With the ship secured, the crew began making it ready for the upcoming journey. In the last battle with the fanatics, some sort of stealth sniper had escaped and the crew was understandably concerned over this. Rather than bring survivors from the safe area, they decided to keep everyone where they were.
Zen looted what they believed to be the Fanatic commander’s body, retrieving an excellent pair of pistols and a data pad. While most of the pad was locked, they learned that the commander had been accused of trying to leave the Fanatics and that his family was being held
Their caution concerning the sniper proved wise a short time later as laser blasts began trying to snipe Oa-la as she kept watch from the top of the ship. Charlie had been repairing the sensors and was able to adapt them to detect the invisible attacker. The sniper connected with a few shots, but his gun was not up the the task of penetrating the crews’ armor.
Exchanging a few rounds with the crew, Charlie managed to get a good shot which knocked the sniper from his perch in the hanger corner to the deck. Zen quickly placed boot on neck and, surprisingly, the assailant surrendered. Joshua questioned the sniper and learned a few new things, but he did not seem to know much of the high level plans of the Fanatics.
His name was Oris 114 and he had admired the commander they killed. He seemed reluctant to submit to the crew. Oa-la expressed objections to keeping him alive and Oris said he would cooperate with Joshua if nothing else than to irk her. The crew left their prisoner in the tender care of the Yeti among the survivors, Grightrash.
Visions and Gifts
About this time, Elric radioed that the storm was ending and Joshua told him to dock when possible. Drake Bellar also related that the leader of the Serrans wanted to see Joshua and his entire crew as soon as possible.
Joshua decided it best to not leave the survivors with minimal protection, so Zen and Charlie remained to oversee preparing the ships for returning the people to their colony on Ebbar’s World. Meanwhile, he and Oa-La journeyed to the Serran moon.
On arriving, they were led into the cave at the center of the village and deep underground. Eventually, they entered what appeared to be part of a slaver starship buried beneath the Serran village. There the Serran leader conducted a ceremony of thanks.
She began by declaring that Joshua and his crew were recognized as True Friends off the Serran people and would be recognized as such from now to the end off time. She imbued them with a mystic energy which would aid them whenever they committed their hearts fully to a task as they had when helping rid the Serrans of the shrike menace (They gained the Elan edge for free). Next they were gifted with a vision of someone from their past who was somehow connected to their future. When they awoke from this, they found their final gifts before them. A crystal sword for Oa-La and crystal disk set in a leather band for Joshua. The ancient Serran also revealed that one of the crew would not survive to their journey’s end.
Absorbing all of this news, the pair returned to the ancient station and related what had happened while gone.
Charlie, Esmerelda, and Zen had spent their time calculating the success of trying to bring all the colony survivors to their home on Ebbar’s World. The sheer number of people meant triple bunking and sleeping shifts. Additional bunks left by the Zealots would be added to the cargo holds of the Sleipnir and Hound. Food would be okay, but water and life support would be taxed as all three ships would be carrying much more than their rated capacities. It was decided not leave anyone behind but not to request jump assistance from the Serran due to the damage done to the Lazy Hound’s jump drive when previously tried.
Joshua also decided it was was time to fill the Serrans in on the true relationship between their home moon and the platform hiding on the gas giant. Taking the Sleipnir down, they requested audience once again with the Serran leader. At their meeting in the village tower, he related how they had discovered that the station seemed to be responsible for their moon’s journeys into the rift and that it was the cause of the destruction of the other planets in the system. With some effort it might be possible to prevent further “rift times”. The Serrans took this will some surprise and did not know what to make of the information.
Joshua also asked that the rest of his crew be rewarded as he and Oa-La had been. The leader was willing and obliged Zen and Charlie with their own visions. Zen received a pair of crystal daggers and Charlie, a 30 inch yellow crystal rod.
On exiting the Serran’s tower, the crew saw a huge crowd had gathered, some 10 thousand at least. It was a lot more than they had suspected lived on the moon. The natives parted before them as they returned to their ship, each making a sign or speaking a few words of thanks to the crew. In the air, Serran ships hovered silently in a corridor to space for the Sleipner.
After the Sleipner rejoined the Lazy Hound and Aspect of Infinity in orbit, the small flotilla set course for the system’s Anderson point. Evie was in command of the Hound and Joshua had made Esmeralda captain of the Infinity. The crew was happy to finally be heading back out of the wild ends of the galaxy and back to more settled space lanes.
A Long Slow Trip
The trip through the Rift this time took much longer than previous passages. A combination of unfamiliar area, slower ships, and having to keep the ships together led to 9 day transit through Rift space, which was much longer than anticipated.
Lord Drey instituted a chilli cook off between the autochefs on the ships as a morale builder and began “interviewing” Oris. Neither the Hound nor the Infinity were designed to the same standards as the Sleipnir, so the group was limited to one jump per day. Crowding and minimal life support were also making things uncomfortable.
Sisters and Brothers
On one of the jumps, the AI probe-sphere Five grew very excited, exclaiming “Home! Home! It’s time to go home!” He and Oa-La both were receiving a recall signal from a Sister Four type ship which was nearby in the same Anderson point.
Oa-La requested to come aboard and the Four was happy to oblige. The android took Five and borrowed the Restored Honor to fly to large blue, conical ship. As she neared, she could see hundreds, thousands of Fives dropping their camouflage and entering the mammoth hold of the Four.
She joined them, landing and jacking into the Four’s systems. She requested information from Four about and received a concentrated data pack that would take her several weeks to months to fully absorb. In the meantime, she asked some particular questions for information she wanted now.
From Four she learned that her brother Oa-Na had built Brother 3, who calls himself Oa-Nal. Oa-Na left Nal at home, instructing him to build others and explore. Nal build the Fours and Fives to create a detailed map of space and in the region and of the Anderson points. About a year ago, an “organic” Kalian had shown up and exploited vulnerability in the code which all the AI’s possessed. This Kalian had then instructed them to intensify their mapping efforts as well as to begin creating war machine AIs. Since that time, Oa-Nal’s demeanor had changed, as had his appearance. Originally looking identical to Oa-Na, he now looked like he was composed of ever moving blocks. Larger blocks in the center, extending to smaller ones at his hands and feet with the ones at the ends of his extremities continually fall away to dust. He also wore a black cloak now and was tethered via tubes to the infrastructure of the factories producing the war AIs.
Oa-La was shaken by this revelation and asked to see the Kalian. Sister for admitted she had not seen her herself, but relayed a vid clip passed around by the AIs of her. The Kailain was dressed in a customized style of Fanatic armor, destroying other AIs with chainswords for sport with chainswords.
On reaching the next to last system before Ebber’s World, as universe condensed around them, the crew could see a pair of large ships: one a pirate and the other was of the type they had last seen heading toward the jump gate at the Fanatics gateway station.
The pirate vessel began to close the distance before even the Sleipnir’s systems had come back online.