The journey back to the Terminal is strange, two passengers, two bodies and lots of questions.
The mercenaries are also still processing the encounter. Grateful to the crew for recovering their officers, the two remaining mercenaries are friendly with the crew.
After docking and unloading their passengers the crew receives a command level communication. The Administrator and Commander request a meeting to discuss the events on Z3 and their impact on activity within the STX solar system.
Administrator Loriya informs them that their services have been requested to fulfill the contract to supply the new research facility on Z3. In addition, for their service to date, all outstanding debt to Oryx has been forgiven.
Commander Sawyer informs the crew that their transponder has been added to the system defense roster. This allows them to move through the system like any other patrol craft. She alludes to some of the crew's 'colorful' histories, but the Administrator insisted on the clearance upgrade. It also means that they are now trusted to carry secure cargo and personnel.
Administrator Loriya is interested in the crew's thoughts on this new discovery on Z3. Speculation is welcome. Honest, first-hand reports are hard to come by.
Commander Sawyer is focused on the security implications.
After the meeting the crew has a few days of down time till their first trip back to Z3 for delivery of the research team and their gear.
Most of the crew visits the Banshee Mercenary garrison to get acquainted with their operations and entertain any offers to sign up. Glack, with Zopa's assistance, decides to dig into the mystery species that attacked the mining facility on Z3 and came up with some very old references to the Grioth and Void Glass. Kallie'Dar decides to try her luck at the casino again. After breaking even an obviously well off lashunta catches her eye. After drinks and some conversation it's obvious there's more to Zhess Nelari than meets the eye. He is aware of the crew and their various missions and that their security clearance has recently been increased. He offers to pay for discreet deliveries if the crew is interested in making some off-book credits. It also turns out he's the owner of the Casino, Hotel and Blue Sector.
The crew notifies Nelari of their planned mission and offers to deliver anything that might need to go that direction. A crate shows up at their docking bay with simple coordinates. Kallie'Dar suddenly has 5000 credits added to her casino account. Dropping off the researchers goes smoothly; the new clearance status means the crew doesn't have to check in as often with the outpost beacons and can access advanced telemetry on the system. After unloading the research personnel and supplies the crew moves to make their delivery for Nelari. An unmarked patch of stone juts out of the silt of Z3. The crew decides to shove the crate out of the ship onto the stone outcropping. The projection of stone vanishes replaced with a heavy airlock style aperture. The crate is caught in mid air by a suspensor field and drawn through the access way. The projectors re-engage and the stone reappears.
Enroute back to the Terminal, the crew detects a feint automated distress signal. As they get closer and clean up the signal the source is a familiar ship. A Brecca-class transport registered to Transport Pilot Erid Unmi. They are the closest ship and are authorized to respond. The signal leads them to a cluster of asteroids flagged as surveyed with no measurable minerals for harvesting.
As they enter the small asteroid field a strange ship powers up and moves away from them quickly. On reaching Erid's transport it's obviously been fired on with large holes on the hull and failed power. Glack, Drax and the Bosho space jump over to the damaged transport to investigate. On reaching the ship, looking through the holes on the cargo compartment they see Erid floating in what appears to be a meditative state surrounded with a strange, bright glowing field. Glack determines that apparently Erid is a Solarian.
While the trio are space walking three more strange ships power up and begin moving around the asteroid field. These ships are of an unrecognized configuration but don't appear to be taking any overtly hostile actions.
As the crew return to the Oranos with Erid the four fighters destroy the damaged transport and move to engage the Oranos. The small ships are fast and the Strig makes for the edge of the asteroids to get a straight run. The Oranos maneuvers causing one of the fighters to collide with an asteroid as they accelerate away from the fray. Two fighters pursue and fire on the crew. Shredding their aft shield and penetrating armor and hull. Strig maneuvers the Oranos trying to make the ship a harder target. Gideon coaxes more power from the engines. Zopa reroutes shields to cover the now vulnerable Oranos' aft and tasks the computer to assist the targeting and navigation systems. Drax fires and Bosho manages to lock onto one of the enemy fighters with a torpedo.
Another round of fire from the fighters shreds the rebalanced shields and again grinds away at the armor and hull. The Oranos can't outrun these small ships and it's obvious the firepower is dramatically imbalanced. Strig works the piloting controls with singular focus while Drax and Bosho keep shooting. Finally, Erid moves to the engineering section with a definite purpose still shimmering with the strange glow. He reaches the reactor and channels his energy into the equipment, this energy super charges the engines long enough to break away from the fighters just as Bosho manages to disable another one.
The Oranos survives to fly another day. After recovering, during the trip back to the Terminal, Erid reveals that he's familiar with the Grioth and suggests things are likely to get much worse. The Grioth are devout followers of the Dark Tapestry and seek only to devour, destroy and subjugate. They are scouting for much darker forces.
When the crew lands in their bay at the Terminal a crew of technicians are waiting and begin repairing hull damage and replacing the chewed-up armor plating. The Administrator arrives to personally congratulate the crew on surviving another fortunate encounter. With the new sensor data and the residual material from the ship that impacted the asteroid the defense forces are beginning to recalibrate their sensors.