Having worked their way to the inner sanctum of the Alpha Training Arena, the prospective field agents (and their minder Penfold) are faced with a few remaining bots and turrets, a scattering of mines, and an otherwise fairly straightforward room.
The squad clears out the last turrets and bots, then KD works his way around the room throwing himself on tether mines to disable them in exchange for additions to his by now terrifyingly large set of bruises on his torso.
After clearing the room, they find that they have not uncovered any way into the very centre box. Penfold uses his Minor Detect Technomancy device to determine that inside that box is a lot of technomantic activity, and that it appears to be moving about.
Aaron is set to blow through the walls – as the closed room appears to be made of the same 2-3" concrete wall and large pillar construction. Penfold engineers a simple wire detector and determines that the walls are only sparsely reinforced, and that demolitions in the appropriate place should cut through it simply.
The squad agrees on a plan – they’ll blow a small hole high up in one wall (too high for the three foot bots they’ve encountered so far to shoot out of) and lob a bunch of grenades through.
Simultaneously, they’ll blow a man-sized hole on the opposite side of the box, and push through there to try and locate the flag that they figure must surely be inside.
They also use two of the bot cupboards outside the room to jury rig EMP explosions, to be triggered if needed to wipe out any automatons they might encounter. Lastly, Freddie has dragged through several of the disabled shield bots that he and Penfold have rigged to provide the squad with their shields for a short time, hopefully helping ameliorate damage they might take.
Aaron easily sets up the necessary charges from the ridiculously excessive supply he carted into the arena with him. While setting the larger charge, he hears a whining noise like a motor starting up. When the squad waits, it disappears after a while.
However, they decide to give Penfold a chance to try detecting where the technomantic devices inside are, and spend ten minutes circling the chamber attempting to get a read from several different locations.
He concludes that there are at least two, but probably many devices inside, and that they are moving around the edges of the box. The last place he checks from is where KD waits to throw grenades in the smaller breach, and Penfold determines that at that point no bots are nearby inside. They decide to seize the moment.
Aaron triggers the smaller explosion, and KD leaps up to throw a grenade inside. Unfortunately, it appears that there is yet another room inside, and the grenade bounces away down the hallway. KD ducks back into cover.
When they blew the hole, smoke billowed out of the room – much more than the explosion would create, as if the room had been utterly filled before they breached it. The squad ensures their masks are tightly affixed to their faces, fearing a faceful of tear gas. The lights in the arena also go out, leaving them in the pitch black darkness that only deep underground can really achieve. Fortunately they all have IR and UV goggles, so they’re not particularly inconvenienced at this point.
At the same time that the charge blows near KD, a second explosion occurs – but it’s not the man-sized hole that they planned to blow.
A six foot tall matte black automaton barrels through the wall near where Wils and Aaron are standing, emerging at the tip of a massive billow of smoke. This is no three-foot bot with a tiny gun, this is a monster of a machine with an enormous steel riot shield and what looks like a pneumatic ram built into its the mighty fist of its free hand. Across the front of the shield is written in blocky white stencil “Bell-X3”. They can see just from looking that this thing is made of much tougher stuff than its diminutive brethren. It didn’t seem to be particularly put out by throwing itself through a concrete wall, for starters.
Aaron proceeds to unload his minimi into the X3, seeming to do some damage. Wils fires with his MP7 but misses wildly. The bot responds by picking Aaron up and throwing him into the corner of the room nearer to Wils, where fortunately for him KD had disabled the mine he would have otherwise landed beside.
From his perspective at the next corner along, Freddie can see that when the bot emerged a second pillar of smoke billowed out and upwards towards the roof, and from looking closer he can see that there is an unusual blur attached to the ceiling of the chamber some six metres above and just in front of him. He guesses this is some sort of cloaked bot, and opens up with his shotgun just as the bot drops in front of him, flipping nimbly while falling and landing with a crunch that leaves footprints in the concrete floor. Freddie hits it in the chest with a taser round, but this seems to embed in his armour and start discharging without otherwise discomforting the bot. The new bot is emblazoned across its chest with Bell-X2 (where Freddie can still barely read it, as the matte black surface of its chest armour is disintegrating and dropping off where the taser hit). Freddie determines that the bot probably has some sort of ablative armour, and the key will be to hit it more than once in the same location.
The X2 swings at Freddie with a plasma blade, but doesn’t do significant damage. It does go straight through the force field that they’re getting from a cannibalised shield bot though, implying that they’ve only got protection from physical damage.
Meanwhile, a third enormous bot has approached the breach where the X3 barreled through – this one has Bell-X1 across its chest, and is carrying what looks like a multi-barrelled rotating version of the plasma beam weapons the smaller bots has. This bot proceeds to lay down a withering spray of fire across where Wils and Aaron are. Wils orders KD to get the flag and run while the rest of the team hold the bots up, then attempts to escape the wave of energy beams, but is knocked out just as he gets to the edge of the spray, passing out on the floor just beyond it. Aaron decides to stay put and avoid taking more damage than he already has, and fires at the newly arrived X1 with his minimi, doing some damage but not taking it out.
The X2 swings at Freddie again and misses, and Pembroke unloads his MP7 into the shiny ablated area on it’s chest, but does little damage. Freddie hits the X2 with his MP7 but in a different area of its body, and doesnt seem to do much damage.
KD sneaks through the small hole where he threw a grenade earlier. Inside, he finds that the smoke has cleared somewhat, and there is a smaller room inside with doors on each side. He also sees a fourth bot heading towards the breached wall, but it appears not to be interested in KD for the time being as it moves out to support the X1 and X3.
The X3 fires jump jets from its back and leaps some 25 metres across the room from a standing start, shoving its riot shield up in Penfold’s face but doing token damage through the force field. The X1 moves further out into the arena, and fires again at Aaron, almost knocking him out.
The X2 in front of Freddie decides that he and Penfold are too much to handle in a straight fight, and disappears in front of Freddies eyes. He does however see the blurred shape rocket upwards from the very-visible bursts of its jump jets.
Finally, the last bot emerges from the breach and looks towards Aaron, who can see that it has Bell-X4 emblazoned across its chest. The X4 reaches a hand towards Aaron, and he finds himself yanked up from the ground and encircled by a bubble of forcefield.
Aaron responds by triggering the second breaching explosion, which blasts out into the X3 bot and clears an exit from the central room for KD, then firing wildly with his minimi, but doesn’t succeed in breaking the force-bubble. Freddie fires his shotgun into the back of the X3 that is threatening Penfold, ablating its leg armour with a taser round. KD grabs the tip of the flag and bolts for the newly breached hole in the wall, finding himself standing right behind the X3 and somewhere near the X2 with only a flag to defend himself, which is not entirely comfortable.
At that point, Penfold triggers the EMP on the nearest jury-rigged bot cupboard. The two bots who had taken electrical damage are disabled by the blast, which is a relief to Penfold, Freddie, and KD, who were otherwise in a difficult position. The X3 simply slumps to a standstill in front of Penfold, while the X2 drops from the ceiling and lands with an almighty crash next to KD – who is very happy not to have been standing just slightly out of the way, as a quarter tonne of falling bot probably would have ruined his day.
Unfortunately, the EMP also disables all but Freddies commlink, and ruins Penfold’s nightvision goggles. Most of their laser sights also stop functioning, making it harder for them to line up a shot in a hurry. They decide at this point that KD should definitely just run for the door, while Penfold, Aaron, and Freddie try to hold the bots up long enough for him to make it to the exit.
Aaron fires his minimi into the bubble again, and succeeds in breaking it, although his continued burst of fire does only minor damage to the bots. The X4 lifts its hand towards him again, and he is picked up and thrown by an unseen force into the wall behind him, crumpling him to the ground. The X1 points its gatling laser at him as he is struggling to get to his feet, and that is the last that Aaron sees before consciousness escapes him.
Freddie and Penfold attempt to haul ass back to the entrance to the room, but Freddie doesnt quite make it before the X4 drops some sort of wide field on the floor around him that cuts through the smoke and makes it seems to swirl more slowly. It’s only about two foot tall, but it’s 12m across and hard to move in. Freddie decides that rather than try to escape, he should try and disable the gatling bot, and throws a thermite grenade at it. After the pounding it has taken from Wils and Aarons withering fire, the bot can’t take the extra hit and finally powers down.
The X4 doesn’t take kindly to this and hurls Freddie across the room with its repulsor field. Penfold retreats to the doorway to provide a last ditch holdup if the bot should get that far.
KD is almost to the entrance, and running for his life.
Freddie throws one more thermite grenade at the X4 sticking it to its chest and getting a nice wee fire going, but is thrown into another wall and knocked unconscious for his efforts. The X4 starts to close on Penfold.
Just before it can get to him, however, KD makes it to the entrance elevator with the flag. As soon as the flag enters the elevator, the lights go on again throughout the arena, and the X4 powers down just in front of a relieved Penfold, who had not been looking forward to a short trip into a solid wall.
While KD tries to recover his breath, the lift brings down a swarm of mechanics and medics, who go to work cleaning up the mess that the squad has left in the arena. The rest of the squad are brought round, and they’re all congratulated by Major Roberts on successfully negotiating the arena, although perhaps less thermite on the expensive experimental bots would have been nice.