Welcome to "The Diary of a Miner"; a blog detailing the adventures and mysteries that I, Syeonyx, embark upon in my quest to further my mining and survival skills! It'll be tough, there will be good times and bad times, but I'll always be alive to post my adventures... probably...

Day 105: New toys

     Amie has given UOPETA the all clear; he's not totally healed, but she's allowing him to move around without the sling, and COLUS says he ready to be brought back into the operation. Obviously he's elated, in a reserved way, and eager to get out there. I think we all are. This time, as UOPETA missed the last few portal sites, I briefed him in what we had achieved so far, and showed him the map. I didn't know where to from there there; we had two options and both seemed equally plausible to me, but maybe it was better to ask the advice of someone who knew what they were doing. We had the option to either head East towards following the curve of the sites, heading back to the West, and then coming back on ourselves to the base. Or alternatively, we could do it to the other way around, heading back to base from the North. After much discussion, we ended up agreeing that going to the East first, and following the path would be better than heading West. We could use the coast to guide us back during the dark, and it was likely to be easier to see around that area during the night. We hoped to make use of the telescope that OROTHO had made yesterday. We visited him before setting off. Just as he had promised, he had made a small, camera attachment which allowed me to take images of things at a distance which could prove very useful.

"It clips into place, but you need to support the camera and the telescope together. Think of it as a less stable added lens... Press the same clip in to detach it from the camera. Try not to be rough with it; it's a very fragile piece of equipment. A single sudden knock could through the lenses out of orientation, and render it useless!"

We promised to be careful with our "new toy" and set off to the East. I was eager to test this thing out with the camera, but I suppose with UOPETA being the scout, he had main priority over it.

     The good thing about the operation we were implementing now was that all of the portals were very close together, so if we needed to rest more frequently because of UOPETA's arm, we could do so in ease! As if nothing had happened, as though no time had passed, UOPETA immediately took the authoritative stance again, and began leading us to the East, to the first portal site! It was good to be back as a full group, and UOPETA didn't seem to be flagging at all despite the injury. He had recovered very quickly, but that was probably his stubborn nature for you. Defiant in defeat! It wasn't long before we actually moved up to the site; I was already looking around for holes that lead underground as I had a feeling, but I couldn't see anything. Looking from the map, the site was more or less centred around a pool of water, which we began to approach very quickly. I couldn't see anything, but now that there were three of us, we could search a wider area, faster. After a few minutes of combing the area, we could find nothing, and met again at the pool. THEROS took out the Solus stone, and held it in the palm of his hand...

"Nope... It's not glowing, so if there is one nearby, it's not active... We better move onto the next one to avoid wasting time..."

We all agreed, and THEROS circled the location on the map. We continued heading in the direction we had been heading in from before, towards the coast, hoping to find something. UOPETA seemed to think that that location might be a good area to use the telescope... I couldn't see how...

     Up ahead, the vast body of water grew closer and closer, and the number of trees decreased. We were getting close to the location, but so far we couldn't see much. There was an open beach where the main site was located on the map, but there was no visible portal, nor was there a set of rough stairs or a hole leading down. We looked around for some time, trying to find the portal, but we couldn't find anything. THEROS took the stone out again, but this time it was actually glowing!

"There's definitely a portal around here somewhere!"

"Okay, spread out and search a wider area!"

I headed off to the East a little, whilst UOPETA followed the beach, and THEROS walked in circles to try and determine the location from the intensity of the glow, but getting nowhere! As I progressed along, I eventually became aware of an odd dripping sound... I had definitely heard that before, and moved in the direction it was coming from. With each step, the sound grew louder; it sounded like water dripping from a high ceiling cavern... But with no caverns around, it could be only one thing. After coming around from a natural corner create by a sand dune, I saw the portal to my left and turned to face it. I called the others over, THEROS still holding the stone outstretched.

     THEROS retrieved the slightly yellow, translucent stone from the floor. Putting it back into his bag, he then took out the map and crossed off this location...

"Erm... Right! The next one is due East... Still along the coast..."

"The coast...? Well we should be able to see it from here then!"

UOPETA turned around and faced East. Cupping his hands over his eyes, he tried to shield the glare to see further. After awhile he shrugged and moved up to the hill slightly. We followed him, and eventually found him beneath a tree, the telescope to his right eye.

"AHA! Found it! This thing is really useful! I guess OROTHO's not just a mad fool after all! Here."

UOPETA passed me the the telescope and I looked through it in the direction he had been facing. Off to the East was a small island that was connected to the mainland via a strip of sand. On the island, just about visible, poking from beneath a dune was the top of a portal! The distinctive colour of the obsidian made it stand out like a sore thumb in this light! I passed it to THEROS who eventually returned the same exclamation, before passing it back to me. I clipped the extension onto the camera, and then clipped it to the telescope. With a lot of careful aiming, and a steady hand, I managed to take a semi-decent shot of the portal from afar. There we go: we had tested OROTHO's telescope, and it had worked, as well as with the camera! And we had proof! Now we knew where the portal was, we could go straight there. UOPETA led the way across the edge of the land, heading straight towards the portal.

     Once we got to the island, we crossed over to it, but we found it was not active. That was the one thing we couldn't determine from that distance due to the angle. I took the pickaxe from my back and began the first part of hacking away at it. A few minutes later, a good portion of it had been reduced to small obsidian chunks and dust, and THEROS took over. As UOPETA still had to be careful with his arm, we would destroy the portals, and he would act purely as the scout. I think he preferred it that way. I do too, so long as he kept did his job well. Which he always did... After THEROS destroyed the remainder of the portal, we brushed the obsidian dust and chunks into the water, watching it scatter and float away. That was another one down. THEROS crossed off the site from the map and pointed to where we were going next. This method of destroying portals was slow admittedly, but in more ways than were initially obvious. If we knew the locations, we could find the secondary portals, and head straight to them. This method was based purely on speculation. Even if there was a portal at a site, we couldn't know beforehand whether it was active or not, or more importantly if it was a secondary or standard portal... So far, we were only finding standard portals, which we knew that HoN CO. could replace easily. That's why we had launched our main offensive against the secondary portals. Let's just hope we find one or two from the remaining sites...

Syeonyx signing off

Day 104: False start...

     I had hoped that today would the day we would head out as a trio again, just me, THEROS and UOPETA. I was ready and raring to go, but Amie has insisted that UOPETA spends another day resting... He was obviously more upset than me, but I think it's because he has less of a role when he's here then I do! I wander around seeing if I can help with any random job, but UOPETA's speciality requires him to be out in the field, proving intelligence for future operations. He can hardly do that stuck in bed, or confined to the base... Once again, COLUS has denied me and THEROS permission to leave and continue without him, but I'm less upset than I was before. I was hoping UOPETA would be able join us, but I suppose it's for the best if we wait until he's well... I decided to do the usual thing, and go around looking for someone to help. As always, I started with AMPHIS down in the library. He was always busy cataloguing something that the others had created; reports, maps, research and data. Although OROTHO hadn't been submitting much in the way of the latter in some time. Maybe it was due to the vast amount of knowledge we had accumulated from the tower. Unfortunately this still meant a job for AMPHIS, who had spent a lot of time whilst we were out destroying portals writing copious notes from the images of the reports. It was easier for him if we could just have taken the reports, but then that would have been noticed and security would have been stepped up a notch.

     When I got to the library, I actually noticed that AMPHIS wasn't buried beneath the usual stack of papers at his desk. In fact I couldn't find him initially, until I descended the stairs to the bottom floor. He was there, with Hermes at his side, browsing through the reports stacked on the one side of the room. He hadn't noticed me until Hermes had begun wagging his tail and panting, and he turned to greet me:

"Oh, hey Syeonyx. What's up? Any sign of UOPETA getting up and about any time soon?"

I told him what Amie had told me, and then what COLUS had said as a result. He could empathise with UOPETA's difficulty to accept the decision the same way I could. He was being stopped from doing the one thing he was good at. That would make anyone a little upset. On the plus side, an extra day's rest may prove very helpful to him, as long as he took their advice. Talking more with AMPHIS, I learnt that he had finally gone through all of the images we had taken from the tower, and compiled them into a single report, using other images as verification.

"It took quite some time, I can tell you that! Next time, try to be a little more concise with the images..."

I left AMPHIS, now knowing there was nothing I could do to help, so I went to the lab to speak to OROTHO and Amie. I wonder if he has got anywhere with the telescope/binocular project I suggested to him...?

     When I walked into the lab, Amie was fiddling around with some of the displays on the wall, holding a notebook, whilst OROTHO was busy looking down the end of a strange tube.

"I can see you...!"

He had managed to make something! Excellent! I went over to see him, OROTHO tracking me with the telescope the entire time. He handed it over, with a very smug look on his face. It seems he took this as a challenge, and he had successfully completed it! I asked him how it worked, and whether it had multiple levels of magnification...

"This is a simple telescope bearing in mind... I can't get it to do all of the fancy things those other ones can, but it can actually increase magnification by twisting the end tube, thus altering the alignment of the lenses."

Holding it up to my right eye, I peered through, and found the other side of the room leap forward! It did work! It was surprisingly focused as well considering the conditions it had been compiled in. Looking around the room, I was amazed at how well it had been put together, and decided to test the magnification. Screwing the end end of the tube clockwise caused the other side of the room to zoom closer towards me, whilst counter-clockwise did the opposite, retreating from my vision. That worked perfectly! I think UOPETA was going to get a lot of use from that, which may make our lives easier. OROTHO said there was still some tinkering to do with the lenses; something about smoothing them down for a clearer image, but I thought it was fine. Ever the perfectionist... He did say that he was also working on a clip-on attachment to allow me to take images through it for use in reports. It would allow us to survey from a distance and take evidence back. I thought that was a great idea, and left my camera with him to get it fitted. As it was technically the easier bit, it would likely be ready by the end of the day, so if we needed by tomorrow, we could try it out! I left him to it, and went to find THEXIS.

     THEXIS seemed very busy, but he said he was just monitoring radio traffic at the tower. He had to be careful doing that because someone could find out he was eavesdropping and attempt to trace it back. But luckily he didn't do it for extended periods of time, and never to the same radio. He was making sure that there wasn't an increased presence when we went over there, and to ensure there wasn't any "comm chatter" that involved us. If we did, he would tell COLUS, and we'd remain sealed inside until it blew over. That hadn't really happened yet. But I had a feeling that as we progressed into this campaign against HoN Co., we were going to attract more and more attention to ourselves. COLUS was already thinking about establishing a second base somewhere so we had a backup location to fall back to if we were ever discovered. It was a good idea, but a lot of work. First we'd need to scope out an area that was suitable, then excavate most of the inside. COLUS had actually thought about extending through to the cliffs above and around us through a secret shaft. It was a good idea, but require a lot of planning. OROTHO had drawn up some plans already though, and he had come up with a simple but effect way to mask our progress whilst we continued. I quite like the idea of that. I had seen the cliffs surrounding us, and they would make an excellent fallback position! We could have a small rustic bridge crossing from each side to the other, and I'm sure OROTHO could wire something up to make it look natural...

"Well I think OROTHO is working on something privately at the moment in the lab. It's essentially a door that forms part of the wall! He's based it on the door you found at the base of the conducting tower, with some of his own little tweaks. He's keeping it a secret though... Probably so if it goes wrong, no-one knows. Don't breath a word of that. Not even I'm meant to know. But when you spend all day snooping in on secrets, it becomes part of you to apply the same methods to everything!"

A secret door eh...? I hadn't seen it... Then again, that's pretty much the point! He hadn't mentioned any of this to me, so presumably on me, THEXIS and OROTHO know about it... Would he have told COLUS...? I would assume he knows, he spends as much time in the lab as OROTHO does! I might ask COLUS about the whole expansion idea though, and see if it leads onto what THEXIS just told me about the hidden door... I would like to find it, but there are so many buttons and levers in the lab, I'm afraid one of them sets of the built-in TNT... That would be disastrous...

Syeonyx signing off

Day 103: UOPETA seems well...

     I've just spent the last few minutes almost pleading with COLUS to allow us to go out and search for the second lot of portals, but he has "put his foot down" and refused. He's locked down the hatch as well to ensure we don't sneak out, so I'm stuck here until he says otherwise. His main objection is that UOPETA isn't in any position to be of assistance, but I tried explaining that we got on well without UOPETA. I didn't want to make it sound as though UOPETA was no longer needed, but just that whilst he was out of action, we could still operate with the same efficiency. He still wouldn't hear us out, and maintained that it was safer to go when we were fully operational. That just meant waiting for UOPETA to make a recovery then... We don't know how long that'll be, but after speaking with COLUS, I went to find Amie and ask her about his current status. Going to the lab, I only found OROTHO, buried beneath a load of wooden planks, sticks and glass panes... What was he doing?

"I was intrigued by your 'binocular' idea so I'm thinking of a less resource-intensive alternative with the same level of efficiency... I just can't get these lenses to focus..."

Wow! OROTHO was already working on the idea I suggested. Maybe it was a better one than I had initially thought... But what did he mean by "less resource-intensive"? I know we weren't swimming in materials to be able to make any old thing, but still. Maybe he meant a telescope or something... I suppose that way you use about half of the materials you would normally, and hopefully make more than one! The downside to a pair of binoculars as well is being unable to make the lenses in each of the tubes exactly the same resolution, so each eye would see a slightly different image. Not a very goo thing if we need it for such an important job. Well, let's just hope OROTHO is able to make some headway with it. Before leaving, I asked him where Amie had gone; he pointed me in the direction of UOPETA's room and I left to check on him. I was hoping he would be nearly ready to continue performing his duty again. Let's hope so.

     Once again, UOPETA amazes us all! Speaking to Amie, I learned that UOPETA has either a very deceptive body, or he can heal faster than usual. The small hairline fracture he had on his humerus due to the arrow connecting with it has practically disappeared, and Amie can't understand whether it was there at all... A little worrying if a scientist who can also specialise in basic first aid is unable to determine a fracture or not!

"Well, when I first saw it after removing the arrow head, it was very faint, but definitely there... It could have been a partial fracture that was a few millimetres deep. In which case the time frame would have been sufficient for it to heal, especially if he was resting it, and keeping himself hydrated etc."

"What can I say. I listen to the doctor's advice!"

UOPETA winked at me, and I couldn't help but smile. He had encountered the Creepers, and been injured by the undead, but nothing could impair his spirit!

"The actual wound still needs attention, but I'd say, with a little more rest, he could be ready to go back out into the field tomorrow... Obviously, the status of the wound would alter that if it became infected or hadn't gotten any better. But with the current rate of progress, I'd say he'd be fine by tomorrow, as long as he didn't lean on that arm, or doing anything strenuous with it..."

"Let's just hope we don't encounter any water then!"

I spoke a little more with UOPETA, telling him about the idea for the binoculars I had put forward to OROTHO, and he seemed surprised that he was working on it so quickly. He wasn't complaining though; he said that even if it was simply a small, functioning telescope, that's improve things. We could look at objects from long distances, and make better judgements from afar. I eventually left him to find COLUS and tell him what Amie had told me. I was rather hoping that tomorrow we would be back out looking for portals, back up to full strength. But unfortunately we couldn't do it how we did last time with radios. It was too easy to track us, regardless whether we covered our tracks. It was just easier to stick to a single group, checking each location together. Besides, I don't think it would be wise for UOPETA to go out alone. I eventually found him back in the lab with OROTHO and I told him. He seemed surprised at UOPETA's quick recovery too, but had no objections provided Amie was okay with it. That worked for me! I looked across to OROTHO, who now seemed to be getting somewhere; he was messing around with some odd glass circles, the lenses presumably, and had already constructed a rustic tub from wooden sticks. I could tell he was full engrossed in his work when he had his tonge sticking out, and now was no exception!

     UOPETA is actually up and walking about now. Amie is none too happy about it, but he's reassured her he's fine. It was more of a compromise between them: she allowed him to move around if he kept the sling on. They had both agreed, begrudgingly... COLUS has already asked him if he feels up to going back into the field, and he practically bit his hand off! I think that if any of us are unable to perform our normal duties, we feel like a spare part, and end up either doing nothing, or getting in the way. Admittedly I had yet to find a role that fit into the rest of the group, but going out with UOPETA and THEROS was the time I was happiest... Odd to think that nearly five months ago, when I first arrived in Minecraftia, I was perfectly content with my own company, and no-one else... Five months... I had been here less than half a year and I had already experienced more in that time then in my entire life! I had a feeling though that there was much more to explore and find in this world. So many mysteries that have remained hidden until we stumble upon them. The portals are one of them, who knows how many more secrets are locked away, waiting to be found. I have a feeling though that there is more to this master portal than meets the eye... There is always something more...

Syeonyx signing off

Back in time for tea!

     It had finally begun to grow dark, and the sun had completely sank behind the horizon. We were very close to the base by now so I wasn't so worried about the guards or Creepers. As long as I maintained the same level of efficiency without becoming too complacent, we would make it back in one piece! Before we left the small beach behind, I asked to take a look at the map and what we had achieved so far. We had set off from the conducting tower, and initially headed North East before going back on ourselves and going South West. We had then gone North West to the desert area where we had found the four standard portals in a pit. That was odd in itself, but a few sites later, we had found a huge tree that had grown from beneath a portal and split it in half! I had made sure I had images of these to show OROTHO and Amie. They weren't of any series concern as we had taken them out, but they were definitely interesting. From the last site, we were heading South East to the last portal site of the day, before heading home. All in all, a very goo start, especially considering we were unable to find any reports to help us locate them more accurately.


     This site was slightly easier to pinpoint in contrast to the others as the actual location was situated close to a pool of water. We passed the pool on the way to the site, and kept our eyes and ears open for any signs that one may be nearby. We also made sure we didn't neglect the general scouting, so we didn't end up walking into an ambush. A few minutes after passing the pool, we arrived at what would be considered the centre of the point on the map. We couldn't see anything around at all. There was no sign of the portal located on the surface, and after a thorough search of the surrounding area, we failed to locate any caves, tunnels or underground passages. We seemed to put a little more effort into searching this one... Maybe because it was the last one of the day, and we wanted to end on a high note, I don't know... In the end, THEROS was walking around the area holding the Solus stone out, searching for any area which would cause it to glow.

"I don't think there's one here... Admittedly it could be inactive, but if it were underground, it's either hidden well, or the tunnel to access it is further away from this point. I'll mark it as such, and we can come back if we need to."

No point ruling this one out if we couldn't say we had checked as thoroughly as possible. If we had UOPETA with us we may have been able to search a wider area more efficiently, but alas he's currently "out of action", as OROTHO puts it...

Putting the newly updated map away, along with the stone, we headed in the same direction, towards the base, and for a long awaited rest. We had covered a lot of ground in a small space of time, and considering we were one man down, we had done surprisingly well! Let's just hope that UOPETA is better when we get back. Maybe he can accompany us when we next go out... I suppose we'll have to see what COLUS says about that...

     It was almost totally pitch black; the moon only casting a dull yellowy hue across the landscape. Luckily, the way we were approaching the base was elevated, allowing us to see much further ahead of ourselves. From the final vantage point before descending, I was able to make a full analysis of the area to ensure there was no-one waiting to spring out on us. Obviously it would have been easier if I had a way to see longer distances across to the other side of the pool, but it didn't matter too much for the moment. Maybe that was something to ask OROTHO about. Surely he could put together some binoculars or something... It wasn't much to ask, although I knew about how accurate the lenses had to be for them to work properly... It may take him some time to make one if he was able to... I wondering if his scientific expertise branched into this region of optical acuity... Below us I could see the pool where our base was hidden. In the centre, I could see a faint light emanating from the depths. We'd need to remove that when we got inside. A very big give-away if someone was to walk by and look down.

Once we were inside, we went straight to COLUS who was with OROTHO and Amie in the lab. We informed him of our progress, and handed him the map.

"Excellent! I'll go and take this to AMPHIS for the time being. You may want to see UOPETA. He's keen to hear how you progressed alone."

"Sure, but we have some interesting images to show OROTHO and Amie..."

I took the two images of the pit of portals, and the split portal from my armour pocket, and handed them to Amie. We asked if this was recent, and how likely the latter image was.

"Well... The tree growing through a portal is new to us, but there's nothing for me to really tell you there... As for the pit... It seems to be recent. Are you sure you didn't pass anything like this on your previous outing?"

I shook my head. We had approached from the South heading towards the North to take out a confirmed secondary portal, so we would easily have seen it.

"Well then, it seems this is recent. It's a little worrying that they're setting up these portals so quickly. It just compounds the fact that we need to aim more accurately at taking down the secondary portals. These are easily replaced, but the secondary ones... Well, you know that these are precious to them. God help us if they make any progress with replicating them..."

We left the images with them, and before we left I put the idea to OROTHO about the binoculars, or some other far-seeing device. He seemed intrigued by the idea, and almost considered it a challenge. He said he couldn't promise anything, but he'd look into it. Well that was enough for me. We left them and went to check on UOPETA. He was still in bed, his arm no longer in the sling, but the bandage was still there. When we came in, he quickly tried to stuff his arm back into the sling, but stopped when he realised who it was...

"Oh thank goodness... Those two are so suffocating... 'Don't take the sling off UOPETA'... 'It's for your own good!'... Surely I know what's best for me... Besides, it's itchy and I have more freedom without it..."

It was nice to see he was practically back to his old self, albeit it with a fractured arm...

"How goes the portal patrol then?"

We told him about our progress; we couldn't find any reports to help us, so we were going on the basis of the speculative map. We then told him about the pit containing four portals.

"Looks like HoN Co. are feeling the pressure. Good! We need to hit them where it hurts! Would be easier if we had something to go on though. I hear Amie is being very helpful to OROTHO though. I was a little weary of her to begin with, but I guess she's alright."

We talked for awhile longer, and then left him to get some rest. I was starved and needed some proper rest if we were to be heading out tomorrow. We hadn't run it by COLUS yet, but I'm sure we can sway him like we did last time.

Syeonyx signing off

Tree: 1, Portal: 0

     Still slightly bemused by what we find today, I wondered what else was in store for us. Hopefully it wasn't going to be anything life threatening, or anything at all. Just to find portals at each location would be nice! We headed away from the strange pit of portals, towards the South East where the next portal was. It was further inland so there was a greater density of trees around, making my overall scouting job a lot easier. We hadn't seen a single guard since leaving the tower though, nor had we seen any Creepers or the undead. Once again, not complaining, just a statement. Although knowing our luck, I've probably just jinxed us! No, I'm sure it'll be fine. We've taken on the undead, Creepers and handfuls of guards, so we can take on anything... Unless it gets the drop on us... Which it won't! Because I'm so awesome as UOPETA's replacement! Well I liked to think I was... Anyway... The rain had stopped completely by this point, so we no longer had anything covering our footsteps. In fact it was worse because not only did we make squelching noises as we went, we also left small grassy imprints! I suppose a skilled scout like UOPETA could track us, but no-one from HoN Co. ... Surely... We made it to the location of the next portal site, and instantly I began looking for holes to underground chambers. I couldn't find anything, and was quite frustrated when THEROS didn't seem to be helping at all... That's when I realised he'd found it, and had seen it for some time...

"You know, it really helps to look up every once in a while..."

Oh well, at least we've found another portal! That put us one ahead of ourselves: four sites checked and five portals found! Can't argue with that...

     A minute or two after placing the Solus stone onto the portal, it was gone, and we had retrieved the partially invisible orb. Thinking back to what THEROS had told me in that note weeks and weeks back about portal stability and the role the Solus stone played in utilising that, we had been VERY lucky not to find a single portal taht had been activated using electrical energy. We had found a few portals out on the surface in areas which allow it to be exposed to the elements, but they were either inactive, or activated using thermal energy. I still didn't quite understand the science behind how thermal energy made a portal unstable, and electrical energy made it stable, and thus undetectable and indestructible... I was worried if I asked OROTHO, a smile would creep onto his face, and he'd bore me to death with a long lecture lasting hours, going on about thermodynamics and such! I would ask Amie, but she seems to be a similar type to OROTHO, and is reluctant to dumb anything down for people... I suppose it wasn't vital I learned how they worked, only how to destroy them! It was enough for me. We headed back out due South towards the coast where the next portal site was. It was a good half an hour's walk, and with it being right on the edge, it would be easy to find!

     We made it to the next site, and when we got there, it took us a moment to realise what was actually happening... Well, what had happened. We had approached the site; I once again assumed it would be underground, so I began to look for passage or hole that might suggest the right location. It was then that I stumbled upon a rather large tree with odd protrusions growing out from either side. Initially thinking they were roots, I came closer, and began rubbing at the moss. From beneath the thick growth of lichen, a purplish-black surface slowly appeared... What? Obsidian? Rubbing off more moss, I realised that this must be the portal! Getting THEROS to help me, we managed to rub a large portion of the moss off, and stepping back, I realised that the tree had grown through the portal! On either side of the thick trunk, the sides of the portal frame hung limply... I had seen examples of how deceptively strong plant life could be, despite their weak appearance. There had been a road near to me that had been paved numerous times because weeds and wild grass had managed to break through the surface... But obsidian!!! A tree had managed to grow straight through the bottom of a portal! Well, I doubted that this portal would be of any use of HoN Co.!

     Just in case HoN Co. were able to do anything with it, we both agreed that destroying it was the better, if not more time consuming option. The sun had begun to retreat into the lower Western horizon, but we still had the light with us... For the time being. With the last two well and truly crossed from the list, we progressed along the coast, still heading due South to the next one. I liked it along the coast as it was open and the scenery was a lot more varied. Plus the sound of the water lapping at the edge of the land was rather soothing, and I needed to be as calm as possible when trying to scope out ahead of us. The journey to the next location was short and uneventful. It was still quite bright considering the height of the sun in the sky, but I had stepped the scouting up a notch in case we were ambushed by something that could appear from the dark. It wasn't dark yet, but it was best to be prepared. Depending on the state of the light after this next site, we may go back to base for a resting period before continuing. I can't see THEROS arguing with that.

     We made it to the next site in reasonable time. The sun was edging ever closer into the horizon, but the light remained with us. The site was a small beach area with high hills surrounding it. Unlike the others, the portal could not be seen on the surface, nor could we find any hole to indicate it's location. After a few minutes of searching, we decided that it wasn't known, and circled it on the map. Another one we may have to return to if we could verify it at a later date.

Judging from the amount of light we had left, and the proximity of the next site in relation to the base, we could probably search one more and then head back. Covering seven portals and finding six already was a good start. An excellent start! Well, four of them had been standard portals, three of which were active, one secondary portal and an unknown split in half by a tree! Judging from the amount of obsidian scattered around, it was likely to just be a standard portal, but it didn't matter. We set off in a South Easterly direction this time, more or less on a straight-line path to the base. After this next site, we would head back, wait for morning and get some rest, and then head out to the South West. We could check on UOPETA as well, and see how he was doing!

Syeonyx signing off

Getting lucky

     Putting the map away, we headed off to the North East, in the driving rain. The guards were still unconscious, but otherwise fine. As expected, they'd wake up, not knowing what had happened moments before losing consciousness, and forget about trying to piece it together. Instead they'd go back to patrolling as if nothing happening, more than likely thinking it was a lapse in concentration... Thank you OROTHO! You've made our lives easier! The rain began to ease off as we proceeded through the dense foliage, and it allowed me to see ahead easier. We had been going for some time, and around every tree I expected a guard or a Creeper to pop out to catch us off guard. But there was never anything there. Obviously I wasn't complaining about the lack surprises and ambushes, but my mind is a dangerous thing when I let it wonder, and I begin to doubt the certainties... The first location was just to the North East of the tower, surprisingly close to three other portals we had managed to destroy. THEROS had taken to carrying the Solus stone around again, but so far it was not glowing any more than it usually did.

"What do you reckon the chances are of finding one here...?"

I thought they were pretty low; if there was one near here, we would have found it on the way to destroying another, surely. Instead though I just shrugged and said "probably not". A few moments later, we arrived at the location indicated on the map. THEROS held the stone out, spinning slowly on the spot, looking slightly odd, whilst I checked around for any location that might suggest a portal was there. Just because this place was a suspected portal site didn't mean there was one here. And even if there was, we couldn't guarantee it was active, so the Solus stone would be useless! After a few minutes of searching, THEROS can to join me looking for the spot. We couldn't find anything except a small pool that had a dirt lip running around the lower edge. This was the closest we had come to finding something that could suggest a portal; we had found others in similar places surrounded by water. But there was no portal nearby.

     Under the shelter of a tree, THEROS took out the map again, and circled the location we were currently at.

"We can't say conclusively that there is no portal here... We just can't find it. If we find any more reports in the future and they turn up a location near here we know we were close."

So basically we were doing it exactly how we did it before, except without UOPETA giving us guidance. I hope he was okay... Looking at the map again, we deduced the next location: it was literally back in the direction we had come from, but instead it was in the opposite direction from the tower we were headed in. From the tower, it was South West for approximately the same distance. I had a feeling that this one wasn't going to turn up anything either as it was close to the path we usually took from the base to the conducting tower. Surely we would have seen it by now if there was one. Rolling the map back up, we set off back towards the tower. I wonder if the guards are still unconscious...

     Instead of cutting across the open area where the tower was, we continued around the edge of the tree line to avoid detection. I don't think it would have made much difference either way as the guards posted outside were still out for the count! That sedative was powerful stuff! We passed through to the other side, leaving the tower behind us, and setting off for the next half hour's walk to the next portal site. The rain had eased off considerably by this point, making it easier to progress forward at a faster rate. We approached the location which the map indicated: a small of patch of unassuming sand... There was no portal nearby, nor was there anything to suggest a portal... I was beginning to wonder how THEROS had decided this was a potential portal site! It posed no landmarks or geographical features that suggested something as ominous as a portal could be located nearby at all! As we continued though, my worst fear came true; the sand began to shift downwards, and in the direction of the corner of the pit! I quickly jumped back onto what I hoped was solid ground, and watched as the sand slid at an angle towards the edge of the pit. After a few moments, the sand stopped. I looked towards where it had slid to and found a small hole! More than a hole, a hole with a crude set of stairs leading down! Had we actually stumbled across the portal location accidentally? THEROS passed me a torch, and I ventured down the stairs, careful to avoid causing another sandslide. Peering down, moving the torch to throw light into the hole, I looked around, hoping to either hear or see the portal. There was nothing but silence and darkness... This didn't look promising. I climbed to the bottom of the stairs, passed the torch to THEROS and readied an arrow with my bow. I wasn't taking any more chances with skeletons! We continued in the direction the hole opened up into, but it wasn't long until we realised it was a dead end... What? Was this a trap? Was this the location of a portal? Or had we just stumbled across a random, natural hole?

     After a few minutes of delving around inside the small chamber, we left, not finding anything to help us. The chamber seemed totally natural; there were no markings on the stone or walls to suggest an excavation, so it was likely to be totally natural. A little annoying for us as I thought we had found a hidden one! Circling this one too, we left in a North Westerly direction to the far one. We had initially though to go due West to the closest one to us, but it would mean having to backtrack to the North and go back again! Instead, we were going to head off the far Northern portal site, check it out and then head back. This pattern allowed us to stop at the base for a small resting period before continuing with the search to the East. It would mean having to travel for over an hour, and that we were returning to the sand area we had been to recently. I was positive though that we wouldn't find anything there as we had brushed past that area when heading towards the large lake a few days earlier... But I suppose we'd see. The journey was easier than I initially thought; despite it having stopped raining, and the heat had been turned up, we were surprisingly cool. However, as we ventured further West, the tree density dropped quite low, and we were springing between cover to ensure we weren't spotted. Even though it was unlikely that a guard would be around here, we had to maintain this style of moving forward in case we were caught unaware. We did this until we closed in on the area. Close by there were a few holes, and I thought that there may be something down them. But after venturing forth, none of them went more than a few metres in before dead ending! We continued on towards the spot indicated on the map, thinking it was unlikely we would find anything. But as we approached the area, I noticed an odd hole in the ground. Nothing like the one previous, but literally a hole. A giant absence of anything! As we grew closer, I began to hear noises... Odd echoey, dripping noises... There was a portal nearby. Then I saw it! On the far side of the hole was the portal! It was a standard one portal, not a secondary one, but as we got closer, I noticed that the hole actually contained four portals, not one! Jackpot!

     We carefully made our way into the hole, checking first to ensure there were no cages, Creepers of skeletons in the hole or nearby. Once we were inside, we realised that all of the portals were standards portals. Three of them were active, but one was partially buried ins sand. THEROS placed the Solus stone onto the edge of one of the portals, whilst I took the pickaxe from my back and began hammering away at the inactive one. After some time, and after shifting a lot of sand, we swapped. I took out the second portal using the stone, and he destroying the remaining obsidian frame. Once that was done, THEROS placed the stone on the final portal, and we stood back and watched as it collapsed into itself. Well... That was eventful! We started off with a poor show, being unable to find anything, and then we find four at once!

 Logically we were one portal ahead of ourselves! But I was confused... I couldn't be sure we had been past this area before, but we must have passed near enough to it to be able to see it...

"Maybe it's recent... Maybe these were placed..."

Oh yeah... I kept forgetting... HoN Co. had managed standard portal replication... Maybe these had been placed and then activated... Well now I was worried. If they could get three portals set up and running, and presumably linked to a secondary portal within days of us passing by the same location, we were in trouble. We needed a way to track these iter waves to determine the location of these portals more accurately. Stabbing at random locations was wasting time. If we could find a way to track the networks set up, we could more easily locate the secondary portals from the multiple feeds it would have linked to multiple portals... Maybe that was something to enquire about to Amie and OROTHO when we got back. In the meantime, we headed off to the South East, to the next portal, hoping it would remain dry, and we would remain undetected...

Day 102: Old ways

     THEROS and AMPHIS have been working hard with Amie to add to the current map to aid us in finding the portals. We can't guarantee we'll find anything at the tower to point us in the right directions, so at least we're prepared if we can't. The plan, as far as I know, is this: me and THEROS head off to the conducting/lightning tower to determine the state of the primary portals, and to look for more information to guide us to the portals. Then, depending on what we find, we act accordingly: if there are no reports to go by, we use the map we brought with us to find the closest suspected portal location to us and head off to it, working around the areas until we find one. This is instead of coming back to the base and wasting time taking the portal map then. If there are reports to help guide us, then we'll follow those based on the map we have, although we may need to return to allow AMIE to translate them onto the map. So far, most of the reports have been based on coordinates. We don't use coordinates, merely the points of the compass. It works for us, and stops things from becoming too complex. The key for the map has extended as well though to allow us to determine the difference between possible portal locations and actual ones. If we do manage to find a report detailing portal locations, we'll return to the base and cross reference them to the points that have already been drawn on. We'll then only visit the ones that match up to the locations in the report.


     We headed out quite early; it was still partially dark, made even more so by the fact that it was raining. I didn't mind the rain, in fact I loved it, and to make matters better for us, it would help us stay hidden. The only way it put us at a disadvantage was that staring into the distance looking for movement is a lot harder with rain intercepting your vision! I just needed to follow what I had learned from UOPETA, and not take any unnecessary risks. That was unlikely to happen; I was a naturally cautious person anyway. From the base, we headed due North to the tower. THEXIS had told us that the radio traffic had been practically non-existant for some time, so hopefully things have calmed down. No doubt that if Amie is that valuable to the company, they won't give up that easily but they'll direct their efforts in a different area. The journey to the tower was totally uneventful, and we managed to scope out the area before approaching it. There were no guards - that I could see - in the tree line around the tower, and after watching the base of it for some time, I determined that there were only two guards surrounding it. One was constantly posted at the entrance, whilst another patrolled around the perimeter. They would easily be dispatched, and I took out my blowpipe. If we could take out the patrolling guard when he moved along the Western-facing side, it would make it easier for the second one!

     A high pitched whistle, and the guard walking along the Western wall fell. We paused for a moment to ensure we didn't attract to much attention, and then moved forward. I took the dart from the guard's neck, and crept along to the right to the corner of the wall. THEROS followed close behind me, keeping an eye out in case another guard appeared behind us. Peering around the corner, I could see the guard had his back to me. This was too easy. Another high pitched whistle, and the unconscious form of the guard collapsed in a heap! Moving up quickly, I took the dart out from where it protruded, and ran THEROS through the plan. He would go in first, scout out the area quickly, and then advance if it was clear. I would bring up the rear to ensure we didn't get a nasty surprise. If there were any guards within the base - not that there had been any before, but now was not a time to become complacent! - THEROS would have to act fast. He took out his blowpipe too, and waited as I flicked the switch. The wall slid aside, and we waited a few moments longer to see if there was any reaction this. Nothing. THEROS moved inside, and then paused. He motioned me forwards, and crept behind him to see what he had found. There, over the other side of the conducting rod, was a guard slouched in a chair. Odd... A guard inside the base of the tower... But he seemed to be asleep. THEROS quickly took him out for good measure with a dart.

     As THEROS removed the dart from the now prone guard, I searched around for any reports that would help us to find portals. I knew that the main place to look was down in the chamber where Amie's desk was, but it couldn't hurt to search everywhere else as well. After getting nowhere with the files I had found, I decided to move to the master portal chamber. THEROS followed close behind, both of us with our blowpipes at the ready. I was nervous descending the stairs; we had never encountered a guard there before, but like we found with the guard in the base tower, there's always a first time... However, we made it down into the chamber without being seen. After peering over the edge, I could see no more guards or scientists. We were alone now. Good! We descended the short staircase and began rooting thorough the files and reports littered around, hoping to find something of use. I went straight to the place Amie had suggested; the drawer. But it was empty, as too was her desk. There were no reports here to help us. We were going to have to go back to the old method of trial and error, searching each suspected location. We could find a standard portal or a secondary portal, or we could just not find anything at all. It wasn't the preferred method to do things, but at least we had something to go by. I continued searching for awhile longer, hoping to find an out-of-place report hidden away somewhere, but closing the lid on the last box, I knew it was hopeless. We'd have to do things the old way... I now turned my attention to the primary portals; the ones on the far right wall that were active before were still in the same state, but as I made my way around the central column, I realised that one of the portals was actually off... I was sure that one of the primary portals had been knocked offline; the far left one! Yes! It was!

     I was in high spirits now; we had now successfully deactivated two primary portals, and if we made headway with the next portal locations, we could make a proper dent in their plan! I guessed that they had shifted their priorities somewhat since the disappearance of one of their top scientists leading the portal research, so this made our job easier! I just hoped we didn't suffer a fall at any point due to our odd stroke of luck so far. I signalled to THEROS to move out, and we headed for the surface. Closing the wall section behind us, THEROS took out the map and located the nearest location to us.

"To the North East then!"

Syeonyx signing off

Day 101: Much needed rest!

     Last night was probably the best night's sleep I've ever had, bar none! What with all of the travelling across the land, destroying portals, battling the undead, and carrying the wounded back to base, I was incredibly exhausted! Immediately after waking, I went to check on UPOETA; he seems to be fine. He's resting at the moment, and he's been told not to move his arm too much. Speaking with Amie, I got an idea as to how bad it was, but how much worse it could have been!

"The arrow hit him in the upper, left arm. Aside from the actual entry wound, he suffered a hairline fracture from the arrowhead hitting the humerus, but it didn't require any further care aside from the sling and the bandage. As long as he doesn't move the arm too much, the bone should heal over pretty quickly. OROTHO got back to us on the arrowhead tests, but he couldn't find any foreign agents that would suggest a poison, so he's likely to just be suffering from blood loss. That'll be rectified relatively quickly."

I was glad to hear that there was nothing permanently wrong with him, nor was there anything life threatening. I was fine; Amie checked me before I went to get some rest. Some minor bruising around the neck where the bow string dug into my neck, but aside from that, no permanent damage. Despite UOPETA's initial shock of the entire event, he seems incredibly lively! He lost a lot of blood last night, and at one point we were worried he wasn't going to pull through, but after a few hours sleep, he's practically ready to be back on his feet. Although Amie and OROTHO have advised against this. His arm needs to remain still to heal well, but it should begin to meld back together in a day or two. I was half expecting to see him sleeping, like you always see in films and dramas, but he was sitting up in bed quite happy and healthy looking, albeit except for the sling and the bandage.

"Just when you thought everything was going according to plan... I have to admit, this was my fault. I was getting lax in my scouting. It was all too perfect for it not to be a trap. I think it was a mixture of things really... We were all tired, I was anxious to get to the tower, and all of those chambers look the same!"

That was true. There was no way of knowing that would have happened beforehand. Admittedly it looked a little too perfect with the lack of an Affinitas cage in a large chamber, but we had all become rather complacent by then. I just wanted to get back to have some rest, and I'm sure THEROS was the same. After speaking a little more to UOPETA, I went to the lab where I found COLUS with OROTHO, as usual, and Amie, working on something. Once again, after the much needed rest, I had nothing to do, and I felt like a spare part. They didn't need anything done for them, but they said that THEXIS and THEROS were working on the next stage. We needed to check on the conducting tower to see our progress, and to acquire more reports. I was a little confused about this; why didn't we just take all of the reports at once and mark down all the locations? Maybe it was too obvious... Although Amie answered that for me:

"The reports are constantly being sent between us and the upper echelons of HoN Co. for verification. We need to keep adding to them, or editing what's already there, so we can never guarantee which reports we have. I'm getting worried now that they may have noticed the missing reports, and pinned it on me. It's a viable conclusion I suppose; I was in charge of the reports, so I was the one who had access to them at any time. They probably assumed I took them with me, so we'll be lucky if there are any more reports left."

"Well then, that either means we're going to have to resort to randomly looking for portals based on the predicted sites from THEROS' original map, or that all of the primary portals are offline, and the master portal is vulnerable! Somehow I can't see the latter being the case. Back to what we used to do then... Hopefully Amie can shed some light on some more of those: point us in a more accurate direction."

"I'll certainly try, but I can't guarantee anything..."

I left to go and find THEROS and THEXIS who were working on a map of the guard routes based on the radio traffic. THEXIS had been very busy while we were away, making sure we had something to go on before we headed off to the tower. Maybe it was a good thing that UOPETA got shot in the arm then... I don't mean that in a bad way, but after talking with THEXIS, it turns out that there was a lot of guard activity back at the tower!

"After the search teams finished, they converged on the tower and stayed there for some time. It was a racket! They eventually dispersed, and the radio traffic settled out. I think there are a few more guards than there are usually at the tower, but nowhere near as many as there were yesterday."

"THEXIS reckons we should try to get to the tower on our own without UOPETA. We need to act quickly, and we can't guarantee UOPETA will be back up to speed within enough time. I'd at least run it by COLUS. I know what he's like, but surely he can see it from a productive point of view."

I think THEROS was right. We had to act quickly. We didn't currently know how many primary portals were active, and the more time we wasted, the longer we gave HoN Co. to compensate for our work. We also gave them enough time to work on secondary portal replication. If they got to that stage, we would be done for. Who knows how many secondary portals are waiting to be activated. What if they managed to reduce the number needed to activate one? They could reduce the time to bring the master portal online in half! I'm going to see COLUS now!

     I've spoken to COLUS, and after a bit of persuasion, and some support from THEXIS, I've managed to sway him. He was initially against the idea, saying that the increased number of guards would have made it impossible to gain access, even with UOPETA leading us. But I've told him that me and THEROS can handle it; I can lead us there safely, and I've watched UOPETA enough to know how to react to situations. I conveniently left out the previous incident with the skeleton, otherwise it would have drastically reduced my case! When I mentioned the severity of time, especially in relation to how close they could be to replicating secondary portals, I think that's when I got him. If they got the upper hand, we would lose. At the moment, we have the upper hand in that we can destroy secondary portals faster than they can activate them. If they can make them, we might as well give up now!

"Okay then... I didn't want it to work that way, but I see your point. Tomorrow, you and THEROS head off to the tower and look for any more information that might aid us in finding more portals. Then check on the primary portal situation, but don't draw attention to yourself. Use the blowpipes, and stay hidden if necessary. If you can't find anything to help us, it doesn't matter. Return, and we'll have to work out a map with the possible portal sites, but it'll be back to what we did before Amie came along..."

I really hoped that we would find something tomorrow. The other method we used was hit and miss, literally. And it would likely mean we would have to use the radios. This made it dangerous for us, unless we went to each one individually and checked the site. I suppose we have to do whatever is necessary...

Syeonyx signing off

We all knew the risks...

     It was fully night by now. The moon was ascending into the sky from the East, and we had little else to see by than the light it produced. UOPETA knew what he was doing though, and he guided us carefully and cautiously through to the next portal. I for one was glad that we had left the sand behind and gone more towards the grassy plains with hills and trees. Admittedly we had to be extra careful not to run into something hidden in the shadows, but we could use those shadows to our advantage, and hide from any possible guards waiting to close a trap! As usual, we stuck to the tree line, staying in the deep shadows until UOPETA was confident there was no danger ahead. I had noticed a sudden change in pace after the last portal; whether it was because it was night, or that UOPETA was become fatigued, but we were definitely spending less time waiting for the all clear. We would even have small bursts of speed every now and again, but at the time I put it down to the initial lack of cover. I suppose I wasn't complaining; as long as we got to the last portal and back to base before morning, I was happy, but I didn't like that idea if it meant UOPETA was forfeiting safety. After a shorted time than expected, we arrived at the edge of the pool, which in reality turned out to be a vast lake! Squinting into the distance, still looking South, I could see a small island in the centre of the lake. It was very small, but judging from the map, it was where the portal was... Oh yay, we were going to have to get wet... Again(!)

     We navigated around the lake for some time, sticking to the shadows, but mainly looking for the shortest or shallowest crossing we could find. In the end, we went back to the area we had arrived by, finding it was the easiest to cross. After a few minutes of wading in freezing cold water, we clambered up onto the far side of the little island. It wasn't very big at all, and I had begun to think that this might not be the right place at all...

"Are you sure this is it?"

"According to the map, this is the only lake around here for quite a distance. Closest body of water to here is the sea... So yes, this is the right place!"

We had all become highly strung, partially from the cold water, but mostly from the fact that we were all dead on our feet! We really needed to rest at the base before heading back to the conducting tower. I just hope UOPETA saw it that way, and not a case of "get it out of the way whilst we're here" type of thing. The portal wasn't located on the surface, and after a few minutes fumbling around in the dark, we found where we had to go. Well, THEROS did, but only because he nearly fell down a series of steps!

     We descended down the steps, UOPETA in the lead carrying a torch. THEROS also put a few up on the walls to make it easier to navigate on the way out. It went quite far down, and then veered off to the left like so many of them had before! We followed the twists and turns of the passage until we could hear the echoey sounds from the portal, and the end of the tunnel became bathed in a purple light. There it was. The last portal of this stage, and then we could head back! For a change, THEROS handed the Solus stone to UOPETA, who stepped into the chamber to place it onto the portal. I stayed with THEROS to keep guard, but as UOPETA approached it, we heard a "click" sound. UOPETA froze, and turned back to look at us. What was that? Then I noticed that a small portion of the wall to his right was sliding to one side... There was silence for a moment. No-one dared to move, let alone breathe! Then, without warning, a skeleton leapt from the hole and went straight after UOPETA!

He tried to dodge, but the skeleton was already ready, and fired an arrow into his arm. UOPETA fell to the floor, defenseless, and I did the only thing I could think of. I shouted to draw it's attention; it stood there for moment, before reaching up with a bony arm, over it's shoulder and taking out another arrow. I quickly took my pickaxe in hand and threw it at the skeleton! My aim was way off; it gazed it's arm, but caused no damage whatsoever, clattering to the floor. It stood for a moment longer, opening it's lower jaw in a silent scream. I took out my bow and stepped into the room, narrowly avoiding the arrow it let loose in my direction! Before I had time to retrieve an arrow of my own, the skeleton was bearing down on me, pushing me into the wall using the bow as leverage. I pushed back, trying to force it into the room it had come from, but it was too strong! My grasp slipped, and it gained the advantage; the string of it's bow was now pressed tightly against my neck, choking me! I couldn't breathe! Stars danced around my vision, and I struggled to hold on to consciousness. Then the grip was released; the skeleton dropped the bow and fell to the floor, the pickaxe embedded into it's pelvis. Before giving it a chance to stand back up, I moved from the wall and stamped on it's head! The remainder of it's body fell limp, and pieces of it's skull skittered across the floor. I bent over double, coughing, trying to get the air back into my lungs. THEROS rushed past me at this point, and went to help UOPETA. After a few moments, I stood back up, rubbing my neck where the string had dug in. It was then that I realised that UOPETA had attacked the skeleton with the pickaxe when I was pinned against the wall. I thanked him, and went over to see how he was. He was in a bad way; the arrow had embedded itself into his upper left arm, just below the shoulder joint. He was bleeding quite badly, and from the sweat beading his forehead, I think he was trying to keep the shock at bay!

"Looks like you needed my help back there... Good job I think fast!"

It was only a flesh wound; a bandage applying pressure, a lot of rest, and some food, and he'd be back up in days!

"Glad I'm wearing this armour. I don't think I could take what's going on under there..."

The blood had begun to seep through to the surface, running down the length of the arrow shaft. I supported UOPETA, and told THEROS to finish the job. THEROS nodded and took the Solus stone from the floor where UOPETA had dropped it, and placed it onto the portal. He then took the pickaxe from the inanimate skeleton's pelvis, and disappeared into the hole in the wall... A few moments later he returned.

"It's done. We'll wait for the portal to collapse and then we'll get UOPETA onto the surface. Don't ask me how, but we're going to need to get UOPETA back to the base. We're leaving the conducting tower until later, and no UOPETA, that's not under discussion!"

We sat with UOPETA until the portal collapsed, and then began to move him slowly to the surface. THEROS was right; getting him back was going to be a pain. It was going to be dangerous, but I was worried about getting him back to the shore!

----

     We managed to get UOPETA back to the base without being detected; UOPETA was very stubborn, and decided that he would continue to keep a look out. It was slow going, especially as we had to keep stopping to ensure he wasn't losing too much blood! The ladder down from the hatch was the worst; he couldn't move his left arm. He had taken to partially hugging himself to keep it still, whilst very cautiously edging from each rung to teh next. From there it was easy! OROTHO and Amie had looking over him now. They've managed to remove the arrow head after initially removing the shaft, and have patched up the wound with a secure bandage. His arm's in a sling as well, and he's been confined to bed until "further notice"... We were debriefed by COLUS, and informed him and OROTHO about what we had encountered. I covered everything: the locations of the portals, the states of each, the odd Creeper not attacking us, the encounter with skeletons on two separate occasions and the attack a few hours ago. Amie came in from UOPETA's room as I mentioned the skeletons and she seemed surprised... We thought that HoN Co. had found a way to animate skeletons and control them for their evil deeds, but she seemed to know nothing about them!

"How were you not aware? Surely this would come under the scientific branch of HoN Co.?"

"Well yes it would. But we're not just one big lab! The scientific community working internally within HoN Co. is split into cells, each one performing research independent on the others. I was tasked with portal research, along with a few others. It's likely that another cell was tasked with a form of security; one cell to make the Affinitas cages, and another to animate corpses. Or at least the research to develop this. It's in HoN Co.'s best interests to only give a single person enough information to allow them to work. If a single scientist worked on every project, they'd piece it all together and refuse to work for them! We all knew about the different scientific cells, but we didn't know which ones anyone worked for, or what they were doing. It was impossible to piece anything together because they always kept us separate. I only found out about this whole operation after trying to find more information about OROTHO's disappearance..."

It seems whoever ran HoN Co. was paranoid to the most severest of extents! Not allowing parts of the company to interact with other parts was a rather large step to keep it from going public, but if it had worked for this long...

"But weren't you suspicious about why HoN Co. was messing around with portals to the Nether?"

"At the time I didn't know. We were told that these portals were an advanced form of communication device which had been taken from a company that had merged with ours. They wanted us to merely replicate that technology so it could be 'widely distributed throughout the known world!'... We weren't told what it actually did!"

It was likely then that whoever worked on the projects to animate dead bodies were not aware of what their ultimate goal was. Maybe they thought that HoN Co. was branching out into medical treatment, or something like that...

"Okay, fine. That doesn't matter now. We can discuss that later, but we need to keep a close eye on UOPETA at the moment. He's lost a lot of blood, and OROTHO is still studying the arrow head to check for poisons or toxins. At the moment UOPETA is only exhibiting the effects of severe blood loss, but we want to be a step ahead in case he takes a turn for the worse... You two, get some rest. You need it, but don't expect to be going anywhere soon. Until UOPETA is back to fighting form, no-one leaves the base! Understood? Good!"

That suited me fine! I was worried about UOPETA too much to concentrate on going out there on my own anyway. Like COLUS said: I needed some rest. In the morning I'd check on UOPETA. I really hope this doesn't go any further... We need him!

Syeonyx signing off

One more to go

     Off to the West we headed, along the sand towards the next secondary portal. Not many to go now before we can check on our progress at the conducting tower... Well, conducting tower, lightning tower. It all meant the same thing... The issue was what is beneath it, and what these past weeks, months have been about! Provided we can destroy the secondary portals at the same rate, and provided they are unable to continue their research into secondary portal replication, we should hopefully win this! Well I say "win" but if we're successful, HoN Co. will be hunting us, baying for our blood! They'll stop at nothing to find us... I just hope our base remains hidden until then so we can hide most of it out... If we survive that long. HoN Co. may be stepping up their security, and making use of the undead, so we're definitely going to have our wits about us the entire time!

The journey to the sixth portal wasn't as long as expected. Unfortunately it was still on the sand which we had been walking on for the past half hour or so, and it was also partially buried, but active. That made our job easier I suppose, but I was still worrying about the sand giving way... I'm just glad that the next one is actually on solid ground... If we get to the next one. From the looks of the map, it's on stone... Either that or under it... It could be gravel I suppose. I wonder if there is any more security? I've noticed a few trends, which could just be coincidences, but they still attracted my attention. Active portals are often in underground chambers with mossy stone surrounding it. The portals on the surface are usually not guarded, except for that one an hour or so ago. I did initially think there could be a link to portals and water, but spending the last hour in dry sand and dirt, I doubt that.

     We destroyed the portal with no unexpected or unforeseen occurrences. I kept guard with UOPETA whilst THEROS positioned the Solus stone. Since we had started finding the portals on the surface, I had begun to think that the Solus stone might not work on some of them. That maybe some of the portals had been activated using lightning... But with each one being destroyed quite easily using the stone, I had set aside that fear, although it cropped up every time THEROS got it out. What would we do if that was the case? The portal was indestructible when active, and literally indestructible if activating with lightning... It'd be permanent! Let's just hope that HoN Co. don't extend their research into that area... After THEROS recovered the stone, he took out the map and crossed out the portals we had managed to destroy so far. There was only two left before heading back, or off to the tower. I really hoped it was the former. I could do with some rest. THEROS had taken to carrying the Solus stone around in his hand since I suggested the possibility of other portals nearby. It would certainly pick up any if they had been activated using thermal energy, but so far we had found nothing additional to what we already knew about.

     From where we were, we headed off to the South West, more towards the green area. There was still a considerable lack of trees around which made UOPETA's job a lot harder trying to keep us safe. Luckily though, by this time, it had begun to grow dark. The sun had slipped into the lower portion of the sky, and was beginning to dip into the horizon. Enough light to see by, but not to see people from a distance. It worked in and against our favour in a way, but thankfully UOPETA is skilled at what he does. We arrived at the stone area about half an hour later after setting off. I was thankful to be away from the sand, but looking at the map, the next portal location could hold something a little more dangerous. It was odd; the portal seemed to be located in the middle of a large pool, with no way to get to it... I think we may be getting wet before the night is done. Finding the current portal was easy enough as the stone staircase leading down to it gave it away... As ever, we were overly cautious about what we might find, but it appeared to be just an active secondary portal. Unlike the others though, this was within a small chamber, but not embedded into the wall... I didn't know if this held any significance until after it was destroyed. But at the time we just wanted it gone! THEROS did the honours, and after it was gone, we put up a few torches.

After destroying the portal, we found that there was a passage that continued behind where it had stood. We looked at each other, apprehension written on all of our faces. Was there anything up there? We ventured forward; I opted for the bow this time. After the previous incident with the skeletons, I wasn't taking any chances of being caught offguard! UOPETA led the way, holding a torch ahead of him to get a better view, but after a few metres, the passage stopped abruptly... Maybe it was just a small natural cavern... It didn't matter. At least we hadn't found an Affinitas cage or any skeletons at the end. Although to be honest, I get the feeling they would've attacked us when we were busy with the portal. We didn't know at the time the passage was there, and we would have been ambushed easily! I think in future, we need to be more careful. THEROS crossed the latest portal from the map, and we left the chamber. It was night now; the moon hung low in the Eastern sky indicating early night. We began the journey due South to the next one, wondering what it held in store for us. With it essentially being situated on an island, it didn't look good...

Syeonyx signing off

Half-way point...

     Due North. An hour's walk heading straight North. We actually passed the site of a previous portal location on the way, and I had begun to wonder if there were any more portals located around here we could find using the Solus stone alone. It'd save a bit of time rather than having to find the locations from a report in the conducting tower. But then again, I suppose it would be a bit aimless wandering around holding a stone, waiting for it to start glowing... There was a tension in the air; we moved in silence as normal, but I got the feeling everyone was a little shaken by the incident with the skeletons. It was totally unexpected, and the fact that I managed to be of any help at all astounded me! My first thoughts were that I was going to freeze up, but I acted swiftly, and together, me and UOPETA took them down! I don't know if there is a specific way to kill them, and I hope I don't have to find out, but it's seems very much a case of: if it's undead, destroy the head! Smashing the skulls to pieces seemed to do the trick anyway, but I was more worried about the person who had been able to animate the dead! It was likely that whatever they did to achieve this, worked on fresh and old corpses... The next worrying question was where were the corpses coming from... We had no proof that HoN Co. was the mastermind behind these aggressive and vile creatures, but they certainly seemed to work to their advantage!

The next secondary portal site we headed to was marked on the map as a sandy bank, quite far inland. I was expecting something similar to the previous one, with tall cliffs, and numerous caves. But when we got there, I was quite surprised. The area in question was actually a gravel bank, set into a flat plane dotted with a few trees. We cautiously emerged to the edge of the shadow from an overhanging tree, and then we stopped. UOPETA motioned for us to stay quiet, and then pointed towards the centre of the gravel bank. There was the secondary portal; partially buried, and inactive, but sticking out of the ground in broad daylight. Then I saw what UOPETA had been pointing to. A HoN Co. guard! They were standing just behind the portal, looking just to the right of our, location. Had he seen us? I hope not... We wouldn't have much chance of destroying the portal if he had!

     UOPETA had a plan to take this guy out, and it wasn't overly fancy or complex. In fact, as plans go, it was incredibly simple. Sneak up behind them and hit them in the neck with a dart. The only problem was the distance between the treeline and the guard. I know UOPETA had pulled off a shot like that before, but if he missed, it made the next shot harder! UOPETA moved around the treeline so he was facing the guard head on. He was still a distance away, but he was confident. Due to the distance, we didn't hear any noises from UOPETA, but the guard turned around at one point to face UOPETA and we thought it was all over! I took out my blowpipe, and readied the dart. The guard approached the side of the portal, and picked something up from the floor. Then he fell... Phew! Whether that was intentional, it didn't matter. It had worked! We joined UOPETA who seemed rather calm considering.

"Missed the first shot. He was a little too far away. Luckily the dart fell short and drew him closer. The second shot caught him in the sweetspot! Come on, let's get this over with."

We headed down to the portal; I immediately began hacking at the portal with the pickaxe, whilst THEROS remained on the lookout, and UOPETA removed the dart from the guard's neck. This was likely to be the first guard to wonder what was going on; he was meant to be guarding the portal, and when he wakes up to find a pile of obsidian dust, not remembering blacking out, he's going to be very confused! THEROS took over for the last half, and I stayed with UOPETA to keep watch. So far, it had all gone more or less to plan. There had been a few unexpected situations such as the Creeper, the skeletons and the guards, but nothing we couldn't deal with. I just hoped I hadn't jinxed it by thinking that... After THEROS destroyed the remaining chunks of obsidian, we packed up and headed immediately off to the next one. This one was another hour or so, and off to the North again. It was close to the boundaries of the map, and we were beginning to wonder if there was need to extend the one we had. We had already eliminated the possibility of destroying any portals outside the map range as it would be hard to document. It would probably mean then that the next stage would be scouting out the next area and allowing THEROS to work his cartography magic!

     The walk was getting quite arduous by now, but on the up side, at least the rain had stopped. We had begun to dry out as well, but the sign of fatigue was beginning to show with everyone, especially UOPETA. He was working very hard to keep us safe and secure, and prevent us from walking into traps. I didn't know if there had been any, but we hadn't fallen into one yet, so that was a good sign. The sun had begun to track across to the other half of the sky, indicating the passing of midday. We were going well; four portals down, and it was just about 1:00 in the afternoon! Unfortunately we still had four to go, and they stretched further and further away from the base and the conducting tower. UOPETA had said he would make a quick decision whether to head straight to the tower or back to base, but I got the impression he would opt for the latter now. We had entered a small sandy area. We weren't near the coast, so maybe this was just a small barren area where little could grow. Infertile soil maybe...As a result, there was a distinct lack of trees, and we could see the portal from quite a distance away!

We were cautious on the approach as we expected to find a guard nearby. But unlike the other exposed one, this was active! We hadn't expected it, in fact I had already unslung my pickaxe. From the distance we were at, we couldn't see any Creepers, guards or skeletons, nor was there an Affinitas cage. The fact that HoN Co. was activating secondary portals and leaving them unsecured made me think back to Amie mentioning the replicating technology. Maybe they had found a way to achieve this without her help! Maybe a single secondary portal meant nothing to them as they could place a thousand more in it's place! I didn't like to think about this, but as we approached, it remained in my mind. THEROS took out the Solus stone and placed it on the obsidian frame. THEROS remained beside the portal whilst I kept lookout with UOPETA.

Where the portal was, we could see quite a distance in all directions, so this was highly unlikely to be set up as a trap... Unless the idea was to allow the sand to collapse into a chamber, along with us! I wish I hadn't thought about that... I had been so confident up until that point, that now I was wondering if it was safe standing on the sand. After the longest minute of my life - I kept waiting for the sand to give way, and to fall forever into a dark pit where I would be left to the fate of a hoard of skeletons and Creepers! - the rift closed, and nothing remained of the portal. THEROS collected the Solus stone and we moved out to the West towards the next one. I was really glad to move away from that sand! I just hoped the next one was in a cave... At least caves can't shift! Can they...?

Syeonyx signing off

Close encounter of the REALLY undead kind!

     From where we were, it was a short distance to the next portal. Less than a half hour walk West. The entire time we were going, we remained silent. We mainly kept quiet anyway to allow UOPETA to scope out ahead more accurately without distractions, but this time I was glad of the silence. It allowed me to think about that Creeper we saw a few minutes back... It was really odd, and it spooked me for some reason that I couldn't explain. It knew we were there; it was looking right at us the entire time. But it didn't approach us, nor did it seem aggressive. It just stood there staring... I'm beginning to think that these Creepers are very territorial, but are otherwise passive. I'll need to inform OROTHO about it when we get back, unless one of the others does it before me... Maybe he can shed some light on it... Anyway, within half an hour, we reached the site of the second portal we were to destroy. It was very easy to find, but that and the fact that it led down deep underground made me think of it as a possible trap... I voiced my concerns, but UOPETA assured me that we could take on anything... I hope he's right... In terms of weapons, we have the blowpipes, my bow, and the diamond pickaxe. I suppose we were as prepared as we could ever need to be. We made our way down into the hole, careful not to draw too much attention to ourselves just in case. The first odd thing that made me hesitate slightly was the presence of torches... Lit torches! The hole continued down for a small time and then veered off to the left, bypassing a small spring. Was this the right place? Well, the torches were a big clue, but I couldn't shake that niggling feeling...

     Continuing around the corner, the rest of the tunnel was pitch black. THEROS lit a torch and gave it to UOPETA to illuminate our path ahead. The tunnel went on for some time; despite the obvious excavated way in which the stairs had been that led down to the tunnel, and the way the spring had been avoided, the tunnel itself was surprisingly random. Maybe a tunnel had been dug randomly to find the portal, and the tunnel had merely been something that had already been here... There were no signs of tool markings on any of the stone, so it was likely that was the case. After some time, we could see a light up ahead, and UOPETA extinguished the torch. The light was too bright to be emanating from a portal, nor was it giving off a purplish hue. It was flickering though which suggested more torches, and possibly a guard! We all took out our blowpipes, ready for anything! We edged closer and closer. When we were within a few metres of the entrance, we could hear sounds... Not the sounds of a guard... Or even a human! A Creeper maybe? We would have to be careful. We reached the opening where the light poured from, to be met with a horrid sight! Embedded into the wall on the far side was an active secondary portal, with an Affinitas cage close by. But what was the most horrifying of all were the two figures standing with their backs to us in the corner... SKELETONS!!! The animated bones of two dead humans were standing within metres of us, holding primitive bows!

We all backed off, not wanting to draw their attention. I was terrified! I didn't know what to do, but UOPETA seemed to have a plan, regardless of the alarming situation we had found ourselves in:

"Right... Skeletons... They had no flesh so the blowpipes are useless! We need brute force and speed! They are likely to be slow. I can't back that up, it's just a hunch. Syeonyx, give me your pickaxe. I have an idea. Get your bow ready. When I give the signal, fire an arrow into the head of the skeleton I don't hit! Got it?"

I don't know why, but I nodded immediately. Had I got it? Was he attempting to attack them head on? I unslung my bow, and readied an arrow, and then passed the pickaxe to him... What was he going to do? Use it as a club? We moved back up to the entrance, my heart in my mouth and my pulse racing way above normal! THEROS remained behind us, whilst I stood a few feet behind UOPETA. He knelt down, and then signalled a countdown on his hand. When he got to one, he threw the pickaxe at the skeleton to the left. Without hesitation, I fired my arrow. The skeleton which UOPETA had attacked, fell to the floor, the pick embedded into it's skull. I had aimed for the socket of the upper arm that carried the bow, and surprisingly I hit home. Just as intended, the arm fell to the ground, totally defenceless. It turned around to attack regardless of the missing arm, it's empty sockets staring me down, it's jaw twisted into that horrid grimace. UOPETA acted quickly, removed the pickaxe from the other's head, and tore the ribs from the remaining one. The skeleton buckled slightly, but remained standing, and attempted to attack UOPETA, swinging it's one good arm. It missed, and UOPETA span and took out one of it;s legs. It tumbled to the floor in pieces, creating the sound of an out-of-tune xylophone! For good measure, UOPETA smashed his foot into the skull, and it shattered, spraying bone fragments across the chamber... UOPETA stood there panting slightly.

"That was eventful..."

     After killing the skeletons, we quickly destroyed the Affinitas cage. We assumed that the skeletons were indigenous to the Nether as well as the Creepers, and destroying that will stop them from being lured into Minecraftia through the portal. We then destroyed the portal using the Solus stone, and sat in silence for some time, collecting our thoughts... I had never seen a skeleton before. I had only heard of them from my father, who said my mother had been killed by one... The other two had never seen them either, and we were beginning to wonder if HoN Co. had had a part in their arrival too!

"Maybe they're not letting on that we're as big a threat to them as we initially thought... Maybe they see as a big threat, and they're willing to throw anything at us to stop us! If they're willing to genetically alter Creepers..."

"OROTHO never said that had been proved! He still maintains the possibility that someone else could have done that!"

"So what now? Are HoN Co. animating the dead against us? Or is this the illusive person again?"

"I don't know... I don't want to know... Skeletons give me the creeps, they always have... It's their skull. The fact that under all of that flesh and muscle, is a constantly grinning face, with empty eye sockets! We all look the same, deep down under our fleshy outer parts..."

"That doesn't matter now. We need to get to the next one, and staying here could mean more trouble for us! his could still be a trap! Those skeletons were likely to be part of it. Why else would there be an Affinitas cage next to an active portal?"

UOPETA was right. We had to keep moving. We had a job to do, and sitting around in a dark hole was tempting fate. If what dad had said about mom was true, I didn't want to go the same way. In fact, helping to kill two skeletons was an incredibly uplifting feeling, and despite the constant fatigue, that one moment had rejuvenated me! I stood up and started to head out of the hole, with the other two following close behind.

     The next one was even less of a journey, just off to the West for a short walk. It had begun to rain since entering the first portal location, but we had been rained on enough times for it not to be a problem any more. We got there in good time, but the location was very deceptive. We had arrived at a small sandy beach area, way inland, surrounded by tall cliffs... What now? Was the portal in one of the caves that were dotted around the cliff edges, or did we have to dig? Again... I stayed high up to look around in some of the caves, whilst UOPETA and THEROS made their way down to the bottom of the cliff floor. We decided to do a thorough search of the area before attempting any excavation.

Despite the initial enormity of the task, we eventually found the portal after a few minutes of searching. It was indeed in one of the caves, and quite close to the entrance too! It was good as well, because THEROS was ready to begin digging up the sandy area hoping to find it there. This one was also active, but it was not protected by Creepers, guards or skeletons. In fact there wasn't even an Affinitas cage, despite thorough searching of the entire cave. What was odd was the lack of the moss that had appeared at almost every other active portal site so far... Maybe the moss and lichen were coincidental... We had never proved that the moss came from the Nether anyway.

We quickly destroyed the portal, staying for awhile to have something to eat, allow the Solus stone to recharge, and to cross off the three portals we had destroyed so far. It wasn't easy going; it was mentally and physically tiring, and I had had enough encounters with creatures from the Nether to last me a lifetime! Creepers, skeletons, giant spiders, and the undead! Hoping that there were no more was a lot to ask. Hoping that they'd all go away was impossible!

"We need to inform OROTHO about the skeletons. We've never encountered them before, and if that was HoN Co.'s doing, we may need to be a LOT more careful in the future! We got lucky today; they didn't see us, and they looked like they were ready to attack us if they had seen us first. Let's just hope if we do run into them again, we either catch them off-guard, or they're atrocious shots! Come on, let's get to the next one. It's a lot farther than the other two..."

Syeonyx signing off