Large creatures holding the party to the ground was bad, but thankfully they were pretty dumb. Athanas’s hands were free and with some effort he managed to draw his pistol and get the monster off of him, although his shots missed. Athena and Jack also managed to get out from under their attackers with well placed punches. Claws tore at the armor and jaws snapped in the air trying to get new grips on legs and arms. Now that they’re free of the beasts, the three of them start shooting, peppering the large cats with energy bolts.
Surprisingly, the cats can shoot back: the third eye in their foreheads is some sort of energy cannon. Thankfully the armor is tough enough to withstand the bolts, something Athena found out the hard way. When her attacker lunges at her in an effort to pin her again she uses her rifle as a guard, ramming the barrel down its throat and pulling the trigger. The resulting explosion of guts showers everything for meters and leaves the head wrapped around the rifle. Jack gets a nasty bite on the arm, one that crushes the armor plates but thankfully the teeth don’t pierce through to the undersuit, preserving his environmental protection. Athena helps Jack out by tossing a grenade which critically injures the cat, blowing off a leg and filling it with shrapnel. Meanwhile, Athanas keeps pouring on the energy bolts and seriously wounds the cat, though it manages to slink off into the darkness. Putting the grenaded cat out of its misery just takes another moment and the three turn to see how Meshan and Sampson did in the struggle.
They had been dragged away into the darkness.
Fearing the worst, the trio set out to find them, following the drag marks as fast as they can. They lose them in some bare bedrock for a few minutes, but find them again easily enough with the help of the radio direction finder in Athanas’s armor. The tracks end up following the lakefront then turn into it, going down a peninsula that extends out into the lake. Shockingly, the radiation sensors in the armor picks up a measurable amount of radiation coming from the water. Curious as to what could be causing it they continue on, and the peninsula ends at a wall: the outer barrier of a Hive.
Exploring inside, the Hive is clearly unused. There are no Invid at all wandering around, walls are broken and deteriorating, and none of the energy barrier doors are active. Working their way through the first floor the trio hears sounds coming from the center and find something interesting. A large chamber exists in the center of the Hive, lit by a greenish glow. Peeking through the entryway the Robotech Defenders see that this must be the main den for the mutant pumas, entire families lounging around, eating, fighting, nursing, etc. The glow comes from a large pit set in the middle of the chamber, full of some viscous liquid. A crack in the walls lets in some lake water which has formed a small creek that runs into and out of the pit, glowing slightly as it exits the Hive. Standing near the pit is an unusual creature: clearly humanoid, it’s also very catlike. And gripped in her clawed hands is Meshan and Sampson. Stripped of their helmets and held captive, the thing growls at them.
Realizing that something really bad is about to happen, Athanas, Jack, and Athena jump into action. The group lobs several grenades into the opposite side of the chamber as a distraction while Jack rushes the humanoid. It works incredibly well. A full half-dozen cats are blown into chunks in an instant and the rest flee from the shock. Jack fires from the hip and catches the Alpha cat square in the head and chest three times, killing it. Unfortunately, in its death throes Sampson and Meshan are pushed towards the Pit…