar floor. The blood remained, but the recently-killed officer was now gone.

"I guess that explains the lack of bodies when we came in," Leigh commented. "Marauder One must have blown them out, too."

"No," Tuz'iin discounted, "We'd have seen them when we came in. On the bright side, the Insurrection Alpha is still there. In any case, we need to get to Marauder One. Serena, Ricca... what's the fastest route out of the hangar and to the factory Marauder One went to?"

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