Our cast of player characters:
- Captain Pera Dewitt. A changeling, curious, delighted by intrigue and espionage.
- Chief Engineer Duruk. Lt. Commander, hard boiled and gruff about his paycheck.
- Dr. Lonona London. Lt. Commander, both Security/Tactical and Counselor. And a Betazoid. Focused on regulations, but enticed by discovery of new worlds.
Their ship, the Raptor, had an unreliable comm system that would randomly translate into inappropriate languages. (Some suspect this is because of overload due to all the surveillance shunts the captain surreptitiously placed in various systems.) The Raptor has experimental sensors that allow it to hack into local technology grids and use them; it also has super teleports that work through shields if properly coaxed by experts.
They were to go to the Erkelliash Nebula Pulse Center to monitor a dwarf star putting out emissions that scramble sensors. It was defibrillating, and they had a window of a few days to get the readings they needed, and to that end they took Dr. Reenand and his research team out to the area.
Their last stop for supplies before heading out was Starbase 482. When they arrived, it was a smoking ruin. They found it had been hit by raiders, and four other ships were hit too while docked there. They began documenting the site, and consulted Dr. Reenand, who knew the anthropologist working with the now-destroyed science vessel. (Dr. Gentris, who was apparently working on xenology and anthropology on Daluvian IV; he studied how aliens and humans interacted as his primary area of study.)
They got a distress call.
The merchant tug Navi was under attack, not far away! They warped to the scene, confronting the raider ship captained by a Sarvan crew (brutish raider aliens.) The Sarvan ship had a capitol ship gun wired straight to the warp core, making it very dangerous.
Captain Dewitt contacted the ship, and bluffed that they had a spy aboard. The captain was shocked and frightened; what was going on over there? Still, he reverted to type and attacked. Dr. London returned fire, and the ship’s defenses folded with surprising speed; something went wrong aboard the other vessel.
The Raptor’s crew managed to beam the raiders off their ship as part of it filled with plasma. London tried to vent the plasma to space with tricky phaser work, but the whole ship blew. Its ill-gotten gains were attached to the hull, and much of it was not consumed in the explosion.
Taking Things in Hand
After the brief confrontation, Chief Engineer Duruk supervised collecting as many of the containers (ruptured and otherwise) as possible and affixing them to the hull for transport. He also led the team of engineers that brilliantly patched up the tug’s engine, so it could limp to safety without an escort.
Meanwhile Dr. London supervised as the security team stunned the captain of the raiding vessel enough for him to be safely interrogated; she used her empathic and telepathic powers to find that some shadow had been on the other ship, slipping through its interior, killing some of his men in gristly and horrible ways and haunting their dreams; he had not slept well in three days, since hitting the Federation space station. The captain growled that if the shadow was on his ship, then they were free of it; but if it was in his dreams, it was now here. Dr. London touched on the aftertaste of that shadow, finding it iridescent and dark and terrifying.
So What Happened Back There?
As they headed out to the nebula to resume their mission, London meditated to clear the shadow from her mind. The captain called for quarantine of the brig, which excited Dr. Pharly Rezal; he didn’t get to do quarantine often! Rezal also checked the prisoners, and found one had strange traces of lubricant on his fingers, and one finger burned by molecular acid.
Duruk confirmed those substances were not part of any ship system (engineering or weaponry) he knew of, so Dewitt decided to have a talk with the prisoner with those substances on his hands. Security obligingly stunned the daylights out of him and restrained him in a chair for her.
The alien thug talked of a shadow from the darkness between stars that came aboard the ship, stalking and killing them in horrible ways, so the fear in them tore their chests open. The puddles of slime it left, and how when they hunted it with flichettes it licked steel and left the void of space behind.
Dewitt consulted with London, and sent her to offer counseling to the freaked-out raiders. London discovered that these raiders had always raided in the dark, and found comfort in firelight; the ship was their firelight now, space was their night, and it did not surprise them that the darkness held monsters just as it did at home–just scaled up for a bigger dark.
And What’s Going On Here?
Engineering had other problems about now. Of the team of engineers and security on the hull cataloguing the salvage, two engineers went missing. Shortly after, there was a problem with an airlock. Duruk investigated, and found that something got into the airlock then tore a hole in the wall and got down to a Jeffries tube; he initiated local lockdown and sent engineering teams to hunt down the intruder.
A pair of security officers investigating the missing engineers outside also went missing; the rest of the security staff that wasn’t coming back in massed to take a look with 8 of them, so they wouldn’t “disappear” so easy.
Meanwhile, two engineers disappeared from a junction in the Jeffries tubes–inside the ship, near engineering!
Dr. London meditated to pinpoint what was going on, looking for the missing people on the hull. She found a couple, terrified, but then brushed against an inhuman mind that was full of darkness, slime, and hissing.
She was recruited to hunt down whatever made it into the ship, and used her empathic abilities to pinpoint its location; it was in a tube, starting a nest with the two captives. Duruk got some portable force field generators to hem it in, and the captain assumed the form of raiders (possibly its favorite food) and together they headed towards the one in the ship.
It was aware of them as soon as they got in the neighborhood. London meditated, and engaged with its mind, to distract it and keep it busy. That bought time for the others to set up the force fields to trap it in one tube. Then the captain approached it, wanting to touch it so she could take its form and communicate with it.
Between London’s empathic and telepathic abilities, and what Dewitt learned from mimicking its form and trying to communicate, it was a drone. Insect like, lonely, eager to nest and feed and make more of its kind somehow. And beyond the darkness of its need to mesh with others in a hive mind, a more profound darkness; if this thing was like an ant, that deeper darkness would be its queen.
Dewitt pulled the two captive engineers out of the already-hardening resin the thing excreted with its drool, pulling them to safety past the barriers. London pleaded to keep the drones alive for study, and because they were lonely and frightened. Dewitt felt the risk was too great, should they escape. London stretched to contact both the one on the hull and the one in the ship, and felt their voracious insatiability, their drive to make the whole ship a nest, and was intimidated by that darkness.
Meanwhile the one outside jumped at the security officers, who got authorization to burn it down with phasers. They found the four that had been grabbed (two were still alive, the other two eaten) and the “eggs” that had been retrieved from the basement of a temple Dr. Gentris had been studying on Daluvian IV.
Science would still be served by autopsies, after all.