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An Insurgent could say they received a favor from someone high up in the hierarchy by being given an assignment to Base Four. It meant they were likely to continue living for the duration of their stay there.

Base Four's natural, mountainous shell meant the facility was among the most reinforced in North America and a crucial vantage point to prosecuting the war against its many similarly-shadowed enemies. Whether their days were spent slaving in the labyrinth of underground laboratories connected to cells upon cells of dangerous artifacts and beings, training to use supernatural weapons for future battles, or being airlifted away to scour the Western United States for acquirable anomalies, to be in Base Four is to be relatively safe and in-the-know in the Insurgency.

Security and information. Important principles that the Alpha Command in Base Four share with their East Coast counterparts in Base Six in regards to preserving the Insurgency's stronghold in North America. Information led to victory. Security prevented total defeat.

In this regard, the security teams at the east bay could be excused for preventing absolutely nothing as enemy ground forces swept into sight. The defenders only went as far as drawing their weapons before they were shredded by railgun rounds. Additional security personnel flooded out of the gates, supported by the site's defenses coming online and tens of Yeti Hounds. The rabid creatures placed themselves between the human combatants and leapt from enemy to enemy, ripping limbs from torsos with gnarly claws and bashing in chests with a stomp from their powerful hind legs.

As the Yeti Hounds engaged the enemy, the rest of the security force advanced, soon making it to the creatures' casualties only to find that none of the corpses belonged to the hyper-aggressive combat beasts, but to unassuming polar bear cubs from which they were originally evolved.

Meanwhile, three parachutes glided down undetected onto a snowy clearing on the opposite side of Base Four. The intruders cut their chutes' cords and began a hasty descent to their designated entrance into Base Four.

Agent Joel, freshly reprimanded for field misconduct, was having trouble internalizing that he was handling a bunch of magic rocks. Indeed, it was the fifth bunch of magical rocks he had encountered in his exciting job at Item Acquisition. He had great memories of the first four. This time, however, he wasn't soaking them in magma to hatch a couple of volcano chickens or protecting them from being taken by a scary typhoon spirit. Those rocks were cool. Rock assortment number five was just terrible.

In fact, they weren't even cool enough to be called rocks. They were stones. Molecular corrosion stones. Quite possibly named by a colossal nerd, and definitely not worth pronouncing every time he would be handling these things. He resolved, instead, to call them by a better codename.

M.C. Stones.

A service bot was loading several M.C. Stones into a cart, which Joel was to bring to another area in the underground engineering bays for processing into some sort of weapon ammunition. There were hundreds of multi-purpose service robots in his part of the engineering bay alone that could easily do the job, but menial labor had its place in Base logistics, as demonstrated by a gang of shackled prisoners-of-war who dragged a platform carrying a Khione walker servo-arm past him.

In menial duty, regular humans - such as those prisoners - almost always worked in groups to offset the natural weakness of flesh with which they were forced to live. Joel was enhanced. He could have been lifting the servo-arm by himself instead of hauling a cart of dumb rocks. Unaugmented humans who refuse to upgrade their bodies and minds deserve to be hauling rocks.

The service bot informed him that his cart was full and he could now proceed to Engineering Bay Five. He began wheeling the cart towards one of the elevators.

A few minutes later, the alarm system in Engineering Bay Four came to life.

Rewinding SEPIA Incident R4-a093d4 intercepted transmissions log…
Identifying speakers…

  • Hostile Operative UC934-a ("Pigment")…
  • Hostile Operative UC934-b ("Palette")…
  • Hostile Operative UC934-c ("Tincture")…

Playing first transmission…

[BEGIN LOG] - Aquifer Processing Area 01

Pigment: Truth be told, I expected juuust a few more booby traps. That was an uneventful entry.

Palette: I still think we should've entered through the spawning pits and put those poor mole people out of their misery.

Pigment: That would've been a seriously gross expenditure of our time and resources. Plus, I'd rather not find out what the CI does to their captives there. The last team that came here didn't come back completely sane. Status check?

Palette: All payloads intact. Microfabs at full battery. All set.

Tincture: All payloads are OK. My micro-fabricators are working well.

Palette: Hey Tinky-Winky, you still have some teeth stuck on your boots.

Pigment: Were you injured, Tincture?

Tincture: Negative. Ratman teeth aren't strong enough to puncture the boot material. I'll pry them off, one second. There we go.

Pigment: Artisan to Command, infiltration complete. Proceeding to mission targets.

Palette: How much longer until the blackout?

Pigment: ETA six minutes. We have two minutes to sweep through this area and four to obtain intel we need to get to our objectives. Let's move.


Bad news often outweighed the good, Joel thought, as he leaned against the wall of the elevator. A red emergency light glowered from above.

The good news was the likelihood that he could use the raid as an opportunity to end his probation by heroically stepping in to defend a few helpless researchers and attack the invaders.

The bad news was the power had gone out and the elevator froze to a standstill, trapping him, the cart of M.C. Stones, and his limitless potential for heroism in the face of a crisis inside. Of course, he still had no idea which rival organization was staging the raid, although it began to dawn on him that such a foe must have sabotaged Base Four's power grid. He shuddered at the possibilities.

He was relatively safe inside the elevator.

This predicament alone made him want to hit his head with one of the stones.

The figurine shifted its gaze at him.

The power came back on.


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