(Charles Blake – player absent)
The crew has spent more than a year building up its cash reserves, taking risky routes between the usual space lanes for high-paying customers. In the process, they have had the broken spar in the ship repaired and the Beowulf itself restructured to redistribute the hidden “smugglers’ space” across the hull. They’ve also bought a space-capable grav sled and large amounts of salvage equipment. They have also explained all to their navigator, Jake Hall, who has bought into the salvage enterprise.
Now, they are going to return to the alien derelict to see what they can find.
Before they start, they decide it would be a good idea to rehearse some of the likely situations they would find themselves in. They head for an abandoned supply base, known of by Dex, and orbiting a brown dwarf near New Alaska, to practice zero-gee operations.
The base is a large gravity-less cylinder, tumbling gently through space, with several access doors and the crew quarters bolted onto the side. After some initial manoeuvring to get alongside due to its complex motion, they go out in small groups to practice moving about in microgravity and the use of various anchoring tools. Once Dex and Charles are happy that they have the basics down, they open one of the hatches and go into the main bay. The bay is almost empty, with most of the abandoned detritus having moved to the ends of the cylinder, while several standard containers are attached to the “wall”. They explore for a short while, then Alumiya notices a flashing light emanating from one end of a container. A closer look reveals an active fusion power plant.
Investigating further, they find a hidden locking mechanism on the outer doors, open them and reveal an airlock. Dex and Marcus enter to explore, finding basic living quarters, obviously in regular use, but not at this moment. It quickly becomes clear that this is associated with criminals of some kind, possibly raiders, so they decide to leave it as they found it, departing the system fairly rapidly.
At New Alaska, they leave a time-delayed, anonymous tip-off to the law.
They now try for the derelict, their navigator taking them to the place indicated in Roger’s notes. It has drifted further than they expected and they have to make a detour to get to it, finding that it hasa large white mass attached to the side, which has altered its motion noticeably.
As they approach, they are hit by a white cable of a similar hue to the mass, so Alumiya goes out to retrieve a section. Bringing it inside, she and Rob attempt to analyse it, Rob coming to the conclusion it is of organic origin, not unlike spider silk.
Meanwhile, Dex brings them closer to the hulk, avoiding as many of the flailing cables as he can. As they close, they become aware of the true size of the blob and how it has wrapped tendrils around the derelict. Closer examination reveals a figure, similar to an insect, moving around nearby.
Thinking that the blob might be some kind of solar-powered spaceship, they decide to try to say hello. Landing the ship, Dex, Alumiya and Charles go out to investigate. They approach the blob and are confronted by about thirty of the creatures: up close, they are more like lobsters, about 3 metres across and covered in plate-like armour. Marcus believes they might be servant robots of some kind, although Rob argues that they are lifeforms. An attempt to make contact using diagrams on a writing tablet is unsuccessful and the beings’ responses look preprogrammed. They decide not to approach any further and return to the ship after a second failed attempt at communication.
Worrying that this might be part of an invasion fleet, having hit the derelict by accident, they get the navigator to calculate where the blob might have been if it there had been no collision. A quick jump to that point establish that there are no other blobs, so they return to the derelict to get on with exploring the wreck, ignoring the invaders. They land inside the open part of the hull exposed by the rent on the side and notice a number of other “lobsters” wandering around inside. Rob decide to study the creatures, while the others get on with exploring the hulk.
More of the interior has decayed to dust in the time since they last visited, presumably as a result of the invaders’ explorations, but they push towards the nose, and away from the radiation, eventually arriving at a section untouched by the decay. They are now in a section that resembles a space station or large colony ship. The floors are slightly lower than human size and form shells around the core of the vessel. They open one set of doors (releasing a very slight amount of air) and find what appears to be a family living unit (as described in human terms). Several other doors hide something similar, although anything organic is long gone.
They climb stairs for several levels and emerge in a large hall – and realise they’ve found some of the crew or passengers. Long benches and tables along the centre of the room are covered in dead bodies, preserved by the near vacuum. The bodies themselves are spindly, with large heads and big black eyes – Alumiya notes their resemblance to old Earth ideas of aliens. Entire families appear to be present, but there is no way to tell what killed them. Marcus has a bad reaction to their presence and steps back for a breather and, with Alumiya out of action as a result of seeing one of them “move” on their previous visit, Dex undertakes to shift a body to bring back to Rob – unfortunately, it is “squishy” and splits apart. This is not pleasant.
Rob has determined, meanwhile, that the bugs are probably life-forms operating on a hive level. He also suspects that they are not using spacesuits of any kind, but carry their air with them in “silk” bubbles.