The crew are towing their salvaged bomber back to dock for repairs. Travel is slow as the ship in tow is larger than the Oranos. Duergar fleet command redirects the Oranos to a facility that is both closer to their location and far away from any official infrastructure.
Welcome to Ulara
Ulara is a heavy gravity world with pulsing magnetic fields emanating from its core. The planet is surrounded by a field of debris including a derelict outpost that has become a shadowport and haven for the system’s criminal element. As the crew approaches the coordinates the outpost hails them and asks their business. After a curt discussion and a few innuendos about heritage the crew decides to set down near one of the settlements on the planet’s surface.
After settling the ship on planet and boarding it, Glack and Kallie’Dar notice a strange psychic resonance on the bomber. The ship ‘feels’ out of sync, like multiple voices speaking in different languages or multiple individuals having conversations with themselves in the same room.
The crew begin the process of repairing the bomber’s sub systems. The power core and weapon systems are wrecked while the computer core and navigational systems are malfunctioning. After a few hours of tracing and troubleshooting the alien ship, the crew manages to repair the systems return them to operation.
As the sub systems return to normal operation the psychic resonance begins to harmonize. Once the systems return to an operational state the four organic computer clusters link properly and maintain a steady stream of communication. Each subsystem is dedicated to their designated tasks but their operations rely on data from each of the other systems.
The crew discuss options now that they have two functional ships. Finally it is decided to extract the experimental drive from the Oranos and install it in the more compatible systems of the bomber. Another hour of extraction and installation, the drive finally connects to the bomber. Another voice is added to the harmony. Readings indicate the drive will require additional time to fully integrate before operation. The crew take this time to explore Ulara’s amenities.
At the local watering hole the crew decide to sell the Oranos. Contacting a local ship broker earns a quick sale of the modular ship and the crew bids farewell to the Oranos. They return to the bomber and board for take off. Lift off is smooth and the ship feels more responsive to Strig’s piloting. Controls at the other stations also seem more intuitive and responsive.
Back to Base
The crew contacts the Confederation command center and requests permission to attend the after action council meeting. After providing their new transponder signal they are cleared to enter Raveg space. Strig plots the coordinates and fires the drive. A few moments later the crew arrive. They are directed to dock at a quarantine hangar.
The crew disembark into an essentially empty hangar. They reach the force screen and are met by a squad of duergar soldiers and a few scientists intent on scanning and analyzing the new ship from behind the quarantine screen.
Politics as Usual
The crew board an auto shuttle and arrive at the Raveg hub. They arrive as the council is apparently discussing the cleanup process and the disposition of enemy vessels.
“We cannot allow these ships to take root anywhere in the system. Who knows the long-term impact on security and potential corruption these systems could have on any world housing them.” the Duergar representative says.
“I concur, the ecological impact of introducing even small amounts of this infectious technology could be devastating to any of our worlds.” the Ophiduan representative says.
“Perhaps small systems could be sampled and taken to a remote outpost or to a world already barren of any life.” suggests the Dromite representative.
“To the primary with it all. No trace should be left to corrupt our space, people or worlds.” says the Maenad representative.
Finally Zier rises and addresses the council and assembled commanders. “I agree that the risk to our system, and indeed the entire sector, seems to rely on the proper disposition of the Dominion detritus.” He pauses “However, we may be better able to defend ourselves through the study of our enemy’s technology. Perhaps a compromise can be reached.”
He turns to the arriving crew of the Oranos and acknowledges them with a nod. All the representatives rise and begin applauding. The rest of the room turns and joins the applause. After the applause dies the crew are ushered to the front of the council chambers.
“For your innovative and most effective raising of the Voidwalker you must be commended. Without the resulting damage from your direct assault on that command ship this battle might surely have turned for the worse.” Everyone returns to their seats.
“In addition, your acquisition and adaptation of an enemy vessel for use provides a new source of data in the discussion of how we handle the disposal of the potentially destructive remains of the Dominion machines of war,” he pauses. “I would formally request an opportunity to tour this new vessel you have commandeered to assess how threatening the remnants might actually be.”
Much muttering around the chamber but finally the crew agree to provide access to Zier and a small contingent of scientists.
The rest of the after action meeting consists of damage reports, plans for rebuilding the system defense fleet and a discussion on how the security screen might be restored.
Compensation for a Job Well Done
After the meeting adjourns Zier approaches the crew.
“I understand that it is customary among your people to reward not just with accolades but currency. Please accept this in addition to our sincere thanks for your part in this battle.” he hands Glack a glowing crystal. “You may purchase services and goods anywhere within the Confederation.”
“I look forward to the tour of your new vessel. It should be quite… enlightening.”
The crew returns to the quarantine bay.
Visit from an Old Friend
Arriving at the quarantine bay the crew are greeted by Erid.
“Seems like you’re making quite the name for yourselves.” He grins and continues, “Not my style but it’ll keep the fires lit.”
“Mind if I tag along on the tour our hosts cornered you into providing?” Another smile, “Seems like an awful waste of an opportunity with the ship sitting right there.”
Magical Murderous Tour
The auto shuttle bay chimes and off step Zier and a small contingent of advisors who stop at the field to view the ship while Zier approaches the crew.
Addressing Glack, “Most intriguing indeed. Pardon my gawking companions, they’ve obviously neglected to bring their decorum.”
The advisors all seem to snap out of their gob smacked state and refocus on being professional and analytical. However, the glint of excitement and fear is impossible to hide in their eyes.
The Duergar open the screen and allow the group through. Erid tails the gaggle of gawking scientists seemingly amused.
On approaching the ship the cargo bay extends providing access. As the crew boards, the group pauses seemingly to consider the potential peril they might be entering. Strig heads to the bridge while the rest of the crew prepare to assume duties as tour guides.
Erid and Zier board the ship first, both carefully measuring what they’re seeing and obviously alert for any danger.
Glack and Strig notice, as the group board, that the ship reacts. Strig notices from the bridge that the tactical sub systems of the ship begin tracking the visitors as hostile boarders. Glack, is alerted to something unusual by a shift in the psychic harmonies. He accesses the system telepathically to discover the ship is scanning the visitors and passing results to the med bay database. After a few moments they manage to get the ship to stand down, flagging the visitors as prisoners/cargo instead of hostiles.
Keeping a close watch on their visitors the crew escort them through the ship providing what access they can and explaining what they’ve generally discovered from repairing the ship. Glack makes it clear, as they all leave, that the ship has a sort of immune response to beings it believes are a threat. In the calmest manner possible he explains the reaction of the ship systems when the group boarded.
Erid and Zier both thank the crew for their time and take their leave. The crew return to the ship. Bosho reviews the med bay computer only to discover that it is running the bio scans through a biological pathogen vulnerability assessment and cataloging the results for processing into bomb payloads.
Rebuilding the Curtain
The crew are discussing what to do next. Should they use the drive to reach Dominion space and take the fight to them or should they return to hauling cargo in a ship that pretty much wants to murder anything not Dominion. The possibilities are endless.
Finally, as Strig is idly browsing the known celestials in Ara Arcturis, he discovers one that the ship has flagged as ‘do not approach’. Apparently standing orders from the Dominion for their invasion fleet was to avoid the artificial moon orbiting the gas giant named Mazik. Cross referencing the planetoid with Confederate data provides little more information other than it exists.
Finally, the crew contacts Zier and formally requests information regarding this moon. His demeanor shifts as he informs the crew that part of the founding agreements of the Confederacy include a policy of no contact with that structure.
“There are ancient records that indicate the moon could hold the secret to deploying the defensive sensor net.” he states flatly. “I can dispatch a Samsaran scholar with more information on the history of the Confederation and any additional details known about Mazik’s moon if you like.” The crew accepts the offer and awaits the scholar’s arrival.
The scholar arrives at the hangar and passes through the quarantine screen with little fanfare. He meets the crew outside the ship and they discuss what is known and what is speculated regarding the moon of Mazik.
The scholar begins, “The reason it is forbidden for any Confederate member to approach or land on the moon is because it has proven impossible.” He continues, “As ships travel toward the moon, sensor readings shift and gravitational anomalies divert any conventional drive systems.”
He provides the crew with vids and stills taken of the moon. Other than a single great gate, the surface appears unmarked and undisturbed.
Kallie’Dar points out, “The moon appears similar to Apostae in the Pact Worlds except that there are no settlements, and the great gate appears to have never been disturbed.” She continues, “Also, unlike Apostae, there are no rifts or craters on the surface of the planetoid.”
The scholar says, “Samsaran archives, the oldest in the Confederation, indicate that this artificial satellite is a remnant from the first war with the Dominion built by the Elders.”
Hesitantly he concludes with, “Some records indicate guardians were left with access to the structure in the event it was ever needed again.”
He wishes the crew well, packs up his materials and leaves the hangar.
A quick discussion amongst the crew results in a consensus that the fungal drive will likely allow them to reach the moon and possibly land to discover undisturbed technology. Alternatively, the warning in the ship’s logs might also indicate they’re going to get vaporized when they land.
That’s no Moon
The crew launch from the hangar and proceed to the designated clear area for transit. Everyone takes their stations and Strig fires the drive. Moments later the ship appears in near orbit of Mazik’s moon. Then the gravitational waves begin. Strig manages to adjust and the ship’s organic components seem less susceptible to the strange effects as they dive toward the surface. After reaching the light gravity well of the planetoid Strig levels the ship out and settles into a flight pattern headed toward the great gate.
As they approach the landing zone, tactical sensors are detecting what appear to be ghost emplacements and launchers on the surface. The contacts appear and vanish randomly and finally, once Strig drops the landing struts, the sensors go quiet. Glack and Kallie’Dar notice the ship’s psychic resonance is so quiet as to be nearly imperceptible. Seems like it’s some sort of stealth mode operating level.
No atmosphere and low gravity make for a fairly quick trip to the great gate. As the crew leaves the ship their boots scuff on massive metal plates covered in centuries of fine dust. The scale of the construction is mind boggling and the age makes it even more unbelievable.
Finally, the crew reach the edge of the gate. It’s the only structure within visual range and only noticeable as a slightly raised feature on the otherwise flat and undisturbed surface. They move around the perimeter of the gate till Glack discovers a strange control panel with an assortment of icons he identifies as celestial in origin.
Glack taps into his Akashic Connection to discern any pattern that might allow him to access open the gate. Image of war, fire and death whirl around the question as he travels the paths of ancient, ancestral knowledge. Eventually the visions and memories culminate in an being setting the artificial moon to a passive mode and sealing the gate. After a few more moments of inspiration, Glack manages to decipher the ancient controls. The giant gate begins to slide open revealing an opening large enough for three of their large bombers to pass through. The descent appears to be significant.
Faint lights glow below marking a bottom. Drax leaps onto the descending ladder. Everyone moves to follow.
I Saw the Sign
A short climb down leaves the crew standing on a large platform still above a cavernous hangar bay of some sort. Arches with golden illumination stand large enough to move ships through. As the crew reach the bottom of the descent one archway glows and a series of following lights flash as if to direct them.
Suspicious but hungry for exploration the crew moves down the large corridor. Drax and Bosho notice weapon emplacements in strategic locations throughout the corridor. The crew rounds a corner and, standing at a large blast door, is what appears to be a full suit of archaic armor. As they approach the armor moves and then speaks.
“Welcome beings, you may address me as Caretaker. It has been centuries since we received biologicals at this facility.” it shifts awkwardly and appears to consider the crew.
“You do not appear to be Dominion in nature or origin. We detected this aberration aboard the Dominion ship and opted to allow the oddity approach and land.”, another shift and then a step forward. “For what purpose have you come to this station?”
Glack explains the destroyed security field and how they have come to see if this station could somehow recreate it.
“It was inevitable the Old Ones would return and attempt to assert their power in this system again.” the Caretaker says. “Quite an impressive win for beings of such limited technological capacity.”
“Yes, it is possible to re build the sensor net. There is, however, a significant cost. Such a field requires massive quantities of raw materials. We require a planet’s destruction to re constitute the security network.” it states casually.
The armor turns, the blast door opens to a wide walkway overlooking a massive chamber with gargantuan pipes and struts seemingly anchored to a glowing sphere in what appears to be the center of the station.
“Follow me please.” as the armor moves to the left on a walkway large enough for vehicles to travel.
While it moves the Caretaker continues, “The Elders left guardians in this system after the last confrontation with the Old Ones. They can access this facility with controls from their own terraformed planetoid. Apparently, they have lost much of the knowledge over the many centuries.” Caretaker stops in front of a doorway and it opens revealing what appears to be a workshop or control room of some sort.
The Caretaker moves to a console that comes to life. Displays project a holographic version of the Ara Arcturus system.
The Caretaker turns again to the crew. “Which of the planets within the system will you sacrifice to restore the sensor net?” He motions to the display.
“What about the gas giant this facility is orbiting? Would it be a suitable source?” asks Bosho.
The Caretaker turns and says, “The gas giant below has another purpose and does not provide the necessary base minerals for rebuilding the sensor net.”
“Is this process what created the asteroid field at the edge of the system?” asks Glack.
“Indeed, after defeating the last Dominion invasion the Elders sacrificed the outermost planet to provide the materials for the sensor net. Shortly thereafter the sentients of this system were also moved to sacrifice one of their habitable planets to eliminate the Dominion foothold.”
After a brief discussion the crew decide that this is a decision for the Confederation to make. The Caretaker accepts the assessment and agrees to wait for the crew to relay the answer. The Caretaker turns to the console and presses a control. The console produces as strange metal cylinder.
The Caretaker picks up the device and considers the crew for a moment and hands the device to Bosho. “This will facilitate your return to this facility with less complication.”
Can I Borrow the Car?
Before the crew completes their business Drax asks, “Does this facility have a terrestrial vehicle that we could operate for planetary operations?”
“Interesting request. Please follow.” the Caretaker exits the room back onto the walkway. After a few moments the group approaches another large blast door. At the Caretaker’s approach the door opens smoothly to reveal what can only be called an armory. The room houses machines of war in various sizes and for various functions. Most much too large for transport on the crew’s bomber. Drax drools a little…
“As you can see,” the Caretaker says, “there are indeed many vehicles located within this facility. However, none of these would be compatible for transport on your ship. Can you provide more specific parameters for your needs? Perhaps we could fabricate something more suitable and compatible.”
Drax explains the crews need for a personnel transport for use planet side. It needs to provide safety for passengers in hostile environments.
Parameters noted, the Caretaker directs the crew to return in one weeks time.
The Caretaker ushers them toward a lift tube. In moments the lift reaches the surface of the planetoid. A vehicle hovers near the lift awaiting the crew and their guide. As the vehicle travels toward the ship, the crew notice sizable emplacements dotting the otherwise barren landscape. Obviously, these large weapons were what the ship’s scanners couldn’t lock onto as they landed. They would also justify the no-fly status from the Dominion command.
The crew bid the Caretaker farewell and lift off. Leaving the planetoid is much smoother. The crew take time to observe the previously undocumented features of the moon. A massive parabolic structure in the surface of the moon is focused on the gas giant. It seems to the drawing thermal energy and other particles to the moon. “Another purpose indeed,” mutters Strig as he sets course and transits back to Raveg.
On returning to Raveg the crew brief Zier directly regarding their journey and discoveries.
“Yes, this Caretaker referred to Guardians left to awaken the station when the Dominion returned.” he pauses, “That would be my people. We have lost much over the centuries.”
“I will present the situation to the Council and we will reach a decision within the cycle.”
A few hours later, Raveg is a bustling beehive of activity as transport ships and personnel prepare for the evacuation of Ulara, the tenth planet in the system. Though lightly inhabited the sentients that call the planet and surrounding space home are some of the less compliant of the Confederation. The derelict outpost clear and the planetary populace relocated the system holds their collective breath.
A few moments after Bosho transmits the signal to Mazik’s moon, a bright beam flashes from the moon and impacts Ulara. The planet seems to freeze in space and the debris field around it compresses into the planet. A chain reaction occurs, the planet disintegrates into a cloud of fine particulates that funnel toward the edge of the solar system. The particles quickly disburse beginning to form a new sensor net around the Ara Arcturus solar system. All that remains of Ulara is a broken field of asteroids made up of material unsuitable for rebuilding the sensor net.
A message interrupts the observations in the Council chambers. The Caretaker appears as a projection.
“The process will continue for the next month while raw materials are converted into operational satellites.” He continues, “the network will begin responding as sections return to full operation. The station will now return to standby operations.”