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<div id="Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations">Secrets and Covert Operations is semi-official [[Planet Cyrene]] storytelling written by [[MS9]].</div>
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Secrects and Covert Operations is semi-official storytelling written by [[MS9]].
  
 
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<div class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px;">
<div id="Secrets and Covert Operations" class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px; margin-bottom:10px;">
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'''Secrets and Covert Operations'''
<big>'''Secrets and Covert Operations'''</big>
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<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
 
It is recommended to read the original with images and further info in [[EntropiaTimes#EntropiaTimes_June_2011|EntropiaTimes June 2011]]
 
It is recommended to read the original with images and further info in [[EntropiaTimes#EntropiaTimes_June_2011|EntropiaTimes June 2011]]
 
AN INVITATION
 
 
The view from my apartment on Arkadia is breathtaking, and always serves a calming purpose, if nothing more than to provide a reflective moment or two. I’ve been quite busy with my media activities lately, and it’s nice to just relax now and then.
 
 
However, the sound of my telecommunication device snapped me out of it. I wondered who could be contacting me at this time of the early morning hour as the sun is just about to rise above the horizon. The interesting thing is that the signal is not identifiable as anything coming from Arkadia or any other planet that is nearby.
 
 
“Hello, this is MindStar, please identify yourself.”
 
 
“Hello MindStar, this is Calvin,” a rather excited voice echoed, “It’s been a while since we’ve connected and I wanted to bring you up-to-date on what’s transpired since our last meeting.”
 
 
“My goodness Calvin, it has been a while, but where are you calling from, the signal is not identifiable?”
 
 
“Well,” Calvin said, “I left my Senate duties on Earth and am now a Senator of a sector on a planet known as Cyrene, and the reason I’m calling is to invite you for a visit so that we can catch up.”
 
 
“Sounds intriguing,” I said as I sat at my desk to check my calendar, “when are we talking about, and is this just a vacation, or do you have something more specific in mind?”
 
 
“As soon as possible if you can get away,” he said with a sort of urgency in his voice that caused a bit of an eyebrow raise, “I know your media work requires you to travel, so I wasn’t sure what your schedule might be at this time.”
 
 
“Yes, my media coverage takes me to various planets, so if I come for vacation, you have to know that the temptation will be there to write about it.”
 
 
I scribbled a note to contact my Media Manager at the EntropiaPlanets Media Center as I waited for his reply. I needed to alert her of this impending trip, and that my June magazine content might be a little later than usual, but we work well together in the 11th hour, so I don’t think it will be an issue. Lykke is accustomed to my spontaneity and heading out into the universe at the flip of a PED, but she still gives me free reign to go after potential stories. This could actually turn out to be something of importance.
 
 
“If your schedule is clear,” Calvin inquired, “let’s say for about a week, maybe a bit more, then I can send a shuttle for you that would arrive sometime tomorrow, would that work?”
 
 
“Yes, that would be perfect, and it would give me time to finish up a couple of tasks before departing.”
 
 
I now felt a renewed energy, and a bit of motivation to get off my ass and accomplish some things that have needed my attention for a while. However, it was unlike the Senator to be so formal in his conversations with me, so I couldn’t help but think that something was up.
 
 
“Excellent,” Calvin replied with delight in his voice, “I’ll send another transmission when I have everything secured and give you the details of when the shuttle will arrive and where to meet it.”
 
 
“Ok,” I said with an excited tone, “I am really looking forward to seeing you again, as well as exploring a new environment on yet another planet, so thank you for the invite.”
 
 
“I feel I must warn you though MindStar,” his voice now a bit more somber, “the entire planet is on military lockdown at this time. My Senator position is the only thing allowing me to invite you, but you must not reveal that you are a reporter or working for the media, but rather just a friend coming for a visit. I feel it’s the safest approach to not bring any undue attention to your presence on the planet.”
 
 
Well, there it is, confirmation that my radar is still tracking with some degree of accuracy. I knew there had to be more to this visit than just a vacation, but wasn’t going to push it. And then again, I could be totally wrong. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Senator, and perhaps a lot has changed.
 
 
“MindStar, you still there,” Calvin asks, breaking my train of thought.
 
 
“Sorry Calvin, I was thinking about what you just said. Are you sure it’s safe to travel there?”
 
 
“Oh yes, you’ll be fine, and you will be escorted at all times, so there’s no danger to consider,” he says with confidence.
 
 
“Ok then, I’ll get packing and will see you soon.”
 
 
“Great MindStar, I’m looking forward to it. Goodbye.”
 
 
“Goodbye,” I said, watching the strange signal on my telecommunication device disappear.
 
 
Let’s see, old friend, new planet, military lockdown, private shuttle, personal escort – yup, this looks like quite the adventure. Now where are my suitcases? I best not take any of my media gear in case the suitcases are examined. This may be a private shuttle, but I have no idea what awaits me.
 
 
''missing parts''
 
 
<div style="width:100%; text-align:right;"><nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Secrets and Covert Operations|Up]]<nowiki>]</nowiki> &nbsp; <nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations|Top]]<nowiki>]</nowiki></div>
 
 
</div></div>
 
</div></div>
 
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<br />
<div id="A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?" class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px; margin-bottom:10px;">
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<div class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px;">
<big>'''A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?'''</big>
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'''A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?'''
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
''It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/threads/cyrene-a-committed-mission-but-at-what-cost.6008/ A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?]''
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It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/forums/threads/cyrene-a-committed-mission-but-at-what-cost.6008/ A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?]
 
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HOME SWEET HOME – or is it?
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The trip home from Planet Cyrene was anything but peaceful. Watching the usual space corridor traffic through the window of the Senator's spacecraft should have been a natural occurrence, but it wasn't. I couldn't help but wonder if we were somehow being monitored. I didn't want to feel that paranoia was setting in, but after what I had encountered on Cyrene, I wasn't about to let my guard down.
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While I felt some relief that I was now out of harm's way and safe from any further encounters by the Imperium, the Sons of Remus, and potential exposure to Will Winter's mind control drink, my thoughts left me exhausted. They raced like a spider weaving a web going nowhere, yet served an ultimate purpose. However, just what that purpose would be was yet to be determined.
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I made a commitment to the Senator and Zorra Winters to support their cause, and while I was filled with urgency to move forward, I also felt paralyzed and apprehensive toward becoming further involved. While the unknown has its level of excitement and adrenaline rush for me, I had to give my next move some serious consideration and just where I go from here.
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"MindStar," the pilot came over the intercom, "we will be landing on Arkadia in about 15 minutes." Yes, home again, where everything is familiar, but I have a deep sense that my life as I've known it is about to take a drastic turn as a result of my most recent commitments. So many thoughts in a maze of dead-ends because of unanswered questions, but perhaps after getting some rest I will be able to sort things out more clearly.
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The Arkadian moons were breathtaking, and illuminated the path during my walk across the bridge from Celeste Harbour to the twin apartment towers on Celeste Harbour Island. The night air was always refreshing, and I was feeling more relaxed after a couple of deep breaths, but then I saw a shadowy figure and a silhouette across the concrete from the light cast by the lamp posts between the buildings.
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Perhaps it was just someone enjoying the night air as I was, and normally I wouldn't be so startled, but I find myself in a constant state of alertness after leaving Cyrene. I continued to walk casually, making every effort to hide the bit of fear that took hold of me. As I walked past the stranger in the shadows I was half tempted to nod and say good evening, but I froze in that thought and kept walking, hoping that I was just over-reacting.
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"MindStar," a female voice called out, "I have a package for you." I stopped dead in my tracks, even though my first inclination was to run into my apartment building as fast as my feet would carry me. However, what if this was somehow related to what's happening on Cyrene, and something that would benefit my mission to help the cause going forward. I had to risk it.
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"Who are you," I asked as I moved cautiously toward the figure in the shadows, "and what's in the package?" I held tightly to my travel bag in case this was an attempt at robbery, but as I got closer, I could see the package in the hands of the female dressed in black who made no move toward me or the suitcase.
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"Who I am is not important," she said, "I'm just the delivery person, and I don't know what's in the package, only that it was urgent to get it delivered to you upon your return from Cyrene." This person obviously knew who I was, that I was on Cyrene, and also when I was returning, but it didn't seem that I was going to find out anything further until I opened the package.
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She raised her arm and handed over a large, well-sealed envelope that felt a little weighty, and as I carefully accepted the package she fled away and over the bridge into the city proper without saying another word. There was no question in my mind that this package would need to be scanned prior to opening. Again, perhaps a bit of paranoia setting in, but I wasn't about to set all caution aside and jeopardize a mission I hadn't even started.
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After checking to make sure that apartment security hadn't been breached, I entered and secured the alarm system, except for the motion detectors. After setting my travel bag down I did a quick visual of the apartment. All seemed in place as I left it, and as I walked to the study, I couldn't imagine what was inside the package, or why it was so urgent to get it delivered to me.
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After sitting down at my desk and turning the lamp on, I carefully looked over the package for any kind of clue, but there was no name, no return address, no nothing. As I reached into the lower left drawer for the scanner, it crossed my mind that whoever wanted this package delivered to me, also didn't want to be known by anyone outside of the recipient. I passed the scanner across the package, but nothing out of the ordinary popped up that would be cause for alarm. It was time to find out what was so urgent.
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A POTENTIAL NEW DIRECTION
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I opened the envelope carefully, and as I pulled out the contents, I immediately recognized the seal of the Intergalactic Space Mission Agency (ISMA) located on the East Coast of the US on Earth. I had dealings with them in the past as a result of my writing and reporting, but I couldn't imagine what was so urgent that they needed to contact me in such a secretive manner.
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The cover letter was written by a high-ranking official at the headquarters office of ISMA, and as I began to read the message, I felt my eyes widen and my jaw drop.
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----
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"Dear MindStar,
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We received communication from Senator Calvin Neff on Cyrene of your most recent visit, as well as what has been revealed thus far. Immediately after you left his home, he contacted us with this information and expressed a grave concern, not only for the future of Cyrene, but also for the safety of the other planets in the evolving Entropia Universe. The Senator felt it would be more expeditious to contact you through us than directly since our communication channels are more secure, and the travel distance much shorter.
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Senator Neff expressed his gratitude for the work you attempted to do during your visit, and shared the revealing news about the Imperium Leader Will Winters and his quest to control the inhabitants of Cyrene. It appears that there are far greater implications than at first suspected, and the Senator has now solicited our help with specific requests that invite your continued involvement."
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Still uncertain as to where this was leading, I no longer felt mental exhaustion, but somewhat exhilarated at the prospect of continued work with the Senator, but how the ISMA fits into this was a mystery. As I continued reading the message, it all became clear to me.
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"Based on the Senator's information and request MindStar, we are ready to propose an offer, but it would require you to return to Earth and work specifically from our location. You would be an independent contractor, yet have full use of our facilities and flight services, which would be at your disposal in order to accommodate your future missions."
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Was I reading that right? Opportunities like this just don't happen every day, and to be sponsored by the ISMA? Then, it suddenly dawned on me – this would also mean a lifestyle change, and I would need to dissolve my work relationship with the EntropiaPlanets Media Center. I suddenly felt saddened but I would have to deal with this later. Right now, I was anxious to learn more.
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"Should you accept this offer MindStar, there are many more details to work out, but I can give you the important aspects of what this would entail. The Senator requested to work with you exclusively, and would make everything available on his end to facilitate your needs as it pertained to your further interaction with Cyrene. He is interested in additional covert operations to gain intel that would support efforts being put forth by himself, as well as the Acacia Rebirth Corps (ARC) headed up by Zorra Winters, the now estranged and presumed dead wife of the Imperium Leader Will Winters. There was also mention of Vida at the Cyrene Skylabs, but the Senator can fill you in on those details later.
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You would be given a small suite of offices in a secure location, along with the option of hand-picking your own staff, with the addition of a communications center that would allow you direct, encrypted contact with the Senator. Even though your primary work will be exclusive to Cyrene, it will also encompass soliciting and engaging the services of individuals and fighting factions throughout the universe to assist with the cause on Cyrene.
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The Senator can fill you in on far more detail later, but we first need to establish that you are willing to make this change and take on a more official role in the discovery and fight for Cyrene. I know I don't need to tell you how confidential this information is, and that it should be kept in a most secure location if not destroyed. If you choose to move forward, then we can discuss the final steps to facilitate your transfer back to Earth at your earliest convenience.
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In the meantime, I have enclosed documents from the Senator that further expand on potential future missions back to Cyrene, as well as blueprints for your proposed suite of offices and communications center should you accept this offer.
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Sincere regards,
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Winslow Anderson, Commander
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ISMA – Eastern (US) Mission Control"
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----
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As I leaned back in my chair, there was no question in my mind that I had a lot to consider. First and foremost was whether I was willing to give up my current life as I've known it to work exclusively with the Senator and Cyrene. It would mean no open and engaging activities on other planets as in the past, and taking on a more official role that would focus on the history and evolution of Cyrene.
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If there's one thing I can say with certainty, the Senator for as long as I have known him has been an honest and honorable man, and always fighting for the good of mankind. His efforts while a Senator on Earth were well-respected, with commendations that highlighted his successful endeavors. I have no doubt that his work on Cyrene will continue to be intensely approached with a battle well fought, and after my most recent visit with him, how could I refuse this opportunity.
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Of course I was going to accept, and my more immediate mission was responding to Commander Anderson and then getting everything in order to make the move back to Earth. My Media Manager at the EntropiaPlanets Media Center isn't going to be happy about this, but perhaps we can eventually work together in some other capacity after I have settled in and acclimated myself to what I'm sure won't be a normal routine. However, everything must be kept confidential at this point.
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As I moved to the next document in the package, I discovered that the weightiness of the envelope was a small telecommunication device that Commander Anderson forwarded for direct communication with his office at ISMA. I was instructed to contact him once I made my decision in order to discuss further details of the relocation should I accept the proposed offer.
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Let's see, I believe Earth time right now would put the Commander out of his office, so I will wait until morning to make contact and give him my decision. I need a good night's sleep, but not certain I was able to shut down my racing thoughts and excitement. I headed to the kitchen to brew up a strong cup of chamomile tea with hope that it would do the trick, but I knew I was only steps away from packing up my belongings and shuttling back to Earth, so I may be in for a long night.
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DAY OF DEPARTURE
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After contacting Commander Anderson, everything was set in motion for the transition, with my belongings sent ahead to be set up in my new apartment located on the ISMA compound. Security is of utmost importance, and it was felt that it would be best to maintain a residence within the compound, rather than in a more public area. However, I was absolutely free to come and go as I pleased, and not restricted in my interactions with a more public environment.
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Recruiting competent staff is going to be a priority in an effort to get future missions under way, but I've known many dedicated Entropians over the years who would serve our needs quite well – it's just a matter of sorting out the details. Being able to trust those operating from other planets is crucial, so the selection process may take a while. It's all for a good cause, with potential benefit outweighing the risk.
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Parting is such sweet sorrow, but hey – I was off to start another chapter of my life that would not only give me a distinctive purpose, but also comes with the potential of furthering my literary career as well. Part of the Senator's request is that I help to document the history and evolution of Cyrene, along with others involved in this endeavor. The documenting and writing would be as needed, but what an opportunity it is to be a part of the unfolding existence, challenges and victories of a newly discovered planet, and being published in the annals of Cyrene lore – or whatever it is they have established that houses this documentation.
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As I stood looking at my empty apartment and the spectacular view of my little corner of Celeste Harbour, I was going to miss it, along with the boat rides that fostered many thought-provoking moments that often turned into major decisions. As I walked out the door, I engaged the re-code option that gave possession back to the building owner. I had already spoken with him about the move, and everything was put in order.
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As I walked toward the shuttle launch pad which was close by, I passed several Arkadians who had heard of the news and wished me well. The extent of my departure was not made public, but just that I was heading back to Earth to continue my work as a writer. The community was incredibly special, and I would certainly miss the friendships I had formed, which made this decision even more difficult. However, sometimes moving forward in life requires sacrifice in order to accomplish a mission.
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As I approached the shuttle launch pad, I noticed my Media Manager and her husband standing there, and immediately the emotions swelled up. Lykke and Peter are my absolute best friends in this universe, and I will miss them tremendously, but we have also agreed to keep in touch. They have offered their resources as well if ever needed, and while I can't reveal the details of my new involvement, perhaps their services will come in handy one day.
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As we engaged in small talk I was given notice that my shuttle would soon be leaving and it was time to board. After final hugs and wiping back the tears, I headed to the launch pad. I just couldn't look back, as it was difficult enough as it was, but moved forward and boarded the shuttle after showing my pass. Settling into my seat I noticed that there were many others leaving to return to Earth, and couldn't help but wonder why they were giving up space for perhaps a more mundane existence.
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As we left Arkadia's atmosphere and entered the space corridor, it became apparent that we were being escorted by a Quad-Wing fleet of fighters from the Arkadia Star Fleet due to known pirates, and until we could achieve warp speed. Since my belongings were shipped ahead, I can only hope that they arrived safely without incident, but I couldn't think of that right now. I was tired from very little rest, as I had anticipated would happen, and I wanted to take advantage of this trip to catch a snooze.
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<div style="width:100%; text-align:right;"><nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?|Up]]<nowiki>]</nowiki> &nbsp; <nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations|Top]]<nowiki>]</nowiki></div>
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</div></div>
 
</div></div>
 
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<br />
<div id="Unfinished Business - Part 1" class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px; margin-bottom:10px;">
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<div class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px;">
<big>'''"Unfinished Business" - Part 1'''</big>
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'''"Unfinished Business" - Part 1'''
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
''It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/threads/cyrene-unfinished-business-part-1.6229/ "Unfinished Business" - Part 1]''
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It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/forums/threads/cyrene-unfinished-business-part-1.6229/ "Unfinished Business" - Part 1]
 
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Cyrene seems to be a planet in turmoil at the moment, and apparently no time can be wasted, so a new ops plan is being set in motion …
 
Cyrene seems to be a planet in turmoil at the moment, and apparently no time can be wasted, so a new ops plan is being set in motion …
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The next couple of days passed quickly, and the knock at the door told me that my transport had arrived to escort me to the shuttle that would be taking me to Cyrene. I wondered if I was going to be seeing the flyboys again. And now I was also wondering if they were human.
 
The next couple of days passed quickly, and the knock at the door told me that my transport had arrived to escort me to the shuttle that would be taking me to Cyrene. I wondered if I was going to be seeing the flyboys again. And now I was also wondering if they were human.
  
... to be continued in Part 2
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... to be continued in Part 2  
 
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<div style="width:100%; text-align:right;"><nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Unfinished Business - Part 1|Up]]<nowiki>]</nowiki> &nbsp; <nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations|Top]]<nowiki>]</nowiki></div>
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</div></div>
 
</div></div>
 
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<br />
<div id="Unfinished Business - Part 2" class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px; margin-bottom:10px; margin-bottom:10px;">
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<div class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px;">
<big>'''"Unfinished Business" - Part 2'''</big>
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'''"Unfinished Business" - Part 2'''
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
''It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/threads/cyrene-unfinished-business-part-2.6528/ "Unfinished Business" - Part 2]''
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''It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/forums/threads/cyrene-unfinished-business-part-2.6528/ "Unfinished Business" - Part 2]''
  
  
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Geez, again with the scenery. Tired or not, the only thought that crossed my mind was that the first thing I'm going to do when we get back, is remind the Senator that he promised to fill me in about the flyboys. If I find out these guys are not human and programmable, I'm going to make a few suggestions.
 
Geez, again with the scenery. Tired or not, the only thought that crossed my mind was that the first thing I'm going to do when we get back, is remind the Senator that he promised to fill me in about the flyboys. If I find out these guys are not human and programmable, I'm going to make a few suggestions.
  
"MindStar, that wasn't nice."
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"MindStar, that wasn't nice."  
 
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<div style="width:100%; text-align:right;"><nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Unfinished Business - Part 2|Up]]<nowiki>]</nowiki> &nbsp; <nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations|Top]]<nowiki>]</nowiki></div>
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</div></div>
 
</div></div>
 
<div id="Unfinished Business - Part 3" class="toccolours mw-collapsible mw-collapsed" style="width:60%; min-width:200px; margin-bottom:10px; margin-bottom:10px;">
 
<big>'''"Unfinished Business" - Part 3'''</big>
 
<div class="mw-collapsible-content">
 
''It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://cyreneforum.com/threads/unfinished-business-part-3.331/ "Unfinished Business" - Part 3]''
 
 
The core of the ongoing Zekkonian wars revolves around the rare and valuable crystals whose secrets must be revealed, but danger and risk are high...
 
 
ZikWarrior-UFB-3-TB.jpg
 
 
RAK'ZIK MEETING – MISSION SEMI-SUCCESSFUL
 
 
The early evening sun was setting, creating a beautiful hue across the horizon with scattered light rays peaking through the branches of the trees like voyeurs. Pulling up to the Senator's residence with the flyboys came with mixed emotions. On one hand, we were able to get invited to the meeting between Rak'Zik and Kol'Zak regarding a potential alliance, and on the other hand, it didn't go as well as expected.
 
 
From all indications during the brief communication from the spacecraft with the Senator, he wasn't too happy about it, other than us getting to attend the meeting. He was very specific that more work would need to be done, so today's debriefing should be quite interesting.
 
 
"Welcome back MindStar," Cal said as he exited his front door to greet us, "come inside and let's have a chat." He waved to the flyboys before they left with the transport and then followed me into his home. Little does he know that after we conclude with further debriefing about the mission, I have a little unfinished business of my own with him.
 
 
As we sat on the veranda, Cal looked at me and I just grinned; one of those smirky grins ya know, the kind that make people wonder what you're up to. He raised an eyebrow and looked as if he was going to say something, but I did to him what he did to me when I was surprised to see the flyboys after our hijacking in the Zekkonian Swamp where they supposedly ended up dead – NOT.
 
 
"Don't ask," I said to the Senator, "it will all become clear soon enough, but I'm sure you're anxious to hear more details about the mission." Cal sat back in his chair with his hands behind his head sporting a rather large smile on his face, like a proud mentor or coach, and I presumed also reveling in the fact that I have confidently stepped into my covert ops role in a more defined way.
 
 
The transition for me was a bit slow-going, but now that I'm back into the more aggressive level of space exploration and adventure, my insatiableness for uncovering mysteries and secrets has been elevated quite substantially. I attribute that to my passion for investigative journalism, but what I'm involved with now goes far beyond anything I've experienced in the past, and I'm ready to take it to the next level, wherever that may lead me.
 
 
"Tell me a bit about the meeting between Rak'Zik and Kol'Zak," says Cal, "and what you gleaned from it that might be of importance." After taking a sip of his housekeeper's lovely tea, I leaned forward and gave him my interpretation of what I thought took place.
 
 
"In short," I started, "Kol'Zak was having none of what Rak'Zik was handing him about the gradual invasion of the Zil'Zik into the neutral Nie Tribe Zek lands. Rak'Zik even presented Zil'Zik dead bodies as trophies from the attack we encountered on the way to the meeting just outside his city, but Kol'Zak was skeptical and untrusting of what actually took place."
 
 
"Sounds like a tough meeting," states Cal, "so I take it that an alliance was out of the question?"
 
 
"Pretty much," I responded, "and to further add insult to injury, Kol'Zak blames the Tan'Hok for the uprising because of their seeming hoarding of the most valuable crystals and not sharing with others. Kol'Zak was also very explicit in saying that they didn't like the relationship with the humans that the Tan'Hok had either, because their work with technology to help them gave them an advantage."
 
 
"Wow," exclaims Cal, "seems like there was a bit of tension involved in that meeting." The Senator doesn't know the half of it, but I didn't think it was necessary to go into every detail. The most important factors were shared in an effort to give the Senator a starting point and where we go from here with the next mission.
 
 
"Lots of tension," I replied, "but the flyboys and I maintained a respectful posture and did not speak. Kol'Zak didn't seem to be too happy that we were there, surmising that we were humans, I'm sure, but we managed to walk away intact and nonetheless for wear. I only wish I had more Intel for you."
 
 
"Sometimes," Cal stated, "these missions don't always go as you would like them to, but at least you've given me enough information to know that we now have to go deeper into Zek territory, and that means a higher risk for you MindStar. This next covert ops run will be far more dangerous, but I've already employed the necessary means to enhance its success. However, before we get into the details, let's take a break for dinner."
 
 
HANNAH, ROSE, AND THE FLYBOYS REVEALED
 
 
We stayed on the veranda and enjoyed the cool breeze, as well as what was left of the setting sun. It was mostly small talk, but I patiently waited for my opportunity to give the Senator what he might deem a poignant reminder of something he promised that he would share with me when I returned.
 
 
"My dear Senator," I said as I shot him a cheeky grin, "it's time to fess up." He placed his fork on his plate and wiped the corners of his mouth with his napkin before shooting me a cheeky grin right back.
 
 
"I have a feeling I know where you're headed," replies Cal, "and I guess it's time to clue you in on a few things." Did I hear that right? Was I really going to finally get some information on the flyboys and Hannah? I perked right up in my chair and gave him my full attention, because I was sure I would have questions once he started. Although, the Senator is quite detailed and thorough, so we'll see.
 
 
"Hannah and the twin pilots," began Cal, "are actually gifts from Vida at the Cyrene Skylabs. All three are human-like, and all three are androids, but …"
 
 
"It all makes sense to me now," I cut in, "and I have one quick question, if you don't mind. Did you send someone in to collect the flyboys in the Zekkonian Swamp after we were hijacked?"
 
 
"No," Cal responded, "after receiving them from Vida, they were reprogrammed to return to me should anything happen to them, and why they teleported to my residence after their death in the swamp." Well, as much as I have become attached to them already, it's nice to know that they'll always be around in one capacity or another, they've really grown on me.
 
 
"Hannah is a bit different," Cal continued, "while she's human-like and also an android, she's actually the prototype Vida developed without some of the advanced features that the pilots have, especially when it comes to her strength. Therefore, while quite efficient and very trainable, she expresses more of a demure and feminine quality. However, don't underestimate her, because I found her to be quite surprising at times when I least expected it. She's sharp, witty, and can verbally punch if she needs to, but in the end, she will be loyal to you, and the two of you should grow into each other in a very beneficial way."
 
 
"Well," I responded, "she already asked me if I was ready to kick some ass, so I'm guessing she's got a bit of spunk in there somewhere." Calvin smiled, almost as if he was saying, I know what you mean, but then he continued filling me in on all this android business.
 
 
"Rose is also an android," Cal said, "but she's a bit more advanced than Hannah, and she can pretty much hold her own if she has to." I didn't know that he was involved with Rose too, but that explains the extra firm grip I experienced when I encountered her on the ISMA spacecraft during the first leg of my trip to Cyrene. Nonetheless, I sensed that there was still something not right about her, but I wasn't going to get into it now while the Senator was disclosing all this juicy information.
 
 
"The thing with Rose is," continues Cal, "she's a second generation android, and not actually created by Vida, but I'll get into those details in a minute."
 
 
"I'm more interested in the flyboys," I responded, "those guys seem far too human to even think of them as androids. They're wise-cracking, can carry on an intellectual conversation when I can get them to focus long enough, and it seems that they use a level of critical thinking in situations where it's most beneficial. I can also tell you that they're fast-acting in crucial moments, and they don't have to be told what to do, which is why their dynamics interest me the most."
 
 
"As I mentioned, MindStar," states Cal as he shifts more in his seat, "the pilots are far more advanced, and there's a very good reason why. They were not created by Vida, but rather her Boffins. Boffins cannot innovate, but are perfectionists in their work. So they took Vida's prototype of Hannah and created Rose. She has a greater level of advanced features, and considered a second generation android, but then they worked the prototype further until they were satisfied with the twin pilots who are considered to be third generation androids."
 
 
"Wow," I exclaimed, "that's incredible. I have only one question though. Who or what are the Boffins?" This ought to be good I thought to myself. I'm not naïve to androids or robots, but Boffins sound like a whole new ballgame to me, and I'm highly anxious to learn what the story is.
 
 
BoffinFemale.jpg
 
 
Female Boffin
 
 
BoffinMale.jpg
 
 
Male Boffin
 
 
"Boffins are a genetically-created human species, Cal begins, "and very cat-like in features. The females are taller with more warrior-type tendencies, and the males are more technology-focused, but can stand their ground if need be. While Boffins are living robots, the more you get to know them you cannot help but project your human emotions; eventually wanting to think of them as beings, rather than products. They are extremely adaptive, which makes them perfect for science and other constructive activities." All I could think of at the moment was when I would get to meet one of these Boffins, but Cal moved back to the flyboys.
 
 
"As a result of being third generation androids," says Cal, "the pilot twins are far more adaptable, have much greater strength, and have a level of free thinking if you will, which is probably where the wise-cracking comes in," he shares with a grin, "but their behaviors and dynamics are so human-like, that I also don't think that even they know they're androids."
 
 
"Kudos to the Boffins," I said, "nothing like getting it right, and then making a carbon copy. How many more of these cuties do you think we can get Cal, I need me some extra body guards when I go on these outings?" Cal just shook his head, but he's used to my off-the-wall comments, and still enjoys them.
 
 
"I would hardly call them outings," Cal came back with a chuckle, "your covert ops missions will more than likely get increasingly risky and dangerous, so not quite a walk in the park. However, I can tell you that with this next mission, you will have one additional person with you."
 
 
"Before we go there," I responded, "I have a question. I really like the flyboys, but I would prefer to call them by names. Do they have names?" Cal looked at me almost knowing that this question was coming sooner or later, but as he sat back in his chair once again, he didn't dismiss it, and even surprised me.
 
 
"To be honest, MindStar," Cal shared, "Hannah and Rose came to me already named, but the twin pilots did not, and I just haven't taken the time to address it. Besides, I wouldn't know how to tell them apart anyway, even if they did have names."
 
 
"Good point," my dear Senator, "but if I'm going to spend an inordinate amount of time with these guys, I think we should name them and figure out a way to tell them apart, don'tcha think?" Calvin raised an eyebrow as if to say, do we really have to go there, but then came back with an interesting proposition.
 
 
"Tell you what," Cal says, "since you will most likely be spending the majority of the time with them while you're on Cyrene, I'll give you the honor of naming them, and then coming up with a way to tell them apart, how's that?" Ohhh, this was going to be fun. I gave them the nickname flyboys, but I'm not quite sure how they're going to take to real names. I guess we'll find out eventually.
 
 
MISSION DETAILS
 
 
"However," continued Cal, "before we get lost in android naming, I need to brief you about your next mission, which is going to be rather involved. Vida from the Skylabs needs more samples of the rare crystals found on Cyrene, and although her Father's corporation Enkidd had some of these crystals, an experiment gone wrong caused them to lose their most valuable samples."
 
 
"Sounds rather dire," I said, "but these rare crystals must have some major value for them to be in such high demand." The Senator began shaking his head yes before he continued.
 
 
"The crystals," says Cal, "afford Vida and her research team the opportunity to create powerful technology, and the results can be used both for great benefit, as well as great destruction. The continued research is vital to not only understanding the properties of these rare crystals, but also to be able to minimize or thwart off any potential destruction in the wrong hands."
 
 
"Well then," I replied as I sat back in my chair, "what is this next covert ops mission all about, and when do we get started." The Senator grabbed what looked like an electronic notebook, and pulled his chair over closer to me. As he reviewed the mission agenda, he continued with the briefing.
 
 
"This time," says Cal, "you must go deeper into the Zekkonian territory in order to collect more samples of the valuable and rare crystals from one of their gardens, which makes this mission a much higher risk level. However, Enkidd has created a new type of armor that blends with the Zekkonians and gives off a scent that leads the less-evolved Zeks to think they are among a Zek Noble."
 
 
"Gotta love technology," I said, "so will this actually make it easier to get in and out?" I did not get the response I was expecting, and as the Senator sat there shaking his head no, almost in slow motion, I could only wonder what was coming next.
 
 
"Not quite," Cal responded, "unfortunately, the scent will only last so long, and there's a limited amount of time to travel deep into the Zek territory to extract the crystals. Your pilots will also be wearing the specialized armor so that no attention is drawn to them either. In addition, you will be equipped with powerful weapons should you need them."
 
 
The Senator shared that we will be carrying Imperium Firestarter Flamethrowers, but they should only be used in extreme situations because they would attract a vast number of attacking Zeks if caught. He further explained that the Firestarter uses a special type of fuel that will self-extinguish after a while, so we didn't need to be fearful that we would burn down the entire village or forest.
 
 
Definitely a high risk factor with this mission I thought to myself, but in the past, I was always known to be fearless, and an in yer face kinda gal. However, I think I got a bit too soft when I focused purely on media and away from the more adventurous escapades. Well, I'm back in the saddle again, and to quote Hannah, "ready to kick some ass." The Senator snapped me out of my daydreaming with more details of the mission, and I could feel myself getting more excited despite foreseeable obstacles.
 
 
"The crystal gardens are heavily guarded," shares Cal, "and although the normal Zil Zik warriors won't be able to tell you from the Noble Ziks, if a Noble were to catch you there, you would quickly be captured. And just for general information, the Zek culture is divided into castes, with the higher evolved Zeks being the brains of the operation, while the un-evolved Zeks are the more drone-like muscle."
 
 
"Looks like we have our work cut out for us," I said, "now tell me who this other person is that's joining us." The Senator tilted his head a bit to the right before he began grinning. I know this grin, which tells me something extra is coming that he hasn't revealed yet.
 
 
"Well," explains Cal, "you will be accompanied by a Boffin named Enyo; a female warrior quite capable of assisting where needed, including field engineering and medical duties."
 
 
"So when do we take off on this mission," I asked, "I'm ready. You have a way of sharing mission details that get me quite excited, but I'm guessing that it's the old dormant me coming to life again and realizing it's time to come out of the rain and experience a few distorted rainbows along the way."
 
 
"Actually," Cal responded, "Enyo will be here first thing in the morning, along with your pilots for a briefing about the mission, and then you're off. I'm sure your previous mission was a bit tiring, and I'm going to recommend that you rest up as much as possible, because tomorrow's mission will be tense and challenge your stamina, if not your nerves."
 
 
Oh great, I'm too wired right now to go to sleep, so maybe I'll do some laps in the pool to wear myself out. I love these little mind-games I play with myself; I already know they don't work, so I'm not sure why I even bother.
 
 
"I'm heading to bed, MindStar," said Cal, "I'll see you in the morning."
 
 
"Ok," I responded, "I'm going to give some thought to naming the flyboys, but I already think I'm going to name them after my special friends and twin pilots from Planet Calypso, "Rip" and "C" – they were my personal pilots for a good while, and the flyboys remind me of them. My only challenge is now figuring out a way to tell them apart, but I'll sort this all out after we get back from the mission. See you in the morning."
 
 
MORNING HAS BROKEN – THE MISSION TEAM ASSEMBLES
 
 
Contrary to what I expected to be a rather restless night, it was quite peaceful, and I slept well. However, regardless of the number of hours I'm able to capture, my internal alarm clock always has me rising early. There's nothing like experiencing a dawn's canvas as the sun caresses the horizon, and there's nothing like the smell of coffee to draw you into consciousness.
 
 
After finishing my shower and getting dressed, I could hear voices, seemingly coming from the kitchen, which was not far from the guest room. I think that's usually the first stop in anyone's morning, but today was going to be a bit different. As I walked toward the kitchen, I could see the Senator on the veranda already having conversation with the flyboys, but then as I entered the kitchen, I was startled.
 
 
My attention was captured by a tall woman with cat-like features walking toward the veranda, until she came to a complete halt and turned to face me. She was quite unique, and I could only surmise that it was the Boffin Enyo.
 
 
"Greetings," the Boffin said, "I'm Enyo," as she walked toward me with right hand extended. "You must be MindStar." Wow, did I feel like a shorty, and a bit embarrassed at the moment given my eyes and mouth were wide open in awe of what I was seeing.
 
 
"Um, yes," I stammered, "I am MindStar, and it's a pleasure to meet you. Forgive my awkwardness at the moment, but this is my first encounter with …" The Senator interrupted me as he walked into the kitchen from the veranda, and saved me from any potential embarrassment.
 
 
"Relax MindStar," Cal says, "your reaction to seeing a Boffin for the first time is quite common, but grab yourself some coffee and join us on the veranda. We need to sort out the details of the mission so everyone is on the same page."
 
 
"Right," I responded, but I couldn't help think about, or admire the cat-like features of Enyo, nor the gracefulness with which she moved across the floor. I couldn't wait to see how she interacts out in the field, and what she'll bring to this mission. I poured myself some coffee and headed for the veranda, but not before I grabbed myself one of those delicious biscuits that the Senator's housekeeper makes.
 
 
"This is going to be a challenging mission," begins the Senator, "not only because of where it will take you, but because of the limited time involved." Since Cal already briefed me the evening before, he shared the details of the mission with Enyo and the flyboys, but then added a little something that hadn't come up in our chat.
 
 
"You will leave here by transport," states Cal, "and head for a secluded area near the falls in the City of Janus where helicopters are waiting for you. The helicopters are super silent, and it's best to travel at night. You'll only be able to travel so far into Zek territory before you'll need to land and go the rest of the way on foot to the crystal gardens. Enyo and MindStar will fly in one chopper, and the twin pilots will fly in the other."
 
 
DragonflyHelicoptors.JPG
 
 
Dragonfly Helicopters (night scene)
 
 
The morning passed and we were now into the afternoon hours, but there were still so many details to work out, along with backup plans. Time slipped by rather quickly, and with each passing moment, the more intense it became, realizing just how much danger we may be facing.
 
 
I don't know what came over me, but my adrenaline started pumping in anticipation of this mission. Perhaps it's the thrill-seeker in me longing for the action I've missed so much, but maybe it was fear rearing its ugly head at the prospect of the unknown. Whatever the case, I wanted this mission to get underway, and I wanted to savor every moment, be it good, bad, or …
 
 
"Time to head out," Calvin says interrupting my moment of adrenaline-pumping thoughts, "there's no time to waste with this one. The specialized armor, along with the power weapons are already onboard the helicopters. Keep in mind that communication will only be possible between the four of you, and you will not be able to contact me until you are back in the helicopters and returning from the mission. I wish you all the best, and I'm expecting good things. Let's not disappoint Vida, and get her the crystals."
 
 
Oh geez, no pressure whatsoever! The Senator's send-offs are never predictable. Sometimes they can be so rah-rah, and at other times, he seems to pile on that invisible weight that we often tend to do on our own when we feel less confident. Nonetheless, we were on our way, and I couldn't wait to see how we were all going to mesh on this mission. The flyboys are cool, but Enyo will be the test.
 
 
SILENT AND STEALTH – THE MISSION IS UNDERWAY
 
 
It was already early evening and the sun was setting. I guess that's a good thing since it seems that the more stealth this mission is the better. It stands to reason that no matter how silent your flying apparatus is, in broad daylight, you have less of a chance of remaining hidden.
 
 
It wasn't long before we reached the helicopters. The flyboys boarded one, and Enyo and I boarded the other. Enyo jump into action immediately, handling the chopper like it was a tinker toy, getting us in the air in no time flat. The flyboys followed behind us. The setting sun was a beautiful aerial view, but it's time to focus on the mission at hand. However, Enyo decided to give me some additional information about how the Boffins interact with people. I am now beginning to feel more secure and comfortable with Enyo; this could be a good thing.
 
 
"Here MindStar," says Enyo as she handed me a document, "I give you more information about Boffins." I found Enyo very endearing, but also quite precise, and I was wondering if this was true of all Boffins and their language skills, but I didn't want to be rude and ask. While the Senator had already shared information about them in our meeting the evening before, it seems it wasn't everything.
 
 
The document read almost like a manual, but clarified a few more things for me. The Boffins are capable of great strength and agility, but require little to eat, and may need large amounts of rest after extraneous mental or physical work. Boffin owners should also take note that they are not human, and will not display any human behavior when it comes to irrational human emotions. However, they are completely loyal once a command is given, and will perform any task assigned by its master.
 
 
Due to the dangers of such power, the Boffins may only be sold to high ranking Imperium members, and must be registered with the Imperium. All Boffins are created from the same original pair, and the only way to tell them apart is from their assigned serial number implanted under their skin. Just as I finished reading the additional details about the Boffins, Enyo broke my train of thought.
 
 
"We are close to landing point," says Enyo, "prepare." What's to prepare I thought to myself, I've been buckled in so tight since we left that I think I may have cut off my circulation. I love flying, but when it's not a vacation, and it's under these types of conditions, it's a whole different story.
 
 
After landing, we equipped the specialized armor and grabbed the power weapons. Enyo pointed us in the direction of our travel on foot to the crystal gardens, and off we went. It was an uneventful trek, giving hope that this mission might be accomplished without much challenge, but I thought wrong.
 
 
"What the HELL," I yelled out, "where did THEY come from, and what ARE they?" Seemingly out of nowhere, these nasty birds swooped in on us, and there was no way of avoiding combat.
 
 
HornedRocBird.JPG
 
 
Horned Roc Bird
 
 
We managed to make our way through it, but the question was – did it cause too much of a disturbance and alert anyone that there might be intruders.
 
 
After the bird encounter, we finally reached the swamp land. As we walked toward the gardens, my adrenaline is off the map, and I can't help but fear that we are going to be spotted. However, as we approach the gardens, we are met by the Guards who stand at attention. No issue, no nothing, and Enyo instructed us to keep walking forward.
 
 
Apparently, the less evolved Zik do not look at Noble Ziks directly. They use their antenna to pick up on the scent of what is around them. When they sense a Noble, they stand at attention and never meet eyes with them. I was relieved, and perhaps a bit more relaxed seeing that we were carrying some heavy artillery, but we made it through into the garden.
 
 
"Wow," I exclaimed, "look at those crystals, they are amazing." As I stood stunned by the beauty of the crystals, Enyo started collecting samples as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the flyboys, who were standing guard, noticed that a Noble had walked into the garden and looked rather shocked.
 
 
"ENYO, MINDSTAR," shouted one of the flyboys as he points toward the Noble, "he's trying to sound the alarm and we can't let that happen." The flyboys and I tackled him and took him down, but it was proving to be quite the challenge.
 
 
In the meantime, while all of this is going on, Enyo is still standing and marveling at the crystals without budging. I didn't know quite what to make of this behavior, as I was told that she was a female warrior, but aren't warriors supposed to always be at the ready in the face of danger and act accordingly?
 
 
"DAMN, this dude is strong," I said with what breath I could collect, "and far too noisy for my liking." As we struggled a bit more, I was fearful that this wrestling match was going to alert the Sentry, but we finally managed to hog tie him and squelch the racket he was making. However, moving the Zik Noble into the brush to hide him was not soon enough.
 
 
When Enyo saw that the Sentry decided to inspect the area, she quickly moved into the brush where we had the Zik Noble and took him out with a never before seen fist weapon. She explains that the weapon is one of the latest designs, and not supposed to be used unless in an extreme situation.
 
 
"Ya," I said as I rolled my eyes, "I guess you could call this an extreme situation." Enyo shared further that the fist weapon is silent and capable of massive damage due to a particle blade that it emits from the center of the power glove.
 
 
"Follow me," Enyo instructed, "we need to get out of here and fast." No kidding I thought to myself, and as we spread out a bit and moved toward the exit of the garden, we were met by another Zik Noble on his way in to check up on things. However, this was a primitive Shaman-type who quickly sees what is going on, and in an instant, he shoots a fireball in our direction, but we are able to withstand the assault.
 
 
ZikShamanFireballAttack.JPG
 
 
Zik Noble Shaman shooting fireball.
 
MindStar and Flyboys taking the hit.
 
Enyo (the Boffin) taking out the Zik Noble Shaman.
 
 
The garden is now on full alert, and there was no question whatsoever that it was time to lay down some heavy suppression fire and hold back the Ziks with our flame throwers. Enyo, who was not near the blast, acted fast with her cat-like reflexes and kills the Zik Noble Shaman, but it now looks as if we have to fight off waves of Zik Guards.
 
 
"We must hold Ziks off," shouts Enyo, "I will remote summon choppers." Wait, remote summon choppers? The more I get involved with these covert ops missions, the more technology is revealed, and the more excited I get. I hope the choppers get here quick, this is ridiculously hazardous.
 
 
 
MS9-ZikArmorFlamethrower.JPG
 
 
MindStar in special Zik armor shooting Imperium Firestarter Flamethrower.
 
 
The flyboys and I laid down some massive suppression fire while Enyo fought off any Ziks that got through with hand-to-hand combat. One of the flyboys took a hit, but Enyo was able to tend to the wound. The First Aid Pack that she used, quickly and almost like weaving a fabric, healed the wound, and the flyboy was back in action again. Just as it seemed like we were about to be swarmed on all sides, the choppers arrived.
 
 
ChoppersArriving.JPG
 
 
Choppers arrive as MindStar, Flyboys and Enyo fight off the Ziks.
 
 
"HEY," Enyo yelled in the direction of the flyboys (I told Cal they needed names), "grab hold of landing skids on second chopper. MindStar, grab hold of landing skid on first chopper with me, quick." We did as Enyo instructed, and while we were hanging on for dear life with one hand, we continued to fight off the Zik with the other. The choppers quickly flew off, but some of the primitive un-evolved Zik who can fly were in pursuit and gaining on us.
 
 
"Hold tight," shouts Enyo, "we are not able to outrun them; choppers are taking too much damage; I am increasing altitude where they cannot follow." She had to know it was a dangerous decision to do this, because we were all holding on literally by one hand, but as I watched her fiddle with her remote, I could only hope that our strength held out long enough to make it to our landing site. It absolutely amazed me that she was in control of both choppers with the remote while we clung for dear life.
 
 
Just as we lose the Ziks, I start losing my grip, but Enyo once again demonstrates her cat-like agility and manages to climb up on the chopper and grab my hand just in time, pulling me into the chopper and to safety. I swear I heard the hallelujah choir as I took my first deep breath. The flyboys were already inside their chopper and we were clear to work our way back to the base, but it wasn't long before yet another glitch in our mission occurred.
 
 
"There is bad news," states Enyo, "choppers are too damaged to continue flight to base; we need to find place to land and call for help."
 
 
Oh great! There was little ammo left, we were transporting the much sought-after rare and valuable crystals, and if that wasn't enough, we also had to fear being caught by patrolling Sons of Remus Sentinels. There was only one pressing question that loomed heavily on our minds …
 
 
How will we explain what happened if we are caught outside of the protected zones!?
 
 
<div style="width:100%; text-align:right;"><nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Unfinished Business - Part 3|Up]]<nowiki>]</nowiki> &nbsp; <nowiki>[</nowiki>[[{{FULLPAGENAME}}#Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations|Top]]<nowiki>]</nowiki></div>
 
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[[Category:Planet Cyrene]]
 
[[Category:Storytelling]]
 

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