Oa-La continued searching through station security sensors for signs of the kidnapped people from Ebbar’s World. Suddenly, the holographic figure of an old, rotund human wearing a strange, brass environmental suit materialized in their midst. He spoke with an odd accent and was very curious about the crew. He introduced himself as Dr. Zeiss and after some initial vagueness from Joshua, suggested and equal exchange of information.
He informed them that he not a follower of Goratu, but merely working with them as it suited his own ends. He confirmed that he had been the one to travel to the Serran’s moon last month, meeting with the Serrans there, and kidnapped two of them. The shrikes were his pets and he had been improving them.
On his turn, he asked questions about why the crew was here. He also had some very pointed questions about the crew, including asking Charlie how old he was. Finally, he activated a control on his gauntlet which sent out a subtle signal which tried to activate a subroutine to render Oa-la subject to orders from him. She did not have that subroutine, but Five did, as the little blue probe replied he was ready for commands. Oa-la blocked the signal and told the others what had happened.
Oa-la discovered what appeared to be a temple to Goratu on the station sensors. At this point, Joshua decided the conversation was becoming non-productive and led the team away. Esmeralda insisted on coming along with the team as she had people she cared about among the missing believed taken from the colony. Elric was instructed to take the Slepneir and recently arrived Lazy Hound and orbit the station from a safe distance. The helpful A.I. was to monitor things from outside while instructing Aston, Evie’s would-be paramour, in the functions of his yacht.
En route, they detected another shrike ahead of them, but it moved out of their detection range.
Oa-la’s sensors detected signs of activity from a pair of doors opposite the temple. The team picked one and opened the door, weapons at the ready. What they found was an make-shift barracks room for the Goratu warriors, with many of them asleep.
Several plasma bolts and laser sword swings later, the team whittled the sleepy warriors down to one who, succumbing to Joshua’s mind powers, revealed the location of the missing. At least, those still alive.
The team next stormed the door beside the barracks and found and equally impromptu mess hall, with crates of rations, tables, and some entertainment devices. Finally turning their attention to the probably temple, they found it empty. Several line-bisecting-circle banners were found, along with a small stage, data pads containing texts dealing with the Followers of Goratu’s religion, and a series of daggers. After collecting samples, the group gathered everything into a pile and Esmerelda incinerated it via plasma grenade.
The used the directions of the coerced follower which led them to the lightly guarded prisoner holding area. While quickly dispatching the guards, a tech sounded an alarm. The team “convinced” him to turn the alarm off, then help them free the remaining surviving colonists of Ebbar’s World. The survivors were being held in suspended animation cells like those seen on board the Collector’s ship. They left the tech in one of the cells as a reward for his assistance and left the surviving 494 colonists in a defensible position with Esmerelda and the Serran warriors to protect them.
The tech’s directions led the crew to Dr. Zeiss’s laboratory. They entered what appeared to be a medical bay with an observation window at the opposite end through which they could see Zeiss. Sneaking in, they observed the doctor discussing matters with a black, armored figure. The doctor made no mention of the teaming being on the station, but the other figure referenced their activities at the space gate and that they timetable had been delayed by “a few weeks”.
The doctor appeared to be having the conversation using a device which was allowing FTL communication with someone either several systems away or possible even half a galaxy away. Such technology was unknown in the Imperium.
Searching for a door to the doctor, they quickly found several tanks holding shrikes at various stages of growth and, finally… Evelyn, the sister Joshua had been search for these last few months. She was also in a tank, alive, unconscious, and missing her left arm from just above the elbow. Joshua briefly paused before her tank, and then stormed into Zeiss’s office. He pinned the doctor against the window to the med bay using telekinesis, then used his laser sword to cut off the doctor’s hand.
Joshua proceeded to interrogate the doctor, who seems almost eager to brag about the procedure done to Evie. He related she had been mangled by a shrike when she was captured, and how he had hopes for her as she had the potential to be the most powerful deader yet. The doctor’s relationship with the Goratuans seemed utilitarian at best, the result of an arrangement of convenience and not due to ideological or theological alignment. Zeiss was affiliated with some deader faction, the Nihil, that did not hesitate to utilize living hosts and they grew their own, genetically sculpted host bodies, as well. At some point after hearing his sister had been implanted with a deader parasite, Joshua stopped listening. Blind with rage, he telekinetically executed Doctor Zeiss.
Charlie took the FTL comm for later examination, and he and Oa-la began rifling through the doctor’s consoles. They found controls to dispose of the shrikes being grown in the next room as well as several hundred future deader host bodies being bathed in the radiation of a central reactor. Lastly, bringing Zeiss’s wrist computer, they turned their attention to the tank in which Evie floated.
She appeared alive, but unconscious. The doctor’s records indicated this was unexpected and he was closely monitoring her. The crew got her out of the tank and discovered she was alive and appeared “unpossessed”. Though weak, she was able to relate how she had used her elemental powers to drowned the Nihil parasite before it took hold and asked them to “please get the damned thing out of my ear” before fading out of consciousness.
Gathering her up, the crew prepared to head back down where they had left the survivors. Checking in with Esmeralda, she told them she had moved the people to a more defensible location near the holding cells.
The doors to the medbay opened as they were leaving, revealing a hideous, armored humanoid, seeming thrown together out of muscle, bone, and rage. It bellowed at how they had just ended his future brothers and now they would die. He launched a grenade into the room while swinging a powered battle axe. Oa-la shielded Evie with her own body, then the group responded, obliterating the fiend in a hail of energetic blasts.
With the immediate threat dealt with, they planned to continue back to the survivors.