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...

Forgotten tower

     We navigated past the island crossing, where THEROS took over, allowing me to sit on the right side of the boat as we finished the last leg of the journey. In an attempt to bring an end to the silence, I asked THEROS and UOPETA how close they thought we were to ending this entire thing, and whether they thought it was possible for us to succeed. Admittedly not a step in the right direction towards a lighter mood, but it brought interaction back to life.

"Who knows... We're going to try as hard as we can, but I think we're beginning to feel the pressure now. It's pretty obvious that HoN Co. is willing to do pretty much anything to open the master portal, but they don't seem to consider us a threat, which I suppose is our saving grace at the moment. Either that, or we're just too good for them!"

This last bit made us all laugh, and unintentionally brightened the mood considerably. Here we were, rowing on a boat back from a hidden chamber that had possessed more standard portals in a single place then all of the portals we had destroyed so far to date, and we were still going! In this type of situation, I could imagine it being very easy to become demoralised, but we had all persisted, and we all maintained the idea that we had a good chance of taking HoN Co. down and revealing to the world what they're really like. I had begun to wonder though about how easy some of it was; HoN Co. seemed to be investing massive amounts of time, resources and man power into finding, activating and protecting portals, and yet the closest we came to failure was when UOPETA was injured by the living dead! It did make me wonder however how much more HoN Co. had to throw at us, and whether we could take it. We had assumed that they seemed to possess control over the living impaired, explosive creatures and HoN Co. guards... HoN Co. had opened my eyes as to the possibilities of this world, merely through means of trying to kill me! I would have scoffed at the ideas of Creepers and zombies actually existing if I hadn't undergone the seven years of training and experienced all of this. But I suppose that's what it sometimes boils down to: an odd scenario you find yourself involved in that tilts your perspective of the world and makes you reconsider everything you already thought you understood... Enough philosophy...

     When we reached the bank closest to the base, we jumped off, dragged the boat onto land and hid it as best we could with the remaining branches and leaves. We headed off to the base, making our way across the walkway, down the hatch and into the main area of the base. We were exhausted; over the past few days, we had exercised ourselves practically to death, with the amount of rowing and walking we'd done! We headed off to the lab where we predictably knew COLUS, OROTHO and Amie would be. COLUS and OROTHO were bent over a large piece of paper, stretched across a desk, whilst Amie and AMPHIS were in the corner, studying various maps on the other side of the room. As we entered, COLUS saw us and left OROTHO to mutter to himself.

"Well? Is the threat removed?"

"All forty four portals are destroyed. And if I haven't said it before, I'll say it now: if HoN Co. doesn't see as a threat, they do now!"

"Well, that's likely to get worse then. Since you've been gone, myself and OROTHO have been working on the tunnel to the portal. We think we've got everything planned; we just need to set out a few measurements from the chamber and we should be able to work it out from there. As for Amie and AMPHIS, they've come up with a few locations they think might be the site of an obsidian farm. Go and see them, and then we'll run you through the tunnel before you set out towards the tower."

We went over to Amie and AMPHIS, who had now seen us, and were splaying the maps out to show us the locations.

"Success I hope?"

"Yeah. Another threat removed. But how many more... I suppose you're going to tell us?"

"Well, actually no... We've gone through each copy of the map of the surrounding area, and due to the proximity of the chamber you found, we realised it's likely to be close by. Obsidian is notoriously heavy, so transporting it wouldn't go unnoticed over long distances. We've only found a few locations that could be the right place, bearing in mind the right conditions. They would need to have access to a huge amount of water, so they're likely to be located close to the coast. As for lava, well that's a different matter entirely. We've only found two suitable locations, but hopefully we can find out when you go to the tower. If you turn up nothing there, it may be a case of searching around the most likely places..."

Amie handed us a copy of a map with two areas circled on it. One was way off to the South, whilst the second was far North West. Both were on the coast, situated to large bodies of water. Worryingly, the one to the South was very close to where my house is... Had it been there the entire time? I doubted it greatly; even if this obsidian plant existed there, it would have been a new addition after I was forced out of my house. Amie says that portal replication hadn't been perfected until about a month ago, and they had no need or desire to farm obsidian before that point.

"Remember, when you're in the portal data room, use search strings that are concise but accurate. Try to only search for things that may be included in the actual file itself, rather than just the headings. Also, have a look around the other areas in the tower and master portal chamber. You can't really afford to come back empty handed unless you're willing to go exploring long distances..."

We kept the map and went over to OROTHO and COLUS who were still looking at the large piece of flat paper. As we got closer, I noticed it was essentially a schematic or blueprint, showing directions, rough measurements, calculations and build time to construct a tunnel to reach the portal. COLUS lifted a corner of the paper and dug out another load of small ones from beneath it, and put them aside in the corner of the desk.

"This is what we've come up with. A simple tunnel! Well, simple in design, but complex in security. That's what they are. Have a look. OROTHO's very excited about those!"

Picking them up and flicking through them, I could barely make heads of tails of most of it, and had to have OROTHO explain.

"As COLUS mentioned some time ago about a direct access tunnel, security is paramount! Having a tunnel linking our base to a portal which takes anyone across to the Nether is a massive security breech! So I've come up with a series of doors and security methods to enable us to remain hidden."

He took them from me and laid them out, one by one, explaining each in turn. The first was a door system operated by concealed pistons that would slide wall positions into and out of place. Much like the door system at the tower and the one he had constructed in the lab, only it would be wider to accommodate more than one person at a time. The next one was a series of pressure pads that linked to a basic trip-monitor system. If activated by treading on one, it would cause a series of lights to activate within the lab, thus indicating the presence of someone coming through the tunnel. Unless everyone was present and accounted for, the entire tunnel could be sealed off from here! It used the same system that the base currently had installed, only adding the lock-down feature. Another door system would mirror the one on the portal chamber side, and all of these controlled would only operate from our side. Finally, OROTHO had a brilliant idea of implementing the glowing stone into the idea of providing unlimited light! When not in use, a series of walls could be put in place to remove the light, but when in use, the wall slides aside, exposing the glowing stone, and lighting the place up. This could also be another feature added to the lock-down procedure.

"Like I said, we just need a few more measurements from the portal side, and we should be able to start. Depending on the situation you find yourself in after coming back from the tower, we may have already started. But for now, let's go to the discussion room. We all need to be clear what's happening at the moment."

     When we had all assembled in the discussion room, COLUS began to rattle off the same speech he had given shortly before we had left to destroy the portal chamber. Then Amie interrupted him with something that none of us had considered. What she said should have occurred to me a long time ago, considering it affected me the most!

"I almost completely forgot! The tower! Not the lightning tower, but the HoN Co. tower off to the far West! That will more than likely contain information to find the obsidian plant! I don't know why I hadn't considered it before!"

"The HoN Co. tower? The one Syeonyx was imprisoned in?"

"Were you, Syeonyx? I'm sorry to hear that... I really am. This might seem a little weird, but when you were there, did you see anything that might help us? Any location where data might be stored...?"

I shrugged, saying that I couldn't remember much of it, what with the guard's incessant need to keep me in a drug-induced stupor! I told her about the room I had been taken to; the room with blank surfaces and a mirror wall... Then I mentioned that I saw a huge room on top of the tower when I had escaped, but never made it up to...

"It's possible something could be contained there! It's a place of considerable power within HoN Co., so there's likely to be something there... I would try there first, before the lightning tower. It's the most likely place!"

"Looks like you can get some revenge on the way too Syeonyx!"

I wasn't a vengeful person, but going back there, and showing HoN Co. that I was willing to stand and fight felt incredibly compelling!

Syeonyx signing off

Silent contemplation

     After leaving the base, we headed around the cliff wall back to the beach where we had left the boat. It was still there, undisturbed beneath the pile of leaves, twigs and small branches. Clearing it away, we easily dragged it back into the water; the rest may not have allowed us to get any sleep, but our muscles were recharged at least... UOPETA settled into the rowing seat, facing backwards, whilst myself and THEROS balanced on either side. As usual, THEROS took control of the map, leaving me to use the telescope to see if there was any danger ahead of us, or in case I spotted something that would intrigue us. UOPETA knew where he was going, and immediately set off towards the South. Navigating on a large body of water was much easier now that it was daytime. Although it also made it easier for others to see us. Luckily, the coastline along the left-hand side was mostly lined with trees which made it difficult for anyone to see us without us seeing them as well. It wasn't long before we reached the small island crossing, and once more, we were forced to get out and push. The bottom of the small water passage had a grove running along it where we had dragged it through on both occasions, and we used that to guide the boat, and to make it easier. In a short time, we were out on the other side, with me rowing this time.

"Just head South East now, towards the centre of this lake."

THEROS pointed ahead and to the left of where we were, and I slowly steered us in that direction. After after about twenty five minutes or so, UOPETA pointed in the direction I was heading. He had spotted the island through the telescope, and was guiding me in. Within a few more strokes, I could see the island come into view, the lone tree standing to one side of the mass of grass and dirt, with the weak torch burning beneath it. Odd that below such a tranquil spot, an evil place is hidden...

     After beaching the boat on the island, and putting it beside the tree, we headed down the stairs again; the winding staircase was slightly dizzying, but stopped shortly before making you nauseous. At the bottom, we entered into the corridor, and began to head to the far end. When we got to the first lever, I stopped, whilst THEROS and UOPETA continued to the next one. Once there, UOPETA threw the lever; a small click was audible, and I pulled my lever, and we were rewarded with the the iron bars before us retreating into the walls. They waited at the far end as I caught up, and the last of the bars clicked into place as I came alongside them. Taking out our blowpipes, we descended to the bottom of the first set of stairs, and looked over the chamber. Looking at it again, a cold shiver went down my spine... This place had that effect, and judging from the looks on UOPETA's and THEROS' face, it had happened to them too! We watched as the same two guards continued to patrol below, walking around the two main columns housing more portals. They had recovered and were back to the same pattern.

"Same as before. I take the one on the left, THEROS takes the one on the right. You remain here until we've dispatched them. Let's go..."

THEROS and UOPETA crept closer until their respective guards was in the right position. Then they followed them, and once again, two high pitched whistles signalled the end of that worry. I began to walk down the stairs and join the other two.

"Right then. Take out your stones and get to work. OROTHO said it should take about half an hour if we utilise both stones at once. I'll start on the left, Syeonyx, you take the back wall, and THEROS, you take the right. Then head back towards the front."

We each split off and headed to our designated walls. Taking the two stones in each hand, I placed one on the first portal, and the second on the one beside it.

     For a long time it seemed, we waited in a room, full of intense noise and flashing, destroying each portal in six's. After placing a stone on the portal and waiting for it to activate, the echoey dripping sounds changed to that of crumbling rock, as the obsidian cracked and was sucked into the centre of the unstable rift. The colours thrown out from the rifts changed from stable purple to sickly green, casting odd shadows around corners. It seemed that we had all taken our own approach to dealing with the portals on our own wall. As each wall was packed with portals, one on top of another, myself and THEROS destroyed the portals on the bottom level first. Then we destroyed the ones on the top. However, UOPETA opted for the reverse, by destroying the portal above the first at the same time. As I had been given the back wall though, THEROS and UOPETA finished ahead of me, and started on the ones in the two central columns. By the time I had finished, they were on the last two portals. Going around to the front, I saw where they were; they were waiting for the second to last portal to be destroyed before activating the last one.

"This, is a milestone for the progress we have made so far. This will show HoN Co. we're willing to go to any lengths to stop them. Let's just hope we can find out where the obsidian originated from so we can put a stop to it from the source!"

UOPETA stepped forward and placed a stone on the portal. Stepping back, we watched as the last portal in the chamber collapsed into the rift.

After the last portal was gone, and UOPETA had retrieved the stone, we turned and headed back out of the chamber. Flicking the lever, we headed back to the surface, all the while, remaining silent. As we pushed the boat back into the water, and climbed aboard, UOPETA spoke only a few words, and then we were silent again.

"Back to base..."

We couldn't explain why we were silent. We had removed a huge threat which would have remained concealed unless we had found the portal data room. A decisive blow against HoN Co. had been made today, and despite the result, no-one was cheering or celebrating... Perhaps it was because we knew we had a long way to go...

Syeonyx signing off

Day 112: Six stones and a plan

     I couldn't sleep... None of us could sleep... After the meeting late last night, OROTHO, Amie and COLUS had returned to the lab, whilst the rest of us had gone to rest for the remainder of the night. I just hoped that THEXIS and AMPHIS had enough sleep before we got back, because from the sounds of things, they didn't get any after returning to bed... Despite this though, none of us wandered out of our rooms bleary eyed... Quite the opposite, and I got the feeling that everyone had remained awake, fixated on the thought of the distance HoN Co. is willing to go to open the master portal! I went straight to the lab to see how the others were doing, and as usual, OROTHO was wide awake! He never seems to sleep, and yet he's never tired. If only I could perfect this... Maybe ask him some tips, because he doesn't seem to drink or eat anything classed as a stimulant... Amie was finally asleep in the corner, arms slumped on the desk, and COLUS was slowly going through each of the images I had managed to take the night before. When he saw me, he put them down and walked towards me.

"I'm glad you three chose to come back when you found this. It gives us an idea as to what they've been up to... We can never assume that HoN Co. is lying low, or relaxing; this chamber is proof that they never stop, nor will they ever! We need to find out if this is a one-of-a-kind thing, or if there are more... If there are, then Amie is right. We need to put a stop to it, at the source..."

If what Amie had said about HoN Co. being able to farm their own obsidian was true, then that was definitely the first port of call! I knew roughly the process required to make it, but like Amie had said, it's resource intensive and slow. Not to mention incredibly dangerous for all of those involved! But as it was a slow process, they were likely producing it on a mass scale. The amount of obsidian in that chamber had been massive, and according to Amie, they had only perfected portal replication a month or so ago... They moved quick. Too quick!

"We'll wait for the others to rise before briefing you on the next stage. I don't think I need to tell you that all of those portals are going, for a start! Then, we'll decide on what to do, so it's best if you return to base."

I asked about the progress made with the tunnel connecting the base to the portal, and he just shook his head. This discovery came at a bad time in terms of advancement, but better now than later, before it's too late...

     Once everyone was awake, we settled in the discussion room. What Amie had said had stuck with all of us, and showed us how far HoN Co. were willing to go. And who better to know that than someone who had worked within the higher echelons of the company itself! OROTHO was convinced that Amie was right; how else would they be able to procure so much obsidian? We had to act fast; find the site, remove the threat and deal with any locations that were replicas of this new chamber. Afterwards, it might be an idea to attempt to sink the chamber; if it was left as it was, HoN Co. may re-purpose it, and start all over. Hopefully, if we find and destroy this site, we can find where the obsidian is being taken to, and hopefully locate more of these chambers. Let's just hope that this one is the only one, although I'm not wrong in saying that we all had our doubts...

"What you three found brings to light a very serious matter. Something we didn't expect HoN Co. to do... We initially thought that the secondary portals were the main target. But in light of this... Disturbing evidence, we can obviously see that they're expanding their operations. Each one of these chambers is equivalent to a secondary portal, only worse. The time taken to destroy these is far longer than an secondary portal, and so, we need to put a stop to them making any more! We will remove this threat as we know where it is, and the risk it possesses. But from there, we must cut off the threat from the source. As Amie said, it is likely that HoN CO. have gone to the weighty lengths of 'farming' their own obsidian, potentially possessing unlimited reserves, and having the ability to create a limitless number of portals... We have managed to extract more stones for use in destroying this current threat more quickly, but as for the source, we have yet to find it. Whilst you three are removing this one, we will be examining the map in detail, and trying to determine where such a place might be. If we are unsuccessful, then another journey to the conducting tower will be necessary..."

Amie took over, informing us that we were likely to find something linked to these chambers within the portal data room.

"If you specific search strings, you should be able to find something that can help you, but if not then we'll have to formulate another plan."

We discussed the plan a little further, designating each person with a role; me, THEROS and UOPETA would destroy the forty four portals within the chamber, and return to the base. Hopefully in that time, AMPHIS and Amie will have found the most likely places to establish such an area, however that would only be used in the event that an expedition to the tower pulls up no new evidence... With that settled, we followed COLUS, Amie and OROTHO back to the lab to retrieve the stones.

     Six stones... They had managed to extract six stones so far from the large glowing stone clump. It was impressive, but I had to ask a question that had been annoying me since we had returned. The stone was capable of pulling in all matter that originated from the Nether into the rift, destroyed completely... So why wouldn't a single portal being exposed to the stone cause each portal to be sucked into it...? Amie fielded this one quite well, and unlike OROTHO, she put it in a manner in which I understood!

"I assume you understand the relationship established between the portal frame and the rift when one is activated? The energy of one feeds the other and vice versa. Introducing the stone to this breaks this relationship in some way, and creates an opposite effect whereby, the field is disrupted and the rift requires more power to be maintained. As a result, the frame is crushed and pulled into the rift. With the rift no longer receiving any energy from the frame at all, it collapses. As the stone is only interrupting the energy connection between one portal and it's respective rift, the other remain unaffected. I hope that helps?"

I nodded, saying that it had done. I actually understood what she was saying, despite my lack of qualifications in anything needed to normally understand it... At least from OROTHO's point of view anyway... We picked up two stones each and went to leave the lab. Before going, COLUS gave us one last message:

"Be careful of the guards in there; don't administer more than a single dose of the sedative at a time. We don't want to sink to HoN Co.'s level..."

No we didn't...

Syeonyx signing off

Amie is brilliant!

     Leaving the corridor behind, and heading back up the long and winding stairway, we quickly made our way up to the top. As we grew nearer and nearer, the lights began to fade, until we emerged onto the small island beside the tree, with the torch throwing a meek amount of light around. Climbing aboard, I settled into the rowing position, whilst UOPETA and THEROS pushed the boat into deeper water, before settling in beside me, on either side. This journey was going to take some time; we would have to rotate as the distance was enough for one person to become too easily fatigued. As I began to row, UOPETA extinguished the torch at the front and back of the boat. I couldn't understand why he had done this, but luckily he explained himself:

"It's pitch black now, with only the light of the moon helping. We're lit up like a Christmas tree with these on, and the last thing we need is to be spotted now! We're easy targets, so let's try not to draw attention to ourselves..."

I had to agree. The lights were good for navigating the boat in low light conditions, and locating it from a distance, but it was a two-way street. If you could see the torches, a million to one the HoN Co. guards would be able to. But now, without the lights, I was rowing blind! More so than usual. Luckily I had UOPETA instructing me on one side, and THEROS guiding us by the map. We were doing very well as a team, and despite the handicaps, we were making excellent progress! Within a shorter than expected time, we reached the island crossing, and we all hopped out and began to push. It was a little harder this time; it was dark, and hard to manoeuvre, and the fact that we had all had our stint of rowing for a long time that we were already tired in the upper body. Eventually though, the boat floated free of the bottom, and we quickly climbed aboard again.

"Right, from here, it's more or less due North..."

"We'll need to find somewhere to put the boat when we reach land. We can't leave it out in the open for someone or something to find. At the moment, it's our only means of getting to that place, and we can't risk leaving it!"

I rowed the rest of the way... We sat in silence, partly from fear, partly from exhaustion, mostly because we were all trying to comprehend what we had just seen... In our own way...

     Once we got to the closest possible landing to the base, we pulled the boat fully onto shore, and turned it upside down. Then, with a few branches, and leaves, we hid it as best we could. Standing back, we thought it was very convincing, albeit a little unusual to have a large cluster of branches in a single place. It would suffice for the moment. We began to head around the large cliff face, around to the pool where UOPETA activated the walkway, and the water parted like two pieces of cloth bisected by a zipper. Moving across it, we headed one by one down the hatch, locking it into place, and lowing the walkway. Once inside, we headed straight off to the lab to find the others. We knew the others were likely to be in bed; it was late enough. But OROTHO rarely seemed to sleep at all, and Amie would often try to compete with him. Once we got there, we found OROTHO examining the outside of the glowing stone, facing away from us, holding a clipboard, and Amie, slumped in a chair in the corner, arms folded with her head lying on them on a desk, asleep. UOPETA silently went over to OROTHO, and tapped him on the shoulder. OROTHO jumped about a foot in the air, before attempting to attack UOPETA with the back of the clipboard! Amie woke up at this point, dazed and confused, and OROTHO ceased his attack, only when he had realised who we were.

"Oh! It's you! You're back very early... I assume you found Syeonyx's boat then?"

"We found more than that... We found a problem..."

"A big problem..."

I stepped forward and placed the images of the huge portal room in OROTHO's hands. Looking slightly confused, he placed the clipboard underneath his arm, and began to flick through each image; the look of confusion on his face turned slowly to a mix of fear and awe... Pretty much the same as us...

"Is... Is... Is this..."

UOPETA nodded... OROTHO continued to mouth incomprehensibly, looking a lot like a fish out of water, when he finally managed to compose himself. He then began to look back at all of the images again, before running off shouting "I'll wake COLUS", whilst thrusting the images at Amie as he left... Amie began looking through the images now, the same look on her face appearing...

"You did the right thing... We need to settle this one together!"

----

     Possibly the shortest meeting in the discussion room ever, but the topic on question was one of the more important ones! After showing the images to COLUS and the others, we sat in silence for a moment to allow it to sink in...

"So... You found a large underground chamber... That contains forty four portals... All of which are active?"

"Yes. We couldn't make it up. It seems that HoN Co. have been busy with their new portal replication technology, and have gone to the extent of mass producing them... They pose as much a threat as a secondary portal now, but take many times longer to destroy... It's why we returned..."

OROTHO had been running his own calculations himself and came to more or less the same time frame to destroy every portal within that room with a single piece of the stone.

"So we need more glowing stone to destroy them all faster. Preferably in one dose of the sedative. We took into account what OROTHO said about an overdose."

"Good. We can't let any unnecessary deaths be on our hands. They may be working for HoN Co., but I doubt they understand or even know about the full picture. No-one could condone what they're attempting to do..."

"Well I assume you returned for more pieces of the stone? Otherwise you'd still be there, unless you managed to lose the first one..."

"No no, we still have it. We need at least two more. That would allow us to destroy every portal within an hour..."

"That's still too much time. If you each took two stones, you could manage it in half the time. But that would mean a lot of time extracting more of the stone. But then again, there's little in the way of options..."

We continued debating on what the best course of action was, but we all knew that multiple stones was the way to go. It was incredibly resource intensive, but it was necessary, especially if more of these chambers were found. In the end we decided the best thing to do was to take multiple stones; we would rest whilst more was cut. But then talk turned to what would happen after the portals were destroyed. I assumed that we would head back to the tower and look for more information to find the next portals, but another interesting issue was raised... By Amie...

"Hang on... We're missing the bigger picture. If they can make portals... And they are in huge numbers, wouldn't it be better to put a stop to it at the source? Rather than afterwards..."

"Amie, what are you getting at...?"

"Well I thought it was obvious... They're obviously procuring obsidian from somewhere. And lots of it... Knowing that obsidian is incredibly rare, it means one thing... They're making their own... The process is complex and resource intensive, but we all know that HoN Co. is willing to go to any lengths... I suggest we find and take out the location that the obsidian is being farmed. Stop them from making any more portals. That would buy us a lot more time..."

And that's why she was brilliant... She thought of something everyone else had seemed to overlook...

Syeonyx signing off

Tough choices...

     We stood there in silence for a long time... We couldn't say anything... We couldn't do anything... We were frozen, in a mixture of amazement and fear... Before us, was a room packed to the ceiling with portals... The room was massive in itself, and every wall was lined with portal after portal after portal... Each and every one of them... An active standard portal... This must be the product of HoN Co.'s portal replication technology... They are able to mass produce portals and activate them, all within a single area, all cumulating together and activating secondary portals. From OROTHO and Amie's estimates, there were enough portals in here to activate a single secondary portal! It seemed a little excessive, but until they could replicate secondary portals, this was what they were resorting to. After a few moments, we became aware of the guard wandering around between the central columns, and we backed off slightly to discuss the current situation...

"Erm... Suggestions?"

"We keep observing to determine how many guards there are, but from my guess, there's only about two... If we can take them out, we can assess the situation better from down there..."

Right. We cautiously made our way back to the top of the stairs and looked down onto the floor below, where two guards were currently visible, making their way around the column of portals. We watched for a minute or two, and determined that there was indeed only two guards. Backing off again, we planned out the next step.

"Definitely two. That's easily dealt with. When the first comes around the front and heads off to the left, I'll follow him, whilst one of you two go down the central partition, and head to the right, to follow the other. Make sure they're not in each others line of sight when you do tranquillise them though."

It seemed either THEROS was eager to prove something, or he felt like some action, as he opted for following the second guard. UOPETA told me to remain here in case something happened and someone was needed to inform the others. With the plan laid out, THEROS and UOPETA went down the stairs; UOPETA to the left, following closely behind the guard on the left, and THEROS going down the centre. They both disappeared from view, and a few moments later, two sharp whistles... Had they been successful? UOPETA leaned around the corner and beckoned me down. It would seem so...

     It was incredibly eerie; here we were, walking around a huge open room, with lots and lots of portals active around us. The noise was quite loud, and the amount of purple light being thrown around nearly overwhelmed that of the torches placed at specific intervals along the walls. What did we do now? Using the glowing stone would take forever to destroy all of these portals, especially when you took into account of the length of time for a portal to be destroyed, and the recharge time. An accurate estimate could be given if we knew how many portals there were...

All three of us began to walk around the huge room, staring at the collection of portals in what could be described as awe! It was beautiful and deadly all at the same time... Any number of these could draw creatures in from the Nether, into our dimension. I had to think myself lucky that there wasn't an Affinitas cage nearby, or that could make matters considerably worse! We all made our way around the entire room and met in the middle. I had counted forty four, but I may have missed a few or added some due to the massive overload of information to my brain!

"How many did you count? I counted forty four... I think..."

"Same..."

We were in agreement then. Forth four active standard portals all within an enclosed area, and we didn't even know about it. How many more places have they got like this? They could have hundreds of places like this, all with enough portals to activate a secondary one! One hundred of these places, and they could drastically gain the advantage, and get many steps closer to activating the master portal! We hadn't thought the standard portals were initially a threat, but now... Well, let's just say we couldn't let them get to the stage of secondary portal replication!

"What options do we have...?"

"Well, only two that I can see... The first is to destroy each and every portal here now! There are forty four portals around, and it takes about four minutes to destroy one portal and allow for recharge... That would mean we're looking at a time frame of... Nearly... Three hours..."

"Three hours!?!? That would take ages! I don't think the sedatives last for that long!"

"Well we could always re-sedate them if they begin to wake up..."

"That's not an option... OROTHO said that the sedative had to be quite powerful to knock out Creepers. Multiple immediate doses of the tranquiliser would be enough to kill someone..."

"That leaves us with the only other option then..."

"Which is?"

"We return to base, and wait for the others to carve more of the stone up. If we each have each have a stone... We could easily get every portal destroyed in... Just under an hour... Split evenly..."

Was that even an option...? I knew that these weren't exactly the scenarios we had expected, but I couldn't believe that was an option... Well, actually I could, considering the other wasn't really feasible. I thought about it, trying to determine the outcome of this, but in the end I agreed. I had to, we didn't really have any other choice, short of burying the portals with water! But that wouldn't necessarily knock them offline... I nodded, as did THEROS...

"We're agreed then. We'll head back to base and inform the others of our findings. Syeonyx, take a few more shots and try to show what scale we're talking about here. Once they see what we're up against, I think they'll see it from our point of view. They might even be able to offer additional options..."

UOPETA and THEROS began to make their way back to the entrance, whilst I walked around, taking images of the entire room. In the end, I just took a few from the top of the stairs; it gave a total view of the entire room. We left the room, going back up the stairs. UOPETA flicked the switch closest to us, and a few seconds later the one ahead of us flicked up. It was reset, so hopefully no-one would know any better. Just us. Let's just hope this was worth it...

Syeonyx signing off

Good news and bad news...

     We made our way West, along the beach, as the sun began to set. The rain had ceased completely by this point which made navigating around easier, but we were losing light fast and we needed to find the boat before it got too dark. If my boat wasn't there when we arrived, we had two choices; either return to base via a short swim and wait until tomorrow, or continue along to the last location, via a longer route. It wasn't the preferred option, I can tell you, but it was an option at the very least. Despite the beach being where the boat had been left, we stayed off the sand, and within the tree line so as to not draw any attention to ourselves. I doubted it, but if the boat was still being watched by HoN Co. guards, they would see us from quite a distance away if we were just strolling along the beach, completely exposed. After a short time, I began to notice landmarks that I recognised; I had come this way when I was trying to find a portal location months back, and yet the memories remained enough for me to guide myself to where the boat was left. Coming over to the crest of a hill, we stopped, and I looked down onto the beach more or less where I guessed it would be. Well, what do you know! It was still there! Lucky us!

I hadn't expected it to still be here, especially with HoN Co. taking an interest in it. At the very most, I was expecting to find a collection of smashed up wood, but there it was, intact, oddly enough with the torches still burning! UOPETA made one last sweep of the area before he was happy with it being clear, and we slowly and carefully made our way down towards it.

"Nice boat... Did you make this?"

Swelling with pride, I decided to the humble approach and just mutter "yes". It was a basic boat, and it worked for the simple tasks required of it. That simple task was usually not sinking, which it seemed to do well with. Then UOPETA noticed the line running down the centre of it, asking what it was. I sheepishly admitted it was a cut line, where I had had to cut the thing into two pieces, and drag it past my wall to make use of it to get it here! They laughed, and considering the current situation, I couldn't help but laugh either. Here it was, still in one piece. Our job just got a whole lot easier!

     After pushing the boat out into deeper water, we all climbed aboard; I got into the main position and began rowing towards the general direction of the next location. THEROS and UOPETA perched on either side to balance the load, but with the edge already running very close to the water's edge, a single jolt or misplacement of body weight could sink us! Before setting off, I had checked in the chest, but it seems if anything had been left in there, it had been taken.

"Okay, Syeonyx, You're going to need to row to the South East. If you deviate off course, I'll set you right again."

"I'll keep a lookout. Try to see if we're not drawing too much attention to ourselves."

UOPETA began to look through the telescope towards the far islands ahead of us, whilst THEROS studied the map. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself; from a distance we must look like the worst pirate ship in the world! All we needed now was a small mast with the jolly roger, and a talking parrot that wouldn't shut up! I continued rowing, remembering how exhausting this had been before; we had been going for about ten minutes and my arms were already aching. Luckily though, there were three of us, and I couldn't see any of the other two saying no to having a rota. Before it had only been me and Chiron, and he was unable to help at all except draw attention to us by barking, but at least we could swap over when we got to a certain area. I continued rowing for a further half an hour, by which time I felt like my arms were going to fall off! THEROS saw this and asked to take over, which I gladly took him up on. We carefully swapped, still maintaining a small amount of forward momentum, and I took up the position of monitoring our location on the map. After a few minutes, I was already lost, but judging from the light retreating into the Western sky, I could tell we were heading in a reasonably accurate direction. After a little wile longer, we came to an area I knew quite well; it was a small island crossing that I had used a few times to get from Jonas' house back to the base, and to other portals. Remembering correctly, there was a small area which could be used to cross over with the boat, but it would be cutting it close. As we neared the bank, I guided THEROS - who was surprisingly good at rowing - into position. Then we stopped...

"What's up?"

We had run aground. The bottom of the boat must be too deep to be able to pass over the crossing. We would have to get out and push. I explained this to the others, and jumped out from the side, into nearly waist-deep water. It was a little cold, but that was to be expected. Besides, I might have to get used to it; in a few hours or so, we could be diving underwater! UOPETA jumped from his side, and THEROS clumsily climbed out from the seat. Going around to the back, we all began to push the boat along. It was incredibly difficult, even with three people; the boat was hard on its own, but when you factor in the resistance of the bottom of the boat with floor, well that just made it harder! We continued pushing, gaining ground, inch by inch.

After a while, pushing became easier, and the front of the boat became free. Another large pushes, and the entire boat freed itself, floating ahead slightly, causing us to rush over to stop it. With UOPETA holding the boat, me and THEROS climbed back on, only UOPETA had decided to row the rest of the way. Rocking slightly, UOPETA climbed back on, and positioned himself in the main seat, clutching the oars.

"Right then. How far left to go, and in which direction?"

THEROS pointed slightly to the left of where the boat was already pointing, and stated a surprisingly accurate number. Well, then again, he was the cartographer.

     UOPETA rowed steadily but quickly; he hadn't had any rowing experience before, but I could tell he was a natural! His smooth strokes were effortless, and he seemed to be able to make us go faster than either me or THEROS. Not that it mattered. Within under an hour of leaving the island crossing behind, we had begun to approach the location marked on the map, but we couldn't see anything. THEROS peered around with the telescope, and then back to his map, shaking his head.

"This is where the map pointed us to... It must be around here... Maybe it is underwater..."

Great. So we were going to have to go diving. UOPETA stopped rowing, allowing us to better survey our surroundings, when THEROS called out in excitement!

"Scratch that! I think I've found the actual location!"

Passing the telescope to me and pointing off to the right, he stated that he could see an island with a torch on it. Looking through the eyepiece, it wasn't long before I could see it too: a piercing light in the surrounding darkness, illuminating a large potion of the tree and surrounding island.

"Very odd... I don't think you'll usually find trees growing with torches affixed to them..."

UOPETA picked up the oars again, and with style and precision, he steered us in the direction of the light. After a few moments, the light came into view without the aid of the telescope, and within minutes, we could make out the tree and the island. It was very small, hardly there at all, but we couldn't see anything of notable interest... Aside from the torch. There was no sign of a portal, although it was too suspicious to just ignore!

As we got closer, I noticed a small hole in the ground beside the tree. What was that? Once we were close enough, I jumped out and waded to the island. THEROS joined me, and then UOPETA got out, dragging the boat to the side of the island. It was slightly on top of the island, so it was safe unless it was stolen, or a large wave took it! With the light of the torch illuminating the area around us, I could now see the hole more clearly, but it was more than just a hole. It was a set of stairs, leading down and around the central trunk of the tree. Even more oddly, the actual trunk of the tree seemed to go down the entire length of the stairway... What was this? It was a little elaborate for a portal location. It had to have an active secondary portal here!

"Right. We cannot guarantee what or who is down there, so I'll go first, followed by Syeonyx and finally you THEROS. If you see or hear anything, point it out to me. We can't miss anything important!"

We all nodded, taking our blowpipes in hand, and one by one, descending into the hole, down the stairs, into the unknown.

     We continued down the entire stairway, expecting to meet face to face with a guard, but there was no-one. The stairs themselves were made of an odd stone brick, and the central column it wound around was still that of the tree trunk! After some time of going around in circles, spiralling further and further down, it flattened out, and we emerged into a totally deserted corridor. A few torches were set up on the walls, already burning away, and a a lever was positioned a few metres away from the stairs. Carefully, we all went over to it, studying it in interest.

"What do you think it does?"

I shrugged... But I knew that pulling it could be dangerous. UOPETA however, decided to approach the situation from another direction, and gave it a short, sharp tug! It didn't shift...

"Probably for the best..."

We continued down the corridor, noticing something odd at the end. As we got closer, we realised it was an iron gate! Sturdy and secure, it barred the way forward, only allowing us to see a set of steps leading further down.

Now what? We went back up the corridor a small way and noticed another lever, closer to the iron bars. What did this one do? Cautiously, I approached and tugged it, and with no effort, it flicked down with a clunk! From the other side of the corridor, back towards the stairs, we heard a click. We looked each other, confused. What was that? We cautiously made our way up to the entrance of the corridor, back towards the first lever, but as we got there, we heard another clunk from behind us! Turning around sharply, expecting to see guards or Creepers, we were met with nothing. What were all of these strange noises...? Then I noticed it... The lever. It had returned to its original position... I think I knew what was going on... It was a timer... The first lever couldn't be used until the second was pulled, freeing up some type of lock on the first. That must have been the click when we pulled the second one. But from the distance they were apart, there was no way one person could do this alone! I told the others what I had noticed, and UOPETA began nodding.

"I had reached that conclusion too... It's very simple if that is the case. One of us needs to stay here whilst another goes over to the second one. Once the second is pulled, someone pulls this one... And then something happens..."

Exactly... "Something"... Let's hope it opened the iron gates! I walked over to the second lever, positioned my hands on it and looked back at UOPETA, who gave the thumbs up sign. With an effortless tug, I pulled the second lever down. A few moments later, a click was heard where UOPETA was standing, and he tugged. The first lever shifted downwards as well, and from behind us, I heard the sound of grating metal and stone! Turning to face the sound, I watched as the iron gate parted and retreated into the ceiling, floor and wall compartments.

"Well, that was easy..."

UOPETA came over and joined us, just as the last piece of the gate clunked into place.

"Onwards..."

With blowpipes are the ready again, we all made our way cautiously down the stairs, where we were confronted by another short chamber and another set of stairs. Only this time, there was no obstacle. What met us was completely unpredictable... We all stood and stared in astonishment at what lay before us... How could this be? Was this the product of Amie's portal replication research? They had mass produced loads of portals and stored them underground, activating each one to greatly further their goal! What were we to do now...?

Syeonyx signing off

Thorough investigation

     We continued back along the passage we had come down, following the torches back to the starting point. Up ahead, we could see a small amount of light filtering down from the hole we had descended into, along with a constant trickle of rain. To our left was the other fork going off down in a separate direction. The glowing stone had intensified since leaving the other portal chamber, and as we turned to go down the next fork, it grew brighter and brighter.

"Odd... The Solus stone never shone this bright..."

"Maybe it has something to do with the oxidised surface. The Solus stone was yellow with small specks of brown and black on it. This is a more even distribution of yellows and oranges. It hasn't been exposed to the atmosphere as long as the Solus stone had been. Maybe it affects its efficiency."

"Just as well we're using this one then. It might help to find the other portals more easily if it shines brighter."

THEROS put the stone away so he could equip himself and UOPETA with torches. Luckily, the passage ahead was more or less a straight run; unlike the other, there were no deviations in the path, or further choices that had to be explored to determine the direction of the next portal. The passage just continued along. After awhile, we came to a slight turn to the left, and around a small section of wall, we could hear water. Lighting another torch, THEROS edged forward to throw light around the area ahead of us.

"Either... It's a leak, or there's a spring nearby..."

A small flow of water had burst through a wall, causing water to pool in a small dip in the ground. Luckily there was a small lip around the right-hand side allowing us to get past without having to get our feet wet. Not that it mattered much when we were likely to be swimming soon!

Negotiating around it, we continued onwards, following the path of the tunnel. Despite the total lack of any life down here, we were all still clutching our blowpipes, ever ready. The passage continued on for some distance, eventually ending in what we thought was another fork. After navigating around the area however, we determined that both paths led to the same passage. Despite this, it wasn't necessarily a good thing; we could easily be ambushed from any direction, and we would have very little in terms of alternatives to go towards. Every now and again, we would stop, and THEROS would retrieve the stone from his bag and examine it; each time it would be that little bit brighter.

"It's definitely down this way, just a little longer..."

Sure enough, after a few more minutes of cautious advancing, the passage began to narrow, and at the far end, embedded into the wall was a portal. From what I could make out, it was only a standard portal, but it was active, and therefore posed a threat. THEROS took the stone and placed it onto the portal and stepped back. We were doing very well; three sites down and five portals destroyed. Lady luck was smiling down on us today!

     Following the passage back to the surface, we climbed out using the sandstone stairs, and back onto the beach area. It was still raining - typical! - and to make matters worse, it was beginning to grow darker. We were running out of daylight and we had lots of ground to cover. Admittedly we would have more protection during the night as we would be harder to see, but so would any possible threats. UOPETA would have his work cut out for him! Let's just hope that the journey to the next location was as uneventful as all of the others so far. Then all we needed to do was see if my boat was still there where I had left it, although I had my doubts. We followed the coastline all the way back along the South East. Luckily, most of the locations we had visited so far were either in or around noticeable areas. Even on the maps, it was obvious how to spot the location in reality. The first had been situated next to a lava pit, something very rare, the previous one had been situated at one end of an island crossing,a and the last one had also been on the end of an island, on the only beach area with sand! The next one was no different; it was located at the far South Easterly tip of the island, also on a beach area. And the great thing about it was that a short journey West, and we would be at the placed I left my boat. From there, it was simply a case of rowing to the far South East and stopping on, near or above the next location. It was more or less dead centre of the body of water as well, so that might make it easier. We would be on the lookout for an island anyway, as I really can't see how it could be underwater. How else would HoN Co. have found it?

----

     The rain had finally stopped, but the cloud cover had remained, making it hard to judge the position of the sun. It was beginning to get darker however by the time we reached the beach on the far side of the island. This particular portal was much easier to find; unlike the others, it was positioned more or less on the surface, partially buried in sand. And yet it was still active. Climbing down into the small hole it was situated in, I helped UOPETA and THEROS dig out most of the sand around it before the stone could be used.

After THEROS placed the stone onto the portal, I climbed out of the hole and joined UOPETA, who was currently scouting out the area around us with the telescope.

"Where is this boat of yours then? Close by?"

It was. A short walk to the West along this beach should put us in the line of sight of it, so if we ran out of beach before finding it, it was likely to have been taken or destroyed by HoN Co.. Looking down into the hole, the process had begun; the rift was sucking in chunks of the frame as large as my fist, with the ease of a vacuum cleaner sucking up dust! I had to admit, I was a little worried about the stone again. It hadn't occurred to me until after the first portal was destroyed, but I remembered what THEROS had told me in that letter months ago. "Everything of the Nether is sucked into the rift"... I thought that, with the stone being part of the Nether, it too would be sucked into the rift along with the obsidian frame. But it was still here... Maybe as it was the catalyst for the reaction, it couldn't be destroyed by the same means... I don't know. OROTHO probably had a better understanding as to why that was, and even if he didn't, Amie would. THEROS climbed out of the hole and UOPETA put the telescope away. Pausing to put the stone away, THEROS quickly joined us as we made our way to the West, hopefully to find my boat... I was dreading to see what state it was in... If it was even there!

Syeonyx signing off

Lucky streak!

     It did work after all! We were all so relieved that the dangerous expedition into the Nether hadn't been a total waste of time after all. COLUS and the others would be happy about it too, allowing them to concentrate on the new tunnel idea more easily. THEROS took a torch out from his bag and lit it; the torches that had been affixed to the portal had dropped to the floor when the frame collapsed, and extinguished themselves. The new light source threw shadows around the room that danced and bobbed along the walls, as the flame flickered. We remained within the chamber for some time, waiting for the stone to become visible again; I want to keep calling it the 'Solus stone' as we usually did, but knowing what 'Solus' actually meant, and watching the demise of the first Solus stone myself, calling it the same thing didn't really fit. Not to mention it seemed bad luck, and we didn't need any of that! After some time, a small yellowy light began to appear where the portal had once stood, much like the original stone had done, and UOPETA bent down to pick it up.

"Well the. One down, four to go. It's going to be a breeze now we know this thing is working. Come on, we've still a way to go yet."

We followed UOPETA out of the room, back up the way we had come; THEROS extinguished the torch and put it back in his bag, partly because the flow of lava close to the entrance generated enough light to see by anyway, and that it was still raining outside! It had begun to fall heavier once more, and we decided to head straight off to the next area. It meant heading back the way we had come slightly, and going over an island crossing to the far South Easterly side of it. It was no more than an hours trek over to it, but with it raining, and with the sun already high in the sky, we would have to hurry. We needed to get to the boat before nightfall, but that was pushing it. let's hope we didn't run into any unexpected circumstances...

     The journey to the next location was just under an hour, as stated, but it would have been quicker if it were not for the rain impeding our progress. It was about mid afternoon by the time we found the right location, but then again, it wasn't exactly difficult, even with the rain! We approached the far side of the island; the tree cover had eased off considerably, and only a few stragglers were dotted around, casting shadows and protection beneath them. As we got closer to the end of the island, we all became aware of a strange hole in the ground. Well, it started off as a hole, but as we got closer, the hole seemed to widen, until it was literally a decent sized chasm! It wasn't massive in terms of of what you'd expect, maybe I'm just over-exaggerating, but it was larger than we had seen before. Looking into the hole, we could see that there were two small areas; one led to the left underneath and overhang, and symmetrically, another did the same on the opposite side. Shifting our perspective slightly, we were able to see down one end of the overhangs, and squinting slightly, we were able to make out the cause of us being there.

After carefully negotiating our way down to the bottom, THEROS took out the new fragment of glowing stone and placed it on the lip of the portal, before stepping back. We waiting for a few seconds to allow the connection to be made, and then the reaction began. I was still captivated by the entire process that occurred; the strange colours, the apparent warping of space, and the easily destroyed obsidian, one of the hardest substances known to man, crumbled like a biscuit! UOPETA on the other hand was preoccupied keeping us safe; he was searching the area around us, making sure it wasn't a trap, and that we weren't set upon, but instead he found something else.

"Syeonyx, come look at this. THEROS, stay there. Don't let the stone out of your sight!"

I went over to UOPETA's voice and looked rounded the corner, to see him standing there, pointing behind him.

"There..."

Behind him, in the symmetrical alcove on the opposite side of the other one was another portal! Only a standard portal, but it was active! This site contained two portals! This was brilliant! We were making excellent headway, and yet merely but a few short days ago, we were worrying ourselves to the bone thinking that the war against HoN Co. had suddenly become very one sided! Now we had found a third portal, and we had a working stone to destroy it, and so far, we hadn't fallen into any traps or been attacked yet. Then again, that was a very optimistic "yet", and I felt like we had been jinxed enough as it was.

After the stone had destroyed the first portal and had become visible again, it instantly began to glow like it had before. THEROS placed it once again on the edge of the frame, and we waited just under the overhang so as to not get wet, waiting for the frame to crumble and the rift to warp. Moments later, there was a portal-shaped hole in the wall and a translucent yellow stone on the floor. Picking it up, I handed it to THEROS and we turned to leave the hole. Two locations down, three portals destroyed, at least three more to go. We were on a roll!

     We headed more or less back the way we came, except on the Westerly side of the island instead. From where we had been, it was a short swim across to the one we were approaching now, and in some cases, it would have just been simpler to do it that way around. But with it already raining, we didn't want to get any more wet than was necessary. We headed along the coast of the Western island, where the trees had become more numerous, providing us with some shelter from the rain, and from any prying eyes. It was actually quite fortuitous as it was exactly the same for the whole length of the coastline, right down to the end! It also made the actual site easier to spot; the next location was on a small beach area right at the far end of the island crossing. We expected to see a portal looming out from the rain and mist as we approached, like we had seen so many times in sandy areas, but instead, there was only a small sand dune. Was it here? Or was there another hole... I received my answer moments later when I nearly fell into it! Cautiously stepping around the loose sand, I found the entrance; a small sandstone stairway led down beneath the sand dune, and to the right, similarly to the first site we had found. Only this time, there was no lava to contend with. UOPETA went first, stepping down the first steps, blowpipe at the ready.

"It seems clear... Don't take any chances though; shoot first, ask questions later... Otherwise there might not be a later!"

We continued behind him, following the path. After awhile, THEROS had to take out a torch and pass it to UOPETA who placed it in a small notch in the wall. Up ahead, in the dimness of the small cave we had found, we spotted something that was a little disorientating. THEROS lit another torch to shed some light on the matter, and affixed it to the wall just ahead of us. Exactly as I had thought. The path split into two directions, left or right.We couldn't see the end of either tunnel from where we were so it was a little worrying about what else lurked down there in the shadows.

"I would normally suggest splitting up, but under the circumstances, it would be better to stay together. Let's start with the left fork and hope we get lucky."

Lighting another torch, UOPETA moved to the path of the left fork and we followed close behind, remaining within the light that was thrown around the small cavern.

     As we continued, the pathway became narrower and narrower; each direction seemed to shrink as though the walls and ceiling were closing in! By the end of the tunnel, it was only just tall enough to stand in with our heads brushing the ceiling! THEROS and UOPETA had placed a series of torches along the walls on the way out. It was very dark the further we had explored, and the last thing we wanted to do was lose our way. We rounded another corner, and the tunnel continued back on itself going back the way it came, only at the end of this tunnel, we could see the portal! As we approached, the ever familiar mossy walls came into view, and the large, secondary portal grew in size. Soon, the trickle of water was audible, and once we were within the chamber, we were able to see the cause; two small waterfalls ran down the sides of each wall of the entrance side, with channels leading towards the portal which then ran perpendicular, into the side walls... Where the water came from and where it went was a mystery, but it was of no importance. Provided there were no concealed passages or chambers behind them... Once we knew the room was clear, THEROS approached the portal and palced the stone atop it and backed off. It was odd... Each chamber seemed to be more and more well adorned with features that seemed impossible to be natural. No way would two channels of water form perfectly symmetrical on either side of the entrance. These chambers had been designed and created... By the HoN Co. guards maybe...? Or by someone else... It didn't matter. We were here for one reason, and that reason was nearly destroyed.

As the remains of the portal vanished and the rift shrank, the light in the room vanished, and we were once again plunged into darkness... Waiting a few moments longer, we remained in the chamber until the stone became visible once more, and THEROS scooped it up. We turned to go back the way we came, but after a few steps, THEROS stopped us.

"Erm... guys? It's still glowing..."

Turning around, we saw that in his hand, the stone glowed a strong yellow, which seemed to continue growing in intensity.

"It seems like there's still another portal close by. Looks like we're going down the right fork after all..."

Syeonyx signing off

Day 111: Lucky break

     After everyone awoke from their slumber, we met in the discussion room to plan out the procedure for the day. Me, UOPETA and THEROS know that we're going to heading off to test the new stone, but I've decided it would be best to bring my diamond pickaxe along. Even if we find an inactive portal, there's no point in just leaving it. COLUS has accepted that getting to the last portal may prove troublesome. There is always the option of building a boat, but that would be incredibly time consuming. Then I remembered the boat I built! It had been a long time, and last time checked it was still under HoN Co. control, but I doubt it would have been moved! It was worth a shot, and it was practically on the way to the last portal site. I put the idea forward to COLUS and he seemed okay with the idea.

"You three will go out and destroy any and all portals that you find. I'll let you settle on how to to tackle the last portal site. You may need to acquire water transport, so, for times' sake, it may be worth looking for Syeonyx's old boat. If it's there, I would take it, but if it's not, at least it's not much time taken from the operation. Once all of the of the portals are destroyed, return here and we may have gained some progress with the tunnel. Once you have returned, you will go out to the tower, check on your progress and return again, hopefully with any materials you need. Depending on the situation, you may be drafted in to help us with the tunnel."

He went on to explain about the roles everyone else will be playing: OROTHO, himself and Amie will be planning out the entire operation. Calculating the direction, distance and orientation, whilst AMPHIS and THEXIS do what they would usually do, however they may be called in to begin the construction of the tunnel. That's if they get that far whilst we're gone. After we left, THEROS picked up the map from the library and we all went back to the lab to pick up the stone. The huge chunk with a hole in it now lay on the ground close to the glass wall of the Creeper chamber. As expected, the Creepers were hissing and spitting, cowering in the far corner. It got me thinking: how come the Creeper that had come through the portal wasn't scared of the stone? Maybe it couldn't detect it from the Nether-side of the portal... Maybe the proximity to the stone when it passed through was the reason it exploded in the first place... It didn't matter now; what's done is done, it can't be changed. We headed out towards the exit, hoping that the light would be low enough for us to remain undetected to any stragglers.

     From the base, we made our way to the east to the coast, and then followed it North East all the way to the portal location on the map. The journey was very long and arduous. We had the benefit of the light rising on our side, as well as the time. We would easily make it to the first portal before the end of the day, but from then on, it became more difficult. We would have to backtrack to a small island crossing, head South East to the far end of the crossing, then backtrack once more and head North West to the location on the far Northern side of the island. After that, it will be another long journey to the South East to the Southern end of the island. From there we can either head to the West to search for the boat that HoN Co. seized, or try and swim it once we get to the main body of water. Either way, when we get there, we may be going diving anywhere.

"Why did you leave the boat there? It's a valuable tools, especially in this type of terrain."

THEROS snapped me from my daydream. I explained that I didn't really have much of a choice; after returning from destroying a portal, I found a guard close to the boat and was forced to leave it behind before continuing back to my house. I think it was large enough to carry us all, but it had been awhile, and that was based on it still being there. After that small exchange, we were silent the rest of the way there. The journey was taking ages; the journey to the conducting tower from the base took long enough. The distance between the base and this portal was nearly twice as long! After just past the half way point, it began raining quite heavily, so getting wet was no longer an issue. The rain persisted all the way there! As we got close to the area, our surroundings become more arid, and the rain began to ease off. Up ahead, we could see the existence of a huge heat source; as the rain fell, small poofs of smoke would rise back into the air, and the area surrounding it was slightly lighter than the other areas. As we got closer, there was a definite change to the temperature of the surrounding air, and the rain seemed to almost cease entirely, aside from the occasional drop or two. Here it was. The lava pit on the map, and a large hole besides it... Odd... I don't remember seeing that hole there before when I last came across this pit...

     The hole that stood beside the lava pit was a danger for two reasons: 1. we didn't know if there were any guards, Creepers or undead down there, including any Affinitas cages, and 2.the pit of lava seemed to be directly positioned above the stairway that led down from the hole. We would have to be careful on approach, and to be extra careful, we were all ready with the blowpipes! We entered the hole one by one, and we were able to see a light source up ahead. Unlike the portals, it wasn't casting a usual purple light around. Instead it was bright yellow... Like a torch. Was there someone down here already? Carefully edging around the corner, we soon realised that the light source was due to a dangerously close lava flow heading down. The main pathway continued to curve around to the right, and we followed it to the end, where the familiar mossy cobblestone walls became visible. The moss extended along each surface of the wall, ceiling and floor, with oddly symmetrical waterfalls either side of it.

"Bingo!"

UOPETA stepped aside, and the before us was a secondary portal; lit up with torches and casting its own purple light around the chamber. THEROS slowly removed the new stone from the bag and held it in the palm of his hand.

"What happens if this doesn't work? What do we do then?"

"Nothing we can do. We'll just have to leave this on here... We don't have any other choice... Pass it here..."

THEROS hesitated for a moment, and then reached out and placed the stone into UOPETA's outstretched hand. UOPETA walked forward slowly and carefully, holding the stone a little way in front of him. Once he was within range, he placed the stone on the base of the portal, and cautiously stepped back.

"Fingers crossed everybody... Fingers crossed..."

We all stood in a line, watching it in the hope that it would begin to crumble. The wait was agonising; the silence was so deep that I couldn't even hear anyone breathing! Then, a few seconds after UOPETA had backed up towards us, the stone began to dim in colour until it disappeared, and the purple rift of the portal warped to the welcoming shade of sickly green. It was working! We watched in awe as the portal was ripped to shreds by the immense power shifts that were taking place, until the entire obsidian frame disappeared, and the rift slowly shrank into itself, plunging us all into darkness... There was silence for some time... No-one moved, or spoke...Then...

"Mission success!"

Syeonyx signing off

Concealed plans

     There's good news and bad news... The good news is that a few hours ago, THEXIS informed us that the guards' radio traffic had increased, and the impression he got was that there were returning to the tower. That meant they would be passing by the base within the next hour or so. But that partially led onto the bad news. As they had taken so long in deciding to return, we had to remain within the base until they had passed to prevent them finding out about where we were based. As we now know where the next secondary portal locations are based, we can't get to any of them before nightfall! AMPHIS and THEROS finished with the map, and they are spread out much further. The closest one to us in terms of time is way to the North West near to a pool of lava. All of the others are far spread across the land mass to the West of us. We wouldn't be able to get to any of them before nightfall, and there's no point starting now... Apparently. COLUS has said that waiting an extra day isn't going to kill us, so we're all in the lab at the moment, discussing the possibility of a tunnel connecting the base to the portal.

"It is possible. I believe the base to be on a similar level to the portal chamber, albeit a change of a few metres higher or lower. What is best is to us a spare map to plot the most logical path to create the tunnel, base on which direction we begin it from. If we can establish that, then we can create a strict set of instructions, and have another team digging from the chamber to us. It would be faster, but error prone. It would take some calculating, but I'm sure it's possible."

Amie nodded, showing her approval of the idea, and we all knew that the more attention we brought to ourselves, the more likely we were going to need a place to retreat to. What better place than the Nether! Well, that didn't sound quite right; technically it was the worst place to fall back to, but strategically, it worked to our advantage. We would run on a faster time stream, so we could achieve more in essentially the same space of time. We would have to seal the entire place off when not in use, as technically it would class as a security breach otherwise. I left the brainiacs to sort out the complicated bits of the tunnel, and went in search of THEROS and AMPHIS. There was something on the map that had thoroughly confused me...

     I thought so... I couldn't believe it at first, but examining the copies of the maps laid out before me, I could only conclude one thing.

"We don't quite get it either. It seems illogical, but the report seems to mention this site as quite recent. It's likely then that the location may have been risen, otherwise... Well, you're going swimming!"

He wasn't joking! Earlier when looking at the revised map, I had found a secondary portal location placed way off to the South in the middle of a huge body of water! At first I thought it was either a mistake, or that the location was bigger than the small island it might be found on, but after asking AMPHIS to see a blank version of the same map, I found out that my initial thought was true. How were we going to get to that? Even if it was a newly erected synthetic island, we would need boats at the least to get to the thing!

"Well the report doesn't mention anything about there being an island there before, nor was there any mention of one being erected to allow easy access to the existing portal. Either it wasn't included... Or you may be going deep underwater..."

Great(!) Swimming and going underwater. I hated diving... I had always had trouble trying to keep my body underwater during my swimming lessons as a child. I hated them! I hadn't tried since, but I doubted in that time my body had found a way to overcome it's own buoyancy at the drop of a hat!

     I went back to the lab to see how the others were doing; OROTHO seemed enthusiastic about this tunnel to the portal, and making some headway would be great! When I arrived there, there was random hole in the wall where there used to be stone slabs... What was going on? Had they already begun bashing through walls to construct it already? COLUS saw the look on my face and began to explain:

"This is just a door system OROTHO has been working on that creates a seamless effect. Almost as though the wall is normal! Give him a demonstration!"

OROTHO walked over to the wall close to the open hole, flicked a switch, and a chunk of the wall slide back out from a hidden compartment, and then forwards, creating a perfectly smooth wall. There was no hint as to a door being there, and it reminded me of the door system they had built at the tower!

"Very efficient use of space and resources! We're hoping to begin the shaft through here. OROTHO's been dying to make a use of this door system in such a long time, and now we have a use for it. We're just planning the directions and depths first before attempting anything, but we're all very enthusiastic about it!"

The concealed entrance was a brilliant idea! If anyone did gain entry into the base, then we could slip out through the wall, close it behind us and hide out in the Nether, or at least the portal chamber. If such a scenario ever did play out, COLUS was quite willing to destroy the entire base by detonating the TNT placed everywhere around us. COLUS reckons by the time we come back from destroying these next portals, they should have everything planned out, and then this may take top priority. It makes sense; no point continuing to destroy portals, drawing attention to yourself if you've no fall back plan. I'm excited to see what they draw up whilst we're away. We'll have to wait until tomorrow before setting off though...

Syeonyx signing off

"Fitting Amie's description..."

     This was bad! Very bad indeed! We hadn't spotted any guards on the way to the tower, but that doesn't mean they didn't spot us! All they'd need to do now is to wait until we returned and they would have us! However, they weren't necessarily looking for us; UOPETA says the file states a sighting of Amie. The description given definitely matches Amie's appearance. She was seen alone, close to a cliff wall... Well she was definitely near a cliff wall at some point; the journey between the portal and the base requires us to navigate around one. As for being on her own, well she did hang around at the back of the group, both going to the portal to retrieve the glowing stone from the Nether, and on the way back. Then I remembered the time lapse between Minecraftia and the Nether. The time on the report states that she was seen on the morning we entered the portal, so they have spent more or less a day looking for her. It's a little more comforting to know that we still somehow managed to avoid them despite being burdened with the huge chunk of glowing stone. But the fact that there were no guards here meant they were either on their way back, or still searching. We had to leave now!

"Syeonyx is right; we spent the equivalent of just over a day and a half in the Nether. That would be enough time to assemble more guards and begin a search, especially in the Minecraftia time frame equivalent. The guards are likely to be finishing up at some point. We need to move, now!"

With the two reports in our possession, we left the tower in the direction of the base. UOPETA was extra cautious on the way back to ensure we didn't run into any HoN Co. guards that might be making their way back to the tower. The time we had spent in the tower itself, and the time taken to return from it back to the base had exceeded all previous records! We really needed to get back to base to try and warn the others. For all we knew, they could be dead, or cornered! We couldn't take the chance of assuming that the guards didn't know about the base, so we had to be quick!

     We've got back to the base in a very quick time; UOPETA spent a long time surveying the surrounding area for any guards that might be hiding posted around it. If they had spotted Amie close to the location of the portal we had used, they could surely track her back to this base! After eventually being happy with the lack of guards around, we made our way down into the base, locking the hatch and lowering the walkway as we went. UOPETA practically ran across with the walkway that spanned the lava channel, and we had a hard time keeping up. He began to slow down though when he saw that everyone was already assembled in the discussion room.

"Ah, good! You're all here. I've got some bad news... They've..."

"The HoN Co. guards have spotted a figure fitting Amie's description? We know. THEXIS intercepted some comms traffic that he was able to determine originated close to our base. It seems someone saw Amie and reported it in."

"Are they here? Do they know about the base?"

COLUS shook his head and went on to explain that the radio traffic had stated that a figure fitting her description had been seen close to a portal site. Backup was called in, and guards were sent in from the tower to investigate. As far as they know, the guards are unaware of the portal location close to our base, so they are likely to be searching a much wider area than we had initially anticipated.

"We can't be sure of where they are now, but it sounds like they are close to calling off the search. They haven't broadcast anything on any channel that THEXIS can detect about them finding a portal or anything hinting at the presence of our base. It means though that we're not able to move anywhere until we know where they are, and whether you can get past them to begin your operations again."

So, once again, we were confined to the base until THEXIS could tell us where the guards were, and where they were heading. It was a little irritating, but if the HoN Co. guards had found the base, it would have made the current situation a lot more difficult!

"Whilst you're waiting, come and see what we've done to the glowing stone."

----

     Despite the previous state of the stone, they had managed to do a good job! The original chunk was nearly a metre in length, and half as deep, and they had chiselled chunks away to get to the centre. OROTHO has said that the stone within the centre is least likely to break or shatter upon extraction, and will likely contain the most energy. I don't quite see his logic in that, but I trust him enough now to just smile and nod, and know everything will probably be alright.

"We're hoping that this chunk we managed to extract is enough to destroy a portal. The outside of the stone is useless; OROTHO determined that the odd discolouration is due to oxidation of the original stone surface. So to get to the stuff that works, we need to dig into it. We can get more from the centre as we need it, if such an event arises when we do, but until then it remains in one piece to prevent further oxidation."

COLUS held out his hand to THEROS, and he took the glowing stone that was positioned in the centre of his palm. It was remarkable! The stone was practically the same as the original Solus stone! The colour, the basic shape, and the odd yellow glow it would give off. It looked like it was up to the job, but we would have to wait a few hours to find out. THEXIS hadn't come through with any news about the guards coming back from patrol yet, but it wasn't likely to be too long. They had had plenty of time to search for her, and even they must have logically assumed she cannot have gotten too far from where they had last seen her. Maybe they would assume she saw them and fled. It's a logical assumption, one I would have made. I suppose it doesn't matter. I need to keep my mind on the ball and wait whilst THEXIS brings us news. At least THEROS is happy; he's able to plot the coordinates on the map. We should be ready to go in a few hours, and test this stone!

Syeonyx signing off

Day 110: Missing pieces

     We woke up quite early today. Not as early as usual, but considering the amount of work we've all done over the last day or two, not nearly as much as you'd expect. We all met in the discussion room so we could plan out the day's events. Me, UOPETA and THEROS knew what we were going to be doing, but the others didn't. Amie filled us in on the automated system within the tower that we had already used, and how to make it search for specific criteria.

"It goes on the basis of keywords and string data. You put in a search string, and it generates a list of reports for you to find. Along with the search string you used, a list of other search terms will be listed beneath each stated file from the initial string. This is helpful if you can't remember a specific search term. Search for key terms such as 'portal', 'locations' and anything else that you would expect to be found within a report documenting the locations of them. If you do try to look for secondary portals, use the term 'Class B portal'. Primary portals are 'Class A portals' so make sure you're specific."

She also told us how to activate the opening door for the library, and how to get back out once it was closed. It was surprisingly simple, but I wouldn't say that out loud for fear of jinxing it. After she had finished filling us in, COLUS outlined the plan, which from the sounds of things was similar to our current operations before our little expedition to the Nether.

"Once you identify any piece of data indicating portal locations, come straight back to the base. You'll likely need THEROS to interpret the map coordinates for you, and we're hoping to have a chunk of the glowing stone available to use. If we're lucky, we can try to chip off multiple stones so you can split up if you feel it is necessary. It's up to you, but it's worth considering."

Once everyone was happy with what they were doing, THEROS handed AMPHIS the map and we headed out to the tower. As it was a shortish journey, we were travelling light; no pickaxes or bows, and no bags. Well, there was no real need for one now; AMPHIS had the map and we had lost the Solus stone. Still, we could start anew, and hopefully be back on track in no time.

     The hike to the tower was uneventful as usual; we had expected to see HoN Co. guards or Creepers, mainly due to the lack of them we had seen recently. But we saw nothing, no-one. Well a few cows made their presence known, but unless they begin hissing at me and exploding at the drop of a hat, I've got nothing to worry about. We approached the Northern side of the tower, thinking it a little odd that no guards could be seen from any of the sides we had skimmed past. Usually there's at least one guard wandering around the perimeter, with one or two posted on the entrance. As we got to the Northern side though, we were faced with an oddly confusing, but instantly suspicious sight. No-one was posted on the entrance at all. In fact, security was so lax it seems, that the door was wide open! The portion of the wall that is usually locked into placed was missing, exposing the entrance into the base of the tower. Using the telescope though, we were able to determine that there was no-one near the entrance on the inside either. Where were all the guards?

"Where are they? It's not like them to leave unexpectedly and leave the front door wide open!"

"I know... I don't feel safe with this one... There's only one way of finding out, but we can't all risk going in there... Right, me and Syeonyx will approach the entrance and go through into the tower. If the door slides shut behind us, head back to the base and inform the others. If we come out and nothing's happened, no trap doors or approaching guards etc., head to the entrance and join us. Got it? Good. Syeonyx, let's go."

UOPETA put the telescope away and we slowly made our way down to the base of the tower. Whilst walking, I had this horrid image of being attacked from above, and instinctively looked up at the main tower itself. I couldn't see anyone or anything hiding from where I was; just the gleaming metal of the tower frame and the strange claw-like appendage sticking out from the top, grasping the sky. We got to the entrance and stopped. I took out my blowpipe, and UOPETA followed suit. He headed in first, with me close behind. After a very quick but thorough search, we determined that no-one was situated within the base of the tower. And with the door still being open, it was either a very slow-to-activate trap, or it wasn't one at all. UOPETA moved outside and motioned with his hand before coming back in. Within a few moments, we were all back together, standing beneath the mighty structure.

"Right. It appears that there is nothing set up for us on this level. So we're going to have to be doubly careful on the way down. Watch out for any places the guards could hide, and try not to leave any side unchecked. We can't slip up now that we're in their domain. If something happens, we're trapped. Hopefully they've just gone on patrol somewhere, so we need to make the best of this time."

We all nodded and began to head down into the main master portal chamber. We were going to need to have all senses tuned to hypersensitivity to ensure we didn't make any silly slip-up.

     We made it into the main chamber without meeting or finding any HoN Co. guards or employees... What was going on? The whole place was deserted, and for no obvious reasons... It looked like they had just upped and left! Well needless to say we didn't let the time we had go to waste. Within moments of securing the lower chamber, we activated and entered the portal data room, still in awe about the vastness of this place in terms of space and knowledge! We made our way down to the bottom of the stairs where the automated system was located and instantly started thinking of search strings to use to help us locate the information we needed. I typed in a string of words including 'portal' and 'class', hoping it would pick something up. It returned a series of report titles, some of which were baffling, and some of which seemed of little help at all. I deleted the entries, and tried again with a new set. The search came back with dozens of redundant files, but a few caught my eye, and I sent the automated system to retrieve them for me.

A few minutes later, the machine came back with the flat delivery platform stacked with a few reports and folders. I took them over to a table and UOPETA took over, hoping to narrow down the search. After flicking through each page of each folder, I found nothing that hinted at what we were looking for. We needed images, coordinates, notes. Anything that hinted at possible locations HoN Co. had found. If we couldn't find anything here, we may need to search for replicated portal locations instead. It was much slower, but it was the best we could work with.

"Erm... Guys? I think I found something... It seems to show coordinates..."

Me and UOPETA went over to THEROS who had been leafing through a report and had stopped on one particular page. Looking over his shoulder, I could see a whole series of coordinates and important footnotes applied to them. It looked very similar to the reports we had found before, where the coordinates had pointed to.

"Yes. I think that's them. Come on, take it and let's go. We've already outstayed our welcome."

We reset the automated system and headed for the door, activating the exit sequence to let ourselves out. Once we were at the top of the stairs, we made a beeline for the door, but UOPETA was distracted by something on a desk. We turned to see him leafing through the report, with a worried look on his face.

"UOPETA? What's the matter...?"

"I think I know where the guards are... A patrol said they saw a figure fitting Amie's description and called the others to search... They're searching the surrounding area... They're searching around our base for Amie!"

Syeonyx signing off