2nd Season Series Bible

“The most dangerous enemy of man . . . is man.”

Episode 201: Absent Friends

The second season opens ten years after the defeat of the Arachnid Queen and the end of the First Bug War. The armed forces have demobilized and the work of rebuilding Earth is well underway. Though all appears quiet and peaceful on the surface, serious troubles are brewing. The Alliance of Earth and Tophet has soured, with a strong secessionist movement growing on Tophet and led by the unlikely figure of T’Phal, T’Phai’s son. T’Phai, now a senior statesmen on Tophet, is barely managing to keep the Alliance together. But on Earth, Carl Jenkins, senior psychic in the Intel division fears an even greater threat. He begins inquiring about the unexplained disappearance of Haley, a new pupil of his and potential romantic interest. In his investigation, he discovers that psychics have been disappearing from the Earth and Tophet for months. Unable to convince SICON of this threat, he pursues his own investigation, convinced that the bugs are behind it. He delves deeply into the journals and research of a man called Freeman, Carl’s teacher and former head of the psychic division. Prior to his untimely death during the Bug War, Freeman had been the foremost expert on the Arachnid race. Carl discovers an artifact, alien in origin and uncataloged in Freeman’s effects. Intrigued by the mysterious origin and power of this object, Carl takes it with him to Tophet, to follow up the more recent psychic disappearances there.

Episode 202: A Bell in the Night

The story jumps forward several weeks to find Major Rico overseeing the cleanup of surviving bug concentrations while adjusting to his downsized forces. He receives an urgent message from T’Phai, who reports bad news. Events on Tophet have deteriorated: the disappearance of T’Phetti psychics has become common knowledge and suspicion fallen on Intel and SICON as the cause. This belief is reinforced by the sighting of unidentified SICON ships in the airspace of Tophet and its colony world Erebus. T’Phal and his secessionist allies are clamoring for formal succession. Rico knows nothing about the disappearances but offers to talk to Carl about it. T’Phai reveals that that is impossible since Carl was last seen on Tophet, but has now disappeared. He left something for Rico: an alien artifact, but Rico and the Roughnecks must retrieve in person. Rico is bewildered by these revelations and reluctant to involve himself in the political firestorm on Tophet. As a final inducement, T’Phai reveals that one of the missing psychics is M’Rette, his youngest daughter. Still confused but determined to help his friend, Rico promises to gather the squad and leave immediately for Tophet.

Episode 203: Reunion

The story shifts to the Valley Forge, now commanded by Admiral Carmen Ibanez. The ship carries an unofficial envoy to Tophet. Rico has assembled the Roughnecks, some willingly, others reluctantly to help T’Phai. Dizzy especially seems unhappy at the reunion. We learn that she and Rico had been briefly married but the death of their first child resulted in a cycle of guilt and blame that tore their marriage apart. Despite their separation and unhappiness, it is clear they are still very much in love. Enroute the Valley Forge is intercepted by T’Phetti fighters and held briefly at bay until granted clearance to land through the influence and good will of T’Phai.

Episode 204: Dead Drop

The Roughnecks land on Tophet but are clearly not welcome. They are escorted under guard to the Great Assembly Hall, where a fierce debate is underway. T’Phal is demanding secession. He is followed on the speaker’s platform by T’Phai who implores the council not to discard the friendship they have built with the Terrans. As the council closes to deliberate, the Roughnecks are reunited with their comrade T’Phai. Following a brief reunion, T’Phai asks to speak to Rico and Diz alone. He produces the object left him by Carl, the same object from Freeman’s effects that so fascinated the psychic. As the artifact is uncovered, T’Phai slips into a trance and begins to speak with the voice of Carl. Carl implanted a psychic message in T’Phai, a ‘dead drop’ that could be released only when T’Phai, Rico and Diz were together in the presence of the artifact. Carl, through T’Phai, recounts his investigation starting with the disappearance of his friend Haley and the psychics. The T’Phetti abductions in Bug War vintage ships has led him to believe that a new danger confronts SICON, one more insidious than the bugs. He suspects that Freeman, the former chief psychic long presumed dead, is alive and involved in the disappearances though to what end, he cannot tell. Carl knows that to find Freeman, he must follow the trail left by his writings and this strange artifact. Before he can pursue this mystery Rico must first help T’Phai locate his daughter and the missing T’Phetti psychics. The squad prepares to leave Tophet but are prevented from doing so by the T’Phetti authorities. Only when T’Phai suited up in his old MI powersuit, joins the squad do they get permission to leave.

Episode 205: The Guide

The squad flies to Erebus, a tiny sister world of Tophet where the most recent psychic abductions occurred. With an environment similar to Tophet, it is home to a small Terran-T’Phetti colony. T’Phal, learning of their operation has followed the Roughnecks with a team of his own determined to pursue the mystery of the missing T’Phetti himself. Little progress is made until an injured human is brought to the colony by a grizzled ore-prospector. The human is Haley, Carl’s friend, unconscious and outfitted in an antique powersuit. Her rescuer, Armin Te Kooti found her wandering a few klicks from a derelict SICON ship about 70 kilometers from the colony. As Haley is shipped to the Valley Forge, Rico armed with the prospector’s information assembles the squad to investigate. The Roughnecks are shadowed by T’Phal’s squad. They locate the derelict, a retrieval ship of Bug War vintage. Suddenly the two squads are attacked by bugs, but ones unlike any they have faced before; they are extraordinarily fast, strong and intelligent. In the fray, T’Phai is killed trying to cover Max and the Roughnecks must fall back. Just as all appears lost, the bugs abruptly break off their attack and retreat. The T’Phetti squad calls for retrieval and all mourn their fallen friend.

Episode 206: New Enemies

A T’Phetti retrieval ship arrives and when all try to board, T’Phal tells the Roughnecks that they are not welcome on board. To avoid conflict Rico decides to call for SICON pick-up for his unit. The T’Phetti ship departs with T’Phal, his team, and the body of T’Phai. Rico decides to follow the bug’s trail to gain some intel on this new threat before leaving. Following the bug’s trail they find a strange hive. The Roughnecks are suddenly attacked and quickly overwhelmed by bugs and humans fighting together. Both enemies appear to be using psychic power against them. The squad is brought before Marcel Rouche, one of the lieutenants of Freeman, the ruler of the hive. He reveals that Freeman, a powerful psychic and former head of the Intel psychic division, had come to believe that psychics were the rightful inheritors of Earth. To that end, he faked his own death and began recruiting and abducting psychics to build his new nation. Some psychics joined him willingly; others, kidnapped from Tophet and Earth, were used as biological source material for his experiments. With only his small army of psychic followers and a few scavenged SICON ships, he couldn’t defeat the armies and weaponry of SICON. Instead he would use the bugs with their genetic adaptability and procreative power to create a new breed of warrior, neither bug nor psychic-human, but an amalgam of both. His early experiments had produced the formidable warriors the Roughnecks had seen. With time he would build the army that could defeat SICON. The Roughnecks would be imprisoned until Rouche and his master Freeman could devise a way to eliminate them without drawing unwanted attention to their operation.

Episode 207: Descent into Hell

The Roughnecks are tossed into a large cell with a group of the abducted T’Phetti psychics. The Skinnies are in horrible condition, starved, phlebotomized, and deformed by Freeman’s genetic experiments. All are drugged so they cannot use their psychic abilities to escape. Since they don’t speak T’Phetti, the Roughnecks are helpless. To their surprise, one T’Phetti speaks English. It is M’Rette, near death lying in the back of the cell. At Rico’s instruction, Doc prepares to minister to her, but she directs Doc to help the Skinnie next to her. He does so, discovering that the second Skinnie is a ‘healer’ with the psychic gift to restore health to the injured. The ‘healer’ then revives M’Rette. She then demonstrates her psychic ‘gift’; she is a ‘lens’ able to focus, and amplify the psychic abilities of others. Once linked with the ‘healer, M’Rette revives the other T’Phetti prisoners. Using the restored abilities of the T’Phetti psychics (telekinetics to open locks, mappers to locate escape routes, writers to erase the memory of their escape from the guard’s minds), the Roughnecks and T’Phetti manage to escape from Freeman’s stronghold.

Episode 208: Dead Run

Once free, the Roughnecks and T’Phetti begin a frantic dash back to the derelict ship, where Rico hopes he can radio for rescue. Freeman’s forces discover the escape and begin pursuit. Rico reaches the ship after several T’Phetti psychics have given their lives delaying their pursuers. He radios for help and after what seems an eternity, a SICON retrieval ship plummets through the atmosphere to their rescue. They are amazed to find that Carmen is flying. The Roughnecks learn that with the return of T’Phal and news of T’Phai’s death, the forces for secession on Tophet achieved an overwhelming victory. All Terrans have been expelled from Tophet and Erebus, and their airspace declared off-limits to all SICON craft. Against SICON orders and through T’Phetti fighters, Carmen flew the rescue personally, not wanting to ask a junior officer to violate orders at her command. The ship makes a hurried stop outside the Erebus colony to return the kidnapped T’Phetti to their homes. Only M’Rette remains refusing to depart after learning of her father’s death. She shares his loyalty to the Roughnecks and offers her psychic services to the team. So the Roughnecks joined by M’Rette lift off to rejoin the Valley Forge in high orbit. Back in the hive, Freeman monitors the ‘jailbreak’ of the Roughnecks and T’Phetti with great interest. He offered enough resistance to make their escape difficult but not impossible. Bearing little resemblance now to the tattered prospector that guided the Roughnecks to the derelict ship, he has been orchestrating events carefully, guiding the Roughnecks and T’Phetti to advance his plans. He wanted the Roughnecks to escape with M’Rette. He knew they would be best suited to find the one force in the universe that Freeman coveted and the man he most feared. With M’Rette’s encouragement, they would follow Carl’s trail to the deepest secrets of the Arachnids and in the end, to Carl himself. The secrets, he would claim, and the man he would destroy. And M’Rette would be his eyes.

Episode 209: Out Of the Frying Pan

The story jumps briefly to Charybdis, a wild, barely explored world on the periphery. It is an entirely aquatic planet, racked by massive storms and hurricanes. Magellan Augustiae, a small, ramshackle submarine colony has been built under the planet’s violent surface to support the few ore prospectors and scientists that visit this misbegotten world. The story begins with a small submersible docking hastily to the colony’s lock collars. A figure in a powersuit stumbles out; it is Carl, ragged and weary to the point of death. It is clear that he has made a narrow escape. Fearing pursuit he hastily arranges for a ship off this world. But before he departs he must leave a message for Rico if he ever gets this far, a message that may save his life. He pauses in the colony bar considering how to leave a secure message. Hours later he is on-board the tiny shuttle he has contracted, unsure where he will go, but certain he must escape. He makes a difficult take-off and manages to achieve orbit. Before he can ponder his next move his tiny craft is overtaken by a massive shadow that blocks out all the stars. Unbelievably it is a transport bug. From the living ship, he hears a strange psychic call. Answering, he steers his craft into the maw of the waiting arachnid ship.

Episode 210: The Stone Speaks

On the Valley Forge, Rico and Doc monitor the recuperation of Haley. She finally awakens and reveals her relationship to Carl and her hellish experience with Freeman. Rico realizes the only way to defeat Freeman is with Carl’s aid. He decides to follow his friend’s trail as best he can. His only clues are Carl’s message and the strange artifact. But Haley can help; she is a psychic archeologist, able to sense impressions left on inanimate objects new and ancient. She detects the ‘smell’ of bugs and of things far older on the artifact. She can describe the world from which it came, a place of water and storms. Similar objects to the one now in Rico’s possession have been collected by freemerchants and ore-prospectors that ply the outer systems. Nothing more is known about it, except that it was intensely interesting to both Freeman and Carl. Using that data and Haley’s description, Goss locates a likely origin of the stone, the giant water world, Charybdis. Rico convinces Carmen to set course for that distant world.

Episode 211: Last Chance Saloon

The Roughnecks, M’Rette, and Haley make the harrowing trip through Charybis’ churning atmosphere and into the ocean where they dock at Magellan Augustiae, the only permanent outpost on this world. The Roughnecks try to pry the local’s for information, without success. Rico enters the colony bar and starts talking to the bartender who recognizes the artifact Rico is carrying but offers little other information. When Dizzy enters the bar, however, the sight of the two triggers the release of an implanted psychic message in the bartender. Speaking with the voice of Carl, he explains that the artifact originated on Charybis and it represents the work of a race far older than the bugs. This race created the bugs. This link to the bug’s origins is what fascinated Freeman and what drew Carl here. Hidden on this world was the record of the Arachnid’s creation, the tools and means by which they were born. Carl feared that his presence might lead Freeman or his agents to this secret and he had to flee. With that the message abruptly ended. Goss locates the subshuttle Carl had recently used and searching its navigation logs discovers that he had journeyed to the Scyllan Trench, a vast deep ravine in the ocean floor, little explored. Rico decides to follow Carl’s trail into the darkness.

Episode 212: Atlantian Dreams

With vehicles and SubMarauder suits provided by Carmen from the Valley Forge, the Roughnecks, M’Rette, and Haley travel to the trench, and plunge into the complete darkness and crushing pressure of the valley floor. There they find the ancient ruins of a long dead civilization. Leaving a guard outside, Rico, Haley, Max, and Diz enter the gateway of the ruins only to find a bewildering array of tunnels and chambers. Guided by Haley’s ‘gift’ they explore this strange city of a long dead race. Their investigation is cut short when large predators in the tunnels attack them. They make a fighting retreat, but in the melee, Dizzy is taken. Rejoining the Roughnecks outside the ruins, Rico decides to take Haley back in to search for Dizzy, while the remaining Roughnecks either guard the entrance or surface to call for reinforcements.

Episode 213: Jailer

The story cuts to Dizzy, held captive in an air-filled chamber within the ruins. She cannot understand how or why aquatic creatures would use such chambers until she meets her ‘jailer’ a strange fragile- appearing creature that is obviously amphibious. Stranger still, she finds she can communicate with it. Apparently, the jailer had contact with a human before, a psychic which Dizzy realizes was Carl. He taught the jailer his language. She learns that these ruins are home to two predominant races of beings. The powerful, aggressive aquatic creatures that captured Diz are the dominant semi-sentient species, while the jailer was a representative of a weaker but vastly more intelligent servant species to the predators. Diz befriends the creature, and with his aid begins to explore the ruins. She learns of the powerful race, the Old Ones that once lived here. Millennia ago they genetically-engineered creatures to act as their guardians. These ‘protectors’ were the ancestors of the Arachnids. Sadly, the Old Ones did their job too well, for the ‘protectors’ turned on their creators. In a futile effort to stop their mad creation they created new species to resist the arachnids but they were no match for the bugs. The Old Ones were destroyed, and in time the bugs moved off Charybdis to colonize the galaxy. All that was left were the remnants of the creatures the Old Ones had hastily created to fight the bugs; the predators and the amphibians. Diz and the Jailer eventually come upon a vast chamber, it’s walls covered in strange runes. Jailer reveals that it is the ‘voice of the dead’, old writing left by the ancients which none now can understand. Diz views the writing with total bewilderment, until she is interrupted by the welcome voice of Rico over her comlink. He instructs her to stay put. He is coming to bring her home.

Episode 214: The Voice of the Dead

Using Dizzy’s homing beacon Rico and Haley navigate the intricate tunnels and locate Diz and her alien companion. At Rico’s appearance the Jailer lapses into a trance and again, an implanted message from Carl is transmitted. Carl’s message reveals that the runes hold the code for creation of the Bug Queen, the mother and controller of the Bug Race. In effect it is the DNA blueprint for the Bug’s biology. But the carvings are not the whole story. The rocks themselves hold the secret to the critical last chapter of the code. A secret chamber exists attached to the room of carvings, accessed by a door only a psychic could open. Behind the door was a critical piece of the code. Carl understanding that Freeman must not learn this implanted this message in the jailer, a message to be released only in Rico’s presence. Carl would not reveal the door’s location. Haley however, is ‘listening to the stones’ while the Jailer speaks and wanders to a spot on the wall. She telekinetically opens a hidden lock and the wall slides open. The small group enters only to find a small carving of letters on the chamber wall. Haley with her knowledge of archeology understands that this small passage is the ‘Rosetta stone’, the key to the translation of the runes. The small group scrambles back out into the passages just as Rico receives a message from Goss; heavy reinforcements are being dropped to retrieve Rico and his team. Seems something big is going on, and they are being pulled out.

Episode 215: Breakthrough

The group makes their farewells to the Jailer and begins the long difficult trip out of the ruins and back to the surface. Rico, Diz and Haley are met in their dash for the exit by Doc and Max, both with weapons blazing. Masses of predators were approaching their position and the two troopers had come in to assist the retrieval. The group makes it way out of the ruins only to face more of the predators. Aided by the SubMarauders, the reunited Roughnecks hold off the masses of attackers. In the nick of time, support craft dropped from the Valley Forge rescue the team, and they return safely to the surface. In their retrieval ship, M’Rette questions Haley about her adventure in the ruins.
Millions of light years away, Freeman lost in a trance, smiled to himself. It was all working out better than expected. Haley had been in the ruins and had seen the secret, even the secret Carl had tried so valiantly to hide. Haley was not in his control, but it was a small matter to use M’Rette to gently probe the memory of her fellow psychic. And now Freeman could see code, as though he had been in the ruins with them. He had the code and the tools to read it.

Episode 216 Echoes of the Past

The Roughnecks arrive on the Valley Forge finding the ship mobilizing for war. Adm. Ibanez, following up information from Magellan tracked the exhaust traces of a shuttle believed to be Carl’s. The trail of his craft ended where the trail of a transport bug began. Fearing that the Arachnid Empire was rebuilding and that Carl was taken by the bugs, the Valley Forge is ordered to follow the trail, destroy any bugs found, and located Carl; rescue him if possible, otherwise destroy him to prevent the bugs from exploiting him. The Valley Forge follows the trail to the Pleides Minor asteroid belt, to Lovell 547, an asteroid roughly twice the size of Earth’s moon. Unmistakable signs of bug activity on the surface lead Carmen to begin saturation bombardment from orbit. Fearing for Carl’s safety, Rico implores Adm. Ibanez to stop the bombing and allow a search team to drop to Lovell to locate Carl. Carmen reluctantly agrees but stipulates that if Carl is not found in an hour the asteroid will be laid waste (and Carl with it). Rico recruits Haley as a guide to find Carl and prepares to jumpsuit drop onto the asteroid with the Roughnecks, a daunting prospect to some of the old squad who haven’t dropped in over a decade.
Guided by Haley, the team drops to the surface, then begins the search for Carl. The asteroid is strangely quiet initially. When the team finally confronts a cadre of warriors and engages them, they retreat. The Roughnecks find the hive and fight their way past token resistance to the hive core, where they find the New Queen, the mother of this new hive. Rico remembering his death struggle with the Old Queen prepares to fire on Her, but is stopped by the command of “Hold your fire!” It is Carl, who steps out from behind the Queen standing between the Roughnecks and the massive bug. He tells them that she is not their enemy.

Episode 217 Strange Bedfellows

A tense silence follows as the two enemies face each other. The Queen’s guards converge on the Roughnecks, but with a word from Carl to the Queen, they freeze in their tracks. Carl smiles, happy to see Rico at last and explains that he is here of his own volition. He explains that he left Earth fearing the menace of the renewed Arachnid Empire, but discovered the greater threat in Freeman and his plans. The New Queen, understanding the menace as well, sought Carl’s help. Rico is staggered by the thought of Carl allied with the bugs and does not fully trust him, thinking Carl may be mad or controlled. Rico, though deeply suspicious, orders the squad to lower their weapons. Before he can question Carl further, the hive is rocked by explosions Rico recognizes as tactical nukes. He angrily radios Carmen telling her to hold her fire; she replies that it is not her ship firing at them. Her fleet and Lovell 547 are under attack by unidentified ships. Freeman has arrived.

Episode 218 Into the Fire

The hive chamber begins to crumble under repeated blasts. Carl follows the Roughnecks out of the hive to the surface where they see great ships firing on one another. The Valley Forge appears to be on fire, while smaller strangely marked ships strafe the surface. Rico calls for retrieval but that is impossible. Carl offers to arrange alternative transportation; in minutes a small transport bug lands at their feet and they reluctantly board. The bug dodges fighters and projectiles to land in the Valley Forge’s docking bay. Carl and the team rush to the bridge where Carmen briefs them on the situation. Two Bug War vintage craft dropped out of hyperspace around the Valley Forge and attacked. Their weapons fire unaided by radar is incredibly accurate. Carl reveals that the ships are Freeman’s, commanded and crewed by psychics and Freeman’s bugs. With Carl’s aid and some fancy fighting by Carmen, Freeman’s fleet is repelled.

Episode 219 Coronation

The Roughnecks celebrate their victory, but Carl is strangely subdued. The enemy’s fleet, he informs them, was commanded by one of Freeman’s lieutenants; the mastermind is still at large. But Carl is more troubled by events on Lovell. He asks Rico, Carmen and the Roughnecks to accompany him back down to the asteroid. They return to the Arachnid hive, now in ruins and find the Queen dying, crushed under debris. Carl approaches the monarch, and after a silent moment together, the Queen expires. Carl returns to the squad strangely changed. The Queen is gone; Carl has assumed control of the Arachnid Empire. There is no more time for questions. SICON and the Arachnids will fight together, to destroy Freeman.

Episode 220 A Wolf in the Fold

The combined SICON-Arachnid fleets make there way to Freeman’s stronghold on Erebus. En route they are ambushed by a swarm of Freeman’s fighters. In the heat of battle, a lamprey bug, one of Freeman’s creations attaches itself to the Valley Forge, burns a hole in the hull and disgorges troops into the ship. The Roughnecks battle these intruders deck by deck until all are destroyed. Carl becomes concerned that Freeman’s forces seem to have detailed knowledge of the fleet and its movements. He believes they have a mole in their midst, an agent feeding Freeman critical intelligence. Carmen suggests a shipwide security sweep but Carl rejects that option fearing it would alert Freeman to their suspicions and drive the mole underground. He asks Adm. Ibanez’s permission to pursue this problem personally.
M’Rette sits alone and exhausted in an environment chamber, frightened by all she has seen. She is joined by Carl, who speaks to her through the view port of the chamber. They speak mind-to-mind as only psychics can; Carl expresses sorrow for all the pain she has known; her brutal treatment at Freeman’s hands, the death of her father, her estrangement from her brother. M’Rette reveals that she has not slept in days and Carl offers to help. A moment of psychic contact and M’Rette’s mind floods with glowing memories of her childhood, her home, and her mother and father. Soon she is asleep. The Allied fleets approach Erebus. Carmen, Rico, and Carl sit in conference discussing the logistics of the battle to come. Rico inquires about T’Phetti support and is told by Carmen that Tophet has not responded to any radio hails. Carl believes that Freeman’s forces are controlled centrally, by Freeman himself, much as the bugs are controlled. Their goal must be to cut off the head of the enemy, to find and eliminate Freeman. Carl on-board a transport bug will direct a full frontal assault on Freeman supported by SICON’s ships. At the same time, Johnny will lead a special forces team on a stealth powersuit drop near Freeman’s base and will infiltrate the hive. With luck, his team will get a shot at Freeman if Carl’s forces fail. M’Rette will accompany Rico’s team to guide them through the hive.

Episode 221 Silent Drop

Rico and his team suit up in specialized stealth suits in preparation for their drop. M’Rette gets some quick pointers on surviving low-orbital drops before the entire team is deployed. The team lands safely and equipped with special ops gear, manages to elude most patrols and silently eliminate others. Eventually they enter the hive itself. All seems to be going smoothly until the team is abruptly cornered and trapped by Freeman’s army.

Episode 222 The Meeting of Minds

The SICON-Arachnid armies begin their attack. The battle is waged in space, in the atmosphere, and on the surface of Erebus. Slowly the combined armies fight their way into Freeman’s stronghold. Finally Carl comes face-to-face with Freeman, who having used the secret of Charybdis on himself, has transformed into a monstrous creature, a hybrid of man and brain bug. The two psychics lock each other in mental combat while simultaneously holding each other’s forces at bay. They are stalemated. Freeman reveals to Carl that his plan to distract him with the frontal assault while a special ops team infiltrated the hive had failed. The special ops team had been taken. With a signal from Freeman, Rico and his team are paraded under guard into the main chamber. Freeman expecting to gloat over his triumph is surprised to see Carl smiling. Freeman turns from Carl to face M’Rette; his expression changes from confusion to disbelief to fear. With a terrifying scream, Freeman unleashes a psychic holocaust; the hive floor buckles, chunks of the roof crash down, Freeman’s minions writhe and twist in agony. Rico uses this distraction to guide his party over to Carl. In a final burst of energy, Freeman himself distorts and becomes grotesquely twisted before he explodes in a violent explosion bringing the entire hive down.

Episode 223 A Friend in Need

Rico awakens to find himself in total darkness. M’Rette and his team all lie groggy or unconscious at his feet. Only Carl is left standing erect and silent; he tells Rico he is glad he is awake for Carl was getting tired of holding the roof up and could use a hand. Apparently Carl has been maintaining a bubble of safety around himself and his friends with telekinetic energy, holding up the tons of debris that had fallen on them. Rico begins to rouse the others and dig a passage out. He congratulates Carl for destroying Freeman, but Carl denies that he did the deed. Rico is bewildered but further questions must wait. The group stumbles out of the wreckage, which promptly collapses once Carl releases his ‘grip’ on the debris. Carl marshals a few surviving arachnids to be their escort out of the hive. They are not safe from danger. Many of Freeman’s lieutenants and bugs survived the collapse and can still attack. The team faces fierce opposition as they fight their way out, but in a bizarre twist, Carl’s bugs now aid the Roughnecks. Ammo runs low and Carl is tiring; the forces of Freeman begin to close in as the team emerges out into the open. Suddenly in the sky overhead, a wing of T’Phetti fighters approaches. Fearing final destruction at the hands of the Skinnies, our heroes say their good-byes; to their surprise and delight, the fighters attack and scatter Freeman’s attackers. Our heroes are saved.

Episode 224 Last Drop

Rico, Carl, the Roughnecks and M’Rette are back safe on the Valley Forge. Rico is on the bridge talking to Carmen; there he learns that when Rico released the T’Phetti prisoners on Erebus and they returned home to tell the story of the Roughnecks brave rescue, the tide of opinion and truth about the T’Phetti disappearances was revealed. Tophet reversed its antagonism to SICON and began preparing an attack on Freeman. SICON and the Roughnecks are welcome back to Tophet to be honored as friends and heroes. Rico departs the bridge to go to the medical quarters where he finds Carl attending to a still unconscious M’Rette. Rico questions Carl about the events in Freeman’s Hive. Carl reveals that on Lovell and on the voyage back to Erebus, he became convinced that Freeman was getting detailed, inside information from a spy. Having learned of the Roughnecks and M’Rette’s contact with the enemy, Carl did a quiet psychic check of the team and discovered that M’Rette had a psychic implant; one that unwitting caused her to relay everything she saw and heard to Freeman. M’Rette was the perfect spy, because she did not even know she was a spy. Rather than expose her, or try to disable the psychic implant, Carl decided to use it as a tool to relay his plans to Freeman. Carl’s attack and Rico’s covert op were both necessary diversions to get M’Rette back inside the hive. What Freeman did not know was that Carl had implanted in M’Rette a last psychic ‘dead drop’. When M’Rette saw Carl and Freeman together, the psychic drop was opened; Freeman’s hold on M’Rette was released and she was free and fully aware of how Freeman had used her. In the critical moment, M’Rette destroyed Freeman. Rico can’t understand how a psychic with such minor powers could defeat Freeman. What Carl learned (and what Freeman did not understand) was that M’Rette was a ‘lens’. She could do almost nothing alone, but in the presence of psychics she could channel and focus their power to her own ends. When Freeman’s restraints on her were broken, she turned her gift on her enemy, turning his own formidable power against him. Freeman could have stopped her if she had been alone, but with Carl keeping him busy, he couldn’t protect himself on both fronts. Hence M’Rette killed Freeman. Sadly the act has nearly cost her her life. Carl is working now to try to bring M’Rette back, to heal her.

Episode 225 Two Tombs

The scene is the planet Tophet, where the Roughnecks and SICON officers are in full dress uniform. We see that M’Rette is alive and restored to health, thanks to the efforts of Carl and the Skinnie ‘healers’. They are paying homage to their fallen comrade T’Phai. Brutto is most powerfully moved and resolves to stay on Tophet, to watch over T’Phai’s family just as the alien had watched over his. In the sadness, however, there is hope, for the two races of the Alliance are together again, restoring the friendship and trust that was strained to the breaking point.
The scene shifts to a second, much stranger funeral. Rico and Diz have accompanied Carl back to Lovell, returning with the Arachnid forces to their world. Here Carl is strangely pensive; he reveals that he must not only bury T’Phai, but bury the bugs as well. When the queen died, Carl could assume mental command of the Arachnids like a queen, but Carl could never be the ‘queen’ of the hive. Without a true queen to sustain it, the hive was doomed to dwindle and perish, with no new bugs to be hatched to continue the line. Carl releases the bugs from his command, leaving them on the asteroid that will soon become their tomb. Quietly Rico and Diz join their friend and return to their ship to make the long journey home.