Thumbing the conveyors ignition as the pyramid of scrap metal thundered down to the ground with a deafening crash, Cass nodded in satisfaction as the belt juddered and rumbled into life.
“Why is that fucking crane not working yet?” she demanded, raising her voice above the noises of the conveyor and the scrap, shifting and settling.
“Our little Serraco construct’s obviously having a few problems” Artemis said airily, with no little satisfaction.
“Why?” Cass glowered down at H-343’s tiny, wavering hologram
“There’s no need to be like that” the AI replied testily “The crane’s control system appears to be either offline or the network connection might be down. In any case, I’m doing what I can, but it doesn’t seem to be responding to my commands”
“For Pete’s sake” Jamie growled “We’re going to have to do this the hard way. Everyone grab a carry handle; we’ll load the drive core onto the conveyor by hand”
“Uh... guys...” Arien quavered
Cass regarded her with surprise; she couldn’t actually remember the woman having said anything up until that point “What?”
“O-Over there” she pointed out into the gloomy darkness
“Shit!” Jay bought his rifle smartly up and squeezed off a shot, felling one of the dozens of the weird, albino mutants, currently making their way over the twisted mass of scrap metal, towards the Dwarfers.
“I told you: You are all going to die” H-343 said, matter-of-factly
“You know, you are really starting to piss me off” Artemis snapped as Cass flicked her rifle onto full automatic and raised it to fire a burst of plasma; the area surrounding the group suddenly lit in stark relief by muzzle flash.
“We need to get the core loaded now!” Jamie yelled above the gunfire “Help me”
Scything another burst across the advancing mutants and felling a few more of them, Cass briefly glanced at Jay “You’re stronger than me” she said “Go. I’ll hold them off as best I can”
For a moment, Jay looked as though he was about to argue the point, but he found her logic unassailable.
“Go” she repeated, more forcefully this time, and turned away to fire another burst
“Arien” Jay made a snap decision “Catch!” he threw her his rifle, trusting the scientist's Space Corp military training was sufficient to the task “Get to some high ground, cover the far side of the belt. Help Cass.” he turned away to help with moving the drive core.
Grasping the anchor points studding the core’s packing crate, Jay and the rest of the Dwarfer’s heaved the crate up, off the immobile trolley and slowly waddled it across towards the conveyor.
“God damn it” Jamie gasped with the effort “Why am I the one that has to walk backwards?”
“Stop whining” Tara chided through gritted teeth “It’s not helping”
“Yeah? Well, it makes me feel better”
With much bad tempered heaving, the Dwarfer’s slowly manoeuvred the core over towards the conveyor.
“Fucking hurry it up!” Cass yelled back at them, above the angry bark of their guns “There are too many of these fucking things!”
Arien and she were coping as well as they were able, but scores of the creatures were emerging from out of the gloom on all sides to converge on the Dwarfers.
“Yeah, I hear you” Jay grunted, heaving hard on the crate along with the others, to lug it up, onto the conveyor belt with a thump “Wait, wait – Watch it!” he cautioned Jaxx who managed to pull his fingers out of the way, just in time, as the conveyor snatched the drive core away and up into a dark tunnel, high in the storage bay’s wall.
Wheeling and squeezing off another burst, Cass strafed the nearest of the rapidly advancing creatures; catching one with a headshot and another in the chest as they sprang over the top a nearby pile of guano streaked cargo crates.
“Fuck” she snarled, turning and loosing another salvo; Arien, standing atop some other crates was likewise firing at the mutants swarming over the tangled wreckage of the scrap mountain. Stray blasts of energy sizzled into the metal.
“We can’t hold them” Arien yelled, a note of panic edging into her voice “There are too many!”
“Load this!” Jay ordered, rushing forward to snatch up a spare rifle from the remaining supplies on the trolley and powering it up, before opening fire as the others scrambled to comply.
Tying their best to ignore the sound of weapons fire and the angry screeches of the mutants that filled the dank air in the storage bay, the Dwarfers hurriedly threw the remainder of the equipment onto the conveyor.
“We’re done!” White Wolf finally called “We should leave!”
“Get everyone out” Jay yelled, not bothering to look at him as he squeezed off another burst “We’ve got this”
One by one the other members of the crew scrambled onto the conveyor to be whisked away up into the darkness as Jay, Cass and Arien laid down suppressing fire.
“Go” Jay bellowed, letting loose yet another sustained burst, when there were just the three of them left “I’ll cover you”
Arien didn’t need telling twice and quickly scrambled down from the packing crates to dash towards the conveyor, but Cass didn’t budge.
“Go now” he shouted at her
“I’m not leaving you.” Cass fired another burst “We go together. In three... two... one”
For a split second, Jay was tempted to stay where he was and let her go, while he covered her retreat, but he knew full well that she wouldn’t fall for the ruse and so, turned in unison with her to run towards the conveyor.
Ahead of them, Arien was already on her feet on the conveyor belt, shooting high over their heads, providing covering fire.
“Get on!” Jay yelled, rather unnecessarily, as Cass vaulted up and onto the conveyor, initially landing awkwardly, but quickly recovering to roll onto her side and shoot back at the rapidly approaching mutants as Jay, in turn leaped on and joined her.
As the conveyor carried them quickly up and into the tunnel, high in the wall, Cass scrambled up into a sitting position as Jay fired back in an attempt to dissuade any mutants from following them onto the conveyor.
“Fucking shit that was close” she groaned, her voice echoing in the gloomy tunnel
“We’re not out of the woods by a long way”
“One thing at a time, eh?” Cass glanced up at him and wrinkled her nose “We’re doing okay so far”
Jay gave her a warm smile at this “Yeah, you did great there – Well done”
“Thanks” she returned the smile
“Hey Arien” Jay raised his voice to call out to the other woman, some twenty or so metres ahead of them, as the conveyor emerged out into another gloomy storage bay “Good job there”
“Cheers” she turned to give him a thumbs up “I -”
“Look out!” Jay raised his rifle to squeeze off a shot as Cass fumbled to bring her own weapon to bear, but it was too late. One of the huge mutants they had spied earlier, on the monitors, launched itself out of the darkness at Arien, knocking her off the conveyor and onto the floor, where it held her pinned with its claws while it opened its maw and tore out her throat in one easy movement.
“Oh, shit!” Cass screamed in horror as Jay flicked his rifle over onto full automatic and pummelled the monster with a punishing hail of blasts as they slid past on the conveyor, achieving little, other than merely irritating the creature, which threw back its head and roared at them.
“Watch out for others!” Jay yelled, jolting Cass into action and up, onto her feet as the conveyor whisked them around a corner and upwards towards a hole in the ceiling above them.
“We’ve got to go back for her”
Jay slowly shook his head as they entered the confines of the tunnel “There’s no way she could have survived that; she’s dead”
“Oh, shit” Cass sank weakly to her knees, the ground seemingly spinning upward to meet her “That could have been me... It - it could have been you
“Hey, keep it together” he crouched down beside her, a hand on her shoulder as the conveyor wound and juddered its way ever upwards “Don’t freak out on me, okay?”

It’s a fair way up to the shuttle bays
Everyone else is a few hundred metres ahead of Jay and Cass; does anything else happen on the way up there?
What do we find at the end, in the shuttle bays?
Over to you...

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