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provided by Adam Keith (lk0001@jove.acs.unt.edu)

As the cargo pods full of exiled prisoners continue on course toward the sun, Alec DeLeon and J.T. Marsh comment on the hopelessness of their situation. Marsh states that there can't be more than a hour's worth left of oxygen in the shuttle, which, DeLeon points out, is irrelevant considering the few minutes remaining before the shuttle burns up.

A few hundred kilometers away, the Neosapien tug which jettisoned the cargo pods into the sun begins its approach toward Venus. One of the two Neosapien officers piloting the tug receives approach clearance from Venus control and estimates arrival in five hours. Suddenly, the door behind them slides open and Marsala enters, hiding a blaster behind his back. When the officer snaps that Marsala has no authorization to be on the bridge, Marsala casually suggests that his blaster is "sufficient authorization." "I believe it is called a hijacking," he states just before the other of the two officers leaps from his chair, slamming Marsala against the wall. Marsala buries his elbow into the officer's neck and throws him to the ground, and then snap-kicks the other officer into a control panel, which electrocutes him into unconsciousness. "I did not wish this to end in violence," Marsala states as he nonchalantly downs his first attacker again with an incredibly cool no-look, backfisted punch to the face. "I must not be too late," he says, proceeding to turn the tug toward the sun at full speed.

Back on the cargo pods, many of the exiles have passed out from the increasing heat of the sun and the rest are coughing violently. J.T. tries to encourage Alec but rebuffs Diana's attempts to explain her treachery. She claims to have betrayed them only to keep her husband and child from being executed, and she asks for J.T.'s forgiveness, which he withholds, saying "Soon, it won't matter one way or the other." A few minutes later, Diana begins choking and collapses on the floor, prompting J.T. to state, "I never thought it would end this way." All of the sudden, the cargo pods lurch to a halt. The space tug docks and is visible through the windows. "Marsala," J.T. huffs, "must be."

Alec leans on J.T. as the two pass through the cargo pods and enter the space tug, where they find Marsala at the helm. "Sure am glad to see your ugly face," J.T. announces. J.T. prods Marsala jokingly about his failure to arrive sooner, to which Marsala responds in typically serious fashion. J.T. orders Marsala to set a course for Venus, and the tug and its cargo head off.

In high orbit of Venus, Rita Torres, Maggie Weston, and Kaz Takagi wait on the lagging Wolf Bronski, still struggling with DeLeon's borrowed E-frame. Despite Bronski's protests, Torres orders the squad to the planet's surface to begin searching for Nara Burns in her downed E-frame. From a cave on the planet's surface, Nara sees her friends' E-frames streaking through the Venusian sky and says to herself, "They just wouldn't understand."

As the four E-frames make their descent through Venus' atmosphere, alarms go off at one of the planet's newly built GRAF projection facilities. An officer reports the detection of four Terran E-frames to General Draconis, who promptly orders the launch of all E-frames and Y-wings in the area, bluntly stating, "I will show Phaeton how to deal with the Exofleet."

As Torres' party searches for Burns, Bronski continues to have trouble flying DeLeon's E-frame, crashing into a nearby mudhole. Torres begins hurling verbal abuse at Bronski but is suddenly interrupted by two Neosapien E-frames that come charging with guns blazing over a nearby hill. Wolf returns fire and sends one of the two E-frames leaping aside to dodge his blasts, but two Y-wings swoop down from above and send him running for cover. Maggie tells Wolf to keep the Neosapiens busy, but all he can do is jump out of the path of an incoming missile and shout, "Easy for you to say, Weston!"

Torres is hit and thrown to the ground by one of the Y-wings, but Takagi flies by her and blows away the two E-frames firing on her. He gets on the tail of the two Y-wings and destroys one of them, but the other loops around and gets Kaz in his sights. Takagi tries to shake the Y-wing, but gets hit and begins losing altitude. Meanwhile, Torres, having recovered from her earlier damage, takes off and activates some kind of energy blade on her E-frame. She flies directly beneath the last remaining Y-wing before slashing an enormous rip in its belly. The Y-wing spirals away trailing orange smoke and then explodes in the air. Torres calls out triumphantly, "You're all clear, pilot!" to Takagi, and the four pilots resume their search for the missing Lieutenant Burns.

In the cargo pods, J.T. explains to Diana that Marsala is taking the ship down through a storm on the Venus equator to evade Neosapien detection. Diana asks if J.T. will let her help with their mission on Venus, maintaining that she's on their side. J.T. retorts, "You change sides too easily." He then joins Alec and Marsala in the cargo tug just as a bolt of lightning strikes the ship and shorts out the controls. The tug and its cargo go tearing toward the ground until DeLeon overrides the main circuits and manages to prevent their untimely deaths, but the ship ends up ripping through dozens of trees and sliding hundreds of meters before coming to a halt in a nearby swamp.

Led by a man who once worked as a tree logger in the same area, the exiles begin to trek through the swamp toward an old abandoned logging complex. The Exofleet pilots stay behind and decide to begin salvaging what they can from the wrecked tug while keeping an eye on the traitorous Diana.

Marsala and J.T. find and extract two battered old E-frames from inside the wrecked tug. DeLeon makes a few repairs to the controls of one and takes it out to dry ground, where one of its blasters falls off and hits the ground with a clank. After DeLeon performs a bit of "field surgery" on the blaster, Diana approaches Marsh and asks if she can help. J.T. only shakes his head and continues working on the E-frame's old fusion pack. A short time later, Alec demonstrates the E-frame's fully operational status by taking off and flipping it around a few times in midair. "One down," J.T. says, "one to go."

At the main Venusian GRAF facility, Xenobius enters his assistant's quarters and finds him engaged in painting using a virtual reality headset. Xenobius interrupts his assistant, one Professor Algernon, to inform him that the Exofleet knows that he, not Xenobius, invented the GRAF shield. Algernon is frustrated at this and reminds Xenobius of their agreement that Algernon would only give credit for GRAF to Xenobius as long as he spared Algernon from the "petty intrusions of the outside world." Mockingly stating, "I thought you alpha Neosapiens were designed for intelligence," Algernon threatens to tell Draconis the truth about GRAF unless he deals with the situation. Moments later, Draconis appears in hologram and orders Algernon out of the room so that he can speak with Xenobius. Algernon begins to follow through with his threat, but Xenobius pleads with him not to, promising to rectify the situation. After Algernon leaves, Draconis informs Xenobius of the presence of the four Exofleet E-frames that escaped earlier and demands that the still incomplete GRAF shield be brought online immediately.

Outside the city of Vesta, Nara Burns approaches her family's farm through the devastated ruins left behind in the wake of the Neosapien invasion. Nara gets out of her E-frame and goes inside the ruined domed house, where she finds the makeshift graves of her parents. She falls to her knees and cries, but then realizes that her brother James must still be alive. She looks around, but sees no sign of him.

In the swamp, Marsh, DeLeon and Marsala complete repairs to the second E-frame. The question of what to do with Diana soon comes up as Alec expresses his misgivings toward flying an E-frame with her sitting in the backseat. J.T. ends the discussion by saying, "Unless someone has plans to execute her, I suggest we just get on with it." Alec brandishes his blaster and states his willingness to do so, but his proposal is quickly ended by blasts from an airborne Neosapien E-frame that comes crashing through the forest. One of the newly-repaired E-frames is blown up, and the four troopers are forced to run away into the forest. The Neosapien pursues and blasts away at the retreating troopers, shooting down a tree that traps Diana and blocks her from going any further. Alec looks back and sees Diana telling the Neosapien not to shoot, and he assumes that she plans to betray them again. He tries to shoot her but his arm is pushed aside by Marsala, who tells J.T. that he trusts her. The Neosapien lifts off and takes Diana away, but the three exotroopers are forced to keep running as another E-frame descends and starts firing on them.

The three pilots reach the swamp and leap in, swimming as far as they can under water. Blasts from the enemy E-frame pierce the muddy water as the Neosapien hovers above the swamp, trying to force the three troopers to the surface. All three come up at the same time and start shooting at the Neosapien with their hand blasters, but to no avail. Suddenly, four humans wearing jetpacks come over the top of the forest and lift the Exofleet pilots out of and away from the swamp; one other person slaps a bomb on to the pursuing Neosapien's E-frame. The Venusian dedicates the E-frame to his mother and father, and it promptly explodes. He then rejoins his comrades, who have taken Marsh and company to a nearby clearing in the forest. J.T. thanks his rescuers, but they say nothing and respond only by taking the troopers' blasters away. The leader of the Venusian humans tells J.T. that he doesn't trust him, especially not with Marsala present, and that he plans to take the Exofleet pilots with him.

Back at the GRAF control center, the recently-captured Diana is waiting in a prison cell when Draconis enters. He gives Diana one minute to speak to him, so she explains that she is an agent for General Shiva and that she has information about an imminent Exofleet attack on Venus'GRAF facilities. Draconis contacts Shiva and receives confirmation that Diana is indeed working for him, and he informs Shiva of her claims of an Exofleet attack. Shiva snaps, "Then what are you waiting for? I have my hands full with Earth, take her to Xenobius." Shiva ends the communication and Diana asks when she can see Xenobius, but Draconis, unwilling to be told what to do by one of his fellow generals, replies, "When I decide, and not before."

Nara continues searching through the ruins of her family's home until she stumbles across a recorded message left behind by her brother James. He explains what happened when the Neosapiens invaded and how they burned the crops and took the people away. James asks Nara to meet him at the old snake tree, where he and his fellow Venusians are based.

In a cave at the Venusian resistance camp, J.T., Alec and Marsala sit quietly eating the food the resistance members have given them. Alec is uneasy about taking the food from starving children, and James overhears this. He hopes that maybe they will understand that sometimes sacrifices have to be made to keep the game going, implying that the three pilots are the pieces about to be offed for the greater good. J.T. refuses to accept this, insisting that they need to complete their mission. James ignores him and contacts a Neosapien communications officer from somewhere nearby who demands to know how he got on the same frequency as he. James dismisses the Neosapien's demands and asks him to tell Draconis that he has three Exofleet troops that he would be willing to trade for three months' worth of food. J.T. jumps to his feet and barks, "Are you crazy?" prompting one of the resistance men to slam him to the ground with the butt of his blaster rifle. James coldly repeats, "Three troopers...for three months' food."

Credit goes ot: Patrick Danner's ExoSquad page.

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