Onto The Coratia
Having found the derelict survey ship Coratia, the crew of the Alex Murphy took a shuttle to investigate. On approach, Kovak noted that the derelict ship was not going to be moving on its own power any time soon. Grrr recognized that the “chewed” part was actually claw marks, as if made by an enormous dog.
Donning space suits, the crew explored the Coratia. The sensors indicated that there was sufficient atmosphere inside, but no heat. Alex downloaded the ship schematics into the heads up displays in the away team’s helmets.
Grendel attempted to access the ship’s computer. It was slow to respond, but eventually he learned that the were nineteen people locked in the mess hall. He realized that the source of the computer lag was someone there using the CPU cycles.
Grendel activated two-way communication. Bletherin contacted the people in the mess hall. The person who responded was reticent to accept help, stating that they believed that the Alex Murphy would be attacked when it tried to leave the system.
Alex’s probe knocked on the door, but the inhabitants would not open it in order to retain the heat. They asked the crew to bring the spare space suits. Alex sent the other shuttles over with crewmen to assist with removing the crew and the deceased.
When the Murphy crew arrived with the environment suits, the occupants opened the mess hall door. There were fifteen dead crewmen out of the original thirty-eight.
The Ship’s Logs
Alex downloaded the entire ship’s log so Kovak could study it. She discovered that the captain and the pilot were killed. She believed they were killed by feedback. The sensors provided information about the planets in the system, as well as an abandoned space station.
The sensors indicated that the ship had fallen out of hyperspace immediately after jumping. The emergency kick-out was triggered by the pilot. Kovak realized that if something had attacked the Coratia in hyperspace, it would have been too big to be pulled out with the ship.
The captain’s log was abuzz about the space station. He had requested an archaeological mission to investigate it.
Using the log data, Alex made a 3-D model of what attacked the Coratia. The image was speculative, but the model resembled something 2-3 times larger that the Coratia that was composed a central disk and claws that traveled along it. The entity was clearly focused on the rear section of the ship.
The State of the Ship
Grendel examined the ship’s systems with the help of two of the Coratia’s engineers. The rest of the crew was evacuated to the Alex Murphy.
The hyperspace drive was irreplaceable, but the normal engines were operational would be able to provide light and heat. The Coratia was too big for the Alex Murphy to tow. A hyperspace tug would be required.
After a few hours, Grendel and the engineers had restored the Coratia’s engines and moved it to a stable orbit around the Earth-like planet.
The Space Station and the Planet
The derelict space station was of the same style as they found on Elcron’s World. The planet it was orbiting was Earth-sized, but too cold even for Grendel.
The probe that had been sent to an anomalous planet revealed that it had been seriously slagged and was composed of a high percentage of metal that caused the strange readings. The former inhabitants had clearly been preparing to harvest the ore of the metal planet.
The presence of the hyperspace entity could potentially explain lost ships over the centuries, which were lost without a trace. The Coratia was an exception because it had a hyperspace capable shuttle.
Returning to Known Space
Bletherin and the Alex Murphy would jump out from one end of the system. Kovak and Grendel would take the hyperspace shuttle and jump out from the other end. The hope was that each would be able to observe the other and record what happens if the other was attacked.
The intent was to jump back to the neighboring system. If both survived, they would take the shortest route back to civilization.
The shuttle jumped out as well, and Kovak’s sense that she was being watched increased. She saw a silhouetted shape in the darkness that was crab or spider-like, but it was completely ignoring the shuttle.
Kovak investigated and gathered data about the the anomaly. Grendel examined it with the sensors. The thing appeared to be an organic ship. It appeared to have drive spines. The thing was not moving very fast. Perhaps it was asleep.
Kovak pulled the shuttle away from the entity and performed the calculations to jump to the rendezvous coordinates.
Company at the Rendezvous
The Alex Murphy jumped out. Everything seemed normal, but there was a G’frar ship there. It appeared to be flying in a close orbit around the sun. A sensor sweep indicated that there was a solar storm brewing that they might be studying. The G’frar did not initiate communications.
The shuttle appeared half an hour later. Kovak reported that they had seen the creature, and contacted Grrr to schedule a bar crawl. The shuttle docked and Kovak uploaded the sensor logs to Alex.
After both pilots had rested and the crew of the Alex Murphy had studied the solar storm, Kovak jumped the Alex Murphy back to a system of seven planets.
The sun was a white giant, and the sixth planet was attractive, which advanced life and some kind of ruins, though its moon was going to crash into it in 30-40 years. The seventh planet would be terraformable in a few years, but was not hospitable at the moment.
The ruins on the sixth planet were not clearly visible from orbit as they were overgrown with plant life. It appeared to be some kind of ancient city. The survey crew had done a preliminary scan.
The away team proceeded to the site with one of the archaeologists from the survey ship. The ruins were located on a large, deep lake in a temperate forest zone. It took some time to find a landing site.
The atmosphere was breathable, a little hot for Grendel and very cold to Bletherin. There was a light drizzle, but most was captured by the ancient trees that overgrew the ruins. The structures were partially toppled, but the masonry was precise, with minimal gaps between the stones. The surfaces were smooth, and appeared to bipedal in origin, or perhaps hexapedal.
Grrr noted a large number of small monkey-ish, squirrel-ish creatures in the canopy. There were also small white flowers with red berries, scattered about, as well as thorny and brambling plants, suggesting the presence of herbivores. The Antar biologist who accompanied the away team informed them that the berries were both harmless and tasty.
The ruins were in a grid of streets. The structures had no basements, probably on account of the proximity of the lake and threat of flooding.
Kovak noticed a small shiny thing and picked it up. It appeared to be a gold coin with writing on it. She showed it to one of the survey people, who took a full 3-D image of it.
After surveying the site for few hours, the crew returned to the shuttle. A squirrel-monkey followed Grrr onto the ship and he captured it and put it into a quarantine field.
Return to Iliari
The Alex Murphy jumped back to the base at Iliari and off-loaded the Coratia crew for evaluation and therapy. Kovak was cleared for duty after a Board of Inquiry ruled that she could not have seen what she said that she saw.
On the next jump, the sensation that something was watching returned to Kovak. Then the ship shook as if it got to close to something’s wake.
When they jumped out of Hyperspace at Elcorn’s World, there was some minor damage to some of the drive spines on the outside of the ship.
There was a science ship in the system preparing to jump. It was orbiting the abandoned space station. Grendel passed on the report of the other abandoned space station with the other ship. The scientists were appreciative.
The ship entered the orbit of the planet and made repairs. Grendel recorded the damage and saved two of the damaged spines as evidence of the contact. Kovak warned the other pilots to be wary of the hyperspace anomaly.
In the Sealed Room
The scientists on the space station found broken furniture on the sealed room. It provided more insights into the beings that had built the station. They still had no response from the Artificial Intelligence.
Alex was able to communicate with her. She was depressed because its meat people were gone, and the new meat people only wanted to ask her questions. Alex told her that other friendly AIs would be making contact in the future. He asked her was she was called. She replied, Aleria
Aleria provided detailed maps of the area around the Garlan homeworld and further coreward, but the label were outdated. She would not give the information to anyone else. He gave her chess and they played a few million games. Most ended up in stalemate.
Grrr and Kovak went to the archaeologist bar. A muscular Harth challenged Grrr to an arm wrestling contest. Grrr beat him handily and challenged all comers. Grrr broke even on the day, but accused a burly technician of cheating. His fists approached Grrr, but were not threatening. Grrr knocked him down and he broke his chair.
Message for Alex
Alex received an urgent dispatch to leave all passengers at Elcron’s World and depart immediately for the Latray system. The message distracted Grrr, who crashed into his chair. It also collapsed and Grrr finished off his opponent and left in disgust.