"Check out this new ammo! See that needle on it? It'll inject some incap agent-"
"It's a tiny sleep dart, then." Ahrganot cut in.
"Yeah, but it's not like the kind you see in all those movies. They'll go out rapid fire like any regular round, and I also have some AP in case the IPF gets involved. Look, I got two different kinds of clips." Tholker pointed at a small, orderly pile of SKAR magazines in his open bag, on top of two shirts and a pair of shorts.
"And if this all isn't enough, I have an anti-material rifle broken down in there."
"That's great, Tholker, but I don't think you want our newest member of the team to start thinking you're a gun-loving psycho. You've been going on and on for about ten minutes now." Etah commented sternly, briefly looking away from the wheel.
"Well sorry, I just think it's rather important to know everything about the gear you're trusting your life with."
"Do not worry, Tholker, I understand your particular interest in firearms and other weapons." Sol I Dor interjected.
"Thank you, Sol."
The five veteran special operatives rode in silence until the family-sized hovervan neared the grand, exquisitely-designed Natanail Beach Resort. Three marble spires surrounded a glass fountain that must've been almost ten times as tall as Etah, serving as a sort of beacon for the dropoff zone in front of the enormous structure.
"Everyone ready? Because here we go..." Etah said with a hint of anticipation in his voice as the van pulled into the circular dropoff area.
Tholker quickly zipped up the open bag sitting next to him as several other team members ensured that their gear was safely in their bags and suitcases. Almost as soon as Etah stopped the vehicle, attendants of a variety of different species flocked to the van, eager to assist in the unloading. Tholker, Ahrganot, and Pyro exited the hovervan on the right side doors, onto the brick plaza, while Sol I Dor stepped out from the left passenger door and into the road while Etah exited from the driver door. The team quickly dismissed any help offered to unload their bags, but did allow one attendant to move their van to the parking garage. They wouldn't be needing it, anyway.
"I'll go check in. Etah, Sol, Pyro, take the stuff up to... room 926 in that building over there", Tholker pointed to a tower connected to the resort's main building by a skybridge, "Ahrganot, come check in with me, watch my back."
As three of the team left with their equipment and spare civilian cover gear, Tholker and Ahrganot approached the rotating glass doors leading into the lobby. While Ahrganot scanned their surroundings discreetly, Tholker checked in with one of the many self check-in computers and received room keys.
After checking in and taking a quick walk around some of the immediate shops and gardens, they went to meet up with the rest of the team in their room. It was indeed a large and luxurious one, built for a quite impressive family and filled with luxuries that some in the team hadn't actually ever seen before.
Ahrganot was awed at the room. "This...this is...incredible. I've never seen anything like this place, especially a place where citizens dwell."
Tholker replied, "Yeah, it sure is. I must admit, it's pretty fancy."
Sol I Dor was not sure what to say. "I take it you guys don't go on missions that involve luxurious hotels that often, do you?"
Etah said, "Nope. Most of the time, we're out in the field dodging lasers and bullet, but don't expect this mission to be any different. There's going to be people here that want us dead."
Pyro entered the conversation. "So this Dhragolon we're looking for. He's a terrorist, correct?"
Ahrganot said, "Yes, but we know very little about him. We don't know what motives he has or what his purpose here is. That's why we're here - to find out who this guy is. With the ongoing rise of terrorist organizations in the galaxy, we ought to put a stop to this one before it gets too big."
Pyro said, "But this place is huge! How are we supposed to find this guy? Obviously, we can't check every single room."
Tholker replied, "That's where I come in. I can easily take control of the security system here with my mind. It'll give us a set of eyes and we can more easily navigate this place."
Etah said, "It's hard to imagine doing this mission without you, Tholker. Those cybernetics of your serve you well."
"Yes, they do..." Tholker said while having some doubtful thoughts in his head. Something about what Etah said had started bothering him, specifically his cybernetics. For now, he ignored it and proceeded to get on with the mission.
Tholker began hacking into the hotel's security system using the room's terminal which opened up a holographic screen the whole team could see. He gained access to each of the security cameras. He saw many android guards clustered in one particular hallway.
"I'm sensing something rather disturbing at the hallway," Ahrganot said.
"What is it?" Tholker asked. "Is it the guards?"
"Not just the guards. That door and probably what's behind it. I've had a feeling like this a very long time ago. It's not the exact same, but there's just something dark and brooding going on. Sol I Dor, you are a psychic, correct?"
"Yes. I can't see anything, but I'm starting to get that feeling, too."
Etah concluded, "So both of you are getting that strange feeling? I don't feel anything myself, but I'll take your word for it. We're probably not dealing with an ordinary opponent are we?"
Ahrganot replied, "Correct. I can't say for sure what it is, but something tells me it's going to take a lot of effort to arrest whoever this terrorist is."
Something strange started happening on the monitor. Tholker said, "Guys, look. The guards are acting strangely as well." An Eteno was passing by the hallway. One of the guards proceeded to shoot a beam at him which teleported him elsewhere in the hotel, utterly confusing him.
Pyro said, "A gun that teleports others elsewhere? I don't recall you Eteno having technology like that."
Tholker said, "We do, but none of the guards on Herit have any sort of thing. That terrorist must have stationed them there and supplied them with extra technology. We need to be careful. For all I know, those teleportation guns could send us to the wrong place at the wrong time."
Sol I Dor said, "So, how are we going to go about capturing this terrorist then?"
Etah stood silently in contemplation for a moment, sitting down on a nearby chair. Raising his hand to his chin, he thought for a moment.
"I think the first thing we need to do is gather more information on the area; who's here, who knows what, where can we go for what; I get the feeling that mingling about and making connections will help us hee. Maybe show our presence some...
"That's a foolish idea, Etah. We're here for a covert mission, why would we want people to know we're here?"
"Perhaps the Colonel is willing to use us as bait...?" Sol interjected.
"Very good, Sol. Yes, I get the feeling that if we give the terrorist the scent of blood, he'll come to us. Then it's a matter of capturing him."
"Not bad, Etah. Besides, I wouldn't mind getting some intel gathered on the area myself, especially if it means something like a vacation." Tholker said with a smirk.
"I believe you should stay here, Tholker. You're our eyes with the security system." Ahrganot pointed out.
"Ahrganot has a point, Tholker. We need someone who can co-ordinate our efforts and be our eyes in the skies. You will remain here." Etah said with an officer's confidence.
"But...but... alright, fine..." Tholker resigned.
"Now we should determine where the rest of us should go. I don't think we should go alone, at least not yet. We should break into teams of two to go to an area, and then opt to split up to cover more ground. Tholker, which two areas of the hotel are best for mingling?" Etah dictated.
"Let me see... hm... it seems like the casino and dinner room are good places. The casino's got all kinds of gambling games, mainly cards and slots. The dinner room doubles as a theater and it has a bar in it, too."
"Hmhm... I'll take the casino. Who wants to see how it's done?" Etah inquired.
Like a bird, Sol I Dor sat perched on top of one of the resorts's buildings. He volunteered to get a bird's-eye view of the place...however, 'bird's-eye view' wouldn't be the proper term, considering he's blind. However, the higher elevation does enhance his psychic sensory capabilities.
Either way, he was perched on top of a building, trying to find a terrorist. 'Not how I pictured my career,' Sol I Dor thought to himself...then again, he pictured his career steamrolling through the former Delson territories, pushing the Grox back from wence they came. That plan was trashed when the Delsons found out the Grox Empire was no more, and now he was an agent in a galactic government...a satisfying position, but, in literal terms, this wasn't how he pictured his career.
"So, Sol, anything yet?" Tholker asked. The Delson decided to go to a place where he could look in places where Tholker couldn't see with the security system. Sol I Dor's psychic abilities, mixed with his self-powered flight, make him the perfect candidate.
"No, nothing. I have not sensed anything yet," Sol I Dor responded. That was only a partial truth: he had sensed something, but all it was was a negative feeling. Nothing he could truly pinpoint.
Sol I Dor continued to scan the area. He could sense Tholker watching security, Etah in the casino, the terrorists entering the casino...
"The Terrorists entering the casino?!" Sol I Dor replayed in his mind. Knowing that they would soon find Etah, Sol I Dor stretched his bat-like wings and lifted off. He then glided down towards the Casino, ready for when Etah would need help.
Now this, this was annoying. Tholker had just breezed through five layers of security, only to find that if he wanted complete access to the resort's servers, he would need to be at a security office. The resort had three, one of which was in the same building that the GSSOC unit established as their headquarters. Unfortunately, it was on an isolated level nearly thirty floors down, accessible only by staircase. It took Tholker only a short time to conclude that entering through a most-likely guarded chokepoint was not smart. There'd be fighting, and fighting would mean noise and the possible alert of other guards. That would mean trouble, and undoubtedly, the attentions of the team's target. Unacceptable.
Fortunately, there was another way. Like all rooms in the complex, the security office level had windows. With a SKAR in his hands and his most basic training backing him up, this would be a cinch. The hardest part would be evading any civilians who just happened to be looking out their windows, or standing on their verandas. Even that was a plus. Tholker'd get to do some cool maneuvering.
He synthesized the best possible route to weave through on his way down as he disconnected from the room's sole computer port and carefully opened his one large bag. They may have been tough, but it was a good habit to take care of your weapons, lest you ever find yourself stuck with a second-rate weapon in a fight for your life and you break it. His SKAR 41 sat on top of an orderly row of rifle magazines, above a stack of clothing. Beneath the clothing was another weapon, a high-power anti-material rifle. That thing could bust through pretty much anything short of a heavy tank. If everything went according to plan, shit would hit the fan and that thing would be a saviour.
After acquiring his rifle and clipping his magazines to his belt under his shirt, Zhevhyit walked out onto the veranda. He looked down, seeing if he could spot any of his team. Sol was perched atop one of the taller buildings, scanning patiently for anything of interest. Ahrganot was far below, making his way from one building to another on a cobblestone pathway.
"Hey, Sol, turn your head around." Tholker said over the team's radio.
"What are you planning to do, jump?" Sol replied.
Ahrganot stopped, and looked up at the GSSOC's veranda in the distance, and the Eteno crouching on its railing.
"If you intend to leap, at the very least, don't attract any attention." Ahrganot chimed in.
"Who said anything about leaping? An Army Colonel named Orlovski came up with this one, just watch!"
With that, Tholker turned and attached a grappling hook from the under rail of his SKAR to the railing of the veranda before vaulting backwards, flying out about fifteen feet before gracefully landing against the side of the complex a good twenty feet below the team's room. From there, he casually walked down the wall to the security office's single great, black-tinted window.
After clipping his rifle to his belt, Tholker used tiny laser cutter to slice open a hole in the window, before kicking off from the window and flying in.
"Security can't even handle me right now," He chuckled over the radio over the distinct sound of darts being fired, "And now, I can offer whatever resources the resort security team has to offer to you, instead. The things I do for my friends, I tell you."
Ahrganot said to Tholker over the radio, "Well, good job. Can you get me a view from down here?"
"As you wish."
Ahrganot could now see in third person thanks to Tholker. He wore a piece of headgear on his left ear that transmitted such images. He volunteered to sneak in through the backdoor - go through the restricted areas and into the behind-the-scenes of the hotel.
Ahrganot walked into the building he was headed towards and immediately saw a chainlink gate labelled "Restricted Access". A guard were stationed at the door. He would attract too much attention if he were to confront him.
Instead, Ahrganot pulled out a custom device of his that made sounds appear from other locations. He set the setting to footsteps. After getting close, he activated the sound, playing footsteps from the opposite side of the gate.
"What was that?" the guard said readying his rifle. He quickly looked around for a little bit and then tried to perk his head over the gate trying to spot. "Is someone there?" Not being able to see anything, he unlocked the gate and stepped inside while Ahrganot stealthilty followed behind. Then he did a front roll into a shadowy area nearby and took a stance where he placed his hands against the walls to keep hidden.
"Hmmm...must have been my imagination. Better get back to my post."
Ahrganot continued sneaking about quietly relaying messages to Tholker about his current position. Ahgranot snaked his way through tangled bunches of pipes. He eventually arrived in a gigantic boiler room.
"Okay, see that up there?" Tholker said through radio pointing at a ledge about 300 feet from the ground. "That's where you are going."
"Hmm...I don't see any ladders. No problem. I can climb up there."
"This is just like training. I can handle this." Ahrganot said. The twisted pipes were just like a jungle like Oasis Cavern, a large underground jungle buried within the snowy reaches of Aggateya. Climbing these pipes would be just like climbing the vines.
Ahrganot lept up and grabbed a vertical pipe connected to the ground. It was like climbing a tree. At the top, he balanced himself on pipes, going on all fours. He could see a few workers below. Soon or later, he was close to the top.
Ahrganot could see the ledge ahead as well as a metallic door. The jump was a bit far. He looked down. If he were to miss, he would fall down 300 feet. Even if he were to not break a bone, he would still draw attention. Regardless, he closed his eyes and took a leap of faith.
As he flew through the air, he reached out to grab the ledge, but he didn't jump correctly. He found himself grabbing for his life with just one hand. Memories of Grjdonsk flashed to him, and he imagined a burning energy core below. Tholker wasn't there to save him. One of his energy stars slipped from his belt and plummeted to the ground below.
On instinct, Ahrganot burst his wings out to hoist himself upwards to get up onto the ledge. He could hear the workers below.
"What was that?" The worker was looking for him. He looked up, but couldn't see Ahrganot. "Hmmm...probably just a bird. Wait a minute, what's this?" The worker had picked up his ninja star. "Strange, where did this come from? Better go take this to the boss."
Ahrganot became increasingly worried. That fatal mistake alone could cost the entire mission. As soon as the worker got to the boss, security would be on high alert. They would be looking for GSSOC. The worst part was that he could not do anything about it. It would be too risky to go back down and try to get it. He pressed on anyway, proceeding to hack his way past the metallic door.
Since Ahrganot wanted to sneak around, Tholker had to stay behind, and Sol wanted to get a bird's eye, Etah was left to go with Pyro to the casino. They agreed they would sweep around the casino, then rendezvous with the rest of the team in two hours for dinner. Pyro went to the bar to entertain himself while Etah headed for the poker tables.
"Dealer, what version is this?" Etah said the human card dealer.
So humorous, he thought. These beings were discovered long ago by Karnasaur expeditions only to have their location scratched from the records in the Thrid Age. There was some old legends surrounding the curious species, but Etah never paid them any heed.
"Texas Hold 'Em, sir. You know the rules?"
"Yes, I am familiar. Buy in?"
"My favorite." Etah said with a devilish grin as he slipped on his shades and paid his credits.
Sitting down, he shut down all neuroanalytic cybernetics. He would neither want nor need them. He looked around at the table. There seemed to be three pros; These were the ones he'd have to watch for. Two of the players were rich new guys; They were just giving the game a whirl since they had money to lose. Easy pickings.
Etah was half-drunk, smoked half a pack of cigars, and the last man at the table with the Eteno pro. Both players were against the wall. A crowd gathered to watch these final moments.
The dealer dealt out the hands. Etah took a peek and put on a grim face.
"All...in..." The Eteno said, pusching his chips to the center of the table.
"...I call." Etah replied.
The dealer dealt out the river...
...Ace of Hearts...
...Queen of Hearts...
...Queen of Spades...
Then the flop...
...Four of Diamonds...
Etah's heart pounded. 120,000 credits were on the table.
FInally, the dealer dished out the showdown:
Jack of Hearts.
Smiling evilly, the Eteno slammed is cards on the table. Four of Hearts and Four of Spades. With the queens, that made a full house. He laughed as he took the chips. Etah looked aside, ashamed.
"You know, you really should wait until I show my hand. Be a good sport at least..." Etah mumbled.
"When you get a load of this."
"READ IT AND WEEP, BOY!" Etah shouted, suddenly filled with vigor.
SLamming his own card down, it showed a Ten of Hearts and and King of Hearts.
A Royal Straight Flush.
The single best hand in the game.
The crowd roared violently with entusiasm as the sheered the newly named Poker Champion. Etah chased out and left the casino, realizing he would be late for dinner.
"Damn Etah, and I thought I was good at bluffing..." He heard Tholker say over the radio.