Artemis finished explaining the current situation while White Wolf was grooming himself and Jade was patching up any wounds the others had. Every now and then Artemis was interrupted by a muffled voice in White Wolf's pouch.
While Artemis recounted the situation to White Wolf, to the accompaniment of 'I wanna be your dog’, Cass tiredly sank into one of the ancient chairs in the command room and hunched forward, resting her elbows on her knees.
“You look...”
She glanced up at Jade and managed a brief, but humourless smile “Awful?”
Her friend grimaced in response “Yeah” she reluctantly agreed.
“I’d cheerfully murder for a bath” Cass shifted her weight, uncomfortably. The filth crusting her skin and clothes felt utterly revolting.
Jade reached out and smeared some of the black gunk from up Cassandra’s shoulder with her fingertips “What is this stuff?” she asked, raising her hand to closely inspect it “You and Jamie are covered”
"I've no idea" Cass admitted "It's some shit from the neural cluster beneath that room with the psychic field. The scan said it had far more elasticity than this shit before I shot it"
"It's not irritating your skin is it?"
"Not that I’m aware" Cass glanced sharply at the doctor, her brow knitting into a frown.
"No other symptoms? Double vision; headaches; nausea?"
"No - I feel disgusting, but fine"
“Dirty, but not in a good way, hmm?”
Cass grimaced “That would be about right”
"It's probably best we get you and Jamie cleaned up as soon as possible - Just in case" Jade added, almost as an afterthought, before she raised her voice and called out to Jamie, across the other side of the room "You hear that? I want you and Cass cleaned up at the first opportunity - We don't know what this stuff is. Doctor’s orders"
Shaking her head while Jamie gave a mock-salute in response, Cass pulled her terminal out, to begin initiating a series of scans on the gunk "You've only gone and got me really worried" she grumbled
"I'm sure it's nothing," Jade soothed “but it’s best to be safe rather than sorry”
"All the same" Cass frowned down at the display "It’s something I’ve been quietly concerned about"
“So, that’s about it” Artemis concluded brightly “We might have a couple of ways out of here now; either one of the old Starbug’s down in the experimental hangars, or we might be able to convince Mr. Downing to offer some assistance”
“Wait,” Cass frowned “Who’s he?”
“Someone I managed to contact out in space.”
“With the communication suite?” Artemis rolled his eyes; or at least the eyes depicted on two of his screens gave the approximation of rolling.
“There’s a fucking ECM field active up there! Are you saying the comms down here are working?”
“Oh, er... yes” Artemis seemed vaguely surprised
“Well, if they work, did you think to try contacting anyone else?” Cass angrily pushed herself up, out of her chair
“Erm... Not as such, no”
“Fucks sake” Cass pushed past him to activate the communication suite
“Now wait just a minute, you...” Artemis swung indignantly around to confront her, but petered out as he realised just who he was about to insult and instead turned back to the rest of the group “Help me out here”
“She does have a point” White Wolf grinned
“Yeah, but...”
Cass finished configuring the comms channel a moment later “Jay? Can you hear this, Jay?”
There was silence for a moment
“It’s nice to hear a friendly voice” the speaker finally crackled to life, Jay’s response badly distorted by static.
“Thank fuck for that” Cass breathed, some of the tension visibly draining from her as she leaned in towards the mic with a faint smile on her lips “It’s good to hear you too. Where are you?”
“We’re in some sort of underground complex – We came down here chasing you guys”
“Big place? Full of weird, blind mutants?”
“That’s the place”
“Yeah, that’s where we are. Do you think you can make it down to the command level? Artemis thinks he might have a way off-world”
“Shouldn’t be a problem” Jay said after a moment’s consultation with the rest of his group “We found Plisken, by the way. Turns out he’s been here before”
Cass raised her eyebrows “Seriously?”
“Yeah, I’m not too...” he was interrupted by the sound of gunfire and animal screams “Listen, we’ve got a situation here – We need to move. Stay where you are. We’ll come and find you.”
There was more shooting and the sound of muffled voices
“Jay?” Cass frowned, her voice tinged with concern “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, still here. Listen: Plisken says ‘Whatever you do; don’t go into a scarecrow room’”
“What the fuck is one of those?”
“Dunno – They were apparently researching some sort of psychic life form down here”
“They made gas from the amniotic fluid in the egg sacs” Plisken leaned in close to the mic “It drove everyone mad. We’ve seen signs of dozens of nodes growing down here, so stay the hell away from any weird, black globules – they’re about the size of a football”
The sound of another animal bellowing in rage crackled through the speaker, making everyone in the command room exchange concerned glances.
“Gotta go!” Jay yelled above the sound of gunfire “See ya”
Jade’s expression, when Cass turned back to regard the rest of the group, was one concern.
“You and Jamie” she said in a tone that brooked no argument “Scrubbed up. Right now”
“Yeah, but what about this Downing guy?” Cass protested “Is he friendly? Will he help?”
“Cass!” Jade warned
“Well, he wasn’t threatening to kill us” Artemis wobbled mid-air, his equivalent of a shrug “and he was broadcasting some absolutely classic Duran Duran, so he can’t be all bad”
Cass looked at him blankly “What’s that?”
“They were only one of the most successful bands of the 1980’s!”
“Urgh – More of that antique funk?” she shook her head in disgust “So have you warned him that trying to rescue us will inevitably result in him being stranded here as well?”
“Well, no – I was getting around to that” said Artemis “I was thinking that if he flew straight down into this flux zone he might be alright”
“Yeah, that could work” Cass conceded “Don’t forget there are the missile defences to worry about as well – Unless he’s flying something military he’s probably screwed”
“We could modify one of the Starbugs down here” Jamie volunteered “If we ramp up the drive output we could enable a massive burn – It’d screw the engines, but we’d punch out into orbit at about Mach 10. They’d struggle to scramble the missiles fast enough. Downing could pick us up once we make open space”
“That’s risky, but it might just work” White Wolf nodded
“Jay will be able to handle piloting it” Cass said with unshakable certainty
“The starbug will still need patching up before it’ll be spaceworthy” Artemis reminded everyone
“We can do that” Cass shrugged and looked between her compatriots “So we’ve a plan, yeah?”
Jamie grimaced “I guess”
“You all have a ninety one point seven eight percent chance of dying” H-343 gleefully informed them.
Cass wrinkled her nose at the tiny blue hologram dancing on the desktop near to White Wolf “What the fuck is that?”
“That’s H-343” Artemis said “An emergent artificial intelligence – Very interesting”
“Yeah, whatever” Jade snapped and pointed behind her towards a door marked ‘W.C.’ “Cass, Jamie – I want you two in there scrubbing that psychic crazy stuff off you this instant.
“White Wolf, Artemis organise the plan – such as it is – and see if you can locate the parts we need for the Starbug. Use H-343 if you have to
“Jaxx and Eve” Jade turned to the two GELF’s who had been sitting, quietly observing proceedings “I want you two to try and find Cass and Jamie some new clothes – Theirs are contaminated. Now, the way we came in isn’t the only exit from this room; so see what you can find; but for the love of God, try and stay safe”
“But, like, what about all those cross-dressing zombies, Doc?” Jaxx asked
“Cross...” Artemis and several of the other crewmembers started at him like he was mad.
Jade smiled disarmingly “They’re just mutants” she explained patiently “They’ve been living down here for millions of years, slowly evolving into the twisted creatures we’ve encountered so far. They weren’t cross-dressers”
“Yeah, but they were, like, totally wearing basques and suspenders” Jaxx protested
“I saw them too, baby” Eve chimed in
“No I’m sorry” Jade said gently “This must be some sort of after-effect for you guys from that nightmare room. You might have seen cross dressing zombies, but we all saw a horde of blind, albino mutants with vicious teeth and claws. You did a great job, by the way, of holding them off – Thanks”
“Well... Maybe” Jaxx’s forehead wrinkled with the effort of taking all this in “I’m, like, sure I saw...”
“Don’t worry about it” Jade soothed “Blind, albino mutants, okay? They seem to hunt just fine without eyes”
“Yeah, I guess...”
“Good man” Jade clapped him on the arm “Now go see if you can find those two some clothes” she turned back to the rest of the group “Eastlick, Jones; what the hell are you two still doing here? Get in that washroom!”

Jaxx & Eve – Can you find some clothes? – what happens while you’re out scavenging around?
Artemis, White Wolf, H-343 – are you able to locate the parts we need for fixing and upgrading one of the starbugs – where and what are they? - Can Bruno help?
Jay, Tara, Plisken – what’s happening with that developing situation?
Jamie, Jade – sorry – not much to do but if you fancy posting and introducing something else, feel free :)

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