Meek-Ria's troupe of agents mostly consists of the inehmo pioneer squad responsible for mining the bay door at The Horn of Plenty. Without further ado, the personnel on board are:
1. Lidia Kusnetsova, Eurich's sister and a master of industrial espionage. She is in command of the field team and directly responsible to Meek-Ria.
2. Lt. Marianne Delacroix, formerly of the French Foreign Legion. A reputable person and experienced soldier, who now serves as the squad leader and tactician.
3. Donald McShane, former civilian doctor, now a field medic and VTOL pilot. Discharged from numerous earlier positions due to morphine addiction.
4. Agnus "XD" MacGibbs, formerly of the british space marines. Old and tired, but very competent with explosives.
5. Jean Rambeau, also of the French Foreign Legion and Marianne's squadmate since time immemorial. A big, strong and scarred man who both resembles the iconic action movie hero and thinks he is one.
Because the inehmo squad didn't have enough volunteers, Meek-Ria picked one of the awese pioneers:
6. Heer-Vig, formerly of The Outlier Military Hazardous Environments Unit. An expert on chemical and viral warfare and decontamination, with a psyche that narrowly balances on the useful side between competence and paranoia.
7. Hune-Boo, who has no idea why she is there. The young awese feels extremely out of place and threatened.
Meek-Ria uses the BHI information network to dig up as much of the situation as possible en-route and handles the pesky matters of smuggling the military gear down. When the squad eventually lands, she sets off to gather the final clues while the others take A Prionio Wildlife Course for Tourists in order to earn a Prionio Outdoor Pass for Tourists.
The course consists mainly of a young and spiffy teacher listing all the items what could get you killed outside. As Prionio is a primitive world with a genuinely unique biosphere, this ends up being pretty much everything due to all the potential infection vectors either by virii, bacteria or prions. In addition to this, the geography, storms, nightstalkers, carnivorous sponges and various insects are a serious threat.
The teacher is quick to point out that in the guided tours, it is practically impossible to fall down from the constructed path and that the infections are not dangerous, given immediate treatment. Regardless of her assurances, Hune has an anxiety attack and flunks the test. MacGibbs also flunks it, though mainly due to simply not caring enough. Despite knowing that the pass is likely to be completely irrelevant, Marianne bribes the teacher, hoping that this would give the new recruit some confidence. She also orders everyone to sleep as much as possible, which ends up being prudent as Meek-Ria wakes them up at around 4:30 the following morning. Two hours later, the poor pioneers are standing outside a research station airlock, couple of hundred kilometers to the east.
From her informants, Meek-Ria has found out that Coconna and her friends are likely stationed or about to be stationed around the volcanic caldera lake to the east, which is rumored to be an excellent hunting ground. Meek-Ria's instructions are simple – find Coconna and either get her to talk or bring her back.
Marianne takes the lead and starts walking even further east, embarking the squad on a trek through the periouls envionment of the jungle world. The landscape of Prionio is dominated by shallow seas completely overgrown with trees resembling a cross between ferns, horsetails and palms. They grow a segmented body with numerous radial branches every couple of meters, with the lower branches largely being discarded as the topmost compete for light. In effect, the world is much akin to a poisonous bayou with a solid roof, as the light-collecting layer on the very top is very dense and offers the main avenue of travel. Falling down is risky due to the immense height of the trees, which typically tower beyond a hundred meters, and even more so because the shallow water is both extremely virulent and riddled with sharp corals and other filter feeders.
Progress is slow and the squad only manages a couple of kilometers a day. The travel is further slowed because the inehmo pioneers all choose to use heavy armor, which further increases the risk of falling down. Hune-Boo and Lidia balance the risk differently, only using skinsuits, and Heer-Vig is clad in lighter armor. On the other hand, he carries a large amount of supplies that he deems absolutely essential.
As Prionio is tidally locked to the gas giant and has an 11-day day/night cycle, it's a bit misleading to talk about travel days, but on the first evening, MacGibbs notices a dark cloud on the horizon in the northeast. Wondering what it is, the players set up camp and are awoken by the motion sensor beeping. Marianne is on guard and investigates, but only finds a very large pack of ferret-like animals travelling east. The animals are timid and do not seem to be aggressive, so she leaves them be.
On the next day the squad find out what the cloud actually was. Everything they see on the horizon, from one end to the other, is completely covered by insects about the size of a man's thumb. Being perhaps the best student of the lot, Jean remembers that the teacher warned about the huge migrating aphid swarms that occasionally migrated and demolished the forest. While not particularly dangerous, it is impossible to travel without crushing the aphids and making the branches and leaves way too slippery. Furthermore, it seems possible that the aphids could also bite, and both Hune-Boo and Lidia fear that their skinsuits are not thick enough to protect them. The squad sets up camp to think about this, but Jean soon remembers that the ferret-like animals are the natural predators of the aphids and further postulates that they could have aphid-repellent properties. Encouraged by this, MacGibbs captures some of the beasts and soon the squad travels on, protected by the vile stench emanating from numerous ferret anal glands. The consumed treetops still offer less footholds and MacGibbs almost falls, but thanks to the low gravity, is able to catch a branch below. His suit gets a bit bruised, but Heer-Vig skillfully fixes it and the pioneer avoids infection.
The third day is rather uneventful until it terminates with the setting sun. On a world with such long day/night periods, this always means a large gradient in air pressure, and sure enough, the pioneers are soon beset by a storm unlike they have ever seen. They are forced to set up camp far below the treetops to weather the worst, and still fear for their lives as the wind buffets the tent. Furthermore, when the storm finally ends, they are beset by the apex predators of the forest – nightstalkers.
Nightstalkers are dog-sized, almost blind pack predators living in the darkness below the treetops and relying on echolocation. They operate solely at night, and while the moon's night is never too dark, especially on the side facing the gas giant, the lower levels of the forest still receive very little illumination. What makes the stalkers dangerous is that they have nothing to challenge them, and since hunting isn't technically allowed, nothing has taught them to fear guns. As a result, their aggressive and territorial instincts are entirely unimpeded.
As the pack surrounds the tent, Marianne finds herself on guard again. As she inspects the beasts eating the insects buzzing around the squad's lights, they grow suspicious. When she raises her shotgun and readies it, they pounce.
Due to Marianne's heavy armor, the fight is very one-sided. The beasts claw and bite, but she blasts them one by one. Jean is soon out to help, and before long the remains of the pack scatter to the night. The french are a bit careless when re-entering the tent and Heer-Vig is convinced about contamination, but rummages around and soon produces strong enough chemicals to denaturate almost anything.
After resting, the squad wakes up to a sight of rather extreme devastation. Further east, where they were supposed to cross, the lighter forest has been demolished by the storm, which was indeed of extraordinary severity. While everybody ponders their options, MacGibbs offers to make a canoe out of their extra tent and some branches. As hazardous as this may sound, the operation is successful and soon the squad is paddling the shallow sea, circling and going under the felled horsetail trees. Miraculously they avoid the underwater hazards and arrive at the base of the volcanic region. Seeing dry land for the first time after leaving the research station, they set up camp again and resolve to continue in the morning.
Travelling on land is technically easier, but McShane is starting to get too inconvenienced by his armour. He was already fatigued, but now he is losing the strength to carry on, Not knowing where Coconna is, they cannot afford to lose any more time, so Delacroix makes the call of forcing him to leave the armor and to continue in a skinsuit. The jungle is still dense and while the trees are not quite as tall, the ground level is dominated by a thicket of various parasitic plants which crawl up their trunks. Hacking and slashing enddlesly, the squad makes progress, and by the end of the fifth day, they reach the top of the caldera wall. Looking down into the inner lake, they see the a faint glimmer of light, and for the first time, completing the mission seems feasible. Afraid to give away their position, Lidia orders everyone to avoid using any lights or making noise, which may be a correct choice, but ends up being fatal for one of them.
On McShane's watch, the motion sensor beeps again. He is ready for the beasts, but the darkness only allows him to get one grenade off before they overwhelm him. Without his armor, McShane is unable to fight off the nightstalkers successfully. His bad luck is further compounded by the size of the pack and the fact that everybody else fumbling a bit trying to get into their suits. When the smoke clears, it becomes apparent that the medic is extremely dead and the tent is riddled with bullet holes. Furthermore, the squad has produced a thundering lightshow that is surely visible to the hunters below.
Lidia and Marianne think fast, coming to the conclusion that it's best to use this accident to everyone's advantage by pretending to be in just the kind of trouble they actually are. As it is extremely doubtful that the other entourage expects to be hunted at this moment, it would be best to fire up an emergency flare and ambush them as they come to help. Everybody springs into action, as Jean climbs the closest tree to observe their adversaries, while Heer-Vig and McGibbs hide in the woods. Marianne, Hune-Boo and Lidia pose as the survivors. Especially Hune makes a very convincing damsel in distress – she doesn't have to 'play' the part.
The plan does indeed work. Jean reports a boat leaving the caldera island and making a landfall close to them somewhat later. Soon, a dark-skinned man in light combat armor approaches the tent and is greeted by the three. As they explain their predicament, the man, identifying as Vanilla, starts talking about gamekeepers and how they all should be careful to not get caught. After discussing with his friends through the radio, he tells Lidia and Hune that they can come to their camp for shelter while they sort this out. Appearing grateful, the group follows him and observes as the rest of the squad shadow them.
In the shore, the group meets Coconna, a middle-aged silver-haired woman with a very determined and cautious air about her. She is accompanied by a large man with a sniper rifle and an awese sword. While Vanilla and the woman start talking, the large man spots the silhouette of Heer-Vig in the dark forest and instinctively knows something is wrong. A short and ultimately very futile firefight ensues, as Marianne reveals the pistol she had taped behind her back Die Hard -style and simply shoots the large man to the head. After Vanilla is seriously wounded by Heer-Vig, Coconna surrenders and glares at the players with resentment. They immediately call Meek-Ria to pick them up.
While waiting for the vtol to arrive, the squad destroys any evidence it can find. Boats are sunk, tents are burned and weapons are buried, while corpses are simply left for the insects.
Meek-Ria almost cannot contain her satisfaction on the course of events, and as always, is responsible for the interrogation. It is evident that Coconna is loyal to her men, but as she sees no alternatives, still willing to make deals. She tells Meek-Ria that the nuclear devices were ordered by a wealthy fence called Du'an Xu, and that her responsibility over them ended with the VGT harbormaster. Either true to her word or conscious of the fact that she worked with too many externals during the operation, Meek-Ria sets Coconna free. However, before leaving, the mercenary captain catches up with Marianne and Lidia. She assures them that Silverbridge's reputation and employability are heavily endangered. Should Du'an be pursued, it is imperative that they finish him off and leave no witnesses, as otherwise it is too easy to find out that she sold him off (it is unclear whether or not Coconna has figured out Black Nebula was behind this 'Black Ops' capture). After digesting this ultimatum, the squad and Meek-Ria start planning their next move.