CWAL Prime Date: March 2000
Two months after mutation, before Newbie War.
The Setup
Part 1

(Scene: Briefing room, COTS Command Cell HQ, Irvine, CA)

Magni: Informal reports of the Newbie Patrol doing another raid on Blizzard for the Master D2 Beta have surfaced, since the last raid, a couple of days ago, brought up a C&C disc. Needless to say they are not pleased. The NP is being sent by Operation CWAL in an attempt to retrieve the CD, in approximately one hour.

Thunder: Because of recent delays, we have reason to believe that Blizzard has yet to complete the tests of Diablo two. So, ▀etaMantis, as a test of your abilities, for your first mission, you run the show, just know that your objective is that you prevent the NP from obtaining the CD, because it may be to all our detriment.

▀etaMantis (thinks for a moment, then rises): Whyte, could you get a blueprint of Blizzard HQ? Thanks. As Whyte prepares the blueprint, I am going to detail our course of action, and if you don't like it, by all means, say so. I think we should maintain a low profile, until conflict is necessary, maybe Blizzard will be fine by themselves, but I still think direct monitoring is necessary.

(As the others nod their agreement, the blueprints of the headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment light up the screen behind ▀etaMantis.)

▀etaMantis: Ah, excellent. Thank you Whyte.

Whyte: No problem at all.

▀etaMantis: Now, I think it would be wise to use the SPEDs and Bergling as a diversionary tactic, if necessary, but until it is, I want no conflict. So we'll have two teams, Alpha and Bravo. Alpha team will have Magni, Thunder, three SPEDs, and I the other Deamon, Bergling, Jade and the remaining SPEDs.

(The remaining COTS officers of the command cell nod their acknowledgement and acceptance.)

▀etaMantis (while pointing at the map with one of his many free hands): Alpha team will trail the NPers thorugh the front door, while Bravo team attempts to cut them off here, going through the side door. Blizzard should be entertained enough by the NPers to attack us as well. Remember folks, it is imperative that that CD stays there, so Blizzard can finish it properly. Any questions or problems?

(An utter lack of movement prevades the room.)

▀etaMantis (responding to the unresponsiveness): Great, let's rock!

(In the Newbie Patrol headquarters, in the basement of the Starbucks (the Operation CWAL Headquarters) across from Blizzard Entertainment HQ, they are deciding on who goes this time on the impending raid. Crystal is busy inhaling Skittles, Orcfodder snores on a nearby rug, and Anarion is busy pacing.)

Robo-Gerbil: So, the vets want us to raid Blizzard again? *sigh* Do they remember what happened the last time?

Box o' Newbies: ... (a slight muffled sound within the box is heard, then chewing)

Magnus: No, they don't Robo-Gerbil.

Robo-Gerbil: Who are we going to send? More importantly who wants to go? I think eight or so should do the trick.

(Silence, besides snoring and chewing, is heard.)

Robo-Gerbil: Hmmmm. No volunteers? Well let's see, Magnus, since you spoke up first you can go. Who hasn't gone out in a while? How about Shade and Dei'? Any other suggestions?

Adrien: You?

Giggles and laughs are heard all around. The furry cybernetic gerbil laughs, more accurately, squeaks.

Robo-Gerbil: Ok, Adrien, you get to go! Oh, and Akardam, as a new addition, let's test your skills in this raid.

(Akardam merely nods his agreement, and grabs his calculator and keyboard, taking a few practice swings. A toaster popping is sound.)

DarthNinny: Waffles are up!

(He races to the toaster, sticks his hands out to grab his favourite food and weapon, only to witness them removed out of the air by a furry white rabbit.)

undertow (chewing): Not bad, Ninny!

DarthNinny (while punching himself): Now why would I do that? Erm . . . give me those waffles, you miserable excuse for a delicious soup ingredient!

undertow (merely laughs at that, and swallows): Right, I think I don't want to have to sharpen and clean my broadsword just for that . . . Hey, Robo-Gerbil, I'll go . . .

Robo-Gerbil Great! Ninny, you're coming. How many is that now?

Craw: Um . . . Adrien, undertow, Ninny, Magnus, Akardam, Shade and Dei' that's one . . . two . . .

Robo-Gerbil: . . . Seven. Punt and Se˝or Gato will work on artillery, how is the GC 2000 doing?

Punt: Fine. Do I have to be the ammunition, again? Why don't you ever be ammo?

Gato (putting one of his pale arms over the kobold's shoulder, grinning, as the two of them head to the roof, avoiding contact with CWALers): Of course you are, because I am not cannon fodder. Wow, double meaning.

Robo-Gerbil: Who else, one more. . .

Rest of the NP: YOU?

Robo-Gerbil (grumbles): Ok, I'll go.

(Within ten . . . ok, about twenty minutes, everyone is ready to go, and Gato has given the green light.)

Crystal (just polishing off the two pound bag): Where are you going, Mr. Kitty Cat?

Mr. Kitty Cat (I mean Dei'Nach'r . . . oops): We're going to get the Diablo two CD. We'll be back in a minute. If you need anything, bug Craw.

Crystal: Okie! Bye bye!

(With that, the NP team bursts out the side door and charge the Blizzard HQ, while Punt is shoved into the Gato Cannon.)


The Grand Entrance
Part 2

An octet of silhouettes charge Blizzard Entertainment in the sunset, a whole fifty feet away is the front door of the Starbucks known as CWAL HQ. A trio of Blizzard's security guards await the group at the front door of Blizzard Headquarters. One of the eight in a grey cloak walks up, hooded.

Blizzard Security Guard #1 (putting his gloved hand on the hooded character's shoulder, stopping him): Whoa there, who are you?

Hooded Character: As if you don't know?

BSG2: No, actually, I don't. Who are you and do you have appointment?

BSG3 leans over and whispers.

BSG2 (turns to look at him): What!? You mean that's the secretary's job? But we can still ask who they are right?

BSG1, joining the conversation: Of course we can, for God's sake, we ARE security guards, aren't we?

BSG2: Well, yeah.

BSG3, turns to the hooded character, whom is now alone: Well, fine. Who are you?

The hooded characters moves back his grey hood to reveal his black eyes, brown hair and pointed elven ears.

Elf: My name is Adrien, you fools, and we just snuck into the front door of the most despicable pit of evil of gaming that exists!

SG2: Where is that?

Adrien, annoyed: HERE! I MEAN BLIZZARD!

With that he unsheathes his obsidian blade, and plunges it into the third security guard, whom clutches it, dropping the handgun he was pulling out and falls back. The remaining two security guards move to draw they're guns. By the time the gun of the third guard hits the ground, the other two guards are unconscious, one with a kick to the head, the other punched in the kidney. Adrien removes his blade from the other security guard, wipes the gore on the uniform, sheathes his sword, and lugs the bodies into the bushes. He then follows his comrades inside.

The other seven are moving down a corridor, which opens to a main lobby. A secretary sits behind an expansive oak desk. One more of the team, wearing a black trenchcoat, walks up to the desk.

Secretary, without looking up: Have you got an appointment?

Guy in Black Trenchcoat: As a matter of fact, I'd like to schedule one.

Secretary: Um, that's in the appointment scheduling office, first door on your right down that hall.

GIBT (puzzled): You don't care who I am?

Secretary (indifferent): Not particularly . . . but you'll have to leave the shotgun here.

Magnus: It is companies of technology like YOU that cause the wrongs of this world! *pulls out his shotgun* Look what you did to my shotgun! LOOK AT IT!

Secretary, still monotonic: Sir, the shotgun is perfectly fine . . .


Secretary, slight pause of puzzlement: . . . leave it with the security guard and you can schedule that appointment.

Magnus reluctantly hands his shotgun over to a nearby security guard, and walks down the hall. The remaining six sit and wait a mere minute before Magnus returns.

Magnus, picking up his shotgun: Let's go.

Dei'Nach'r: Wow, that was quick.

Magnus: Well, it was very simple.

(Flashback to the interview room)

Magnus walks into a room off a hallway, where yet another secretary awaits his arrival. The label of Appointments is on the front of the desk.

Secretary: May I help you?

Magnus: Yes of a matter of fact you ca . . .

Secretary: Appointment?

Magnus: Yes.

"Newbie Patrol, Operation Can't Wait Any Longer, also known as the NP."
"Time of stay?"
"Two hours."
"Do you have any drugs or alcohol?"
"No, not right now."
"Are you intoxicated or compromised in anyway?"
"No, but my shotgun was . . ."
"Are you diaganosed insane?"
"Of course. How many CWALers aren't?"
"Ok, how many are with you?"
"Any minors?"
"A couple, yeah."
"Are you their legal guardian?"
"Excellent, you are able to go on the Blizzard new self-serve tour."

(Return to reality . . . dare I call it that)

The seven set off to infiltrate Blizzard's compound. As they apporach the door, the lone security guard puts his hand up.

Security guard: Whoa there, buddy. We can only allow groups of six for tours.

Akardam: Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, prey . . . er . . . I mean . . . uh . . . please?

Security guard: Simple, that's the rules, and I follow them.

DarthNinny, waving his hand through the air in front of his face: You will let all of us in in a tour.

SG: Your Jedi mind tricks have no effect on me.

Master Tuff: He's no Jedi! He's a Sith!

SG: Whatever. . .

As the seven pass by the security guard, he stops Shade.

SG: Only six, ma'am.

Shade: Fine, I'll await Adrien guys, go ahead without me.

Minutes later, Adrien arrives with a few reinforcements: A man with one really excessive set of sideburns, wearing what appears to be an asbestos jacket and pants is holding a small girl in one of his arms, a knight in full armour carrying a shotgun, and a short midget-sized man with a fungus for a head, and a massive sword -- at least three times his height -- in his hand.

Shade: Great. It is about time you showed up. *looking at the guard* Now can we go through without hassle? I really want to see what Blizzard Entertainment is really like.

SG: Yes, the six of you may go.

As this is said, Shade and the others depart through the door into the "self-serve tour" of Blizzard Headquarters. The door closes shut. The camera then pans up to the duct system in the unfinished ceiling, a few slight, nearly inaudible sounds of pressure being exerted on the pipes are heard. The camera stops to rest on the big, black compound eyes of a camoflauged insectoid, watching and listening.

▀etaMantis, thinking to himself: Soon, I shall be made known by the Newbie Patrol . . . soon . . . then Operation Can't Wait Any Longer. *shakes his head and sighs slightly* . . . These raids just aren't necessary, nor are they justified, the game just isn't done yet. . .

Below the secretary has just left for a coffee break. Taking the oppourtunity, and on the sign of ▀etaMantis, the acting commander-in-chief of COTS fires a focused tape grenade onto the security guard, effectively rendering him immobile and silent. He and ▀etaMantis drop from the ducts and place the now compromised guard in a nearby maintenance staff closet.

The Speds and Thunder, with more weapons than a conventional armory, of Alpha Team go through the doors, as Magni and ▀etaMantis dispatch the opposition and dissipate before anyone knew anything happened. As the door shuts, another security guard comes on duty, looks for the one he is replacing, checks his watch, shrugs and dismisses it as an early break.


Cue the Defenders
Part 3

Robo-Gerbil, undertow, DarthNinny, Akardam, Magnus and Dei'Nach'r are walking down the expansive, yet somewhat featureless straight hall that is the Blizzard Headquarters Self-Tour, when they approach what appears to be a network of red laser beams.

>Analysing image. . .
>Material: energy
>Type: light
>Wavelength: six hundred and seventy-six nanometres, four hundred and thirty-nine picometres
>Visible Colour: Approximately red.
>Intensity: high
>Direction: uniform and perpendicular
>Conclusion: Red Lasers
>Probable purpose: Detection
>Probable course of action: Avoid
>running avoid.exe . . . . . . . .
>file "C:\ImportantProtocolsNotToDelete\avoid.exe" not found.
>Searching all subdirectories of all non-removable drives.
> . . . . . . . . .
>File not found.

Robo-Gerbil continues to walk forward, oblivious to the nearing web, and consumed by the searching.

Magnus: Er . . . Robo-Gerbil?

>Check recently deleted files . . .
>File requested found. Must be renamed to restore, insert first character: ?VOID.EXE.
>File restored as avoid.exe, launching . . .

As Robo-Gerbil is going through this, he steps throught the laser, the lights in the area go red and the all too-familiar sound of an alarm fills the improperly circulated air.

Robo-Gerbil: Who deleted my avoidance protocol?

Akardam *attempting to look as innocent as possible*: No one, no one in particular. . .

DarthNinny: I suggest we get out of this area immediately!

undertow: The Waffle Guy's right, we have to get out of this area, if Blizzard doesn't already have us pegged.


Adrien, Shade, Orcfodder, Paradox, Craw, and Crystal carefully in Craw's arm, are huddled over a piece of paper, illuminated by the wisps of fire escaping Craw's fire-proof asbestos clothing.

Shade: I believe the blueprint says we should go right.

Craw: That's the OBVIOUS answer, now isn't it? What if they are thinking we'll take right and left is the direction to the CD!

Paradox: Craw, architects don't use reverse psychology.

Craw: But CEO's do!

Adrien: *sighs* Right . . . since when has the CEO been intelligent, or even inteligible, enough to pull that off?

Crystal giggles as Orcfodder has a rather perplexed look on his face as he attempts to figure out what reverse psychology is. His thoughts are interrupted by a rather annoying blaring of sound.

Crystal, whispering: Do the bad people know we are here?


Alpha team, having successfully penetrated the tour, are hot on the trail of the Newbie Patrol. Travelling through the ducts, they had been trailing both groups for a while. They were mere yards apart. A slight gurgle of amusement rises from ▀etaMantis' throat as the lights in the area turn the lovely red of alert.

▀etaMantis: Commander, we must attack now if we are going to catch them at near even numbers.

Magni: Which group do you suggest, as you are leading this excursion, Captain?

▀etaMantis: The one with the man wearing that toxic fibrous outlawed carbon compound . . . asbestos. I believe his name is Craw. Give the SPED trio a good laugh.

Random SPED, snickering: Gnarly.

▀etaMantis crawls out of the next opening, and scouts ahead, near silently. He then motions to a grate in the duct. Magni and Thunder work the covering off, and peer down the hole. Sure enough, the six Newbie Patrollers, unsuspecting, are about to pass right underneath them.


Shade walks ahead of the group, using her heightened senses to detect Blizzard personnel approaching. She finally notices something above her, moments late.

Before her stands a newly employed insectoid.

Shade: Blizzard must be developping new soldiers . . . you DO realise that spiders eat insects, right?

▀etaMantis, smirking: True on both counts. But were you aware that mantises eat all "annoying" pests around the household?

With that she moves forward quickly raking at her opponent. ▀etaMantis manages to grab both her arms after hasty blocks.

Shade: Die Blizzard scum!

▀etaMantis: You fail to understand my situation.

He releases her, and the combat ensues, raking claw versus raking claw, insect versus arachnid.

Paradox and Adrien come rushing down the hall, unsheathing their blades.

Paradox, screaming: For the Homeworld!

Adrien: For the Newbie Patrol!

Orcfodder takes out his boomstick and takes aim at the COTSer, but hesitates to shoot, as Shade and he are locked in combat, afraid to wound his friend. So he also brandishes his sword and moves to go on a four on one on the intrusion.

Craw sets Crystal down and tells her to get out of the way, as he moves to attack ▀etaMantis , but with Shade and ▀etaMantis fighting hand-to-hand . . . or . . . more acurately, claw-to-claw, he can't manage to get a clear shot.

Magni: Now, children, that's not very fair.

Adrien: Who said life was fair, COTSer?

The Commander-in-Chief of the Circle of the Shadows drops behind Adrien, and fires a glue grenade, fixing him quickly to the wall, immobilising him.

Thunder: Kick the can, anyone?

Orcfodder: Eat steel!

With that, his trademark chaingun revs up. He plinks enough rounds into Orcfodder's full plate to knock the charging footman to his back, the shock of the multiple shots rendering him unconscious.

Thunder: You're lucky I forgot my armour-piercing rounds!

SPED: Need a light?

Another SPED: I don't think he does, dude, look, he's on fire, but I am up for fried fungus, man.

Last SPED: Alright, dudes, let's fry us some newbies.

Before Paradox and Craw could turn around, the flame spewing SPEDs were upon them. After being slightly sautÚed, Paradox backed up to Crystal's position, realising that he could not very well fight three insane firebats alone, picked her up and attempted to make an escape.

Crystal: Let me fix it!

Magni did not give the elementary school aged girl a chance. By the time Paradox regained his vision, he couldn't do much else but see, as he was completely stuck due to a tape grenade.

Craw and the SPEDs were enjoying themselves, spouting randoms inane comments back and forth and dousing the corridor in fire, which was nearly licking many of the combatants around. Thunder manages to sneak in to hit Craw in the back of the head with his rather immense gun. The SPEDs quit oxidising the area, and Thunder slings the firearm over his back.

▀etaMantis and Shade, through gritted mandibles and teeth, respecticvely, are continuing to fight, no blows having landed. Shade has more experience then ▀etaMantis, and his extra appendages appear to even the score, but the game is still scoreless.

The other COTSers knock out Paradox, Crystal and Adrien, then haul them up into the ducts, and securely tape and glue them up there, preventing them from being found.

The rest of Alpha Team looks out the passageway. Shade swipes at ▀etaMantis' face, and he grabs her arm with two of his, one at her wrist, the other at the upper forearm.

Thunder: Just hit her already!

▀etaMantis: Right. I suppose you want me to hit a woman?

Shade, enraged: THAT'S why you've been on the defense!?

Angry, she swipes at ▀etaMantis again, he grabs her other arm with two of his.

▀etaMantis: In a word, yes.

Thunder laughs a bit before dropping down from the air duct, yet again. Shade moves to kick, having her arms stationary again. ▀etaMantis takes his left hand off her forearm and grabs her ankle, then picks her up of the ground. Needless to say, but I am going to anyway, being held by your wrists, one ankle, the other forearm and aloft is slightly uncomfortable.

Thunder: You have to get over violence to be able to fight, buddy. Especially with women. You'll be surprised how often you'll have to fight them to survive.

▀etaMantis: I see your point.

With that he tosses her against a featureless and thankfully smooth wall. She makes no sound at the impact, and merely slides down it, and regains her footing, and squats to jump at another round at ▀etaMantis. She then notices Thunder points a large and warm chaingun at her.

Thunder, waving his left index finger: Ah ah ah! Stand still.

Shade, not wanting to have gained a few larger pores, hesitantly obliges.

Thunder, without stopping to look at ▀etaMantis: Well, Beta, you are going to have to knock her out. I sure as heck can't while I have my gun on her.

▀etaMantis: So be it.

She whips around, raking, to see ▀etaMantis drop behind her, bringing down his carapace encased arms. She slumps to the ground, unconscious.

▀etaMantis: Good enough, Commander?

Thunder: Yeah. Let's get her up with the others. *laughs* You didn't attack because you had a think with attacking women. How gentleman-like of you.

▀etaMantis: I wonder why she thought I was affiliated with Blizzard . . .

Thunder: Next group, unless Bravo Team has got them already.


Forced Escort and Fast Escape
Part 4

Inside Blizzard HQ, Robo-Gerbil, undertow, DarthNinny, Akardam, Magnus and Dei'Nach'r exhibited very surprised looks on their faces in seeing a panicking footman in full plate with a sawed-off shotgun run down a passageway ahead of them, screaming in an offensively high tone. Immediately drawing their weapons and throwing caution into the wind -- intent on removing their supposed comrade from existance -- they charge the hallway.

Right into a wall of fire.

The two SPEDs of the Bravo Team that COTS dispatched spouted both statements that proclaimed their ineptitude at verbal communication and the effective deadly flame that was their trademark and only weapon. Jade, holding a ruby in her hands, added to and controlled the flame, forming it into a sphere around the surprised NPers. The only thing they could do before the fire encased them totally and they started inhaling smoke was focus their long-range weapons on the footman (if they had them) and . . .

DarthNinny: Must . . . kill . . . Orcfodder . . .

. . . fire. Robo-Gerbil, however, managed to hammer one of the two SPEDs in the groin, causing the two to laugh -- they wore full body armour themselves. The plate mail and shotgun shifted in shape, and removed itself from the knightly person, forming one object. This object assumed the sunglasses-wearing humanoid form TheDeamon felt home at. The . . . pitiful mutation underneath, Bergling, was reduced to cinders when the newbies weapons converged, moments before they collapsed into unconsciousness due to the inhaled smoke.

Jade, replacing her ruby in her myriad of pouches: Deamon, that was just plain amazing.

TheDeamon: It was a great idea wasn't it?

▀etaMantis: Indeed it was. Why fight them, when you can defeat them without shed so much as a drop of sweat?

Alpha team emerged from the shadows, holding the six other newbies. They laid the twelve more or less in a pile in the hallway.

Thunder: Well, what's the plan now that we've stopped them? Tie them up and leave them to Blizzard? Send them home in a huge box? Wake them up and go for round two?

As only the alarms were heard, ▀etaMantis goes on thinking for a few moments until something he didn't count on occured. The retaliation of Blizzard rounds two of the three corners into the intersection they are in, a squad of security personnel on each end.

TheDeamon: Damn.

Thunder: Well, Beta, time to test that combat training of yours.

▀etaMantis: We're stuck in the middle of a T-junction! (whispering to Magni) Would it be possible for you construct a blockade behind the newbies?

The whine of Blizzard weapons priming is heard.

Magni: It is possible and done.

The COTSers draw their weapons, save ▀etaMantis, (who doesn't use one), in a quick effort to defend the helpless newbies.

Thunder: Time to rock 'n' roll!

Before the security guards could start firing their guns at the COTSers, ▀etaMantis leaps and topples the first three guards of the first squad, clotheslining them. Magni turns away, as the confusion commences, to eliminate one of the three attacking points. Jade, holding a diamond, blinds the second squad coming up the other passage with intense light, as the quintet of SPEDs, accustomed to such lighting, do some of their own, immolating the squad. Having taken down the first line of guards, ▀etaMantis gets up and begins punching his way through them. Thunder begins mowing down anyone who ▀etaMantis isn't attacking. TheDeamon, morphing an arm, draws a few handfuls of Thunder's spare (wussy, by his account) weapons and adds his own bullets to the chaos.

By the time Magni finishes his work, the guards are down.

▀etaMantis: Do you guys think that amount of damage was necessary?

Thunder, blowing the smoke from his weapon: It worked, didn't it?

▀etaMantis, frowning slightly: Yes . . . *looking impressed* you managed to totally miss me every single time. I was getting worried that you would shoot me. That automatic weapon is exceptionally accurate in your capable hands.

Thunder nods his thanks for the compliment as TheDeamon returns Thunder's guns.

TheDeamon, deciding waiting for an aim compliment was a waste of time: How's about we get out of here . . . the only thing is, there are eleven of us, and twelve newbies.

▀etaMantis: I am quite capable of carrying two of the dozen.

Jade: Of course! I knew those extra limbs would come in handy sometime.

Before any carrying occurred, the newbies started to wake up.

Dei'Nach'r: Wha? Where's Orcfodder!? He needs to be hurt severly for making that VERY annoying noise!

Orcfodder: Over here, and what noise art thou speaking about!?


Jade: It appears Bergling's unintentional luring effect is better than you thought, eh Deamon?

▀etaMantis jumps in between the newbies before they start tearing each other apart, or just Orcfodder, anyway.

▀etaMantis: Stop this now! What you need to know is that if you don't leave here immediately, Blizzard will start sending much nastier monstrosities at us. I recommend we leave.

Shade: The D2 Beta is worth too much to let fifty flensers stand in our way! What gives you the right to tell US what to do!?

▀etaMantis: I haven't. I am merely advising you that we are wasting time. If we don't hurry up . . .

The flensers came marching around the corner of the hallway at a somewhat brisk pace, evidently informed that the intruders were nearby, and that they were armed and dangerous. Outnumbering them two to one, the Blizzard robots proving that haste would be a good choice, no one needed any telling that their presence was no longer wanted there. Magni immediately unloaded glue grenades into the second wave of attackers as they tear through the barrier he created not even five minutes ago. The newbies, having already drawn their weapons, prepared to fight their way out.

Magni: That's all I have, let's get the hell out of here!

▀etaMantis: Do you not think that we should aid the Newbie Patrol?

Thunder: We can fight flensers anytime we want . . . besides, you aren't ready, kid.

▀etaMantis: But . . .

TheDeamon: They'll retreat, after they realise we have left.

Jade: C'mon, let's go!

All twelve newbies charged into the flensers, but, with each facing a quartet of flensers, were easily forced back by the blasts from the shoulder cannons.

Craw: Where did the COTSers go!?

Robo-Gerbil: Ok, run!
>>Odds of winning combat: Minimal
>>Optimal course of action: Run

Crystal, raising her hands into the air: Let me fix it!

Paradox: No, Crystal, not right now. It's time to leave.

Orcfodder, Akardam, DarthNinny, Magnus and Craw (literally) start providing cover fire, withdrawing. Paradox scoops up Crystal, and the remaining members high tail it out of the corridor, and on their way out of Blizzard. The five giving their friends the time to escape, only taking out a couple of flensers, caused them to stop for enough time to sprint out, hearing one thing as they do . . .

"Thank you for taking the Blizzard Self-Guided Tour. I hope your stay was a pleasant one," in the monotonic nasal tone of the front secretary.

In the Newbie Patrol Headquarters, the twelve sit, disappointed in their failure.

Orcfodder: 'Tis not any fault of mine.

Shade, pointing at the six that were trapped earlier: It's not my fault THEY can't tell what is and what isn't you!

undertow: Oh, you are going to SOOOOO going to pay for that remark.

Adrien: Now guys, do you think that the vets'll even notice?

And the squabbling continued, as normality, as much as one could call it, returned to the Newbie Patrol.

Meanwhile, in COTS HQ, Magni, Whyte and Thunder debrief ▀etaMantis on his first successful sortie.

Magni: Well, your combat abilities are exceptional. Unfortunately, you didn't plan on what to do after we immobolised the newbies. Next time, try to plan ahead a little more. Hopefully that will come with practise.

Thunder: And remember, Beta, that skin of yours isn't bulletproof, at least, I don't think it is . . . either way, you should avoid throwing yourself at opponents. The rest of us don't typically fight hand-to-hand, so we cannot help you if you do. I almost shot you several times. You were lucky this time. Those flensers would have chewed you up had we let you fight them. They aren't like those soldiers. Fighting them hand-to-hand is a bad idea, usually. Maybe, you should find a firearm or at least a long range weapon of some sort that suits your tastes?

▀etaMantis: I shall see to it that I do. May I return to the training room to start?

Whyte: Good idea . . . but I'll have to do a medical examination, just to see how the conflict affected you. The data would be extremely useful in understanding your mutation.

▀etaMantis: Agreed. Lead the way, that is, if I am dismissed?

Magni: Dismissed.