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

Day 158: Heading to HoN Co. HQ

     We were woken up early this morning by OROTHO who was doing it on behalf of COLUS, who was also already awake and preparing the bags and other things we would need. Once we had a quick but energy-rich breakfast, we packed a few more supplies into a separate bag and brought it with us into the discussion room. Everyone else was already there, busying themselves with some form of work or another; it was odd. With all of the bags littered around, and with it being early in the morning - still pitch black I reckoned - it almost felt as though we were getting ready to go to the airport to g on holiday. That couldn't be further from the truth though... Once everyone was assembled, COLUS stood on the table so that everyone could hear and see him.

"Today we set off towards the headquarters of HoN Co. to deliver the initial blow to them that will wound them severely. By taking the two Eyes of Ender that they possess, they will have no way to stop us front entering the portal to The End and taking the Keystone. Once they know of our intentions, it is likely they will attempt to stop us. We must be as quick and efficient as possible; there is no room for error or mistakes. We must act with precision and take the Eyes from them. We will not be returning to this base, instead we will be going through to the cliff mine to get to the portal. This is if we have the option of doing so, and that HoN Co. aren't blocking our path. If they are, we will have to find an alternative way around. Once we reach the portal, we are to activate it, head into The End and take the Keystone from the Endermen and aid them by destroying the master portal. We will need to act as one to succeed at every stage with this plan, and we cannot falter in any way!"

He stepped down from the table and motioned for us to follow him to the lab. Hulking the rifle over my shoulder to rest against the diamond pickaxe I also had, I carried two of the bags out whilst trying to herd Chiron towards the exit. He seemed a lot more docile and quiet than usual, and I got the impression he knew something was going on. After everyone had left the discussion room, I took one last look around before turning my back on the base, probably for the last time...

     We reached the final security door at the end of the tunnel that would lead out just to the South of the conducting tower, and we would have to be quick and silent about emerging. The light alone might be enough to be seen, but we were hoping on the dense tree coverage to mask our presence. Flicking the lever, COLUS went out first, looked around a few times before motioning for us to follow. It was still pitch black outside, just like I had predicted, and the large tower stood illuminated in the distance off to the North. COLUS silently motioned for us to continue West whilst he remained behind to knock the torches out from the tunnel. If we were lucky they wouldn't find the tunnel until after we had returned, allowing us to use the base a through-method to get into the cliff mine. We would be coming back this way anyway. Amie had relieved me of one of the bags I was carrying allowing me to utilise the rifle, which I now held with both hands, cocked and ready to fire. COLUS was also ready with his, but UOPETA and OROTHO were busy carrying more supplies that we would need on the way. I was beginning to wonder if we had come with too much stuff, but we would definitely not make it to the HQ before sundown. According to COLUS and THEROS, the journey alone would take a few days, and even then we would have to find a way across to the remote island. Not an easy thing to do when the area was likely to be swarming with HoN Co. guards and other employees... The next few days would definitely be eventful.

     We had now been travelling long enough for the sun to peak over the horizon, casting long shadows pointing Westwards in the direction we were travelling. We hadn't met any resistance at all since leaving the base, and had thankfully been able to travel unfaltering for the entire time. Now it was getting brighter though we would have to keep a lookout more closely. As the light from the sun illuminated the area around us, it enabled COLUS to scout the area ahead using the scope on the rifle. The rifles had proved more useful than initially suspected, but we had yet to test them in a real-life uncontrollable environment. We didn't know the effect the elements would have on them, although judging from the results of the test firing, we wouldn't have much trouble shooting straight at a decent distance away.
We've been going now for long enough to make pretty impressive progress, despite the initial lack of light and the fact that we were all weighed down slightly. I was also impressed by how well Chiron was obeying my commands. He didn't seem overly excited at all, and was quite happy to trot alongside me. Hermes was also being incredibly obedient, although I think that was because he was older than Chiron and was used t the rules... We settled in for a quick break once the sun had rose to about the equivalent of its own height into the sky. Luckily we were heading West so we weren't blinded or restricted during sunrise. As we sat around taking small amounts of supplies to keep ourselves going throughout the day, I could see that everyone had their game faces one. No-one was laughing or joking or even smiling... This was no longer a joke: lives were at stake... Our lives.

"Try to eat as much high protein and carbohydrate supplies as you think is required. Son we'll be heading into a larger snowy area and we'll likely be there the night... We'll need those tents set up unless we can find a cave to settle down in. Either way, don't get comfortable tonight..."

Once we were finished with the break, we continued heading West, following the layout of the terrain that was easiest to cross. The sun climbed ever higher into the sky, until it began to overtake us into the West. Over the next few days, we would have a marvellous view!

Syeonyx signing off

Day 157: The Plan

     Fortunately I woke up feeling a lot happier and more confident this morning, in stark contrast to how I went to bed last night. I felt like I was ready to give in, but this morning I felt imbued with a new sense determination! We were going to be successful in retrieving the two Ender Eyes that HoN Co. had managed to take before us! We would successful avoid death or capture and make it to the portal with all five Ender Eyes! We would be successful in taking the Keystone and using it against the master portal! We would be successful in bringing the entirety of HoN Co. to its knees! After thinking that though, a small part of me tried to resurrect the "why" question, but I quickly stamped it down and maintained an upbeat attitude. We had a lot to sort out still until we were ready to leave, and we had a day to do it in. Luckily SERVERE didn't just come armed with bad news yesterday; he brought expansion modules for the PDA's that allowed them to capture images through optical lens and send them to neighbouring PDA's at will. That would prove very useful when we had to split up as it might save us from running into guard patrols that we hadn't previously known about. Unfortunately SERVERE was unable to gain access to any guard patrol route documents or rosters, so we would have to deal with them with no intel. It wasn't like we hadn't done it before, only just not on this scale... I had woken before Amie again today, but I stayed in bed with her until she awoke. Once we were both up, we went to wake the others, all of which were still asleep apart from OROTHO and COLUS, but we could have predicted that anyway...

----


     Once everyone was up, we had a quick talk with everyone assembled in the discussion room before diverging off and preparing our allocated requirements. Me and Amie had become sidelined a little by the rifles and left our duties to determine the possible threats that we were likely to encounter. But thankfully SERVERE was able to confirm or deny the ones we had listed and add a few of his own. We knew that biometrics were unlikely to be an issue unless we had a need to head into one of the cell labs. CCTV was likely to be our biggest threat as with guards walking around, as well as scientists and other civilians, it wouldn't make sense to have motion sensors or infra-red. With the threat assessment made and finished, we joined OROTHO in the lab once more, helping with the final rifle. I helped Amie with the main body whilst OROTHO busied himself making two additional scopes. We also had about four additional springs to each rifle spare, just in case there was a need to replace any. Hopefully there wouldn't be, but we knew how the system worked, and it was better to be prepared than to not be at all. Things had started to become serious now and we couldn't mess around at such a late stage. Everything had to be complete and coordinated and organised. We all had to know what everyone else was doing and where they were, especially when we were at the HQ. COLUS had yet to still point out to us where the HQ was in relation to our base, but I got the impression that he'll be telling us tonight.

"From what I can make out, it's way off to the West somewhere... THEROS has managed to have a look and he remembers the location for when he had to draw it. Only he says he can't remember seeing the HQ there at the time..."

"That doesn't make any sense... I thought SERVERE had said their headquarters had been there for years? How could THEROS not have seen it...? It's a HoN Co. HQ!!"

"Well it's obvious the base was there when THEROS investigated the place for the map, but maybe it was hidden from view or something..."

"What can hide an entire building?!?!?"

"Well you know the Elite guards have stealth capabilities with their suits...? Maybe HoN Co. got creative..."

"Let's hope not... For everyone's sake..."

We finished the rifle and performed the necessary tests on them to ensure that it functioned as fully as the other three. We had decided it would be best to utilise all four of the rifles as there was no sense in leaving it behind. We had made it, we might as well use it especially considering it worked perfectly first time around. After we finished, we spent an hour or so making a surplus of darts and arranging them into pre-made magazines. We were doing that for about an hour before COLUS came to see us and called us up to the discussion room for another meeting. This was going to be the final one before we headed out tomorrow.

     Seated around the table, we all listened intently to everything that COLUS was saying; he had summed up all of the data and research everyone had collated over the past few days and was now informing everyone else about it. OROTHO gave a quick demonstration with the rifle, ensuring that we could all use one if the moment came where someone else had to take over. Afterwards COLUS chose the four that would be wielding one to protect the others. I was one of them. UOPETA, COLUS and OROTHO were the other three. He then divided us into groups, going with the equal teams approach. I was teamed up with THEROS and Amie. OROTHO went along with Joe and AMPHIS. COLUS was with THEXIS and UOPETA. UOPETA had volunteered to go it alone and scout out the area ahead, provided he kept the rifle, but COLUS insisted we stay together in the groups we were allocated. Chiron was to come with me, and Hermes was to go with AMPHIS's group. We knew our place and we knew our goal. We were to infiltrate the base from different directions: with the layout on the PDA's COLUS had already established multiple points of entry. Once inside, we acted individually to find the five extensions from the main building and informed the others as and when any of us found them.

"If you infiltrate the extensions successfully and manage to find an Eye of Ender there, take it and retreat to a safe distance. We need to ensure that they can't capture all of us, and we can reduce that by taking ourselves out the equation at the right time. When you find one, communicate with the others before doing so. If two teams find them, the third must retreat automatically to an arranged point."

COLUS took out the map and passed it around showing us all where the base was located. As it made its way around to me, he continued on about how much of a journey it would be; apparently the distance covered would be extreme, stretching across the length of one entire map before reaching the outer edge of the island. When I heard that word, I froze. Island? He continued on about how it was essentially a massive jungle in the middle of the sea. As it came to OROTHO, he looked at it, an understanding look crossing his face.

"There you go Amie. Where better to hide a base than in the middle of a jungle!"

OROTHO passed it to me and I looked at it. At first I was just sizing up the area trying to get a feel for the terrain we would be encountering, but it was pointless considering the location of the HQ. Off to the North, in the centre of the area was a large mass of green which I took to be the location indicated. Everywhere else seemed to be white, as though it was a snowy tundra, and I had a hard time trying to imagine a jungle surrounded by snow...



"Everyone get some rest now. We're heading out incredibly early tomorrow to avoid the chance of us being detected. Remember they're still likely to be watching this place, so we'll be leaving via the tunnel that leads to the tower. Luckily for us it heads in the direction we need to go anyway. Tomorrow we set off to take HoN Co. down!"

Syeonyx signing off

On borrowed time

     Finishing up for the day, me and OROTHO flicked the safeties on the two rifles, before taking the target down and closing the door behind us. We had managed to test both of them quite thoroughly, rectifying a few issues as and when they came up, and continued with the testing. We had had quite a lot of fun over the past few hours doing so, but we had reached the limit of how far we could test them in a controlled environment. Over approximately one hundred metres, the darts lost barely any height in the flight from the end of the barrel to the target, which suggested they were accurate to within at least that distance. That was much better than we had expected, and allowed us a lot of leeway to work with when actually putting them to use. The only problem now was that we had to test them in an unknown environment which was susceptible to change. Anything from a slight breeze to it raining slight could have massive effects on the flight path of the dart, but we would hopefully have another day of testing before we had to make the final preparations before moving off.

"How do you think Amie managed to get on with the construction of the other rifle? She seemed to be getting the hang of things before we came down here."

I had to admit that Amie did seem to be getting on with things pretty quickly when it came to constructing the rifle; she had only glanced once or twice at the blueprints for the prototype during the construction, whereas I had found it was almost always close to me for reference. She was a little faster with the build than me as well, which just goes to show out of touch I am with crafting things... Hopefully we would soon have HoN Co. on their knees, crushed by our victory, allowing us to get on with our own lives. It would definitely mean heading out to a new area and starting again, most likely, as they would be baying for our blood. Nowhere would be safe for long, but we could always hide like we were now. I had to say that we had done a brilliant job of that so far and they didn't have a clue where we were. Then again I had to admit that SERVERE had had a large hand in that as well. It made me wonder how well we would be able to stand hidden against them without his help... Would they have found us by now if SERVERE wasn't pointing them in odd directions? Without his intervention, would we already be dead? It wasn't something worth thinking about... We moved into the lab, closing the door to the tunnel behind us, and I began to look for Amie, but she wasn't in the lab at all...

"Maybe they're all in the discussion room with SERVERE. It must be pretty important if everyone else is there..."

If that was the case, why hadn't they called us...? Shrugging it off, I went towards the entrance of the lab, slowing down to admire Amie's handiwork on the completed rifle that lay on the table to the side. It was done so in a very similar fashion to the others, taking on an almost identical look as well, except it was missing an optical scope which OROTHO could sort out later. Continuing to the discussion room, we found everyone else seated around the main table; COLUS saw me and OROTHO enter and had a slightly worried look on his face.

"Ah good, you're here. SERVERE had some news for us... And it wasn't good... It's about HoN Co. ... They may have found us..."

----


     We sat in silence, listening to COLUS go over everything that SERVERE had told the others in our absence. SERVERE had since left us behind for the HoN Co. HQ after imbuing the others with this information, and from the looks of everyone else's faces, it definitely wasn't good news.

"We were going under the assumption that HoN Co. were not aware of the purpose of the Eyes of Ender, only that we were looking for them and they wanted to stop us. It has now been revealed that they are fully aware of the purpose of the Eyes of Ender, and are also aware of the Keystone and its alternative use on the master portal. This means they have accelerated their search for us, and recently made a discovery that does not bode well for us. They may well have found the base."

"What?!?!?! How?!?!?"

"When we returned from the Nether, they found our base camp and followed the passage down to the portal. After passing through it, the ended up in that mossy chamber that we managed to seal off with a combination lock. They haven't found either of the locks so far, but are suspicious about what is hidden in the surrounding area. Unfortunately we did not bury the original opening to that chamber well enough, as they found their way out and have found and seized the boat. They are now setting up a sentry base camp of their own close to us, on the far side cliffs beside a flow of lava. They consider themselves very close to us, and are waiting for confirmation to begin excavating large sections of area around us."

"But how can they know that for sure? We haven't made any mistake or indication that we're here! What about SERVERE? Surely he's tried to put them off and lead them somewhere else?"

"He says that he's tried, but doesn't want to come across to desperate. They have a strong feeling we're close by, and for good reason. that means that we're going to have to act as quickly as possible! Once we have finalised all of the preparations, we'll head out to the HQ and attempt to take the two Eyes they have. Once there, we're going to need to gain access to the portal through the cliff mine. It may be worth attempting to go directly via the cliff mine entrance rather than through the base, as they may have found it by then. We'll need to be quick! Tomorrow is the final day for preparations before we head off, so make sure everything is sorted and finalised by then! For now, rest up. We're going to need it!"

We all left the table silently, heading towards our rooms, as though we had just been told that one of the others had died. How could HoN Co. have found us so easily? We had been so careful! I knew we had been taking a risk when connecting the portal chamber to the base long ago, but at the time it seemed so remote a chance that they would find us, I didn't give it a second thought. If they managed to either find the two levers for the combination lock, or smash the wall down, they would have a direct route to our base. Let's hope it never got that far. Or at the least, let's hope we managed to begin our journey off to their HQ first. Once we had the Eyes, we would need to head straight to the portal, and then to The End for the keystone. Once it was ours we would have to make a beeline for the conducting tower and destroy the master portal. Then I would find out whether any of my dreams was true or not... I let Amie into my room before closing the door, and we settled in for the night; an odd silence had drifted over the base since SERVERE had informed us about HoN Co., and despite all of the progress we had made so far, a small part of me asked the one question that I had tried to keep squashed down: "what's the point any more...?"... We would need to get the Keystone before HoN Co., and luckily we had more of the Ender Eyes than they did. Carrying all of them would make us massive targets on the way to the HQ, but leaving them behind at the base would be worse... I suppose we would just have to decide what to do when the time came...

Syeonyx signing off

Down at the range

     It felt to be back in the tunnel so soon already. We had only just built it a few weeks back and we had barely used it except for when we were back on our portal destroying campaign. The exit still led up to the conducting tower - obviously - and I was beginning to wonder whether it was worth having another check there to see if they had managed to activate any more primary portals. It had been some time since we had checked, and probably longer since we had actually destroyed any. SERVERE had helped massively by destroying the ones we had initially found based on his coordinates, but we hadn't done much since then. We're getting ready though to put and end to that though once and for all, provided we're not too late. In a few short days we would be taking on HoN Co. from their own ground, where they had the advantage, but that's what we were preparing for. We know we couldn't completely destroy them then and there, but we didn't need to. We just needed to even out the odds by taking the Ender Eyes back. My only worry was that HoN Co. may be planning something to try and find us, especially as we have three of the Eyes. Unless they don't yet know what the portal is for, in which case they think we're stuck with the ones we have.

"Where shall we set up? Should we lower the first door and try for a long one first or stick with the shorter range to gauge power and accuracy first?"

I definitely thought the latter would be a better idea as we could work up to the larger distances when it was required. After checking the the magazine was securely in place and the safety was still on, I tested the cocking mechanism to make sure it was still tight. Amie came through from the lab holding a large piece of wood, about a metre squared. As she walked past me, I could see that she had drawn three large circles onto it, each decreasing in size from the last, much like an actual target.

"Where do you want me to set it up? I'm assuming as far away as possible...?"

"No no, just against the first door. We can see how far these things are accurate for, and whether there is any more work needed on the scopes or mechanisms."

Amie set the board up against the first iron door, about half way up so we could determine the drop to be expected. We would have flawed results if we placed in on the ground as we would be playing to the effect of gravity before we had even fired. At about chest level - or at least level with the gun - was best as it gave us something straight and easy to hit. OROTHO waited for Amie to move away from the door, before putting the rifle up to his right shoulder, and sighting up the board on the far side. Holding the main body of the rifle with his left hand, in a slow and fluid motion, he slid the safety out and placed his finger on the trigger. I could see the end of the barrel quiver a little as OROTHO seemed to size up the centre of the target, but the motion was likely to be making things more difficult. I was about to suggest an idea to him when Amie beat me to it. She must have been thinking the exact same thing.

"OROTHO, try holding your breath before you aim. The rise and fall of your chest as you breathe in and out is what's causing the inaccuracy..."

OROTHO breathed in deeply through his nose, filling his chest, before attempting again, this time holding the rifle much steadier. Slowly, he squeezed the trigger, until the catch holding the spring was released, flinging the dart towards the far end of the tunnel where the door was.



Putting the rifle down by his side, flicking the safety on as he did, OROTHO began to move towards the target at the far end, hoping to find where the dart had ended up. We knew the rifle had enough power to force the darts some way into the wooden surface, so we weren't so worried about power as we were about accuracy. We were using the optical sights that OROTHO had made, and assumed they had been mounted perfectly parallel to the main body and barrel of the rifle. Not only that, but no measurement had been made to determine if the scope was also perpendicular to the main body. If there was a slight discrepancy in the angle of either end of the sight, we may end up shooting higher or lower than intended. That's why these tests were being performed, but they were done so under pretty controlled conditions. Who knew how they would react under conditions with slight air resistance like wind.

"That's pretty good for a first shot! I can't tell if it's my aiming or a slight alteration needed on the scope, but that's pretty close to the centre of the target where I was aiming."

"How far away from it are you?"

"About... Two centimetres up and to the left of the centre. If I knew the distance between my shot and this target, I could even work out the angle that's out by... Either way it means that the rifle is aiming more to the left than needed... Here, you have a go..."

OROTHO came back and handed the rifle to me; taking it, I made sure I was holding it comfortably before bringing it to my shoulder and removing the safety. Taking my own and Amie's advice, I inhaled deeply to ensure the rifle didn't rock so much as I held it. Thinking it was more likely to be the scope or the barrel that was off rather than OROTHO's aiming, I purposely aimed a little to the right of the target, hoping to compensate. Squeezing the trigger quickly, not wanting the barrel to sway away from my intended spot, I fired. I heard the dull splinter of wood on the far side of the tunnel, and went over to it after reapplying the safety. It was close, much closer than OROTHO's had been; it was literally a few millimetres to the left of the target, although still a little too high. I think the scope was mounted at an angle where the end pointed to the right and slightly lower than the target area. That meant it would need shifting to the left, and the end would need bringing up ever so slightly.

"Amie, are you going to have a go? We could do with a third opinion..."

Making my way back to the other two, I handed her the rifle, the barrel still pointed at the ground, and moved to one side to let her shoot. She seemed surprisingly more at home holding the rifle than I would have given her credit; moving it up to her shoulder, she followed the exact same procedure as me and OROTHO, before firing off another dart. Heading over to the target, she checked her accuracy and began to laugh, before slowly coming back to us.

"How far from the target were you?"

"Erm... Well let's put it this way: if the target was about a metre wider I might have hit it!"

"The scope's not that badly out of angle is it?"

"No, but I think I am! I'll leave you two to test it. If it's alright by you I'll begin work on the next one."

Handing the rifle to OROTHO, Amie continued to walk towards the lab, still laughing to herself... OROTHO looked at me and I shrugged. We still had a lot of testing to do, and we had to recalibrate the scope to ensure it fired straight and true. The rest of the day was going to be very eventful!

----


     Me and OROTHO have been further testing both the prototype and completed rifle now for a few hours now; the minor alterations needed on the scope of the first we tested has been altered and now allows for a lot more accurate results. We had tested the main rifle as well, and had to alter the sights in a similar way, before re-testing them on the same target at the same distance. After we were happy that they could handle that distance, we took the target off the door, and opened it to allow us to go even further. I forgot how far the other door was to the first, and the walk to it to place the target up was a little longer than expected. Returning to the same position we had stood for the first door, I decided to go first; the target off in the distance still seemed surprisingly close up. I was hoping that it wouldn't have too much effect on the distance and accuracy, but that was what we were testing them for. Lining up the shot, I released the safety and squeezed the trigger.



I tried to use the scope to pick up where the dart had ended up, but it was difficult to tell because of the odd angle. Handing the rifle to OROTHO, I made my way down towards the target again and tried to pick out where the dart had landed from a distance. As I got closer, I was able to make out the dart, a few millimetres south of the centre. That was pretty accurate! With a longer distance, the unknowns and variables that would effect it are magnified, including the movement of the barrel from my breathing. I was impressed with that, so much so that I went back and took another shot, only to find a very similar result! OROTHO then had a few goes, and we spent the remainder of the afternoon challenging each other by putting objects onto the target itself. I had a feeling that these rifles were going to be brilliantly useful to us out in the field!

Syeonyx signing off

Day 156: Mass arms production

     We managed to shape and set up the wooden stocks where the springs were held for the three rifles that we were going to end up with, giving us a total of four rifles, if you counted the prototype. As to whether we would be using four still remained to be seen, but because we had started each of the actual rifles individually rather than one at a time, it allowed us to split up and work on them separately. After we woke up, me and Amie went straight to the lab, only to find OROTHO busy at work once again. He had made some good progress on one of the rifles that we had started yesterday, and was using the main body of the prototype to guide him. For once he was so engrossed in his work that he actually jumped when he turned around and saw us! Usually he had this odd sixth sense about who was in the lab and where, but he he must really be getting into the rifle build...

"How far have you got with that one OROTHO? Another one close to completion?"

"It'll be some time yet... I've still got the shaping of the main body, the safety latch, the cocking mechanism, the barrel and the top rail for the sights. Then we've got the entire optical scope to remake..."

"Tell you what: we'll work on the main rifles themselves, giving you the chance to work on the scopes. I know you enjoyed making that one."

OROTHO didn't say anything for a moment or two; looking back at the completed prototype - presumably at the optical sight - nodding to himself.

"Fair enough. I'll need a few more diamonds but I think I've got some more in my room. I won't be long."

OROTHO left the lab, leaving me and Amie to pick up from where we had left off yesterday. I took the stock that OROTHO had been working on and brought it over to where the other components were, and began to work on the slide mechanism. There was something oddly therapeutic about constructing the firing mechanism for a rifle. Especially when you considered the true purpose of the completed thing which we would be putting to effective use in a day or two. Well, it would probably be longer than that; we were still waiting for SERVERE to come back from "keeping up appearances" at the HQ, but we were hoping he'd come back with some additional information that might prove useful to us.

----


     After a few hours of working on one of the rifles, I managed to complete it, barring the optical scope that would be attached to the top. Testing the firing mechanism with no magazine, I cocked the mechanism, brought it up to my shoulder, aimed at the far side of the room and squeezed the trigger. There was a slight scraping noise as the spring catch was released, and the kick-back dug into my shoulder slightly. I tested it a few times, making sure that it was working perfectly, and not just every now and then, before resting it on its side to get at the spring mechanism through the stock-lid. Taking the currently installed spring out, I placed another one in, before closing the lid and testing it a few more times. The spring worked perfectly, as well as the repair section of the stock to put in new springs. Provided the rest of the rifle remained clean and dry, there was very little need to replace any of the other pieces.

"I wasn't aware you were running a secret gun running operation whilst I was away..."

Turning around to the entrance of the lab, I smiled at SERVERE's joke as he and COLUS walked towards me. Handing the rifle I was still carrying to him, I went through the working of it, and the likelihood that we were going to need to use them.

"OROTHO, Amie and Syeonyx have been very busy the last few days building these. We're hoping to put them to good use against any of the guards we come across at the HQ."

"How effective is it? I can only assume if it's OROTHO's design it will work perfectly first time..."

OROTHO turned around and smiled, acknowledging the compliment. Walking over to SERVERE, OROTHO held the newly completed optical sight in his hand, which he slide onto the top of the main body, clipping it into place.

"It's effectiveness has just increased ten fold... Maybe more. Try it out."

SERVERE slid the cocking mechanism back, before taking a magazine from the table beside him, and slotting it into place, with a little help from COLUS. Putting it up to his shoulder, he removed the safety, looked through the sight and squeezed the trigger. The dart went shooting across to the other side of the room, plinking off the glass at the far side. Putting it down to his side again, he nodded with a satisfied look on his face, seemingly impressed.

"That's pretty good, especially with limited resources. Although with it being OROTHO's idea, I was half expecting some form of explosive or gas powered system."

"If he had had the opportunity to do that, he would have done. But we need something as quick and quiet as possible. The spring powered version will do us fine, and we've still yet to test the range and accuracy of them over longer distances."

"Well I'll leave you to test them then. I've got some more information for COLUS that might prove useful. It concerns the layout of the main building."

COLUS and SERVERE left the lab, leaving me with OROTHO and Amie. Picking up the rifle that SERVERE had put down, I sighted down the scope at OROTHO, who was now looking at me too.

"I think we should test these now... Any ideas where would be the best place to go?"

"The tunnel? It's definitely long enough, and as long as we have some wooden board to aim at, we can determine the range and accuracy!"

"Brilliant! Just make a few marks on that board over there to help us gauge a good place to aim for."

Amie began to mark a large sheet of wood nearby, whilst I went with OROTHO into the tunnel taking the first completed rifle and the prototype with us. The next hour or so was going to be lots of fun. The best thing about using the tunnel as well was that we could use the doors as a further gauge of how accurate and powerful they were. I was also slightly intrigued to know what SERVERE had to tell COLUS, but once SERVER had gone again I knew we would all find out. I was still trying to determine if it was good news or not though.

Syeonyx signing off

Prototype approval

     Picking up the rifle, OROTHO cocked the main slide of the rifle back until there was an audible CLICK, and then picked up the magazine. Holding the latch open, he slid the magazine into place, locking the latch down to hold it in. As OROTHO moved it into position, his finger already on the trigger, there was a slight grating noise, followed by a ping. We all jumped back, realising that one of the darts had already fired, as OROTHO was now holding a depressed trigger.

"Whoops... I think we'll need a safety for this..."

"I would have thought that would have been in the initial design..."

Readying the rifle again, this time waiting until it was against his shoulder before cocking it, he aimed at the wooden table across from him on the far side of the room. Moving his left hand up to slide the catch back, he then supported the main body of the rifle and looked down the optical sight. OROTHO sized up a target and slowly squeezed the trigger: the same slight grating sound, but this time there was no ping, only the sound of something hitting the table on the far side. Bringing the rifle away from this shoulder, OROTHO went over to the table, and began to laugh to himself.

"Perfect! The sight seems already well calibrated! It hit exactly where I was aiming for, look!"

We went over to the table where OROTHO was standing, and looked at the dart that was embedded into the side. The entire length of the iron tip was wedged into the wooden surface, and a small amount of fluid leaked from the hole it had made. Taking hold of the main body of the dart, I pulled, with a surprisingly large amount of force, and managed to remove it from the side. The dart had definitely worked as the sedative inside it was still leaking from the hole. At least the darts wouldn't be subject to fault because of the new system. If anything it should work better; the original system relied on the inertia of the dart to force the sedative into the bloodstream. This meant the effect of the dart was highly dependant on the force of the exhalation of air at the mouth end of the blowpipe. With the force the rifle had fired the dart, that should be considerably more effective, and would also guarantee a good range. Passing the dart to Amie to have a look, I took the rifle from OROTHO, and had a feel of the weapon.

"Well? Effective or not?"

"Very... Although... The tip is bent."

"And...? That's not surprising due to the force this thing fires them at."

"No, it wasn't a complaint. If anything it was a bit of a surprise. The slight curve of the tip might make it harder to pull out. Also the force of the blow is likely to induce the effect of the sedative faster, and cause a possible knock-back effect. This should be more effective than the blowpipes... By quite a mile..."

"Well at least we know the mechanism and the sight works excellently..."

"Not really. We know the sight works at short range. We'd need to know the effective range of this thing. If we did a few tests, we could measure its speed from the distance and time it takes to fire. From that, we could work out the effective range, and at what point air resistance starts to negatively effect the flight path of the dart."

Obviously after a safety catch was installed, I pointed out. OROTHO might not be trained to use such weapons - none of us were - but a safety catch would be a necessity. We couldn't have any of us accidentally shooting ourselves in the foot when trying to ready the rifle, especially when the current mechanism required the user to cock the weapon before loading in a magazine.

"What about refit and repair? We should test how easily it can be repaired."

OROTHO went over to the other side of the room where a whole series of springs were laid out, all different lengths. Picking up one, he came back over and asked me to hold out the weapon, left-side facing up. Flicking a small latch up, he prised open the wooden stock of the weapon, and swivelled a small cylinder out from the main section. Inside the cylinder was the spring, held in place by small pins on either end. Holding the spring down on one side, he teased it away from the pins and removed the spring, before sliding in the new one. Swivelling the cylinder back into place and locking the wooden stock lid behind it, he nodded, asking me to try it. Stepping back, I cocked the weapon, the barrel aimed at the floor, before moving it up to my right shoulder, fingers well away from the trigger. I aimed at the other table on the other side of the room, sighted it through the scope and squeezed the trigger. I was surprised by the slight kick it had, and after I had finished, I went over to check the table. Much like before, the dart was embedded all the way up to the main body, the tip not even visible. Pulling it out, it too was slightly bent at the end, and turning around the face OROTHO and Amie, I tossed the dart to him.

"So it works then? Brilliant! I think we should show this to COLUS and see what he thinks."

"After we put in a safety latch."

The safety latch wasn't going to be a major issue to attach as we only needed to have something that would prevent the trigger from working when it was locked in place. Luckily we had already shaped the top part of the trigger in such a fashion that we could block it off from releasing the spring latch by sliding a piece of metal into place. Now all we needed to do was show this to COLUS, ensure it's safe for use and then replicate it a few more times. We had more than enough materials to make it, especially as the tunnel construction had haltered, and the lab was full of iron ingots. Now all we needed was a lot more darts. With the upgrade of the main firing method, there would need to be a either more darts per magazine, or more magazines.

----


     COLUS loved the finished prototype, and has already asked us to begin work on making the final thing! We're hoping to make about three of them before SERVERE returns, so that way if we split into three main groups, each group has a rifle and a PDA. We'd have to sort out the groups later, but I could only assume they would have to be split logically, and not randomly. For example, both UOPETA and THEROS were good navigators, so putting them in the same group wouldn't be a good idea for the other two. Then again that would depend on how we split the groups. We might have equal groups to tackle each of the extensions individually, communicating with the others if and when the Ender Eyes were found. Alternatively, we may have groups for different tasks. For example, one group may be used to protect another whilst the others find the Ender Eyes, or act as distractions. It was all still needing to be planned, and we still had a bit of time left before that was necessary. On the upside, THEXIS had managed to find a way to allow the PDA's to communicate with each other on a separate channel to the ones used by HoN Co.! It was only in text format, much like a cellular mobile phone, but it was better than nothing, and communication was going to be one of the more important factors of this mission. Me and Amie continued to help OROTHO for the rest of the day, enjoying every moment of it. It was a bit difficult in parts, and some of the pieces either had to be refined or remade, but I was again having more fun than I should be having. Tomorrow, once we had another one built, we could do a direct comparison, and test them to see if there was anything that needed improving, although I was pretty sure we had hit the nail squarely on the head from the start.

Syeonyx signing off

Day 155: Prototype final construction

     I'm beginning to think that the Nether was having a bad influence on me, at least subconsciously. Since leaving the Nether I haven't had that dream once, and I'm beginning to wonder if it was just because of the environment that we were in. I obviously wasn't complaining about the lack f such disturbing images, but it did make me rethink whether there was actually any element of truth to them. After all, there's no smoke without fire... Apparently. I knew Amie and the others had been working just as hard as me and OROTHO, if not more, so I attempted t get out of bed without disturbing her. It didn't go so well; I managed to get to the foot of the bed, before accidentally kicking Chiron slightly, or yelped, waking Amie up.

"Going somewhere?"

I felt bad now trying to leave her whilst she was still asleep, but I said that I was enthusiastic about getting back to work. We had made a lot of progress yesterday, and I was fuelled and ready to go another day! I knew OROTHO was already likely to be awake and working away quite happily to himself in the lab, but that was how OROTHO had always seemed to work. Very little sleep lots of work... I honestly don't know how he managed to keep it up!

"I'll come with you then. I wouldn't mind seeing what you've got so far. I might even be able to help out."

I was more than happy with that, and after waiting for her t get ready, we had a quick breakfast before heading pretty much straight to the lab. Oddly enough a few of the others were already awake too; COLUS was using one of the PDA's, sitting in one of the chairs in the discussion room, while THEROS and AMPHIS were studying the map that SERVERE had pointed to. Taking a wild guess I would have thought they were trying to determine the size of the HQ from the blueprints on the PDA's and from the map in front of them, although I couldn't tell. As we entered into the lab, just as predicted, OROTHO was busying himself already with his back turned to the entrance, holding something in his hands. I took Amie over to the design that OROTHO had drawn, and was surprised to find it now a surprisingly neat and detailed model instead of the quick-hand one OROTHO had drawn yesterday.

"AMPHIS helped by neatening the design so it was easier to follow. I thought it was fine, but he insisted it might be necessary for when he archived it."

I pointed out the main design and Amie began to pick specific attributes out that I had alerted OROTHO too yesterday. She seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing and how far we had got so far, but with OROTHO working from some point early on in the morning, I was now intrigued to see how far he had gotten without me. Going over to him to see what he was doing, I noticed an array of precise tools laid out on the desk, and could see he was working with small pieces of glass and diamond.

"I'm seeing if it's possible to make use of diamonds instead of cut glass for an optical sight. It should work provided I can get the light to bounce in the right direction. Once that's done, there's a deal of calibration to be done to get it working within a tube..."

"Do you need any help with anything?"

"Well now that' you're here, I guess you and Syeonyx can begin constructing the parts of the stock and sliding mechanism. All the pieces are finished, they just need constructing... I think the barrel of the rifle would be the easiest bit so we can leave that until the end."

We set to work constructing the main parts of the weapon to form the basis of the rifle, and as we improvised with a few of the pieces, the rifle began to take shape slowly. Meanwhile, OROTHO continued to piece together the optical sight.

----


"Bingo!"

Me and Amie whirled around to see what OROTHO was exclaiming about and saw him looking at us with one eye closed, the other with a strange tube pressed against it.

"I can see you!"

"We can see you too... Have you managed it then?"

"Indeed I have! Come and have a look. I'll check on your progress."

OROTHO placed the optical sight down onto the table top and walked over to us, whilst we crossed the room to the table. Picking it up, I looked through it towards OROTHO and was surprised to see an image of the far side of the room spring right into my view! It was surprising at how accurate it was; around the edges there was a bit of distortion, but the main vocal area of the sight worked perfectly. I passed it to Amie to have a look through.

"I now know the precise curvature of the diamond needed to make it into a perfect magnification lens. It shouldn't be too hard to replicate. And from the looks of this here, we could begin constructing the whole thing soon!"



Going back over to the other side of the room, I helped OROTHO craft a small barrel that could be attached to the end of the main body of the rifle and complete the construction.

"I think if we make the barrel slightly longer than necessary we can always clip bits off if we've made it too long."

"Actually the longer the better... If you have a long barrel you can gain more accuracy as the dart will have a longer horizontal path to travel down. That should keep it on a straight path more efficiently."

An hour or so later, we had a finished barrel which we attached to the main body. A series of clips had already been attached to the top of the main body in readiness for the sight, which OROTHO clipped to the top. Placing the entire finished rifle down onto the table, we stood and admired it for a few moments, as though it was some impressive work of art...



"I think we need to test this out now."

Amie placed a full magazine of darts onto the table top and smiled. I was beginning to feel slightly bad abut having too much fun with this. We were supposed to be finding ways of ensuring our safety in a real life scenario, but I had had a lot f fun with OROTHO and Amie over the past two days!

Syeonyx singing off

Rifleman OROTHO

     OROTHO had already begun to busy himself with the design of the intended spring powered dart rifle he had managed to concoct in his head. I got the impression that he had wanted COLUS to give him the all clear to begin experimenting with the compressed gas idea, although somehow I doubt that would have been a good idea. OROTHO was volatile enough as it was when he had a good idea, but give him gas to play with... He was busy scribbling on a piece of large paper, sat before a table, not even looking up when I entered into the lab. From the looks of the lab, he had already started to collect the necessary parts needed to make the dart rifle, and judging from the speed with which he was drawing, he was anxious to being work. I couldn't blame him I suppose; when I was young I owned a spring powered BB rifle, and I loved it! It was one of the last presents my mother bought me before the attack... I was only young, but that day I vowed to keep my dad safe, and trained in using the BB rifle with accuracy and efficiency. It was one of the single shot ones that OROTHO was making; you pulled back a slide which drew a new BB into the chamber and locked the spring back. Pressing the trigger released the spring from its catch and the BB went flying off. The principle was identical. I was hoping I'd still retain some semblance of accuracy with the ones that OROTHO was designing. It was that reason I offered to help him.

"I'm welcome to the help, but the design I think I can do myself."

I went over to the desk where he sat and looked at the diagram that he was quickly scribbling onto the paper. The lines were messy and a little rough, but the basic shape was there, and it wasn't hard to make out the main components, like the trigger, stock, barrel, magazine, slide... Although some bits didn't really make much sense. Well, it wasn't that they didn't make sense, but the way it was designed wasn't done so efficiently. For example, OROTHO had drawn the slide on the right side of the rifle rather than the left. That would suggest having to move the rifle from the natural firing position every time you used the slide. I suggested he put it on the left, so you could keep it well aimed without moving it at all. He sat there for a moment in silence, thinking about my idea. I couldn't tell though whether he was considering it or considering kicking me out of his lab! In the end, he began to nod, and erased a few sections from the centre of the paper.

"You're right... Most of us are right-handed, and we need to keep firing efficiency as high as possible. Tell you what: when I'm done with this, can you give it another look through and see if there are any modifications needed? I want to make sure it's the right design, and I get the impression you're the best person to ask about it."

Whilst OROTHO continued his design, I readied a few more materials that we needed to build the rifles: I suggested wood instead of iron as the stocks as they'd be lighter and easier to craft. They would also be easier to mould and alter to fit specific person's grip. By the time OROTHO had finished, I had gathered all the materials and tools we would need to build an entire rifle. Hopefully by the end of the day we would have something to test.

"Can you take a look at the designs and see if there is anything wrong or needs altering?"

I went over t the desk and had a look at the design of the rifle: it was looking quite good now with annotations and labels. OROTHO had already moved the slide over to the left-hand side so it was easier to reload without having to remove the rifle from your shoulder. He'd also added both iron sights, and some form of optical sight attached to the top, which he put a large question mark against. I asked him about this, thinking he was either unsure about whether it was needed, or whether it could be achieved.

"Well it would be handy to have an optical sight like that, but it would need a lot of calibrating. I could make use of a similar system that's used in the telescope that UOPETA has, and maybe incorporate a diamond as the focusing lens rather than glass."

That was a good point; we still had the telescope for reference, but I hadn't seen UOPETA use it in some time, and I was beginning t wonder where it was. I was also intrigued by this idea of utilising a diamond as the focusing lens as opposed to specifically shaped glass. I suppose the right shape of diamond could prove the right optical enhancing power we need. Going over the design again, I noticed one or two other small changes that I added in a different colour. The first was the loading system used in the magazine. It was a simple and efficient method, but could begin to falter with excessive use. The darts were loaded into the chamber via a flat piece of metal supported by a spring. As a new dart was brought into the chamber, the excess space left was filled by the next dart as the spring pushed the others up. With only one spring in the centre, it was possible the magazine may jam, so I noted the addition of a second spring, and moving the current one to the far side so it was pushed equally on both sides. OROTHO accepted this alteration and I went on to make a few more modifications. I was having a surprisingly large amount of fun with this, and it was rare for me to team up with OROTHO.

----


     We had spent quite a few hours working on the idea now, and we were getting somewhere with the prototype. We had fastened the stock we needed for the main part of the gun, and OROTHO had begun work on the sliding mechanism. The springs had been made in large quantities, and I was in the process of extending the current magazines and altering them so that they had two springs beneath the metal platform. Testing it a few times, I pushed on the platform in the centre, and at either end, and it worked much better than the previous version. The current magazines were styled in such a way that instead of making new ones, it was easier to modify the design. Now instead of the spring loading a new dart into the chamber, it loaded the next one to the top of the magazine, where there was a hole in both ends. The spring would rest close to the rear end and when the trigger was squeezed, the catch holding the spring back would push the dart forcefully along the barrel out the far end. The spring would now be in the rest position, taking the place of the dart to prevent a new one being loaded too prematurely. When the catch was pulled back, the spring moved back out of the way, allowing another dart to slide into place. Simple!

"We need to find a way to keep the magazine in place though, otherwise a dart might be loaded in incorrectly, or the magazine might fall out."

I suggested another spring-based latch that clipped the side of the magazine to the main stock of the body. The magazine would remain in place and in position whilst it was in use, and when required, the latch could be held open, remove the magazine and insert a new one. The only problem I could see with this method was that to remove the magazine you'd need to slide the catch back to the firing position as the spring would be blocking the darts position. It helped in a way because the rifle would be ready for the next shot, but I could see it being easy to forget.

"My other main concern is the amount of noise these could make. I see your theory now in making the stock out of wood, as that is less likely to allow the sound of the spring firing to travel."

To be honest that thought had never occurred to me, but with my experience of BB guns, you would have to be reasonably close to hear one go off. COLUS eventually came into the lab, and began to ask about our progress. Oddly enough, OROTHO began to go on about how useful I had been to him, and how I had helped in modify the design. COLUS seemed impressed, but whether it was because I had helped or because he had also picked up on OROTHO being humble I couldn't tell.

"How close to completion would you say the prototype is then? We wouldn't need to outfit everyone with one, but I would say darts are more of an issue."

"We should be able to have this prototype finished in a few hours, if we continue going into the night, but I get the impression you're here to tell us to rest?"

"That's right. I know I sound like an old mother to you, but you'll need the rest if you want to remain on the ball. You and Syeonyx have been doing some fine work, and I want you to get the rest now. It'll still be here in the morning, and we've got some time before SERVERE comes back."

We finished off the small bits and pieces we had been working on at that moment and then headed off to our rooms. Amie met up with me at the entrance to the lab, and we walked together back to my room. She seemed interested in what we had been doing, and I didn't mind talking to her about it, as I knew it wasn't beyond her at all. I was hoping that tomorrow we would have the prototype finished and would be able to test it on some targets, and from there we can determine any required fixes and alterations that would be needed.

Syeonyx signing off

Coming up with the goods

"Whenever someone says something like that, it's never a good sign... I think it'd be easier if you just started with the bad and worked up to the good..."

"Well the bad news isn't as bad as you might think it is, but it's definitely not good news. Basically I went onto the HoN Co. system and managed to find some early blueprints hidden away in some obscure corner of the database."

"And the bad news...?"

"That was the bad news. What's bad about it is that they're at least ten years old, and there's been a lot of work done to the main building. Not only that, but the blueprints don't show the recent extensions onto the sides, obviously... But I think the main layout of the rooms and corridors is more or less the same. Some areas have been expanded or altered, but only small sections for specific purposes..."

"And the good news?"

"Well I think the good news redeems the bad quite effectively. When I found them I wanted to find a way to take multiple copies without leaving a trail in the system. So printing them out wasn't an available option as they could trace the commands back through the printing tasks and determine which terminal issues the command, and at what time and by whom. Instead I managed to procure these!"

SERVERE slipped his hand into a small clipped section around his waist and pulled out three wafer-thin screens that looked like writing tablets. Walking forward towards the table, he place them individually onto the table before stepping back letting COLUS inspect the unexpected gift.

"I was able to take three PDA's from one of the nearby labs and update them with a copy of the blueprints from the main system. It's still as dangerous as printing out copies, except they won't be able to find the PDA's the files have been copied to."

"Call me suspicious, but won't they be missing these PDA's? I mean, how did you ever manage to take three of them?"

"Are you kidding me? They're all over the place! There are probably more PDA's in that headquarters than there are people! They are used for transferring and displaying research data amongst the different cells within the building, so there's no real need to have one of your own."

"So there's no link between these PDA's and say, a particular scientist?"

"The only link there is between these and the main system is a unique physical address and a cell reference number. In a few weeks time if they discover that the files I copied have been transferred to these PDA's, they'll do a search around that cell and any other linked ones. If they can't find it, they'll probably just bring more in."

"Well that's brilliant news, although I'm still a little worried that it could be traced back t you. I mean, won't the terminals be able to inform anyone which user was utilising which terminal and manipulating these files?"

"You'd think so, but no. I've got a very good friend who works in the HQ and he suggested I take them in PDA format and use his terminal details. He said that if anyone started asking questions about why he needed three separate copies of the same file on three different PDA's, he'd make something up about a renovation idea he'd had about the place, and he'd shared the idea amongst two of his colleagues..."

"You're still taking a lot of risks for us. Let's hope HoN Co. don't get wise to what you're doing for us. We've still got some way to go before we can bring them down. Is there anything you can tell us about the security systems in place that we're likely to have difficulty with?"

"There's quite a bit but most of it is manned with guards, not automated security. There are a few password entry doors to get into certain areas, but they shouldn't trouble you too much."

"What about systems like biometrics? And is there a way to get into the extensions without going through the main building?"

"Unfortunately you can only gain access to the extensions via the main building; they're sort of suspended out from the main area like five struts. As for the biometrics, that sort of sophistication is reserved for the labs and research areas."

"Wait, five extensions? But HoN Co. only have two of the Eyes of Ender... Why do they have five extensions?"

"Well they didn't know you were going to interfere so much, so they massively underestimated your intervention in that area."

"What about the security in the extensions though? Are they manned by guards or automated security?"

"I don't know much about the security that goes on in the extensions but I can only assume they were experimenting with Nether creatures for one reason. I couldn't say with any certainty but I would assume the extensions with less security than the others are the ones that aren't holding any of the two Eyes."

"Thank you so much for these! They are a massive help to us! Will you be remaining with us to help coordinate the plan of action?"

"I'm afraid not. I'm heading back now to keep up appearances. I've been tasked with searching a new area for any signs of you, but luckily they're looking in the completely wrong direction! I'll try to return in a day or two and help out any way I can."

SERVERE left the room towards the lab where OROTHO was still working, leaving us to utilise the PDA's and work out how they function. After a few minutes, I'd already got the hang of the basic features it offered, and could manipulate the main blueprints layout stored on the hard drive with some skill. COLUS and the others continued to get the hang on things so I decided to go to the lab and check on OROTHO.


Syeonyx signing off

Day 154: OROTHO gets dangerous

     A full day of preparing for the journey to the HoN Co. headquarters and we're still nowhere near ready! Not only have we got masses more planning and preparation to do, but we've also got all of the phases changes to deal with when SERVERE returns with the maps and blueprints we asked for. We're assuming though - for the time being at least - that there is a direct link to the new extensions that can only be accessed from the main building. This drastically reduces the risk of security leaks from the extensions and makes it easier to manage for them. However, for us it makes things infinitely more difficult; they're likely to have a whole host of security systems in place, as well as HoN Co. guards and civilians everywhere. The guards would technically be the easiest bit to deal with as they are susceptible to the darts, but only if the numbers are in our favour. As for the security systems, we still haven't determined how to get around those, although Amie jokingly said that we should be "very fast the entire time"... Not a helpful comment but there was little else to really say or do for the time being. We can only guess what we'll have to contend with until SERVERE returns, and anything missing from the blueprints we can ask of him ourselves. It's impossible for him to have been around that long without being given access to certain codes, or areas which we may be able to exploit... I'm now beginning to think that more planning is going to be needed after we know the layout than before, despite breaking everything down into phases...

----


     Yesterday had ended up being a rather late day as we had all lost track of time. We had prepared quite a bit already but still had plenty to go. Today though, everything had seemed to slow down to a crawl. Well, everything except OROTHO. He had had this idea about modifying the blowpipe to be more efficient, accurate and shoot over greater distances. From the outset it sounded like a great idea; we needed to put as much distance between the guards and any creatures we came across as possible. His idea wasn't so much of a modification as it was a total overhaul of the blowpipes operation. It was a very simple delivery method: insert dart, place blowpipe to lips, inhaling beforehand, and exhale forcefully into the end. Effective and quick, not to mention silent, and then he modified that with the attached magazine which loaded a new dart into place automatically using a spring. This drastically improved the efficiency of it as the darts were small enough to be fiddly, and it was easy to fumble with them if put into a tight spot. The magazine removed that issue. But now he wanted to make the system fully automated so there was no need to rely on the human lungs as a propellant. When OROTHO started talking about "propellants" it was never a good thing...

"I'm sure you're all aware of the downfalls to using our breath to project these darts from the barrel of these blowpipes. It's purely reliant on the user, and allows a large degree of human error to creep in. However, if we alter the propellant format to something more mechanised, it would be easier to regulate and would be more efficient. I propose two possible methods, both an upgrade from the current system."

"Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like this...?"

"Save your scepticism until after I submit my ideas... My first is based on the BB rifles that we all had and used when we were young, and makes use of a similar firing mechanism used in those, and in the magazines used for the current blowpipes. Spring powered! A large, coiled spring with a high tension should allow us to project the darts over a greater distance with a greater degree of accuracy. The previous method relied on us have an air tight seal around the dart to get the maximum effect, whereas this method initiates direct contact with the dart itself..."

"What about the other method?"

"The other method is a little harder to design and develop, but would definitely be a step-up from the spring-powered version. Also a format of BB rifle, instead of using a spring to fire the dart, use a form of compressed gas. It allows for a direct and concentrated explosion of gas in a single direction to force the dart down the barrel."

"Both good ideas, but how exactly are we going to acquire pressurised gas? Call me an idiot, but we can't just run around with a bottle scooping up air and then quickly ramming a top onto it!"

"You're an idiot... No, that's why I said it would be harder to develop. For now a spring powered version is a lot more feasible for us, especially in terms of building them in time. Well, at least a prototype... There are a few disadvantages to using a spring powered one, but these can easily be rectified with adjustments or repairs. Obviously with a high tensile spring there are bound to be massive pressures exerted on it, causing it stress which may cause it to break, If we make the spring accessible, we should be able to swap them out as and when it's necessary."

"Any other issues we need to iron out before it goes into the development phase?"

"Well we've got plenty of materials to make the body and springs for these rifles, and we'd need to make a cocking mechanism that slides the spring back and delivers a new dart into the chamber at the same time. Although that should be the easier bit to design..."

"How soon can you begin the designs and development of this? It's a great idea, and whatever we can get done now that helps later the better."

"I can get started straight away if you want..."

"Brilliant. Although that leaves risk assessment one man down. I'll join your team, and OROTHO, you join UOPETA and THEROS>"

We swapped people and got back to work whilst OROTHO disappeared into the lab to begin work on the new spring powered dart rifle. We were all eager to see what came of these grand plans of his, and hopefully they would help us massively during the actual operation. We hadn't been working long until we were interrupted, but by someone we had been waiting for.

"Do you want the good news or bad news?"

Syeonyx signing off

Planning ahead pt. 2

     There was a lot to plan out and finalise before SERVERE returned with the maps we needed, and even then we weren't finished there. Any and all phases of the plan would need to be re-evaluated one we knew the layout of the HoN Co. headquarters. I thought I heard wrong when there was the mention of the word "phases", but it turns out that to make it into one large plan would mean there was a lot more changing and moving around of specific aspects of it. Instead the plan would be broken down into smaller segments so each was easier to complete and keep a track of. However this brought more issues in the forms of dependencies, where certain phases of the plan wouldn't work before a previous part had been completed before it. The largest dependency was obviously that every step leading after the retrieval of the layout relied upon the actual blueprints being with us. That meant we would have to wait for SERVERE before we could continue any further. Once that was achieved, an entire array of modular phases started, and depending on the accuracy and detail of the blueprints, a whole series of assumptions had to be made as well. After the list we had drawn up was complete - and it was long list too! - we were split into small teams to begin the preliminary phases of the plan. I was given the task of risk assessment, and teamed with OROTHO and Amie, so I could hardly complain. Joe, AMPHIS and THEXIS worked on communications, leaving UOPETA THEROS and COLUS concentrating on navigation, protection and offensive capabilities...

"If what SERVERE said was true, we're going to have a lot more to content with than just HoN Co. guards and the Elite soldiers."

"That's true; they're likely to have some basic level of security at the least. But if HoN Co. are as paranoid about us as a threat as I believe them to be, we're going to find ways past motion sensors, CCTV, infra-red cameras, biometrics, the whole she-bang!"

"True, but they're likely to only use those systems within the main building. If these new extensions are recent, they won't be outfitted with the same level of security. Not only that, but they are likely to be unmanned, instead favouring the security system put in the form of those pig-men..."

"Not only that, but those ghast creatures, and possible the undead and Creepers too! I'm hoping my darts will be enough to get us past those creatures without too much hassle, although I'm beginning to think that a blowpipe isn't the best delivery method... Maybe if I can find a way to..."

"Hey, OROTHO! Leave that side of things to COLUS and the others! We're on risk assessment! There are bound to be more risks than just the creatures, guards and Elite soldiers. There will be security systems, scientists, researchers and other civilians. There are bound to be more than that, and we need to be as thorough as possible. The more we come up with now, the less we need to change or add to later..."

We continued to discuss the full extent of the risks that we would encounter, going into a lot of detail about some of them. Every now and then I would overhear small sections from the other two groups, along with mentions of something that would interest OROTHO and benefit his improvement on the blowpipe idea. As well as that, there were mentions of map copies to ensure that whichever way we finalised it, any and all groups would possess a map of their own. We would need to ensure that so none of us were disadvantaged. We would have to go all out on this one. Once we had the Eyes, we would have to return to the base and find the entry back to the portal through the cliff mine. If we got the Eyes...

Syeonyx signing off

Planning ahead

     Assembled around the table, COLUS waited patiently for the others to assemble and settle before beginning the discussion. We had a lot to talk about and update everyone on, but we were still waiting on OROTHO. COLUS busied himself with the maps that lay before him, whilst we talked amongst ourselves about what this was all about. We all had the suspicion it was based on COLUS's big plan, but there was little known about the details. Eventually OROTHO came in from the lab, accompanied by SERVERE. COLUS and UOPETA seemed to the only ones who weren't surprised by SERVERE's sudden appearance, but he had said that he was expecting him back any time. Once everyone settled at the table, COLUS started the discussion, firstly by asking SERVERE about the developments that he had initially enquired about.

"You were right; they've begun experiments in the Nether trying to bring the creatures there across to guard their HQ, but once they found out about the Affinitas cages being able to spawn Guardians, they've been tweaking their version to do the same."

"Are they getting anywhere with them?"

"Luckily no. They don't have a clue how the cages that occur in the Nether can spawn from those cages, but with the amount of money and resources they're pumping into that area, I wouldn't be surprised if they nailed it soon."

"What about the creatures from the Nether? Have they been able to transfer them from the Nether?"

"Yes and no. Some have been successfully transferred across, but they were having some issues with the pig-men. Like the Creepers, they managed to alter them, so they're hostile now. Large areas of the HQ have been erected and protected with these pig-men, so I can only assume they were going to use those as places to store the Eyes. Not that they got any."

"Actually, they did. We were lucky in getting three of them, but they've still got the other two. I assumed their headquarters would be the first place they'd stow them after taking them from the Nether, and now we're almost sure of it, thanks to your information."

"You only have three of them? Where are they? And what happened to the other two?"

"No offence SERVERE but we can't give you the location of the three Eyes to you. Not that we might think you're a traitor, but if HoN Co. are watching you then you could become a liability. For everyone's safety it's easier if you remain in the dark. As for how they got two of them, well they got ahead of Syeonyx, THEROS and THEXIS and took them. Luckily they were closing on them towards the end, and put on a good show for them. Although I get the feeling it may come to haunt us later."

"Well if it makes you feel any better, there have been no Elite movements towards this location recently. As for what orders they gave when in the Nether, I'm not able to access them. As from now, I'm not sure what you want from me...?"

"Two things: one small, one pretty big..."

"I have a feeling I'm not going to like this..."

"You probably won't. Firstly the small request; on any of these maps can you locate the HoN Co. HQ? It's important we know where it is..."

"And the big request...?"

"Can you procure a copy of the floor plan and layout of the HQ, indicating these new additions t the structure?"

"You want me to give you the blueprints to the HQ...? You know I would love to do that, but I think even you know that's way beyond my clearance..."

"I never said it was going t be easy. But we need a good knowledge of the layout to be able to get in and out undetected..."

"That's a massive ask... I can try but you know I can't guarantee anything..."

"Anything as simple as a floor layout would be enough, but try to get some detail to it. It might be easier if you could gain the blueprints of the new sections that have been built recently."

"I doubt I'd be able to get anywhere near those. Top secret. Highly classified. The only reason we know about them is because they're hard to miss. I put two and two together to find out what they were for."

"Well, I guess there's no need for the meeting now, as that was more or less the full extent of it. SERVERE, I need you to go now as soon as possible, after you tell me where on these maps it is."

SERVERE went through a few of the maps on the table, before settling on one and pointing to where it located.

"There... It's a pretty big place, and they've expanded massively since it was initially set up."

"Whilst you're retrieving any floor plans we can use, the rest of us will be determining the best plan of action to ensure we get in and out undetected..."

"I'll try my best but I can't guarantee I can come away with anything substantial."

SERVERE left the table for the lab, leaving the rest of us. COLUS looked at the point on the map where SERVERE had pointed to, pushing the other maps aside. After a few moments to think over something to himself, he finally looked back up and began to speak again.

"Right, we've got quite a lot of work to do before SERVERE gets back. We need to come up with a flexible game plan that can be changed depending on the situation of the floor plan."

We continued to discuss the future scenario that would play out when SERVERE came back with the maps we needed, and we began to draw up lists of how we would need to be prepared. By the end of it, I was beginning to wish I hadn't suggested a list...

Syeonyx signing off

Day 153: Dream Teller

     I didn't have that dream last night, although it wouldn't be the first time that it'd been days where I'd not dreamt about it... I had had other dreams which were linked to our current situation, but I was unable to retain any detail to them at all. But it has got me thinking about it, and I've decided to at least voice my concerns to Amie about the dream. I would have done it last night, but I felt so safe and happy with Amie so close to me that I didn't want to ruin the mood. But now she was awake, and I couldn't think of a better time to talk to her about it; for the rest of the day we would all be very busy and I was unlikely to get the chance to talk to her about it, least of all on her own... I gave her a few minutes to fully wake up and dress herself before I began to go through the dream with her. I started with the beginning which always played out the same, and then I took her through the four different endings I could remember that played out sequentially. I could remember every vivid detail despite the length of time that spanned between now and the last one I had had with crystal clear clarity. It was almost as though my mind wasn't allowed to forget any of it. Amie sat on the edge of my bed in silence the entire time, listening to every word I spoke; her face showing a mixed expression of both concern and intrigue. When I finished, we sat in silence for a full minute. Then she said the five words I didn't think she would say!

"We need to tell COLUS..."

We left my room together, heading straight to the discussion room in search of COLUS, but not finding anyone, we went to the lab where he was a regular there as much as OROTHO. He wasn't there either, and we were beginning to think he hadn't awoken yet, which was highly irregular for him.

"OROTHO, do you happen to know where COLUS is? We need to talk to him about a serious matter?"

"He's with AMPHIS in the library. Why, what's so important?"

"We'll tell you if COLUS can make anything of it. Do you know why he's in the library? What's he looking for?"

"I don't know. I think he mentioned something about this plan of his, although he's keeping that to himself at the moment. I gather it might have something to do with a map that THEROS drew up some time ago and it might actually show where the HoN Co. HQ is... Or where it could be at least..."

"Thanks!"

We headed off out of the lab and to the right towards the library where we should be able to find COLUS talking with AMPHIS. As far as I knew, THEROS and the others were still asleep, and rightly so considering the amount of work we'd been going through over the past few days. The really disorientating thing was that UOPETA seemed to think we hadn't been gone as long as we had. Obviously because of the time distortion, that was literally the case, but it was still really hard to get your head around...

----


     We managed to find COLUS in the library, on the bottom level where he was searching amongst a large collection of maps, just like OROTHO had assumed. He seemed to notice us coming down, but didn't stop going through the maps laid out before him. There was just a mess of papers scattered about, showing different regions of Minecraftia that THEROS had explored and noted on paper in map-form. There was a surprising amount of detail in every one of them, and it was that skill that THEROS had that helped us get through the Nether so quickly.

"I assume you've not come down to look at the maps or search through OROTHO's research archive...? Which means you've come looking for me, specifically to tell or ask me of something..."

"In relation to what's happened recently it's not the most important issue to take into account, but from Syeonyx has told me, it's definitely something we shouldn't ignore completely. Go Syeonyx, tell COLUS what you told me."

COLUS stopped going through the maps and looked at me as I began to go through the exact same descriptions of the dream that I had gone over with Amie earlier. It felt weird repeating myself, but I was just happy that it was being taken seriously and not as a joke. I'd feel rather foolish if Amie had either laughed at me or just put it down to the environment I was in at the time. Then again there was still time for COLUS to think and say those exact same things. Although as I told him what I had experienced he too showed the same expression of concern. When I finished, he too sat in silence for a few moments before saying anything.

"How long have you been having these dreams?"

I told him it'd been playing over the past week or so, mainly since we entered into the Nether to retrieve the Eyes. I assumed that there was a link there, and that maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me something, but COLUS was intrigued by it as much as Amie.

"Maybe it's not your subconscious! What if it's the Endermen trapped in The End trying to send out a message to you giving predictions of the possible outcomes of our campaign against HoN Co.! They were able to send us the message across the Aether to us about the portal and the history of what happened, but maybe this is there attempt at giving us a more in-depth look of what could happen."

"That's what I thought. The Endermen are essentially saying 'these are the likely outcomes of your actions', maybe base on how much progress you had made at the time."

"Or they were preparing you for the possible eventualities depending on who succeeded in using the Keystone..."

"We can't know for sure whether HoN Co. is aware of an alternate use for it, but we know they they know it's powerful, and that's why they attempted to take the Eyes: to stop us from getting to it and using it against them. If they had possession of it, it would be better safeguarded by them, especially with this new information you told us yesterday."

"Well we can't act on the grounds of a dream, but I know we can't just sit and do nothing until the worst happens. I'm still waiting on SERVERE to return with information of the experiments they were doing, and how successful they were. When he gets back, I'm going to ask him where their HQ is. We have to assume the Eyes they have are there now, especially if he returns with knowledge of specific developments in their experiments."

COLUS collected up a load of maps from the pile and began to head back upstairs, mentioning the need to have a meeting. He said that he was expecting SERVERE back soon, and the quicker we were prepared the better. We followed him up the stairs to the top and into the discussion room, where we waited for the others to join us.

Syeonyx signing off

Show and tell

     Taking only what was essential back with us, we began to slowly make our way back to the portal, where we would discuss our findings in detail, giving everyone a detailed picture of the situation. We were all anxious to know whether SERVERE had been back yet as well, although UOPETA hadn't come to inform us at all. Not as far as me, THEROS and THEXIS knew anyway... I was also intrigued by this plan of COLUS's that he had already cooked up whilst we had been collecting the Ender Eyes, and whether it related to finding the HoN Co. HQ. I was happy either way; we were returning to Minecraftia and I was back with Amie. A few days rest maybe and I would be back in fighting form, ready to take back the two Ender Eyes that HoN Co. possess.

"We managed to get quite a bit done while you were away. Not only did we come up with a contingency plan in the instance that you may not come back with all of the Eyes, but we investigated their base a little more, gaining valuable information that could prove invaluable in the future. Not only that, but UOPETA came into the Nether with news of SERVERE's return."

"Really? That's great news! Although it's a little late now for him to give us any information about the location of the Ender Eyes... We have three of them, and we've got a god idea where the other two are..."

"True, but I sent UOPETA back a day or two ago to tell SERVERE to investigate the truth behind the information we uncovered at the base."

"Why? What did you find?"

"Well, I assume you didn't come across any odd creatures whilst out retrieving the Eyes...?"

"Apart from the Guardians, none at all... We had a brush with a HoN Co. guard team, but what were you saying about the creatures?"

"We found out why they're not around here... We initially thought it was because HoN Co. was experimenting on them, trying to find ways to make them domesticated up to the point of a guard dog. We also thought they were using their own crafted Affinitas cages to lure them to where they were needed. Well, we were partly right..."

"How do you mean? Are they experimenting on them?"

"Yes and no. I've had to have SERVERE go an verify this, but we found a lot of evidence to suggest that HoN Co. are trying to find ways of bringing the creatures from the Nether into Minecraftia..."

"What?!?!"

"We found a few reports documenting the partial success of encouraging the pig-men, ghasts, Guardians and many more to make use of the portals, to be attracted to their respective cages placed in locations within Minecraftia..."

"Ghasts...? What's one of them...?"

"You know those strange, floating white squid we came across last time we were here; well it seems that HoN Co. have named them ghasts... Not only that, but we've found data suggesting that there are many more hostile creatures that exist in the Nether, and proof that HoN Co. want to use them as guard dogs to protect vital places they have in Minecraftia."

"Why would HoN Co. need to protect their places with creatures from this dimension? Why can't they just use Creepers like they used to do...?"

"Apparently the Creepers are inefficient and far too volatile. Little provocation is needed to set a Creeper to detonate itself... It seems HoN Co. were trying to find ways of efficiently protecting the Ender Eyes they fully intended to take all of. They were going to implement these Nether guard dogs to protect them, all in separate locations, each with a massive array of guards from the Nether."

"It's a good job then that we've got three of them then. But that still leaves the other two. Did you find out where these sites were being set up?"

"From the details within the reports, they were only going to set up four sites to hide the Eyes and protect them, although what they had in mind for the fifth Eye I don't know..."

"Maybe they were going to run tests on one of them...?"

We all turned to look at OROTHO, who's valid point seemed to throw us all off a little. Despite the logic behind that, it made no sense with regards to activating the portal. Why would HoN Co. go to the trouble of finding all five Eyes, but not use them to open the portal to take the Keystone...?

"Maybe they don't know about the other use for the Keystone. Maybe they don't know about it at all... I wouldn't be surprised if they had a feeling they knew what we were after and wanted to take them before we had the chance. Without the Eyes, the portal would remain closed, and our one chance of truly knocking HoN Co. down would remain sealed away..."

"How would they know though? Are you saying that someone is spying on us?"

"They have their Elite soldiers, don't forget. Their stealth suits could mean that we could be surrounded by many of them, and not even realise it..."

"Either that or SERVERE isn't as secretive as he makes out..."

We remained quiet after that final comment; it had brought a lot more distrust to the surface instantly, and it wasn't needed. I didn't know SERVERE anywhere near as well as the others, but with the amount of cooperation that SERVERE has provided to us was more than enough to suggest he was fighting for the right side. It was enough for me anyway, although looking at the faces around me, I got the impression the others were trying to determine if SERVERE could now still be trusted...

     After arriving back at the base, we settled in for a good half an hour or so before getting to work exchanging information. Once arranged around the table, we allowed COLUS to finish telling us what he had found out whilst we had been retrieving the Ender Eyes, before we moved on. COLUS seemed worried about our little "spat" - as THEROS called it - with the HoN Co. guards, and was even more worried about the possible repercussions of such an incident. After a lot of discussion about this topic, COLUS stated that there was a high chance that HoN Co. would attempt to infiltrate the base with Elite soldiers, so everywhere was one lock-down. We had locked off the hidden wall that led from the passage to the portal chamber, and all doors between it and the base. We had also locked down every door within the tunnel that snaked its way across to the conducting tower, and we had locked down all access to these doors from the lab. We also secured the iron mine from the inside before locking off access to the front as well. The only way the Elite soldiers were going to spy on us is if they were already here. I wish I hadn't thought of that... We settled in for the night, Amie choosing to sleep in my room with me for security. Tomorrow we would have a lot to sort out, but until then I was happy to remain in Amie's company with no-one to bother us.

Syeonyx signing off

Day 152: Return home

     I had that dream again... Although the odd thing about it was that it didn't have a new ending like the previous four times. Instead it repeated the same ending from the second dream; the portal rose from the base of the tower, already in state of disrepair. The rift seated within the crumbling obsidian frame flashed violently between its usual purple and the sickly green we had come to know so well. Once it had risen to its highest point, the entire portal began to shudder and shake, as if by a violent earthquake, spraying small fragments of obsidian and dust into the air. Then, with a final lurch and an ear-splitting crack, the portal shattered into billions of minuscule fragments... I don't know whether that was a good sign or not; I still hadn't told anyone, but there must be some significance to having the same dream with the same ending twice... I think when we get back to the base camp I'm going to have to tell someone. I might tell Amie first and see if she can make anything of it. She's smart enough to at least make an intelligent decision as to whether it's worth telling the others.

----


     Despite the repeat of the dream I've had before, I woke up with remnants of my elated mood from yesterday. Not only had we somehow manage to defend ourselves from a potentially fatal encounter with HoN Co., but we now also possessed three Eyes of Ender. We would still need to return to the base camp and hide the two we had with us now, before trying to find the two that HoN Co. possessed. We held the slight upper hand in this conflict, but that would only make it harder for us to remain hidden from HoN Co.... If they hadn't already, I could imagine them bringing the Elite into the mix now. Which reminded me: I wonder if there's been any sign of SERVERE back from investigating The End more thoroughly at HoN Co. headquarters...? When I thought of that, a worrying image came to mind. What if the guards that had managed to take the other two Eyes had taken them back to the HoN Co. headquarters? We had no idea where they were, and if SERVERE didn't come back soon we would be like sitting ducks, stuck with nothing to do, a massive target to HoN Co.! I cast that thought from my mind and tried to settle on something a little more cheery. I would be seeing Amie again in a few hours time, and that was all I needed to put me back into my happy mood.

"How do you think COLUS is going to react to us only having sixty per cent of the Ender Eyes...?"

"Sixty per cent? Why don't you just say three...? He knows there's only five in total, so he'll understand that... And hopefully he'll be understanding. We set out to find them knowing full well that HoN Co. was here doing the exact same thing. There was bound to be some conflict between us..."

"To be honest I suppose we'd still be in the same position, regardless whether we had four of the Eyes or only one. We'd still need to gain access to the HoN Co. base and take the ones we don't have."

I piped up and posed the question that had occurred to me earlier, and asked whether it was possible that HoN Co. would have taken the Eyes they had to their headquarters. I thought it was definitely possible as that's exactly what I would have done; once in possession of them all, I would have hidden them as far from the Nether and everyone else as possible.

"I suppose it's possible, but that would really mess things up for us. Then again we're not expecting HoN Co. to make things easy for us... I wouldn't be surprised if they've already done that, but we've got SERVERE to help us find the way..."

"A few problems: what if SERVERE isn't back yet, how would we get to their headquarters, and most importantly, how would we get in and out without attracting their attention and getting ourselves killed?"

"We'd just have to wait for SERVERE to come back, but as for getting there and remaining hidden, I can only hope that SERVERE would be able to provide a lot of assistance in that way..."

"The thing is, we're going to have to be careful about how much we ask SERVERE to do for us, because it could mean HoN Co. become more and more suspicious of his actions. I wouldn't be surprised if HoN Co. are still monitoring him with other Elite soldiers on a different task..."

"I don't see how we'd have any other choice. It's not like SERVERE can 'procure' a few of those stealth suits for us, and let us wander around the headquarters unnoticed. They would have security measure in place; infra-red, CCTV, motion sensors... Stuff that a stealth suit wouldn't be able to hide from..."

"We don't know much those stealth suits can do. Up until a few weeks ago, we didn't even know if that type of technology was even in use by anyone! Now we've found out we could be being spied on by HoN Co. soldiers wearing those suits..."

As we continued, I turned my attention to assessing our surroundings, wishing I hadn't brought the subject of the HoN Co. HQ into question...

----


     We were nearly home now; the Nether stone steps leading back up to the base camp were now just in view, and my spirit rose considerably knowing I would soon be back somewhere safe - safer anyway... - and with Amie. I had missed her considerably since leaving for the second expedition, but I had tried to keep it hidden. If I thought about her all the time and how much I missed her, there would have been no way I would have been able to perform like I had in that room with the last Ender Eye. Crossing the final few metres, I took the steps two at a time, right to the top. Letting THEROS go first, I looked around the small area for Amie, leaving THEROS to deal with COLUS.

"Ah you're back! Great! Do you have them then...?"

"Good news and bad news... We have two of them..."

"And what of the other two?"

"Three guesses..."

"I had a feeling that might be the case. We should head back through the portal. No sense in staying here any longer than we need to. We've got a lot to discuss..."

"What about the other Eyes though...?"

"I've already got a plan in mind."

COLUS moved aside, revealing Amie, who had her back to me, working on something with OROTHO. She turned, and when she saw me, she ran straight to me. We hugged for what seemed like hours, and then I kissed her gently. It was good to be back!

Syeonyx signing off