Holed up in a hostile complex, the crew recovers while extracting data from the command center consoles.
The species operating the facility are called Mi-Go, a rough translation. They appear to be one of the species that design and develop weapons used by the Dominion war machine.
The crew determine that there is an active portal pulling power from the core of the complex. After their recouperation the crew navigates the previously secured hallway and approach the room with the active portal. They are engaged by five Grioth troopers. It's apparent that the rest of the complex is in the process of leaving through the portal carrying whatever they can. After defeating the troopers, the portal powers down. The crew decides to disable the portal generator on this side to avoid any reinforcements or other surprises.
The crew returns to the hall and proceed to a chamber labeled "drive research". Though the room is essentially stripped there is a significant feature mounted in a diagnostic bay that appears to be operating. After some digging through the consoles and data the crew determine the device is an alien drift drive variant. The research notes found in the lab indicate it may be capable of piercing the nebula's speed barrier. If this is true, this could be a game changer.
On exiting the complex, the crew discover the research staff have a makeshift camp setup near the entrance. The crew provides their survey of the structure and warnings about some of the dangers. They load the Oranos up with the experimental drive and other loot liberated from the complex and lift off. The Oranos swings by the Z2 outpost to pick up Nelari's gas canister and begin their long journey back to the Terminal.
Using the transit time to their advantage the crew delves into the collected data and begins inspecting the recovered drive. The drive is an amalgamation of organic and mechanical technology allowing it to be interfaced with a medium to large sized ship. While complex, the crew feels certain the drive could work for the Oranos.
The data trove contains hundreds of years of records. The records indicate the Mi-Go arrived on Z3 before it was the desolate waste the crew currently knows. It was a flourishing; green planet covered in swamp and thick jungles and was inhabited by a peaceful sentient species called the V'roon.
The V'roon were innately empathic and telepathic and connected to everything around them in this way. When the Mi-Go descended from the sky on their alien wings they immediately encountered the V'roon and began their manipulation. The Dominion required a new source of telepathic genetics to continue fighting a war against an unnamed enemy. The V'roon were a clear resource the Mi-Go intended to harvest for the Dominion war efforts.
At first the V'roon accepted the Mi-Go and treated them as honored guest on their planet. The V'roon even assisted in constructing the complex used by the Mi-Go to eventually begin developing weapon systems destined for the Dominion frontline. The Mi-Go established a gateway with the Dominion core inside the complex and started exporting the 'products' of their experimentation.
The Mi-Go did not anticipate that another inhabited planet in this solar system would discover their treachery and warn the V'roon. The planet now known only as Z4 was home to another, more advanced culture of telepaths. They didn't achieve space flight but were more technologically advanced than the V'roon. With their powerful technology they watched as the Mi-Go began building an orbiting shipyard in orbit around Z3. Every ship was powered by a ShipMind harvested from the V'roon of Z3. The people of Z4 telepathically screamed warnings to the V'roon across the gulf of space and eventually they were heard.
This precipitated the expulsion of the Mi-Go from Z3 and the sealing of their complex by the V'roon. In retaliation, from orbit, a virulent fungal toxin was dispersed into Z3's atmosphere. The ecology began to collapse, the flora wasted away and the fauna, including the V'roon, contracted a horrible wasting rot that decayed still living flesh. The biome completely collapsed in a matter of years Z3 became a desolate wasteland. In addition the Mi-Go turned their attention to Z4 and started bombarding the planet. Surprisingly the native defenses nullified the majority of the attacks. Not accepting defeat, the Mi-Go employed a harmonic assault triggering tectonic shifts and agitating the molten core of Z4. This instability caused the planet to tear itself apart.
The Mi-Go were also developing an experimental drive capable of piercing the nebula speed barrier to assist with the Dominion's plans to establish more significant foot holds within the solar systems moving toward the edge of the nebula. Instead of hurtling ships through the nebula for decades or longer the Dominion could impose their dominance with force nearly instantaneously staging bases within the nebula protected from anyone that would seek to mount counter offensives.
On arriving at the Terminal the crew are greeted by Administrator Loriya. As the crew off loaded cargo they planned to sell the administrator spoke with Glack regarding their findings on Z3. She raised the question of the experimental drive and what the crew planned to do with it. As it was not a weapon, jurisdiction assigned the right of salvage to the Oranos. After the briefing the Administrator takes their leave, the crew gets back to business.
Kallie'Dar and Gideon haul the gas canister to Nalari where an obviously rattled Nelari asks a 'favor'. He has been made aware of an object drifting at the extreme range of the Vigilant outpost guarding the nebula side approach to STX. He needs proper intel instead of scraps. His organization's investment on the Terminal and throughout the sector could be at risk if an actual invasion should occur. Nelari knows the Oranos has the clearance and the speed to properly investigate this potential threat. In return the crew negotiates upgrades to the Oranos.
Glack and Drax make an appointment to discuss matters with the Administrator again. This time the agenda is specifically to get another round of upgrades for the Oranos. The crew plans to install the untested drive tech on the Oranos and test it. If it works, they will have the only ship capable of cutting through the speed barrier imposed by the nebula. If it fails, there will likely be no one around to collect payment. After some discussion and consideration Glack and Drax offer to haul fifteen cargo runs in return for another full system upgrade for the ship. To their surprise the Administrator agrees.
The crew recruits Erid to assist with interfacing the strange drive tech with the ship. Strig works out the engineering aspect simply enough. Glack has some issues getting the biological balances in tune. Erid's expertise pays off and they manage to get the drive synced with the ship. Only thing left now is to test.
The crew decides to kill two birds with one stone. They will test the drive by setting a course for just outside the Vigilant station on the other side of STX. If anything goes wrong at least they might be able to limp back to the station or call for rescue. If they survive that, the plan is to jump to within a day's travel to the strange object drifting through the nebula to better investigate the potential threat.
The crew invites Erid to tag along since he seems to be better in tune with this biomechanical technology. curious as ever he agrees and the Oranos request clearance for launch.
Once reaching a safe distance from the Terminal, Strig calculates their course, Erid verifies the stability of the new drive and everyone braces. A brief surge of euphoria followed by a sense of disorientation and nausea impacts everyone, but they arrive at their target destination. The Vigilant station immediately detects the Oranos' arrival and begins to hail the unexpected ship. Once the crew reorients themselves they comm the station and validate their identity. Three days, they were in transit for three days. It should have taken at least a month to reach this side of the solar system.
The crew communicates their arrival to the Terminal and begin calculating for their next jump. The object is barely discernable with their limited sensors, but it is obviously significant in size. Strig runs the calulations and Erid verifies the drive is ready for another jump. No euphoria this time, only disorientation and nausia. Gideon and Kallie'Dar empty their stomachs, but the ship arrives on target.
Passive sensors verify the object is definitely not natural in origin. It is, however, at least partially organic in nature. Active sensors at maximum range provide more details and raise more questions. The object is the size of a traditional carrier or battleship but appears to be drifting toward AM-7278, not STX. There appear to be no active electronic signatures and scans for life signs are muddled by the strange nature of the ship.
The Oranos remains in place, observing and scanning for a full day before returning to the Terminal in one jump. A day and a half later the crew arrive in sight of the Terminal back in clear space. No disorientation or nausea this time.
The crew report back to their benefactors. Nelari is relieved and upholds his part of their bargain. Funds arrive in the Oranos accounts for upgrades. Administrator Loriya receives Glack and Drax in their office. Still connected to the Terminal CommNet the Administrator fulfills her agreement and more credits are deposited in the Oranos account for further upgrades. In addition, with the drive capabilities proven, the Administrator requests that the Oranos jump to warn the Oryx surveyors in AM-7278. It would be too late for the Vigilant corvette to reach the system and the survey ship in that system should be able to make good speed back to the Terminal or at least STX.
Contractually obligated, the crew begins preparations for a trip even deeper into the Ki Nebula.