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...

The ultimate disguise!

     We went back inside the lab where we had seen the two scientists dissecting something on the top of a table in the far corner, which meant going through the same disinfectant process again. Pressing the button, the light flashed, before the room filled with the same sterile mist, which dissipated quickly, opening the door in front of us. Entering into the other side of the room, I noticed that the other scientist had already left, leaving us on our own with Jeff. Walking to the far side, he flicked a switch and the table they had been standing around earlier sank into the ground, leaving only a slight raise in the ground.

"As you no doubt know by now, we're been able to experiment over a wide area of topics and subjects, and have had access to some of the best equipment and scientific minds of our generation. Up until now, I couldn't think of any practical application to the experiments we were performing, but I had faith in the Director that he knew what he was doing. It's only recently when we were told to begin experimenting with the creatures they had managed to bring across from the Nether. I have dissected the remains of pigmen that have been subjected to many forms of torture and physical stress, most of which I was unable to determine the cause of. But it seems that HoN Co. are not only trying to find ways to bring large quantities into our dimension, but they're trying to beef them up as well!"

"You think HoN Co. are trying to improve the pigmen?"

"Not just the pigmen; once or twice I have dissected the remains of infant Ghasts, Blazes, Creepers, and many more creatures that didn't as yet have names. Through vigorous study I was able to determine that many of the corpses had similar traits, but only those that had been performed on them. Some had received numerous, deep lacerations, burns and a vast array of other physical deformities."

"What about the Creepers? What did you notice when you were dissecting those?"

"Well a couple of years ago I noticed that there had been a significant change to the physiology of the Creepers I had dissected in the past. They possessed a new organ that secreted a hormone or chemical that only occurred while it was alive. We were told very little of its use, except that it was involved in making them 'more volatile'... We also weren't told how they had come to have these new organs, but early on I came up with the theory that they had been altered on the genetic level. It wasn't a random, spontaneous mutation of DNA, but a precisely engineered modification."

"So another cell within HoN Co. was altering the genetic code of Creepers to grow this additional organ inside of them?"

"Yes, but it hadn't hit me then that it was us doing the genetic modification. They told us to stop asking questions and get on with our work. Well, I'm sorry, but when you tell a scientist to stop asking questions, it's like telling them to quit! That's what a scientist does! For at least a year I've begun to understand that HoN Co. cares not about morals or ethics, but only on reaching their ultimate goal, that of which I am now aware. For about as long I've been wanting to leave, but I know that they wouldn't let me go freely. A HoN Co. scientist does not simply quit. They 'disappear'... Something I'd rather not do. So I've kept up my work for the purpose of preserving my life, so that I may get the chance to escape one day."

"You're not the only one, you know. In our time we've opened the eyes of HoN Co. scientists, guards and other employees being kept blind to the whole picture. In fact one of the scientists studying portal technology has joined us. Her name is Amie, and we found her working on the master portal. She had the same doubts about HoN Co. as you do, and if these doubts are as widespread as we believe, it's only a matter time before everyone leaves, and the public gets wind of this."

"See, due to the way in which HoN Co. keeps us in these distinct cells, I hadn't even heard about any kind of portal, let alone experiments with making ones that take you to other dimensions. It's unlikely she knew about the work we did, although I use the word 'work' in the loosest possible sense."

"Anyway, you said you had something that could make things a little easier for us?"

"Ah, yes I do. As I already mentioned, quitting from this job is practically impossible, but I had an idea to simply walk out instead."

"I don't get it, what's the difference?"

"This is..."

Jeff came from the other side of the room carrying a small device which I thought was another PDA, until he placed it onto the table top.

"What is it?"

"Is it a way to destroy the master portal without having to go into The End?"

"No, unfortunately. I've been working on this for some time, so I wouldn't have known about the portals back then. No, it's a small device that mimics the environment around it through an array of sensors and projects a true-to-life stream of light which can be used to hide objects."

"In English...?"

"It's a device that can hide any object, including people, by mimicking the environment around it, essentially bending light by allowing viewers to look straight through it, without seeing it or whatever it is attached to."

"So it's like an invisible shield, based from the Elite armour?"

"Oh no, that's true invisibility. They have spent billions developing a technology that can bend electro-magnetic radiation at the visible light level. This detects, copies and then mimics the surrounding colours and textures, and then projects them out, much like a chameleon does. It adapts to its environment through the sensors, and within seconds, it can conceal an object as it moves between varying levels of colour and texture. It's called a CPD: Chameleonic Projection Device. Well, I called it the CPD, and as far as I know, nothing else like it exists. The technology is so very different from that used by the Elite armour, but it essentially does the same."

"How effective is it? Does the light level effect it?"

"Well I would say it's more effective than bending light, as with that method there is always a level of distortion. Light naturally travels in a straight line, which is usually the path of least resistance, but obviously attempting to bend it will cause distortion. This is often seen as a rippling effect, like that of gently flowing water. However with the CPD, it replicates the light level, shadowing, colour and texture of any and all objects in a 360o radius."

"Can I try it out?"

"Sure! Place it on a central position on your body, turn it on and wait a few moments for it to gather enough data to operate. It'll take effect momentarily."

"But how does it work?"

"Like that..."


Syeonyx signing off

Making nice with the locals

     We weren't sure exactly what to do, now that we knew the others were safe and SERVERE had told us to lay low. We had managed to take one of the Eyes of Ender that HoN Co. had retrieved from the Nether before us, but there was still one to go. SERVERE had said to go back down to the labs and stay away from the Director, the creepy, suit guy that was in charge of this HQ. He had already seen us dressed in guards' armour, so it made sense to stay out of his way whilst we remained dressed as scientists. Heading back to the One and Two labs we had come back from, we were a little disorientated as to what to do. It'd be at least a couple of hours until we heard anything back from SERVERE about how the others were doing, and I doubted we could get away with just sitting there in one of the labs. However when we reached the bottom of the stairs, we took a right to the far end of the corridor and went into the cafeteria instead.

"We can speed an hour or so in here and wait it out. If we stick together and don't talk too much to the other scientists, we may get away with our cover remaining intact."

"I doubt the scientists are quick to rat someone in. Sure their work is top secret, but if all of the scientists are like Amie, they're unlikely to know what HoN Co. are ultimately trying to do. They probably know small parts, but it would make sense why they're kept in distinct cells rather than an entire lab. It's easier to keep them together and block the information they may find immoral and prevent them from piecing things together. Who knows what they're doing in the One and Two labs, but it must be linked for them to be together and be allowed to mix."

Opening the doors to the cafeteria, we were met with a few scientists seated at a few tables scattered around. It looked like we were going to find it easier to hide out in here than we thought! It was night so they had either retired for the day, or were busy setting something up to run overnight. The few that were dotted around were all flicking through books or looking at something on their PDA's, deeply engrossed in the content, and barely touching the food they had decided to take. Following suit, we headed to the counter so it looked a little more convincing that we weren't trying to hide.

"What'll be chaps?"

"Erm... Three cups of coffee and... Erm, what do you guys want?"

"The lasagne...?"

"Three plates of lasagne please!"

The eager kitchen attendant quickly dished up three plates with generous helpings of lasagne, and by the time we sat down with our plates and mugs of coffee, I was practically drooling! It had been quite a few hours since our last meal, and considering the circumstances, it wasn't anything particularly substantial either. Taking a sip of the coffee, I welcomed the sweet-bitter combination greatly, necking nearly a quarter of it before the heat got to my throat and I came up for air.

"It could be worse(!)"

To make it look a little more convincing that we were part of the team, UOPETA took the PDA out and flicked across to the map screen, where it currently displayed the five towers, the main base, and five red lines joining them. Using the legend in the corner, UOPETA tapped the screen a few times, increasing the magnification, and placed markers on the two towers we had visited.


"If SERVERE managed to get to the others before they entered the first tower, then hopefully they'll be aware of what they're up against and how many Eyes are left to find. However we can't guarantee that; the first tower is close to the main HQ and the tunnel isn't likely to be that long either. However, given the time we know they left, they should either be in or close to the first one now. If the Eye is in there, then they should be back here very quickly, provided they don't have too much trouble with the Ghast."

"Or the pigmen..."

As we continued to talk amongst ourselves, we made our way through our plates of lasagne, enjoying every mouthful. It was going to be a while before we ate this well again! We had better make the most of it. UOPETA quickly put the PDA away, and looking up to see why, we saw a scientist walking towards us. He came and sat right beside me, with his fingers interlaced, and spread at arms length over the table.

"I know who you are... You're Lone 7, aren't you?"

The shock of that question must have been a little more severe than we had imagined, as he reacted smugly to our expressions.

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, you're not guards and your certainly not scientists, and from what I can tell there's no other need for anyone else here."

"That doesn't make us Lone 7..."

"Well, okay, fine. I saw you enter the base a few hours back dressed as guards. I then saw you dressed as scientists watching over myself and my assistant, before leaving again. Scientists and guards are two roles that are never shared between one individual. You don't look or act like guards, and your behaviour doesn't suggest you're scientists either, new or otherwise. Don't worry, I'm not going to rat you in or anything..."

"How can we trust you? You're working with HoN Co.! That's enough to make us suspicious."

"Please, if I wanted to rat you in I would have done so when I saw you at the entrance. Instead I've been watching you, and studying your movements. I see you found one of the Eyes?"

"How did you...?"

"The PDA. It's got a tracking device inside, they all do. It wasn't hard to find out the ID of yours and track it's movement within the HQ. How do you like our experiments!"

"They're abominations! They belong in the Nether and not here!"

"I agree with you..."

"Exactl... Wait, what?"

"I agree with you... We're playing God! Admittedly we've been accused of doing that for years by the press, but it's only recently I realised that it's not a good thing. Certainly not in this way anyway."

"So you don't approve of what HoN Co. is doing?"

"I don't approve of that or of what I'm doing either. But there's little I can do about it. I signed up because I was told I'd be at the forefront of scientific and technological marvels. We're certainly there alright, but they never mention anything about the butchering and abuse of organic life we'd have to go through either. I don't even know why we're doing this!"

"Do you want to know...? We found out over a number of years, but we know why each of the HoN Co. science cells are doing the experiments they're doing."

"Trying to amass an army of strange creatures, I'd say."

"Worse than that..."

We spent quite a while filling the scientist in about what we knew of HoN Co. and their attempts to activate the master portal. We went through the conducting tower, the lab, all of the portals that had sprung up, and the experiments with dimensions and other creatures. The entire time he sat there listening, no emotion crossing his face at all, nodding every now and then. When we finished, he sat there, leaning back in the chair.

"I knew there was a reason I thought HoN Co. were evil... Are you sure about all of this?"

"We spent the better part of a year trying to destroy an entire array of portals that they erected to prevent them from activating the master portal. If they succeed, you can say goodbye to life as we know it on this planet. All for their bid to monopolise the energy industry. If they succeed, they think they'll be the pioneers of new, innovative energy sources, and become top dog. We think otherwise. We KNOW otherwise. Activating that portal will only lead to death and destruction."

"So why don't they know this? They've got some of the most brilliant minds working with them, I'd have thought they would have searched a bit more into this..."

"Either they do know and don't care, blanketing the entire thing in lies and propaganda, or they miscalculated. Greatly miscalculated. They don't seem to understand the purpose of the portals, and therefore they've only magnified the problem. They think they can use the master portal as a giant gateway to veritable bounties of new and plentiful energy."

"Let's hope you succeed in this plan of yours then... I'd hate to be under the banner with everyone else if they succeed. I think I may be able to help you however. Not drastically, but even out the odds a little. Come with me."

Leaving some of our lasagne behind, we followed the scientist from the cafeteria and back to one of the labs we had visited earlier.

"Oh, by the way. The name's Jeff."

Syeonyx signing off

Hide and seek

     It was odd how such an evil HoN Co. base could be located in the centre of a stunningly beautiful jungle, especially at this time of; the last remaining rays of light of the sun shining onto the Western side of the tower to the South of us playing in stark contrast that that of the other side. The dull, grey structure jutting up from a sea of green. I wasn't even able to see the roof of the main base from the top of this tower due to the incredibly dense canopy covering. Turning to go, I took one last look at the setting sun, wondering what the outcome of all of this would be. Would we succeed in taking the Keystone from The End and destroying the master portal, or would we fail, ultimately dooming every living thing that existed. It wasn't worth thinking about, let alone getting worked up about... I joined UOPETA and THEROS at the top of the stairs, beginning our descent to the tunnels below, where we would make our way to the next tower.

---

     I can't believe it hadn't occurred to me before, I'm such a fool, we all are! As we had reached the base of the tower, a thought had jolted me from my daydreams, with an almost physical force! The Eyes of Ender! I had been thinking about whether SERVERE had managed to help them escape by now when I realised that COLUS still possessed the three Eyes we had recovered from the Nether! What if SERVERE wasn't able to help them escape? What if they had found COLUS in possession of the three Eyes of Ender and taken them? They would then possess four of them! We still didn't know whether HoN Co. was aware of the alternate use for the Keystone, and if they did, obtaining the Eyes would become top priority! If they did know what they unlocked, what object they could get a hold of, then we would have lost! It would be impossible to take back four!

"Look, SERVERE got us out of there pretty quickly, and even managed to get us another disguise. He should easily be able to to the same for the others."

"Not necessarily! They thought we were guards, so we weren't monitored. But they know who the other six are; as far as they're concerned, they're their main targets! With the Lone 7 caught, they have no obstacles to setting up the master portal for good and merging the dimensions!"

"Then there's only one thing we can do from here. The remaining towers can wait. We need to either find SERVERE or find the others and try to release them, if they haven't already."

"How are we going to manage that? HoN Co. have been looking for us for a number of years. They're not going to give them to a couple of scientists for some arbitrary reason..."

"We'll come up with something, although finding SERVERE is top priority. He's the one we need to find and determine where the others are. If they have been taken elsewhere, he's the only one who'll know where they've been taken."

We picked up the pace as we dashed down the stairs to the tunnel below, where we were then able to freely run down for the entire length before slowing down to avoid drawing attention. Ascending the stairs back to the main lab corridor, we slowly made our way to the far side and went back up to the courtyard. The buzzing activity from before had calmed slightly, and the creepy guy in the suit had disappeared, but it didn't mean we were safe. We were still being watched by CCTV and we couldn't even be sure that HoN Co. had seen right through us from the start, and was merely toying with us, making us think we had control. I doubted that would be the case; HoN Co. would have nothing to gain, and it could go wrong very quickly for them. UOPETA pointed across to the door on the far side which led back to the interrogation room. That's where we had left them when we had been taken to another room, and the guards that had been posted outside were gone. That didn't bode well.

"Let's look for SERVERE. If they've taken them to another place in the HQ, SERVERE is likely to be looking for us so he could tell us."

We waited for a group of scientists to move past us so we could make our way to the interrogation room, hoping that they were still there, or at least somewhere close by so we could get them out of there. Reaching the door, we slowly opened up to find an empty room! Opening it fully, we searched the entire room, but we were unable to find anyone, or any of the equipment and bags that they had kept with them!

"What now? We need to find SERVERE quickly! He'll know where they've been taken!"

We had no idea how we were going to find him though. He had disappeared and seemed to merge into the HQ with every other civilian and guard. The only thing I could think of was to ask at the front desk and see if they know where he had gone to.

"It seems a little odd asking for SERVERE. Surely he would have changed his name or they would have done it for him...?"

"Unless they made him keep it. As a trophy. A mark of their victory over us...?"

"Well it's likely to ring a bell with a few guards here, but let's try not to make it too obvious."

Heading out from the interrogation room, we made our way to the entrance where the same guard was still on duty. We turned back around quickly and headed back in the opposite direction. If he saw us again he'd know something was up; we had entered the HQ as guards, and now we were wearing lab coats!

"What now? We can't ask him or they'll catch us!"

"It doesn't matter, we've got luck on our side! Look!"

THEROS pointed ahead of us in the direction of the other tunnel entrance leading to the other three towers; from the top of the stairs emerged SERVERE, His posture and expression suggested he was searching for someone, and as his gaze drifted across to us, it changed to relief. He came across to us, with a smile on his face.

"I've been looking for you three. I thought you would have been done by now!"

"We had a run-in with a Ghast and some pigmen. It wasn't pretty."

"Sorry, I didn't have any information about that. You were heading in blind."

"What about the others? Where have they been taken?"

"Taken? They left to reach the other towers. I managed to sneak them the same disguises you've used, but with access to the labs down that entrance instead."

"Great! Do you think we can catch them up?"

"Definitely not. With those ID badges you're not authorised to access those tunnels. There are some severe penalties for those that do. No, COLUS told me to tell you to find somewhere safe to remain within the HQ until they're searched their towers. They don't know about whether you succeeded or not so they're likely to search all three."

"Well we found one. Are you able to get back to them?"

"Yeah, the Elite are given full access to the entire base. I'll catch up to them and tell them they're only looking for one Eye now. I'll warn them about the Ghasts as well."

"Oh, and warn them about the Eye. When they find it, the creatures in the tower become hostile, so a quick exit is advised!"

"Thanks. I'll see you in a couple of hours if all things go as planned. Until then, head into one of the labs and lie low.The Director doesn't usually go down to One and Two labs so you should be safe."

"The Director? Who's that?"

"The guy in the suit. I don't know his real name; I don't think anyone does. We just know him as the Director. He manages the operations within the HQ. Nothing goes on without him knowing about it. Well, everything but this."

SERVERE headed back in the direction he had come from, as we slowly made our way back down to the labs, trying not to draw any attention. What were we going to do for a few hours? Play hide and seek?

Syeonyx signing off

Come for the Eye, stay for the view

     Taking a few breaths, we had a few moments to compose ourselves before the next tower. From what had happened in the last one, I knew none of us were looking forward to this one, or any of of the others if the Eye wasn't here. Beginning our way up, we wondered why this area of the tunnel seemed so empty; even with the labs still under construction, surely there would be builders or architects wandering around planning the layout...? Instead there was an empty tunnel, void of any life but ourselves, and a few doorways that had been blocked off by tape. Presumably the base for the labs had been shelled out from the stone, but nothing had been installed yet. Additionally there were no guards or checkpoints along this point either, which I thought was particularly odd, especially if there was a chance that an Eye was up in this tower. So far I was under the impression that we were going to be disappointed when we reached the top.

"Do you hear any odd noises coming from up ahead?"

"No..."

"Me either... Is that a good thing?"

"Yes and no. No Ghasts or pigmen is, but that would suggest that we're not going to find the last Ender Eye up here... Even still, I think we should be prepared this time."

We stopped partway up the stairs, and constructed our own rifles quickly before continuing up to the top. As we got there, our rifles were hoisted to arm height, ready to shoot at any Ghast that came too close, but as we stood there, poised ready to attack, we realised that there was no Ghast in this section of the tower.

"I don't like this. What if it's round the other side of the column, just waiting for us?"

"I doubt they work like that, but we better not take the chance."

We began to circle the column, keeping our rifles ready, looking up at the entire height of the tower, but we were unable to find the Ghast that was meant to be here. Reluctantly we lowered our rifles, and began to head up to the next floor, although we doubted we'd be seeing any pigmen either. SERVERE had told us they were likely to put security in the towers that were used to hide the Eyes that HoN Co. had managed to take, but we had assumed they would at least attempt to secure each tower in the same way. Maybe they considered it a waste of resources, or maybe they drastically underestimated our ability to get into the facility. Well they had definitely done that, but it still would have been better to be safe than sorry.

"Shush! Can you hear that?"

We stopped a few steps from the top of the next floor, and listened; UOPETA wasn't taking any chances at us being surprised. However, it was odd that on this occasion I could actually hear something. As we listened it became increasingly obvious that it wasn't a Ghast or any pigman that we had encountered. Instead it sounded like voices; two people having a conversation about... something, it was too indistinct to make anything of it. UOPETA moved off ahead on his own to take a look at who was there, although I was pretty sure we were likely to encounter guards instead. UOPETA moved back down to us with news on what he had seen. Unfortunately I was right:

"Two guards, off to the right near to the entrance of the balcony area. They're going to be difficult to get close to so we'll have to use the rifles from here. Aim the barrel between the bars, THEROS you can be the backup shooter in case one of us misses. Although at that distance I doubt it."

Climbing back up, we peered through the iron bars; the two guards were stood with their backs to us, however they were both armed. Instead of swords like almost every other guard we had encountered before, but these were actually armed with guns! I had to look again, but holstered at their hips were two sizeable pistols, likely to be a lot more lethal than our dart rifles. Now that I thought about it, none of the guards we had encountered since entering the HQ had swords sheathed, and we hadn't been able to see their hips. It was possible every guard here was armed with a gun or some type. With more pressure being placed on our shots, I aimed for the right-most guard, while UOPETA aimed for the one on the left. I fired first, hitting the guard in the back of the neck, just where I intended, whilst UOPETA's shot hit a little higher, embedding itself into the lower skull of the other guard. They both dropped almost instantly and simultaneously!

"Good aim! Now let's secure this floor before heading further up. We don't want to risk running into trouble on the way down. Better check the balcony too..."

Rushing up the last few steps, I went over to the two guards and removed the darts from their unconscious forms, whilst UOPETA and THEROS began to search the area. They quickly returned with no further sign of any more guards on this level, which meant we had a clear run back down provided we weren't being followed by guards behind us. I hadn't seen any CCTV cameras in the tunnel behind us, or in the tower so far, which wasn't surprising if the labs weren't complete yet.

"Just the last floor to go and then hopefully we'll find the last Eye and we can get out of here!"

With the last staircase to go, and our progress with the tower going surprisingly smoothly, I was worried that at some point something was going to go horribly wrong. I hoped this wasn't the case, but it was likely to manifest in the form of a missing Eye. They would have used Ghasts and pigmen to guard this tower otherwise, much like the first one. As we neared the top, we could see that it was getting dark outside, as the light level changed drastically. We couldn't hear anyone, and as we got to the top level we couldn't see anyone either. Not taking any chances, we checked the entire top floor, checking around the far side if the column, but unlike the first tower, there was no chest.

"Well looks like we lucked out... There's no Eye of Ender here."

"A beautiful view though..."


"I suppose we had better head back. We've still got three more towers to search..."

Syeonyx signing off

The getaway!

     All of the pigmen turned to UOPETA and began to advance, squealing in what I could only describe as anger! The closet one to him began to swing the fractured sword it held clumsily but quickly, but not fast enough. UOPETA ducked in time, with the blade making contact with the stone of the column above, snapping the blade in two. This didn't phase the pigman at all, as it took another swing, missing again as UOPETA backed off towards us. We continued to back off as every pigman advanced towards us at speed. THEROS held his rifle out ahead of him, but didn't fire upon any of them. I backed off far enough to put together my own, leaving UOPETA to easily defend the Eye without losing it or being attacked, however the more we were pushed back, the more likely we were to fall off the edge!

"We can't keep doing this. We either need to put them all down or try to get back to the ground floor!"

"If we keep backing off, we can circle the column and get back round to the stairs. Let's just hope they don't have the brains to figure out what we're doing."

"With some of them having brains dripping out I doubt that, but we had better hurry up. If these go nuts when they see us take the Eye, the ones on the lower floors are likely to be the same. We'll have to make a mad dash!"

Coming full circle by backing away, we found our way to the metal railing that protected the sides the stairs. Leaping over to the stairs below, we began to run down them as quickly as we could. We'd only have a few seconds before the pigmen on the top floor managed to work out what had happened and began following us, and as we ran down, looking down over the edge, we could see the ones on the next level gaining a keen interest in our activity. But as we neared the bottom, we could see they were going to react in the same way, so before we got to the bottom, we jumped from the last corner to the bottom, and ran straight to through one of the doors to the external balcony.

"Let's hope we can confuse these too, otherwise it'll make matters worse when we get to the last floor. I don't want to see what that Ghast is going to do when we get there. We don't want the pigmen making matters worse!"

We knew that there were only two entrances to the balcony, and the one we needed to get to was on the opposite side to the one we had passed through, which meant we had to hope the pigmen on this floor had followed us. We could hear the squealing and excited grunting noises, but we couldn't see them behind us. By the time we reached the other doorway, we could see the pigmen fighting to get out of the doorway we had just left. I have no idea how we managed it, but we were able to pass them quietly and head down to the lowest level, still worried about how the Ghast would react. We thought the pigmen were attacking us because they could see the Eye of Ender, but UOPETA had long since pocketed it so it wasn't visible. But I had begun to think they could sense it instead. If that was the case then the Ghast would easily know we had it, and if it was brought into this world to protect it, we were in for some trouble.

"Try to keep moving. If we stop we give it a chance to attack us, and we have no idea how they could do that."

But as we rounded a corner on the stairs, we could see the Ghast floating up to our level. It was able to see us from where it was, and like before it was intrigued about our presence. We came to a full stop and tried to remain as motionless as possible, defying exactly what UOPETA had advised against, but it was hard to put into practice something like that when you're actually faced with it. The Ghast floated on the spot momentarily, looking at us each in turn, before it's gaze settled on UOPETA. It drew in a breath, before letting out an ear-splitting screech! We ran! We dare not look back, but we could hear explosions behind us, giving us more enthusiasm to run faster! Nearing the bottom, we could hear the Ghast following us as we ran further and further down. Once we reached the bottom, I took a sneak peek to see how close the Ghast was, and saw the stairs behind us explode into chunks of stone and smoke! That was all the evidence I needed to run faster! We all managed to reach the stairs leading back down to the checkpoint, turning in time to see the Ghast smack full speed into the top of the ceiling. It screeched and screamed with anger as we continued to the bottom, where we were met with an incredibly confused looking guard.

"Are you all right? What happened up there?"

"The Ghast... I don't know why, but... But... It attacked us as we came back down... I think we need to look into their behaviour a little more, it seems they're temperamental at best..."

"Any injuries that need reporting? Any damage done?"

"We're fine, but parts of that staircase are going to need rebuilding."

"Where did those rifles come from by the way? You didn't have them when you went through..."

"Erm... We had them in pieces under our coats. We're performing side experiments about improving the kit you get. I think that might have been what set the Ghast off..."

The guard let us back through the checkpoint, after we had disassembled the rifles and hidden them beneath our lab coats once more. As we walked away back towards the labs, we could here him calling for assistance at the tower for restraining the Ghast. Luckily that didn't appear to be the job of a scientist, and we moved off. As we left the checkpoint, we noticed the stairway heading down to our right. That must lead down to the next tunnel through to the Northern-most tower.

"That was a close one... Let's hope SERVERE has manage to get the others free, and we have a little more luck with this next tower..."

---

     As we reached the bottom of the staircase, we noticed a considerable lack of activity on this lower level. The tunnel that stretched back Northwards did not appear to house any labs, but instead was a straight tunnel fully illuminated. As we continued through it however, we found a sign that simply read "CAUTION. Construction in progress". Presumably if the towers were new, the labs that were built along the tunnels would also be relatively new as well. However the One and Two labs seemed to have been established a long time ago, and the tunnels connecting to the towers added on at a later date.

"I wonder what they have in mind for this space...? If it's worse than anything we've already seen, God help us... We still haven't found where they conduct their portal experiments yet. Maybe that's down the other entrance from the courtyard."

"What if they don't conduct the portal experiments here? It's likely they've got hundreds of bases like this spread out all over the place to conduct research secretly and without distractions from the public, as well as no moral or ethical restrictions."

The tunnel then turned towards the North West, heading at an odd angle away from the main HQ to the next tower. It was put out of the way by quite a bit as the tunnel showed, and the distance shown on the PDA, and it was eerie to be in such a dangerous place that currently lacked any form of activity. I wasn't complaining however as we needed it after the attack we suffered from the pigmen and the Ghast! They were incredibly dangerous when they were provoked, so we had to hope that they couldn't sense Uopeta already had one of the Eyes with him.

"Maybe they were brought into this world to protect only one Eye. The one closest to them is the one they protect, but all others they ignore..."

"I sure hope so, otherwise I'm going to be a big target again."

"Maybe for safety's sake, you should remain at the base of the tower whilst us two search the upper floors. We can't guarantee they will act like that, and we should be able to get through to the top without all three of us."

"It's something to consider, and maybe I can distract the Ghast if you have trouble on the way down."

We continued through to the end of the tunnel, finally reaching the base of the stairs that would lead into the lowest floor of the tower. Looking up, we all mentally prepared ourselves for what lay ahead, and hoped that this was the last tower we would have to search.

"Well then... let's get this over with..."

Syeonyx signing off

Climbing up through hell

     We left the strange lab, having to be sprayed with the disinfectant mist again before we were able to leave. Remembering the stairs and gateway from before, we headed right from the door back towards the them, finding a small checkpoint that sat beneath a staircase. Behind it sat another guard, who seemed bored, likely due to the lack of activity, and perked up the moment he saw us approaching. According to the map on the PDA, this would lead to the first of the towers we would need to check, and judging from the guard's reaction, it was seldom explored or entered by others, scientists and guards alike.

"Gentlemen. Anything I can do for you?"

"We're here to take a look at the activity in the structure. See if the results have been replicated yet."

"Fair enough. I just need to see your cell badges, and for you to sign the book. Need to keep a record of everyone that's come through this gate."

The guard passed us a booklet with a pen, whilst we passed him our cell badges. As we entered our fake names, he passed the badges through a scanner, which bleeped once and showed a green light. Passing them back, we reattached them to our coats, and waited for him to open the gate to let us through.

"Ah you're the guys in the Two labs. Some weird stuff you've been doing lately. Messing around with those... things. I'd suggest you be careful around the ghast, but you're already aware of that."

"The ghast? What do you mean?"

"You know? That weird floating squid thingy! Gives me the creeps the way it just bobs around in the air squealing to itself. You should know about those; your lab created the damn things!"

"Oh right. Actually, we didn't, we just brought them across from the Nether..."

"The what...? Never mind, go on through. Just be careful of the pigmen further up top. They've been a bit off apparently. They've attacked a scientist about two days ago. Wasn't even doing anything, just checking on their progression."

"That's unusual?"

"It is when you keep making them to be friendly to us. Or at least ignore us. Don't know how or why, but they won't attack us, although I've heard they can be quite vicious."

"Well, we'll be careful, thanks."

We passed through the gate and began to ascend the stairs, trying to make sense of what the guard had been saying. It seemed that our disguises worked at least, and we would soon be entering the first structure, but the mention of the "weird floating squid thingy" did unnerve me slightly. As did the idea that they might attack us. How had the scientists managed to make them passive to HoN Co. employees? Or was it a more general thing, and they had been altered to be passive to everyone. Well we'd find out soon enough. As we neared the top, we began to hear noises similar to how the guard described, and for the first time since entering the HQ, the fear kicked in! It wasn't just me either; all three of us slowly down reflexively, but we pushed on, knowing that a low of lives depended on us. I just hoped that SERVERE was able to get the other six free to help us.

"Look, up there!"

A few steps from the top, I looked directly up and froze. Above us was a central column that climbed all the way to the ceiling, with lighting on every wall. But it wasn't that which had drawn my attention. It was the odd, creamy white creature that was floating off to the left. It was a Ghast from the Nether!


We remained where we were for a few moments, trying to determine whether it posed a threat to us. It noticed us enter the structure, and seemed to be doing the exact same thing. It floated on the spot for a few moments, before making a lighting squealing sound before bobbing away to the other side of the column. We took this opportunity to rush to the stairs that wound around the column, and up to the top. We couldn't determine whether the Eye of Ender was up there, but we knew from the ceiling way up above us, the Ghast wouldn't be able to follow us. But as we followed the staircase, we eventually met it on the other side, where it turned to meet us again and stared vacantly. It was the single most chilling experience of my life; it was an odd creature from another dimension, floating freely in the air, and we were face to face with it with less than four feet between us and it. It eventually lost interest however, and floated downwards, whilst we continued on up. As we neared the top however, we began to hear more odd sounds, but different to those of the Ghast. Reaching the next level, we saw what was making it.


Much like the Ghast, they spotted us, and seemed intrigued at first, but they too eventually lost interest in us, and went back to wandering around. We noticed however that this level had an exit at opposite ends, which upon investigating, we found led to a small balcony that overlooked the surrounding area. We could now understand why the base had gone undetected for so long. It was covered by overhanging jungle canopy! The only visible sections of it were the dock, which was obscured enough to not be worth investigating. Looking out across the way however, we were able to see four additional structures, which seemed similar to the one we were currently in. It was then that we realised that the structures were actually towers! We had thought they would be heavily guarded buildings quite close to the ground. Instead each tower seemed to stretch a few hundred feet into the air. Heading back, we found the next staircase, leading up to another floor, presumably with some type of creature atop it for defence. So far however we had not found any guards and assumed that these creatures from the Nether were their stand-in guard dogs!

"Let's just hope they don't have those strange fire creatures from the Nether too, otherwise we may well have lost this. I don't think we're prepared for that. Even if we are, we all three can't reconstruct the three rifles quickly enough to defend ourselves."

Cautiously entering up the next set of stairs, we were surprised to see sunlight close to the top. Once there, we emerged into the top platform of a huge open area with no walls, just four supports that held up the roof. Even more odd, the top platform only had more pigmen, which displayed the same traits as the ones on the lower level, with no Eye of Ender in sight, if you pardon the pun. Looking out to the West, we could see the sun begin to set, from a massive height, although not as high as some of the jungle flora around us.

"Now what?"

"We haven't searched this place thoroughly yet. It's likely that if they're going to hide them in these towers, they'll hide it at the top. That's what I would do..."

We began to search the area, hoping to find the location of the Eye, expecting it to be on a plinth, or hung from the roof in some overly elaborate style. But there was nothing, beside a lot of pigmen. However, as we circled the main column, we spotted a chest sitting on the opposite side to the stairway. A lot of pigmen were surrounding the chest, and seemed a little edgy about our presence. Whether than related to the contents of the chest or not, we didn't know, but their behaviour had changed slightly from a few moments before.

"I think we found it!"


UOPETA made his way carefully through the crowd of pigmen, all of which were now watching him intently. THEROS took out the components for his rifle and reassembled them quickly and fluidly, just as UOPETA reached the chest.

"Careful UOPETA. This could turn very ugly indeed..."

UOPETA ignored the warning and reached down to open the chest. With the lid partially ajar, he peered inside, and put his hand deep inside. He remained in that pose for a moment, before his face lit up, and he began pulling his arm back out.

"UOPETA, watch out!!!"

Syeonyx signing off

Lab partners

     Leaving the room dressed in a new disguise was awkward. We would have to adjust our entire acting model to suit a scientist now, as opposed to a surly guard. We couldn't be confrontational in the slightest; if anything we would have to be the opposite. Not a total recluse, but someone who is reserved, intelligent and humble about their intelligence. I think being egotistical about knowing you're intelligent as a character would be a brilliant way to be spotted very quickly. Something we wanted to avoid at all costs. Regardless of the disguise however, we had to move around with a sense of belonging and confidence. We had to appear that we knew why we were here, where we were going, and that we were familiar with the place and the other people. That seemed to be quite successful dressed as a guard, but with a scientist, it's likely to be a little more difficult. Firstly we'd have to avoid any of the guards we had currently been in contact with as they would recognise us and stop us.

"So we currently have access to the labs and structures from the Northern entrance then?"

That was how it seemed; after leaving the room, we entered into the courtyard that SERVERE had mentioned, and it was teaming with life! There were so many civilians and guards wandering around, and the environment was abuzz with activity. Some people however weren't wearing armour or lab coats, which led me to believe that something else was going on here. However, in the crowd, I spotted the face of the man in the suit, looking across from a desk into space. At first I thought he was looking at us, but his facial expression showed that his mind was elsewhere. I pointed this out, and we made a beeline for the entrance directly ahead of us on the far side of the courtyard. This place was pretty big, and there was so much we all wanted to explore, but that would just slow us down and possibly get us into trouble.We reached the entrance and began to descend the steps that led to a small corridor that ran perpendicular to the steps in both directions. To our right were a set of double doors which led to the canteen, whilst to our left, the layout of the labs began. The labs seemed to be distributed on both sides of the corridor, the one closest to us was the 1 labs and the far side was 2 labs. What the difference was in the experiments and research they were carrying out, I didn't know, but UOPETA opted for us to find out. It might help us determine what we're likely to expect in the structures.

"Before we continue, I'd suggest opening your mind, or at least act like you have an open mind. If we come across something shocking and we express that as shock the other scientists may pick up on it and inform the guards that we're not who we sat we are."

We started with the 1 labs, stepping through a set of double automatic doors into the most clinical environment I had ever seen! The walls were perfectly white, almost blindingly so, and there wasn't a hint of colour in the room save for a few containers and workbenches. A table was set up in the middle, and the sides of the rooms all had benches running their lengths. On the side-tables were numerous experiments, all involving Bunsen burners, tests tubes or other glass-based equipment. Despite the vast quantity of odd chemicals they were likely to use, the room had a neutral aroma to it. There was an incredibly faint smell of disinfectant, but that may have just been me. As we walked further into the room, we could see four scientists busying away at the tables with the experiments, and they didn't seem to notice us enter at all. Either that, or it didn't phase them. Maybe they were used to other scientists of neighbouring cells coming in to aid.

"Don't touch anything, don't say anything, don't do anything. Just, follow my lead..."

We followed UOPETA around the edge of the room, trying to deduce what they could possibly be researching, but there wasn't a scrap of paper around. In fact, the only writing that was visible was scrawled neatly onto a whiteboard at the far end, and that was just meaningless chemistry to me. From what I could remain from applied chemistry, they were experimenting with hydrocarbons, as I could recognise the structural composition of benzene, but from then on, it was just a maze of elemental letters and numbers with lines. Deciding to leave this lab, we exited, turned left and went to where we expected to find the next lab, but instead there was only a short staircase leading down. Deciding to stay on the level we were already at, we decided to check the labs on the other side of the corridor, the 2 labs. The first one had the words "TESTING" written in high-impact lettering on the sign, so we decided it would be best to remain outside. We did however notice that the room had viewing windows, through which we could make out a small room with a familiar object in the far corner.

"Affinitas cages... They're still testing them then..."

In the far corner of the room was an Affinitas cage, sitting atop a small unit. However this one was unusual in that instead of a spider or a skeleton spinning around inside, broiling in intense flames, it was a small pig. Not a piglet, but an actual small pig. We couldn't see what was happening other than the pig spinning furiously like a top in the unnerving way the others had. We know they had begun tests on the Affinitas cages to allow them to spawn any creature they liked into this world, and it looked like they were starting with pigs. However with a runtime of seventeen hours - displayed besides the TESTING sign - this didn't seem like a significantly successful test. There were no pigs in the room.

"Okay, next one."

Moving across to the next lab, we were surprised to be met with another set of doors. It seemed that his lab dealt with experiments that could prove problematic if they escaped, so cleanliness was an issue. Moving through the second set of doors, we found ourselves in a small chamber with a single button on the right wall, just below a light. With the door in front of us currently locked, the only logical thin we could make of it was to press the button. The light above the button flashed twice, and then we were sprayed forcefully by some type of spray! It wasn't expected at all, but it showed how important disinfecting was. After the spray settled, the light flashed twice again and the door opened. Stepping through, we found ourselves in larger room which only had two people in, neither of which turned to look at us. They were busy working at a table top; one of them had a knife and was cutting at something obscured, but judging from the experiments we had already seen, the less we saw, the better. They were talking quietly amongst themselves, and I was only able to catch small snippets of it.

"... Looks like we'll have to try that again. The boys down in 2-A aren't getting anywhere with this, and we won't be getting any further at this rate..."

I managed to take a photo of them covertly as they both pushed whatever was on the table into a trough filled with water which appeared to flow out of the room.


"I think we should go and find these Ender Eyes now... I'm feeling a little... ill..."

Syeonyx signing off

The many faces of the Lone 7

     Standing in the doorway was someone we hadn't expected to see at the HQ at all, and we couldn't give away the idea that we knew him. We all stood up, more or less in unison and walked to greet this "new" person, who shook our hands in turn. As he walked in, I took a quick peek outside to see if there were any guards outside the door, but luckily I think we were clear. They either didn't have a clue about us or they were playing it open for the time being. Either way we would have to make the best of the opportunity while we still had it.

"If you'd like to take a seat again, I have a few questions to ask you about the capturing of six of the Lone 7."

We all returned to our seats, and settled in for some easy questioning. If it had been the guy in the suit, things would likely have become very awkward very quickly. Luckily we had fortune on our side it seemed.

"Right, can you start from the beginning and work your way to arriving at the HQ. We need as much detail as possible so that we have a better chance of finding the last member, and maybe evening finding their base."

"Well, we're part of bridge team theta, on the towers overseeing the area, when we spotted some commotion at the outpost to the North. We took it upon ourselves to take a look, and caught those six in the act of subduing the guards posted there. From what I could tell, all of the guards there had been knocked unconscious through a tranquillising sedative fired from one of these rifles."

"Okay, so how did you come to overpower the six of them. If they were armed, surely they would have the upper hand?"

"We went in low and quiet, and managed to restrain two of them with the rifles. The third surrendered pretty quickly, and once we confiscated the rifles, they seemed reasonably cooperative. We could only see six at the time, so whether the seventh was somewhere else we don't know."

"What happened after you took their rifles and cleared up the scene?"

"We headed down into the tunnel to the checkpo... I mean gate B, and dispatched replacements to the outpost. We left our papers behind in all the commotion but we managed to get through the gate and continue through the tunnel to the HQ. There we were issued with temporary passes until they could get a hold of our papers, and the captured six were detained in the interrogation room."

"Okay, thank you."

He began to furiously write something down on the papers he had brought in with him, not looking up for a full minute, before placing the pen down and looking back at us. He then stood up, walked to the door, opening it slightly before closing it again, presumably checking to see if the coast was clear. He then returned to the table, reached underneath and tugged on something, before pulling it to the top. In his hand was a small, bulbous device, that had a connection pin at the one end.

"Microphone. It's the only one in the room as far as I know, but it'll be enough to silence us from the outside. They can still see us, but not hear us. How are you then? I see this idea to get into the HQ worked pretty well. I couldn't imagine seeing you three in the enemy's armour though."

"You and me both, SERVERE. What are you doing here? I thought you were off in the field subverting this whole search for us?"

"I was; I sent a small group of the Elite off to a random location that I said seemed plausible. It's nowhere near your base just to let you know. I'm having to be a bit more careful now though. I've got another Elite joining me occasionally on these search runs. He can sometimes hinder my progress, but he's not found anything that suggests you're where I've been trying to hide you."

"That's reassuring to know. What happens now then? You've debriefed us... Can we go back to 'bridge team theta'? Or can we have a wander?"

"You've got to be kidding! You can't just wander around this place unassisted! There are quite a few guards in the place. It might not seem it, but there are. There are numerous labs underground which all carry out dangerous experiments in secret, often illegal too! They're not going to let a couple of guards wander around for a nosy..."

"So what do we do now then? We need to start searching for the Eyes of Ender quickly so that the others don't wind up being the next set of guinea pigs."

"Well I assume the PDA has updated and you've spotted the five large circular structures dotted around? They're the structures that are hiding the Eyes of Ender. I don't know which ones are which, that's classified, but I know they are only likely to be in those. The only way to get to them is through the lab tunnels underground. In the courtyard ahead of here are two entrances leading down. The one at the North leads to the two Northern structures, whilst the Eastern entrance leads to the other three. Here, I'll show you."

SERVERE took the PDA from UOPETA and loaded the map up. Pressing a few buttons and stretching his fingers across the screen, he passed it back with lines drawn from points on the map to the five structures.

"That should help you, and I can go one step further. Hang on a minute."

SERVERE left the room quickly, leaving us a little confused as to what to do next. Studying the map, I could see what he had meant by the two entrances leading to the five structures. Hopefully this would help drastically, as it would at least enable us to coordinate where to go with each team. Provided we were able to get the other six out of the interrogation room.


The door opened again and SERVERE stepped in carrying what appeared to be a few white sheets under his arm. Leaning against the back wall and reaching up to the camera, he flicked a switch, before laying down what he had brought with him on the table.

"These are the standard attire for the scientists that are seen around this area. They always wear these labcoats, and they always have these!"

He pulled out a few ID badges from his pocket and put them onto the table. UOPETA picked one up and studied it, looking a little confused.

"But these don't have photos...?"

"They don't use them. They are bound to a specific cell within the lab area, and depending on the cell you're linked to means you only carry out that specific type of research. It is not allowed for scientists of different cells to mix as their work may be top secret. I managed to get some ID badges that state you're working in labs 1 or 2. They're carrying out similar research so it's applicable for this instance. This should get you into the the labs and tunnels that lead to the first two structures. Put these on, leave the armour and set out. I'll try to find a way to release the other six, or at least get them a similar disguise."

"They're not going to miss six fugitives disappearing, SERVERE. How are you going to manage that?"

"Leave it with me. Now hurry up!"

Syeonyx signing off

Into the fire...

     Feeling a little like we had just walked into a trap, we remained quiet and in character in case the room was fitted with microphones. With a giant wall composed of a reflective mirror material, most likely being a one-way mirror, it was very likely that was the case. We waited for some time, trying to not let anything slip that we might be all part of the same group, and we reinforced this with fake chatter. The six "captured" members seated around the wall on the far side began to look at us three with mixtures of disgust and hatred.

"Feel good about what you're doing? Sleep soundly at night knowing you're causing heartache and misery for thousands of people? You're comfortable knowing you're trying to make everyone's suffering infinitely worse?"

"Shut up! No-one said you could talk!"

"No-one said I couldn't either! Do you have any idea what your twisted company gets up to? I don't think they even tell you the real story behind their plans. They sign you on as guards of places like this, safe in the knowledge that you're entirely clueless as to what goes on in places like this."

"I said shut your mouth, or I can do it for you..."

"Tests! Experiments! Devious laboratory machinations that boil down to the advancement of mankind trough any means necessary. Even through the removal of humanity itself! Do you have any idea what your company is likely to achieve if they activate that master portal? Do you?"

"Strike three!"

UOPETA began to forcefully rush over to COLUS, raising the butt of his rifle, until he stopped dead in his tracks, turning with the rest of us to look at the now open door. In the open space stood a man; neat and proper, he was the only one we had seen who was wearing a suit. Standing with his hands behind his back, he remained silent for a moment, quietly assessing the room full of bickering people. Slowly, he stepped into the room, eventually settling in the centre, continuing with his act of silence a few moments longer.

"The Lone 7... I have to admit, it's a surprise we got hold of you so quickly... You've been a particularly, intriguing thorn in our side for some time. I'm not entirely sure why you have that name if there are only six of you... Unless this isn't all of you...?"

The six against the far wall remained silent; despite his mouth moments ago, COLUS now seemed reserved, not wanting to let too much out. We were still in unfamiliar territory, and no matter how we pretended we knew what we were doing, we still had to ensure we didn't give the game away.

"We found them trying to get through the tunnel from gate B, after they had subdued the guards. They were surprisingly easy to capture, but they don't pose any threat to use now they're here."

"Thank you... Sorry, I don't think I know you...?"

"We're part of bridge team theta. We broke off when we noticed the commotion, but gate B have sent replacements."

"Good. Let's hope we can catch the other one that's still running around. They won't pose much risk, but they could still prove to be irritating."

The strange man turned to leave the room, but stopped when he saw me; moving closer, he was a few inches from my face, studying me with fine detail, before moving back slightly.

"I know you... I've seen you somewhere before..."

Shrugging I quickly said that it was likely a passing photo he'd seen when going through any guard records for bridge assignment. He remained quiet for a moment. I was convinced he had sussed me out, but eventually he nodded, rubbing his chin with his thumb and fore finger thoughtfully.

"Yes, I suppose that is possible. I see many new faces, and remember so few. You three come with me. There's the debrief to go through."

Me and THEROS moved to the door following the strange man, whereas UOPETA merely turned back to COLUS. Stopping to see what he was doing, I was shocked when he smashed the rifle butt into COLUS's face! AMPHIS moved forwards to attack UOPETA but I managed to restrain him, until UOPETA moved away and back towards the door. Letting AMPHIS go, I followed the other two.

"Sorry... I've been dying to do that. He's been winding me up since we caught him!"

The man nodded once acceptingly before continuing through the door. The two guards that had escorted us to the room were still standing outside, closing the door behind us. What did we do now? Why had UOPETA attacked COLUS for? I knew we had to create this illusion we were still guards with the power, but that was a little excessive. THEROS looked back to me with a concerned look, and I could tell I wasn't the only one.

---

     We sat in a comfortable living area waiting for the strange suited man to return, with no-one else in sight. It was just me, UOPETA and THEROS, and I for one was a little worried. Why had UOPETA attacked COLUS, and how were we going to get the others out of that interrogation room to help us with the find? We had practically led them to their own slaughter under the guise of the enemy. Luckily UOPETA was willing to inform us as to his out of character attack against COLUS.

"Well it was two-pronged really. Firstly it was to reinforce the image that we were indeed guards, and that they had likely got on our nerves along the way. It would only be natural to assume that we'd want our revenge in some way or another. Secondly, it was the only way I could think to get one of the PDA's from the COLUS. He still had them when he had activated them, so I had to come up with an excuse to get over to him. That's what I was doing before that guy came in. I think COLUS was trying to help actually."

"Yeah, but you still hit him pretty hard. Was that really necessary?"

"I didn't hit him at all actually. When I went over, I raised the rifle, and pretended to connect with his face, while he moved his head in reaction and slammed the wall behind him with his hand. Sounded a lot more realistic than I thought it would, but my only issue is it looked like I hit him hard enough to draw blood. Hopefully they won't connect that too easily."

UOPETA pulled out the one PDA he had managed to take from COLUS, and switched it over from sleep mode, showing it to us.

"Oh, and look! It seems the PDA map updates when it's in range. A new structure has just appeared on the Eastern coast. Looks like we have five for five."

"Well let's hope we get out of here quickly so we can work out how to get the others out. We can't do this with just the three of us, and leave them behind."

I began to think about Amie again and how she was captured like the others. I had to stop thinking like this as I knew she was more than capable of handling herself in a situation like this. She had been a HoN Co. scientist at one point after all, so if anything she was likely to be the most helpful to us. Even more reason to to help the others escape. The door opened and all three of us looked in that direction, UOPETA quickly hiding the PDA. Standing there was someone we hadn't expected to see at all!

"Afternoon gentlemen. I'm here to debrief you."

Syeonyx signing off

Storming the HQ!


"We're in! Well... on..."

COLUS took out and booted up the last PDA, whilst passing around the other two to the rest of us. We each took our time to look at the PDA, and the current map it displayed, a little amazed at the scale of the operation that they had set out. We easily located our position; at the bottom left of the island beneath a small, grey rectangle was a flashing white marker indicating out position. We were close to what I could make out was the main facility, which appeared as a large, grey mass more or less in the centre of the display. Of notable worth, four large, circular structures were visible at the North and central positions of the complex. A little confused, I couldn't determine whether they were the structures that SERVERE had informed us about or not. They looked ominous enough to contain the Ender Eyes, but I could only see four. SERVERE had said HoN Co. had managed to complete five. That meant either the map wasn't complete and it didn't work on a satellite-based real time representation, or it wasn't built yet.

"Where's the fifth structure? There's meant to be five of them..."

"Maybe they haven't finished it yet; they could have heard news from the team sent into the Nether that they hadn't got all of them, and stopped building when they reached four... Or, maybe it's hidden..."

"Why are the other four visible then? Why hide one, but not the others...?"

"It doesn't matter. We can cross that bridge when we get to it. For now we just need to get into the facility and work out what we do from there. I suggest we continue with this fa├žade until we can guarantee we're safe enough to take on another one. Once we have, we split up and begin searching the area for any clues as to where the Eyes of Ender are stored."

Taking up our respective positions again, we continued up the stairs to the top of the tunnel, where we were met with an overhanging jungle environment right ahead of us and to out left. To our right was the open body of water that lead back to the South where the island we had just left was, and a small path led off to the South East. We still hadn't managed to see any more guards since the checkpoint at the beginning of the tunnel, and I couldn't decide whether this was a good thing or not. Either the guards were more focused in and around the HQ itself, or they were aware of us approaching them and were trying to lull us into a false sense of security. I felt like voicing this to the others, but I remained quiet for the sake of the cover-up. As we ascended the stairs that led from the tunnel to the path, we found ourselves on a thin, cobblestone bridge that spanned a long distance across a small pool, but hugging large sections of jungle. In the distance, we could see this mass of white, which was hard to focus on because of the position of the sun casting the light reflected back at us.

"Is that a... ship?"

As we crossed the bridge, getting closer to the entrance to the facility, I could see that AMPHIS had been right. It was a ship; an almost exact copy, I was almost taken aback when I saw a replica of the ship that had crashed onto the shore of my house right before us! We could now see numerous figures moving around in and around the ship, heading into and out of an entrance that was currently out of sight, but they didn't seem like they were guards at all. We knew there would be quite a few civilian scientists in the HQ, but unless there were a lot of guards, it seemed they would outnumber them quite considerably. Whether this would make our task easier or not remained to be seen, but at least they weren't threats from our point of view. COLUS whispered to us to remain in character so as to not draw attention to ourselves, but I was wondering whether that would be an issue. yes we'd stand out, but I was sure the civilians would be accustomed to the presence of guards working in this environment.

"Don't let anything slip. We can't afford to fail now, not when we're this close to the end."

We reached the entrance, and, waiting for a team of four scientists to pass from the boat to the facility, we passed through it, where we were met with another checkpoint. This was understandable and to be expected, and we approached it with the same confidence we had the first. At the checkpoint was a single guard, seated behind a glass window, reading something that I couldn't quite make out from being at the back, but looked up when we approached. As he approached the window, I was shocked to see that he didn't seem to be the fitting figure of a guard at all.

"Yes, can I help you.. erm... nine?"

He was a bespectacled man, who seemed to be no more than in his early to mid twenties. He barely filled out his uniform, and seemed nervous and hesitant.

"Yes, actually. We've caught most of the Lone 7 attempting to gain entry to the tunnel and we've brought them here for... processing."

"Er.. right, bear with me..."

The guard disappeared from view as he retreated to a section of the checkpoint around the corner. There were some muffled voices, followed by an exclamation from another, before he returned, with another guard in tow. This guard was the complete antithesis to the first; muscular, and a little older, he definitely fit the form of what we expected from the HoN Co. guards.

"The Lone 7, eh? Not sure how we're meant to proceed with this to be honest with you... Can I see your papers firstly?"

"Sorry, but we left them behind in the commotion of capturing these six. The others guards at the tunnel checkpoint let us through to the HQ, likely from the severity of the situation."

"Tunnel checkpoint? You mean gate B?"

"Yes, sorry, gate B. We're with bridge team theta, and we spotted them attempting to conceal the unconscious forms of the guards past the bridge."

"Right, well, I'll need to contact someone who knows what they're doing; they've more or less left us in the dark about the protocols for this. Jorge, if you let them all through, give temporary passes to these three, and put the Lone 7 ones in the interrogation room."

The guard wearing the glasses nodded, watching the burly one leave, before turning to a PC monitor behind him. Furiously tapping away, he quickly returned to the window with three pieces of stamped plastic with the word "Visitor" written on it. He then leaned under the desk, presumably pressing a button, opening the way through to the lobby, where two more guards met us to escort the other six to a separate room.

"Sorry if this seems a bit forward, but we're not letting this lot out of our sight. Where they go, we go. We can wait."

One of the escort guards shrugged and led us all to a room which had a single row of seating and a long, one-way glass wall. The other guards left, locking the door behind them, leaving us on our own.

"Right... What now...?"

Syeonyx signing off

Island ho!

     As we passed through the checkpoint, I was glad to see that our way was clear ahead. Not a single guard, outpost or checkpoint in sight! I could however see they had CCTV set up along set points on each wall, monitoring everyone that passed through on their way to either the outpost or the HQ. I wasn't too sure, but UOPETA seemed confident that the cameras were visual only, possessing no microphones to capture people talking and other noises.

"I think that went quite well, don't you?"

"How do you know about 'bridge team theta'? If you made that up, they would have known about it, but it obviously exists... How?"

"On the guard duty roster that COLUS found I managed to sneak a peak at the teams in position at each point. It would have seemed a little strange for us to be the guards from the outpost, so it was easier and more logical to go along with us being one of the teams guarding the bridge. We say that we came across the Lone 7 attacking the guards at the outpost, and as such, when they go and check it out, they'll find three unconscious guards, just like we said."

"Good work thinking fast you three. We might not have made it this far if it hadn't been for you being on the ball. THEXIS, you played your part well too!"

I apologised to THEXIS for the rough landing, remembering that I had tripped him over onto the floor in the faked escape attempt.

"It's alright. I'm glad you reacted quickly enough; I was worried I'd get too far away from you and one of the other guards would have been forced to deal with me. They might not have been so... gentle..."

We continued our way through the tunnel, wondering how far it went, how deep it was beneath the surface of the water, and many other questions, although we remained silent for most of the time. I was still conscious about there being microphones integrated into the CCTV cameras, or maybe somewhere lower down embedded into the walls. Either way, it wasn't worth the risk, and the others seemed to have come to the same conclusion. However with a lack of a method to distract ourselves, the journey through the tunnel seemed to go on forever. We thought the stairs had gone on for long enough, but the far end of the tunnel seemed like a minute blip far off in the distance. A cobblestone wall could be seen from this distance, but only just.

"Where do you think this tunnel comes out on the island?"

"It could come out anywhere. It could come out near to the main HQ, or off at another checkpoint with a road leading to it instead, who knows... It probably won't lead to any of these structures we're meant to be finding, but when we're inside the confines of the island itself, the tracking chip in the PDA's will begin to work."

"Tracking chip? So when we reach the island, they'll appear and we can be tracked by them?"

"Yes an no. SERVERE said that the PDA maps are useless unless we're on the island where the range of the network takes into account all linked devices. We enter the island, and the PDA appears on the map and on the system. So the map can be used to track our position by us in real time. He also assured me that PDA's pop up and disappear off the system regularly as they are tinkered with, so we shouldn't draw any attention."

"Is there any way to turn that off? Remove ourselves from the system?"

"There is, but it means removing the real time tracker, which makes our job a lot harder. If we can't see where we are on the map, we would have to go by old fashioned methods and using landmarks to keep track of our location."

"Ah, well maybe it's best to leave them as they are. Do we still have them?"

"Yes, they're in one of the bags. Once we get to the other side, we can test them to see if we can see our position. We can remove the armour and begin to search the area for the structures."

"Wait, why do we have to remove the armour? I thought it would be a good idea to continue with this ruse. It might make it a little easier to get around."

"Not if we're completely lost, trying to take six captured strangers around with us. That's likely to draw more attention than trying to sneak around."

"What about the scientists? If we can get inside the labs and acquire a few lab uniforms, we could get around much easier, especially if we pose as a science team."

"That's a much better idea! It would hopefully be enough to fool the CCTV and anyone we happened to encounter. Although we would need to ensure that we acquired ID as well, hopefully not photo-based. If it is, we can just say that we left it in the lab..."

"Not sure how likely the latter part of that is to work, but it's definitely worth a try."

As we got closer to the end, we were a little confused as we saw it to be a full-on wall, rather than a gentle ascension to the island itself. Did this tunnel lead to nowhere? Or was there a hidden switch or something to it? As we grew closer though, we could make out a bend in the tunnel, going off to the right, indicated by the alterations of shadows and lighting on the floor and ceiling.

"We're nearly there. Around that bend will either be another staircase leading up, or another checkpoint. In either case, suspect anything! No more talking or chatting from now on. You three maintain your focus and exude control over the situation. We'll try our hardest to look subdued."

We reached the corner of the tunnel, turning right, only to see it continue on a little further until it ended with the stairs we had predicted. The CCTV cameras that had been dotted around at the other sections seemed oddly absent, and we took this time to check on our progress.

"Surely we're at the island by now... Or at least within range for the PDA's to appear back on the network..."

"Let's find out."

We stopped and COLUS reached down into one of the bags, pulling out two of PDA's. Turning them on, and waiting for them to boot up, the rest of us kept a lookout for any guards that might appear from the stairs. There was an audible ping, followed by a second, before COLUS smiled and held the PDA's up for everyone to see.

"We're in! Well... on..."

Syeonyx signing off

Run-in with the locals

     Setting off down the tunnel seemed to put everyone on edge. Metaphorically we were stepping into the open jaws of the lion, or whatever the saying was, and we were doing so in disguise. Whether that boded well for us or not I couldn't tell, but I certainly hoped so. We had forced the others between myself, UOPETA and THEROS to carry the bags to free up our hands to carry the rifles. The fourth remained in the bag that COLUS was carrying, at the front of the group, and was easily reassembled and put to use. We hadn't encountered anyone yet, nor any difficulties either, but we hadn't reached the bottom of the tunnel. We had thought it would dip down with a set of stairs leading through to an underwater tunnel almost immediately. Instead we were still heading down the set of stairs, with no end yet in sight, and I was beginning to wonder whether we were already under the sea yet...

"Just out of interest; what if we're stopped? The other guards that pass us are likely to stop and wonder what we're doing and who we are. What do we say? How do we act?"

"You three take control of the situation, explain what is going on and where you're headed with us. Attempt to put them off from coming with us as that would make it difficult on the other end. Maybe make something up about needing reinforcements at the tower and bridge as you'd caught us removing the other guards. Don't let them think you're not in control or aware of what they should be otherwise we're busted. As for the rest of us, we play ball, to a degree. Every now and then we kick up a fuss, but one of you can put us in our place."

As we continued down the stairs, we eventually could see it flatten out towards the bottom, and once we reached it, we stopped immediately.

"Well... This isn't quite what we had planned... We should have expected it though..."

Before us was a large structure that spanned the entire width and height of the tunnel, and had only one way through. It seemed to be a checkpoint that controlled and monitored traffic into and out of the tunnel, and the bridge and HQ respectively. It made sense for this to be place here, as only a single guard post seemed a little sparse, now that I thought about it. So as to not draw attention to ourselves, we continued forward, trying not to stand out from the other guards, however the six between me, UOPETA and THEROS were certainly drawing the eyes of a few. We ignored them and continued on to the checkpoint, where a burly man, in his mid to late forties appeared at the partially covered window. He didn't look up from something hr was carrying in his hand, but still seemed to notice our approach.

"Papers...?"

"Erm, we don't have them..."

"What do you mean you don't ha... Who are these jokers?"

UOPETA took the lead, stepping towards the window; THEROS and me remained where we were, rifles in what we would class as a militaristic pose, with the sternest faces we could muster.

"I'll give you three guesses..."

"I ain't got time for jokes. Who are these guys? And where are your papers? Who are you guys?"

"We're with bridge team theta. They are the Lone 7, and we left out papers back at the surface outpost. We had a run in with these guys and thought it was a little more important than our papers."

"Are you serious...? The Lone 7...? How do you know? How can you tell?"

"We caught them after they crossed underneath the bridge, trying to put down the guards stationed at the outpost. Managed to take the ones there down, but slipped up when we spotted them. That and the armour they have matches the description put out."

"News to me. Why ain't I heard any memos about Lone 7 descriptions...?"

"Just came out. We were lucky to catch them here otherwise they might have got through."

"I doubt that. They'd have had to get through me and the rest of us here. I can't seem them doin' that..."

"They got over the bridge. Well, under it, should I say... They used the plumb lines on the underside to cross when the bridge was down. Sneaking so and so's..."

"Well then... What now? I don't think there are any protocols for captured fugitives at this time... not any new ones about the Lone 7 anyhow..."

"We haven't anything either, but we figured it'd be best to take them up to the HQ where they could be taken of accordingly."

"Good point. 'aight We'll take 'em from here. Good work fella's. I'll send a team back with you to secure the outpost and send you back to your posts."

"Sorry, but they're our catch. We caught them, we take them in."

"Sorry, but things don't work out like that. You hand 'em over to the next highest authority. That' me!"

"With the bounty on these guys, you'll be lucky. They stay with us. We're taking them to the HQ personally, and if you don't like it, we'll just turn right around and head back."

The surly guard narrowed his gaze at UOPETA, who was being incredibly ballsy. I thought he was pushing things a little too far; mentioning things the other guard wasn't aware of or was unsure of, forcing a stand-off... I was surprised I could still keep up the act! But then THEROS joined UOPETA to back him up.

"You heard him. They're ours. If you don't let us through with them, we'll head back... Maybe even release them... Let you deal with them first hand..."

At this point I was put on edge by THEXIS; he jumped to one side and attempted to make a run for it, but despite the shock, the act I was playing seemed to run on auto-pilot. With a single action, I stepped out of line, and used the butt of the rifle to take out the back of his knee as he passed me. THEXIS crumpled to the floor with a sickening thud, and I quickly hauled him back to the others, putting him back in his place. UOPETA, THEROS and the other guard were now looking at me; I looked straight back, and narrowed my eyes in - what I hoped was - a menacing grimace.

"Fair enough, but the rifles and the bags stay here... Firearms ain't allowed up at the HQ. Policies an' all that jazz..."

"Relax, we've checked them thoroughly. The rifles are spring powered, so no explosives or ballistics. The bags are just full of survival stuff; flint, food, water, blah blah. I doubt that's prohibited at the HQ...?"

The guard sighed a heavy, guttural sigh, before reaching down and pressing a button. The checkpoint doors in front of us slowly opened, allowing us passage through. As we moved through the checkpoint, the guard watched us through the side window, his eyes still a narrow slit.

"I'll be checkin' on your details soon enough, ya know... Ya still need ya papers..."

"Fine by me. Remember: bridge team theta. I assume you know how to spell it...?"

As I passed him I could hear him let off a low growl, as the comment spouted by UOPETA got to him. Hearing the doors close behind us, I couldn't help but feel less safe; we had passed through the checkpoint, and were now between a rock and a hard place, although which the guard was I didn't know... let's hope the rest of our plan goes this "smoothly"...

Syeonyx signing off

Day 163: Sheep in wolf's clothing

     Waking up early was now part of my running routine it seemed. I had long since dropped all of the ailments that accompanied those that rose earlier than the sun, and could now get around without looking like a zombie! The others seemed to be the same, and we coordinated ourselves with precision, despite the current time of day and lighting. After everything was collected together, and we were ready to just stand up and leave, we began to get the small pieces of the plan together. It was a massive plan to coordinate, and as OROTHO had said yesterday, there would be many unknown variables that could complicate matters, but we would have to face each one as they appeared, if they did at all.

"Right, we can't determine who would be best to act as a guard until we get there and remove the ones that are already on duty. From there, we determine who is best suited, quickly change, and begin to head into the tunnel. The story is as follows: the remainder of us not taking up the position of a guard are to remain between the ones that are, and are to remain obedient. Every now and again it may be viable to act up and one of the acting guards must 'discipline' us. I'm not saying that we should end up having a punching match, as that's likely to attract more attention that we don't want, but we shouldn't act entirely subdued. We'd have just been captured after all."

"How far can we go then?"

"Maybe attempting to escape might be convincing if we need to prove that we're on their side. But nothing too drastic. Tried to imagine that you actually have been captured by HoN Co., which should be considerably easier once we have a few guard uniforms with us."

We set off towards the outpost, the plan set in stone and with everyone knowing their adaptive role to play in this attempt at entering the tunnel. We would have to hope that there were no incoming or outgoing guards that would be crossing the bridge, otherwise they would find the guards we would have subdued by that point. I suppose if that happened, we would just have to hope that we're far enough inside to remove the disguises and start searching the HQ for the Eyes of Ender.


     The light was still on our side by the time we reached the outpost, and the guards were likely to be a relaxed mood as well. This should be a relatively easy thing to achieve before any suspicion is aroused. As we looked down on the guard post, myself, UOPETA and COLUS panned the surrounding area with the rifles. From what we could establish, there were only two guards currently posted here; one in the shack below us, and one in the overhanging guard tower a little further along the road. COLUS coordinated us so that we knew how to best approach this issue; I would go with UOPETA to the far North and approach the tower from behind to catch the guards unaware. Once they had been neutralised, we should be able to give a signal to the others to take out the one in the shack. From there we could determine who was playing the role of the guards and who were the captured members.

"Try to stay out of sight of the one below us, otherwise things could get ugly quickly. We don't know what they're armed with, and I doubt they would be using clipboards or swords later on in the HQ."

We moved off from the rest of the group, heading North along the tree line, but remaining close to where the road ran underneath the ground so we could scope out the area for any more guards. Once we were far North enough, we started to climb down so that we could loop back on ourselves to the tower. The sun had begun to rise by this point, and with the way the tower was orientated, the glare should provide enough cover. Having said that however, it was likely to hinder us as well, but we were coordinated. Once we were within range of the tower, we lowered ourselves close to the floor and aimed our rifles at the exposed area of the back of the tower.

"I spot two guards. One on the far right, one in the centre looking down through the window. How do you want to go through with this?"

I shrugged, saying that it was his call. I suggested that it would be better to take out the guard on the far right first, and then the guard in the centre. The worst case scenario, the guard in the centre would rush to the aid of the other, and become and easy target. UOPETA nodded, and motioned with his finger for me to take the first shot against the guard on the right. It was now or never to make use of these rifles. I had used them before, but not at this range. The guards on the bridge towers had been far closer and easier to hit, but remembering the techniques I had learned from the others, I inhaled to steady my aim, focused the rifle on the guard's head and squeezed the trigger. I wasn't strictly aiming for the guard's head, but his neck. I had to take into account the fall of the dart as it travelled the long range, and took the head to be a good indicator. I was almost right; the dart struck them just below their left ear, causing them to reflexively clutch at that spot. The other guard seemed confused, but quickly joined the other guard, slumped on the floor. UOPETA had taken his shot.

"Perfect! Let's get there quickly just in case any other guards see them through the glass..."

Standing back up, we dashed towards the rear of the tower to contain the situation, and to give the signal for the others to complete their part of the operation. Once there, we removed the darts from their necks, pulled them from view, and signalled to the tree line that we had completed our part. It was surprising how much glare the lights from the outpost were throwing up; only a dark figure could be seen of one of the others, and even then you had to look very closely. We stayed out of sight, but watched as COLUS crept down the hill, keeping close to the ground, and moved towards the side of the shack. We could just make out the feet of the guard, pointing towards the bridge, suggesting he had his back to COLUS's current position. COLUS seemed to know this as well, as he pointed the barrel of the rifle through the bars and fired, before quickly ducking back down. The feet of the guard twitched slightly, before falling back into a relaxed pose again. COLUS gave the 'all clear' signal, and we started to strip the armour from the guards in the tower.

---

     I felt odd in the armour... It turned out that I was one of the suitable candidates to don one of the guards's armour, with UOPETA and THEROS being the other two. COLUS seemed a bit miffed at this, but only fractionally. Once we had suited up, we placed the rest of our Lone 7 armour into the bags that the others were carrying. Luckily there was enough space to accommodate everything, including one of the rifles when it was stripped down.

"Now, you three will take possession of the three other rifles and say that you confiscated them from us. I've been looking around for any pieces of information on the three guards as to what we're going to coming up against, but until we reach the HQ itself, we can't rely on anything but the PDA's. I did however find a guard roster in the shack. It seems that the guards from the bridge and the outpost are rotated on twelve hour shifts, before moving a new team through from the tunnel as a replacement. From the looks of the roster we've got a few hours before the next rotation is due, and that should be enough."

We ensured that we had everything ready to go before moving anywhere; looking at UOPETA and THEROS was a little unnerving as they were wearing the same armour as me. THEROS had opted for the armour with an attached helm, whilst me and UOPETA were left with exposed heads. I didn't know whether that was a good thing or not, but it wasn't important. I was to bring up the rear, whilst UOPETA and THEROS would take the lead. We were about to move when COLUS looked at me and tapped the top of his head.

"A bit of a give-away..."


Whoops...

Syeonyx signing off