ROXI processed Lothir's question, and realized that he might have been familiar with how their technology operated, on a basic level, but might fail to understand some of the more broad spectrum concepts.
"It is the culmination of two factors," the AI responded; "to begin, our sensors do not possess the power for that kind of ranged scanning, and second, because our probes can merely detect nearby planets and stars, not biological signatures. In order for us to confirm life on a planet, we would need to set down on the surface or get within our sensor range, which would require that the Nighthammer be within the actual system of the planet."
"That being said master Lothir, I would have an extremely hard time deciphering whether or not there are any biological readings at all on any planet that is outside of this current system."
Pyro, who was still studying the maps that ROXI had brought up, turned to Lothir, and replied; "Because I've seen a map similar in almost every respect of the word, to what I'm looking at. The only difference is that, the last time I saw a map like this, with these" he pointed a gloved finger to the topographical map; "was the last time that our squad leader had to call down an orbital strike upon the planet; however unlike the bombardment that you witnessed." The clone's face grew stern, despite his usual cheerful demeanor; "it involved four more Depraedor-class assault carriers along with the Nighthammer's own guns. We scorched the entire surface with world without a second thought, the oceans boiled under the bombardment. You saw with your own eyes what the Nighthammer can do by herself, imagine what a Base Delta-Zero fleet bombardment could do. Five or more assault-carriers, such as the Nighthammer and their respective accompanying vessels, usually numbering 40 or more, open up, full-salvo open the surface of a planet. The crust literally turns to molten li, the waters boil into steam and the very atmosphere itself just destabilizes under the onslaught of such plasma output. IF you've ever seen destruction like that before, Lothir, you'll understand why I'm curious about the readings and the location of that area."
In the ship's tavern, Stalker, Drakin and Grisnaw sat, drinking to whatever kind of toast they could think of, or just downing random concoctions on a dare. Stalker would prove more stubborn a drinker than either the assassin or gargoyle would have initially guessed.
At the assassins little worry about paying for broken items, Stalker chuckled a little; "the beauty about being a clone is that whatever we break doesn't count against us, just another write off as bad kit. After you learn what is and is not valuable on and off the battlefield, you can a little fun here and there."
Stalker waved the barkeep over and instructed him to serve the imp with wings the Novabuster. Stalker got a 'you're-shitting-me' look back from the barkeep; the sniper nodded.
Shrugging his shoulders, the bartender went to the back room. By this time, several of the patrons had started to gather around the sniper and his cohorts, hearing about the gargoyle gonna try the novabuster.
"Only one clone has tried it before," came a partially worried voice from the crowd.
"Yeah, but that trooper was dumb enough to try it without his squad with him; this imp here is a native, I wonder what it'll do to him?" another whispered in the back noise.
The bartender returned to the now crowd-gathered bartop, and slid a large glass of neon-green, semi-gelatinous liquid in front of the gargoyle.
"Your funeral, pal," the barkeep said with a slight smirk.
Lieutenant Myria looked at the young drowess with a cocked brow, her eyes in an unconvinced look.
"I find that hard to believe, Miss Zarae," the LT commented to her, finally getting her full uniform on and placing her officers cap upon her head. She turned to Zarae and was about to speak when her keen elven ears picked up the light, but very fast footfalls of an approaching marine.
Within a split second, anther female marine, a half-elven maiden a whole head taller than Myria, burst through the door, her breath short and labored. She'd been running for quite the distance.
"Lieutenant, you're needed down in the lab," the marine said in between gulps of air; she turned to Zarae; "as well as you too Miss. . . . "
"Zarae," came Onix's stern and iron-solid voice from behind the half-elven marine.
"Ma'am," he said, turning to Myria, "we're all needed down in the lab."
Onix turned his emotionless gaze back to Zarae, and said "Zarae, the captain wants to speak with you as well." With that, Onix turned and marched out of the doorway.
The LT turned back to Zarae, and waved her to come along as she left the area.
Ironside found himself staring at Zana as she tumbled outta the Killhouse's rear exit; "have fun in there," he asked sarcastically. The clone knew from firsthand experience what that training area had to offer, and what it could do.
Zana's expression told him that she didn't like the comment; he shrugged his shoulders and placed an automatic shotgun he'd been looking over to the side, and turned to the huntress and her huge cat.
"Well all in all, I'd say that you could go for some R&R, maybe some . ." his voice was cut off as his comm opened up on his wrist gauntlet.
"Ironside, check in," came his squad leader's hard voice.
"Ironside here, what it is, Sir?" he responded.
"Make your way down to the labs, double time; bring that huntress, Zana, and her furball as well. They need to be present for what the docs have found out."
"Rodger that, Sir." Ironside clicked his comm off. Then, looking to Zana and Vlad, he motioned for them both to follow him, as he turned and left the armory, heading towards the turbolifts.
Edge looked to Ryltar, and nodded, accepting his explanation of how he and Lynx had met at face value. Edge wasn't one to question a story about the past, especially if it involved a couple. Being a clone, he knew little on the topic, and kept it that way, preferring to work with technology and machines by himself.
Edge was about to respond with another question to the wizard, when one of the marines that was on post came striding up to him and saluted the clone.
"Sir, Commander Balak has ordered Theta Squad down to the lab, Sir. They say that they've found something to do with that Leecher bug you guys killed on the surface. The Commander also made a note for you to bring the two natives to the lab as well, Sir."
"Alright, Marine; I'll be down in five." Edge replied, almost as if waving the order off as a high performance show.
"Sir, this situation could involve a Base Delta Zero bombardment, Sir," the Marine said persistently, his tone serious.
The clone's face went blank, his expression emotionless, his eyes hollow.
He turned to Lynx and Ryltar and said in a stern tone "follow me." When questioned about orders, Edge replied, "the fate of your entire planet may be at stake; Command has just upped the anty on this situation."
"Run the numbers again, dammit!" the Professor barked at his subordinates. Captain Witmor was present, and his face was grim, and that was putting it lightly.
"Sir we did; we've run them through almost seven different times; they all come out with the same, exact results," Mark exclaimed.
The captain put a hand to his mustache, his brow furrowing in deep concentration. "You sure that this is the most likely outcome?"
"Yes Sir; we 99% positive that these reading from the Leecher Queen are accurate. We'd be stupid to cast it off as random readings." Mark was clearly frustrated by the results of their tests on the bug.
"My, my; this is an Eight-ball of a situation," Captain Witmor commented from where he stood.
The Professor and other lab techs looked at him with confused expressions. He continued on; "Ironically, it was Theta Squad that has been in this exact kind of predicament before, which makes them uniquely qualified to tackle this situation now."
"Sir?" Mark asked, "what exactly are you talking about."
"Two decades ago the clones of Theta Squad were up agsint these exact odds, in a very similar situation. The mission didn't go as planned. They went in with five squads of commandos; only two came out from the fighting just to get to the nest. By the time they reached the nest, the last squad died in the fighting, keeping the Leecher Guardians busy while the Theta's made their way inside the nest. They then realized that they had not brought nearly enough kit to finish the job, so they opted for the last card they could play; the Theta's called for a Base Delta Zero orbital bombardment from the 7 Depraedor's that were in orbit. I had just assumed command the of Nighthammer myself when this happened." The captain stopped and let his little tale of the clone's past mission sink in.
Then he continued, "The debated the question for nearly two hours, each of them bringing up alternatives that could have worked but there was always an obstacle that another team member saw in the plan. In the end, they all agreed to call down the orbital strike. A shuttle picked them up and brought them back to the Nighthammer, and from the bridge, I, Commander Balak, and the clones of Theta Squad watched as our ship, and six others, opened fire upon that colony. For an hour and a half, we rained down hell upon that planet, turning the entire crust to a sea of molten rock, boiling the oceans, and disrupting the whole atmosphere of the planet. On that day, I watched 3.2 billion lose their lives, and not even to our enemy, but to our own very guns, and ships that we've built to defend them. Do you understand, now why I choose the Theta's for this mission?"
"Yes Sir," Mark replied in a low tone, almost mute in his tone.
In War, Justice; In Peace, Hope; In Death: Sacrifice