The Expedition (part 2)

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Date

Event
23.02.03  

256.99
(cont)

The clouds have given way to sunny spells, and the ships are moored.
Paranoid as ever, Rave (accompanied by Luca who is feeling better), makes a thorough underwater inspection of the Flying Fish's hull.
During the inspection they find small bright-yellow snails attached to the Flying Fish. Rave takes one with him and climbs aboard the ship.
According to Alex' survival guide these critters are cupsuckers, which feed on fast fungus. The party decides not to clean the cupsucker of the ship and leave them to their meal.
In the evening, all groups gather on Devon's yacht to have dinner. This time Alex isn't feeling too good and decides to stay aboard the Flying Fish.
When asked, Lau identifies the flashes of light on the horizon as a herd of sunbbursts. Luca is chatting with Gunther who divulges a bit more about his past: He's been a marine, but quit his job when he met his wife. After his wife died he started Kettmann Expeditions, his current job.
Frank leaves dinner early to work on the passive sonar. His chat with Raijah has given him a few ideas on how to improve it.
Raijha gives Rave a private tour around the boat and shows his little toy he calls 'Little Buddha'.
Rave asks if he can try the remote and shows his skills, until he notices a little red button.
Raijha hesitates to tell what that button does, until Rave tells him that he has worked for the GEO, after which Raijha flatly refuses to tell.
Rave presses the button anyway, but strangely enough nothing happens. With a 'tut-tut' Raijha takes the remote back.
Just before he leaves the Reliant, Rave takes Manny aside and warns them against the Kishov twins. Manny utters an acknowledging grunt.
Frank's tinkering has sharpened the resolution of the sonar to unparalleled degree. He can almost hear the cupsuckers eating on the hull of the Flying Fish.

257.99

The night goes by quietly. All that those on guard-duty hear on the passive sonar are schools of fish.
In the morning sun the sunburst herd has come nearer the ships. They see that the herd has swelled to a massive number of sunbursts.
After breakfast all expedition members are summoned aboard the Reliant, Devon is about to tell the object of the expedition.
During the instructions Lau is feeling ill and excuses herself. Devon sends Manny to look after her.
Devon tells that the target of this expedition will be to capture an aborigine, and that this may be against GEO law, but he's willing to take that risk.
The expedition is shown a old bootleg of an autopsy of an aborigine, found floating in Kingston harbor at 2121.
The aborigine should be captured alive, and to this end Devon supplies everyone with spearguns with a strong tranquilizer; enough to sedate an elephant.
Devon explains that Lau has noticed that aborigines are relatively often spotted near large herds of sea animals, which is why Lau has tracked this herd of sunbursts for some time.
Also, Lau believes that aborigines are attracted by Long John, which is why 'Little Buddha' will carry a certain amount of the stuff to lure the specimen.
Everyone is instructed to listen with passive sonar for the same sounds that Earth's manta ray's make, to this end Raijha issues the groups with software to filter out sunburst sounds.
At that point there's a splash from the foredeck of the Reliant, followed by a larger splash. Everybody except the twins rush to the foredeck.
Manny is in the water, with Lau in his arms. Frank and Rave help them back aboard.
When asked what happened, Manny says gruffly that Lau fainted and toppled overboard. He jumped after her.
Frank examines her, and finds that she is in some kind of coma, with dilated pupils. He has Manny put her to bed.
At noon the hunt begins. Devon hails all boats, and all are ready. Except for Kettman. Despite multiple hailing attemps he does not respond; not by radio, not by bullhorn, no nothing.
The Flying Fish is send over to investigate. The group searches the Metal Heart, but find it deserted.
Investigation of the sonar recording on the Flying Fish shows a splash near the Metal Heart at 02.00, followed by a something swimming away.
Devon decides to have Raijha search the area downstream with 'Little Buddha'. The other boats are to search upstream.
The Flying Fish is send to search near the sunburst herd, and after half an hour Luca notices a tiny blib on the surface radar.
Reporting this to Devon they are asked to investigate. The 'Fish approaches the vessel and see it's a 4 m semi-open launch, no visible occupants.
Coming alongside they see the vessel's aft deck is smeared with blood, as is the dashboard. Also there are bulletholes in the windscreen.
Rave climbs aboard and investigates. In a crate he finds bloodied sunbursts hides. In the cabin a dead man's body.
The man has clearly shot himself. According to the gremlin in the gun, a total of 4 bullets are missing.
Luca climbs aboard as well and slips in the bloody goo. Yuck.
The logs of the ship are empty, no registration or ID cards can found.
According to Frank, who is supplied with samples, the blood on the deck is from sunbursts, the blood on the dashboard is of human origin.
The party deduces that this vessel clearly belonged to poachers. Theory: perhaps an aborigine has come and seized one poacher after which the other committed suicide?
Back on the Reliant Devon decides not to warn the GEO until they are back in Haven. There he'll arrange to have the poachers' vessel found.
At 18.00 Devon gives up searching for Kettman and calls it a day. Tomorrow Manny will take the helm at the Metal Heart and the hunt will begin.
That evening, Lau comes around with a pounding headache. All that she remembers is that she felt ill and then everything went black.
Frank theorizes that Lau may have eaten something. Manny states that he'll taste everything aboard before letting other's eat it.

258.99

During the night, Frank has last guard shift, and sees Alex' slumped over the chair on the Flying Fish bridge.
Alex is in coma, same as Lau. Frank takes a blood sample and stores it in the cooler for later analysis. Rave puts Alex to bed.
The sonar records are checked, but nothing out of the ordinary can be found.
After breakfast the hunt resumes. The initial excitement soon wears thin as all to be heard on the sonar are schools of fish.
At 17.00 Luca notices a sound on the sonar indicating something big is approaching quickly from the south.
the Reliant is notified, and Devon issues instructions for everybody to take positions. The Slicer and Flying Fish are ordered to come sideways of the Reliant.
The critter turns out the be a very large sea creature, quickly identified by Lau as a lesser white. It heads straight for the the Reliant, rams it head-on and submerges again.
The lesser white keeps on ramming the Reliant, with everybody shooting at it, except for Raijha who takes the helm and tries to get the ship moving.
The white, moving much slower than the the Reliant now focuses its aggression on the Flying Fish. Luca starts the engine, but the white approaches rapidly.
A few meters before it reaches the Flying Fish's vulnerable stern Rave aims carefully and blows it's head off.
One of the Reliant's propellers is damaged and needs replacement. With Rave's help Raijah and Manyy fix the ship.
Lau claims that this was not normal behavior for a lesser white. Sure, sometimes they attack humans but she's never heard of this kind of aggression.
All ships are tied together for the night, and each group has dinner on his own ship. After dinner, as everyone is relaxing a bit the sonar picks up another sound. The sounds are like those of a swimming human.
Frank and Rave go take a look and see Gunther Kettman scrambling up on the Metal Heart's anchor chain.
Kettman looks exhausted, and has a wild gleam in his eyes. He constantly mutters to himself that he has to get away and starts untying his ship.
Rave tries to talk to him, and Luca re-ties the ropes Kettman has untied. He gets angry and pushes her away savagely.
Despite their best efforts, Kettman can not be reasoned with. When hindered he shouts angrily that all will die unless they get away now.
Rave overbears him, but Kettman frantically tries to get away, ramming his head against the Metal Heart's deck.
While Rave holds him down Frank injects Kettman with a sedative. It takes a 4-double dose to get Kettman sedated.
Rave wraps him in survival plastic and takes him to the Reliant where he is tied to a bunk.
A few hours later Alex comes round. Like Lau, he has a pounding headache.

259.99

The night goes by quietly. In the morning, after breakfast, Devon invites all to discuss the events of the past few days.
As all are gathered on the aft deck, the Kishov's untie the Slicer and sail away until they are 50 meters away. There they cut their engines but don;t drop anchor.
Devon hails the Slicer, but gets no response. Then, Alex shouts from the Flying Fish that an enormous school of fish is coming their way. And sure enough, soon the water is teeming with fish circling around and in between the ships.
Rave gets his binoculars to inspect the twins. They are scurrying around on their boat, kneel, pick up a submachine gun and open fire.
In a reflex Rave dives on top of Lau and Devon, slamming them to the deck wile the bullets fly over their heads. Manny and Luca return fire.
Frank crawls to Raijha and tells him to use the torpedo in 'Little Buddha' to sink the Slicer and cuts the cord from which the little submarine is suspended.
Alex throws Rave his assault rifle. Manny gets peppered by bullets and bioplastic fragments but keeps on fighting.
Suddenly, Luca spots an aborigine near the stern of the Slicer, only a few yards away from the Kishov twins.
Together, Rave and Manny disable the twins. Frank performs first aid on Manny who has at least 7 shotwounds. Manny is still walking around though.
Aiming carefully, Luca takes a shot at the aborigine, and hits it. The creature immediately submerges.
All peer intently in the water. Raijha tells that he sees nothing on the scopes of 'Little Buddha'. The large school of fish is blocking all sight and sonar.
Suddenly, the aborigine emerges near Rave, Manny, Luca and Frank. Rave fires his speargun and hits the aborigine with the sedative-loaded tip. Again, it dives as soon as it's hit.
Suddenly, Rave and Manny feel dizziness and nausea, Luca goes completely listless -almost catatonic- and Frank slumps to the deck, fainted.
Rave decides to throw a few flash-bang grenades in the water in an attempt to stun the aborigine. This much to the dismay of Alex, who is still monitoring the sonar. The excruciatingly loud bangs deafen him. For the next three days he'll have a ringing noise in his ears.
After the second grenades the aborigine surfaces again. Again, a wave of nausea washes over the ship, aggravating the nausea already felt by its occupants. Lau goes catatonic.
Devon, who has been on the bridge for the larger part of the encounter does not feel any adverse effects and wants the party to continue using the spearguns. Rave tells him to do it himself, and points out which bit the trigger is.
His pride gets the better of him and Devon searches the sea for his target.
The aborigine surfaces near him, Devon pulls the trigger and hits! His last words are "I got him!", before he slumps against the deck in a coma.
Raijha, close to Devon completely freaks out. Rave dives on top of him. Raijha does not struggle. Instead, he stares intently through the deck, as if he could look through the ship into the waters.
Wondering why this is, Rave soon gets his answers as Raijha commands 'Little Buddha' to launch its minitorp at the Reliant.
With a thunderous explosion the minitorp detonates. The Reliant lists heavily but stays afloat. Rave knocks Raijha out cold.
At that moment Alex boards the Reliant, takes in the carnage and asks : "What happened ?". A grunt from Manny is his answer ...
After a few hours, things have calmed down a little; most people are conscious again though all are feeling like shit.
Devon and Lau decide to limp back to Haven. The Slicer is searched, and the twins are still alive, though barely.
During the four day journey back to Haven, Raijha and Kettman get around. Raijha refuses to leave his cabin though.
Kettman can dimly remember that on the morning of the 257th he became mortally afraid and had to get away, so he jumped overboard.

262.99

The expedition arrives at Haven. Kettman returns to his house, and the Kishov twins are brought to the hospital.
Devon, Lau and Raijha return to the HIST dormitories, Raijah even more eccentric than before.
When Alex checks up on the Kishov twins a few days later they are gone. The Slicer has likewise disappeared.
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