Exploring the Derelict
Grendel searched the ship for maintenance robots. He found none. It appeared that anything that could be removed had been taken. Bletherin suggested that anything useful was taken, and/or anything that could identify who took it was removed. He went to the medical section to see what he could learn about the crew. He uploaded the medical database for later analysis.
Kovak searched the ship with a flashlight and found the mess hall. Grendel used the ship map to find it and join her. The replicators were still there, built into the walls, but there was no food, cutlery, or flatware. The remaining furniture appeared to be Garlan-like design.
Grendel suspected, based on the condition of the engine room, that there had been a catastrophic engine failure. Grrr looked for the ship’s weapons. He found evidence of both laser and missile batteries.
Kovak’s searches uncovered the recreation zone. While all the equipment was gone, it seemed to have been fairly tame as compared with what she experienced in her youth.
The dead Antar was determined to have died by accident rather than murder by the ship’s AI. The body was returned to the ship’s crew. Alex contacted the AI Research Institute to send technicians to assess the capacity of the rogue AI.
The ambassador was getting annoyed. Bletherin arranged for personnel from the survey team to maintain the ship until the authorities arrived. Grendel jury-rigged the power systems to provide minimal power.
Once things were in order and all of the Alex Murphy crew was retrieved, Kovak the set course for the ambassador’s destination.
The Planet of the Tentacle Monsters
The Iliari system was only one jump away. There was a survey ship in the process of jumping out as the Alex Murphy arrived. The destination was the second of the seven planets. There was a domed colony on the fourth planet, as well as one on the moon of the second planet. The moon of the third planet exhibited signs of simple life forms as well.
They docked at the orbiting station. There was another, primitive ship, probably local, as well as another Collective ship docked as well. Grrr escorted the ambassador and her entourage to their quarters. The diplomatic section was dry, as opposed to the Iliari section, which was under water.
Kovak and Grrr found the station bar. Kovak found that the local pilots were fawning over the Collective pilots for information about the rest of the universe. Kovak was reluctant to tell them anything as it may not yet be appropriate, but was persuaded to tell tall tales of the space lanes. The locals responded with local mythology.
Grrr was unable to find palatable alcohol, but tried the local intoxicant, which was candy-like, and found himself extremely mellow and hungry, which was satiated by the fresh, live fish on the menu. Kovak ingratiated the local pilots, who introduced her to the local cuisine properly. Then Grrr pursued Lyra, the Harth bodyguard.
The Distress Call
The actual signing ceremony for Iliari’s entry into the Collective was uneventful, but Bletherin received a summons from the Collective envoy, who was not attending the event. They received an automated distress signal from the survey ship Coratia. The Alex Murphy was the nearest Collective vessel and therefore ordered to investigate.
The signal was coming from a poorly surveyed part of space three jumps away. Iliari was detected as the nearest Collective presence by the automated systems.
The first jump was into a pulsar system. Despite a shaky jump, there was nothing to impact on arrival as everything was already burnt to dust. However, a small G’frar ship quickly jumped out right after as the Alex Murphy arrived.
The second jump was into a trinary system. The three stars were involved in a complicated orbit of each other, with no habitable planets.
The third jump was into a red super-giant system. There were four planets, but nothing on the life zone. There was no immediate sign of the ship in distress. Grrr noted a blip in orbit of the second planet. Alex maneuvered the ship toward it.
The Crashed Shuttle
Bletherin recognized the distress call as coming from the second moon of the second planet, which was identified as coming from the Coratia. The Alex Murphy closed and found a shuttle on the surface. It still had power. There was no response to attempted communication.
The away team boarded a shuttle to investigate. The scanners detected multiple heat signatures in the craft. There was no atmosphere and light gravity. Alex landed the shuttle near the distressed craft inside a crater. There was little natural light, so Alex activated the floodlights.
Grendel and Grrr approached the shuttle in their spacesuits. The only illumination was what was mounted on their suits. The shuttle was hyperspace capable and did not appear damaged. They had a rough but safe landing. The hatch was closed. They looked through the windshield and saw two male Harth and one Antar in space suits without helmets. They were unconscious but still alive.
Grrr entered the airlock and cycled it. Inside, none of the three unconscious people were in the pilot seat. Then Grendel and Kovak cycled the airlock. Grendel examined the people and determined that they were alive and their life signs were stable. There were no signs of significant physical injury.
Kovak inspected the logs. The shuttle had left the Coratia about one day previously and made one jump. There were only two systems that the were surveying within one jump. They jumped from system MH2760. The log indicated that the Coratia was attacked coming out of hyperspace, possibly by G’frar, and they abandoned ship.
Kovak piloted the shuttle back to the Alex Murphy and its crew were taken to the medical bay. The Antar awakened en route trembling. It said that one of the Harth should not be awakened because he was insane. They were attacked by creatures. The ship was not “right” when they came out of hyperspace. Grrr sedated the Antar.
Pursuing the Coratia
Once everyone was back on board, the insane Harth was identified as the pilot. The other Harth was revived. He said that they had been jumped from MH2759 to MH2760. The human pilot was flying. Next he knew, the Coratia was coming out of hyperspace like a thrown brick. The Coratia sustained substantial damage on arrival in MH2760.
They launched the shuttle to another system to warn other ships of the MH2760 anomaly, but the Harth pilot had gone mad after the jump. The other two were clearly not mentally stable as well. There was evidence that they had sedated themselves after arrival.
They waited for the second pilot to rest before jumping into the MH2760 system. The jump was challenging. It seemed sluggish, and Kovak got a distinct sense that something was watching. It did not feel malevolent. It was more curious. Kovak attempted to greet it, but there was no response. The reentry from hyperspace seemed like coming out of water. Kovak was no worse for wear.
Alex performed a high-resolution scan of the vicinity. He detected something anomalous readings, but nothing concrete. MH2760 was another red super-giant system. There were two planets inside the gas giant had three large moons. An Earth-sized planet had one large moon and two smaller moons. Grrr noted that one of the moons was glowing oddly, reflecting more light than a moon shoot.
Alex found the Coratia between the two moons of the gas giant. They launched a probe toward the moon and headed for the stricken ship. They hailed the ship and received a response in a non-Antar language. The Coratia looked as if something had chewed on it, and the rest was melted away.