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Through the Looking-glass

With Kalamanaru reinforcements on the way, Byard urges the crew to get clear as quickly as they can manage while he covers for them with the Imperium forces that he’s called in. He can give them twenty minutes tops, which is going to be tight for them as it will take Aris ten to fifteen minutes to get the shuttle here. The crew take this time to gather as much of the loot from the Vault that they can physically carry and, once the shuttle roars in, they scramble into it with Ella taking the controls. She has to do some fancy flying to evade the sensor nets that are freaking out over the shuttle’s (as piloted by Jim the Drone!) unscheduled departure, but eventually, she manages to dock with the Aimless Pilgrim once again so they can discuss their options.

Admiral Gloval is initially ready to get out of Corfu, having made sure to refuel the ship beforehand, but Lorain insists that what they’re looking for is in-system. Based on her understandings of the information they’ve gathered, she eventually identifies the coordinates which point them in the direction of the asteroid belt; unfortunately, there already appear to be multiple ships – an Imperium cruiser, Vargr corsairs, and an unidentified craft that everyone expects to be Kalamanaru-owned – converging on that location which confuses everyone: how did they know to go there? After some discussion, Haank suggests that they burn away from the coordinates and toward one of the inner planets. Once there, they will deploy a false beacon with their transponder code – rigged up in a missile; this is Eddy’s idea – and slingshot around the planet toward the coordinates while running silent.

Ibrahim retreats to the medical lab to study the data that Ella obtained at the lost temple since the trip will take multiple hours; what he discovers is confusing references to a ‘biological event’ that caused the Sky-Raider exodus to Corfu. Unfortunately, very little else can be gleaned from this treasure trove due to the extreme age of the storage units and the data itself being mostly corrupted. He suspects that he as lucky to get as much as he did.

While en route to the inner planet, the sensor operator notes that they’re being pinged by an Imperium sensor net and one of the Vargr corsairs are apparently pursuing the Pilgrim which causes Ella to wonder if they have a spy aboard. She digs into this, enlisting Buck’s and Haank’s assistance to poke into the systems on the ship to see if there are any indications of transmissions from the Pilgrim but find absolutely nothing. They are very confident that no one sent any messages out nor are there any signs of a homing beacon. Still, it’s somewhat troubling.

Many hours later, they reach the inner planet and conduct their slingshot maneuver complete with the deploying of the ‘cry-baby’ distraction device. With the Pilgrim now running silent, they race away toward the asteroid coordinates. Almost immediately, Eddy starts a pool about how long it will take the Vargr corsair to realize that they’re not following the ship. Buck ends up winning this pool – he guessed two hours and he’s almost exactly right on the nose – but the corsair is now multiple hours out of range.

A little more than a day later, the crew begin closing in on the coordinates where they find a mess waiting for them. Not only are there multiple Imperium ships, but the Vargr corsair and the unidentified vessel are both trying to maximize their stealth approach. The crew discuss and decided to replicate their cry-baby beacon (with a missile again) as a possible distraction; once this is implemented, their beacon is dropped and set to activate on a timer … and is very quickly destroyed by what appears to be a mine! Wide-beam comm-buoys begin transmitting warnings that this is restricted Imperium space and violators of this quasi-quarantine will be fired upon.

The Pilgrim matches velocity with an asteroid to use it as cover while the crew opt to send Jim the Drone out to peek over it and get line-of-sight of the target coordinates. What the drone sees is an immense but seemingly powered down gate-like structure that is being patrolled by multiple Imperium patrol craft; Lorain, fiddling with the ‘activation’ device, realizes that when it lights up, so does the stargate. While experimenting with this, she accidentally causes the gate to fully activate!

Almost immediately, the Vargr corsair burns hard toward the gate, passing through it before Lorain is quite aware of what is going on; the unidentified vessel everyone presumes to be Kalamanaru follows suit and Haank, realizing what’s going on, shouts for Lorain to turn it off. The corsair manages to get through before the gate deactivates and the Imperium patrol craft in hot pursuit simply passes through the ring without effect. Realizing that they may have just given Kalamanaru the keys to the Sky-Raiders tech, the crew decide to make a hard burn themselves to it. Everyone straps in and Admiral Gloval instructs his pilot, Lee, to ‘light this candle.’

The Pilgrim accelerates forward, ignoring Imperium communications ordering them to stand down. A volley of missiles head their way and the Pilgrim’s gunners go into point-defense mode to shoot them down. Lorain activates the gate via the device and they flash through the ring, hotly pursued by an Imperium patrol craft. With a suddenness that is exceedingly dangerous, the Pilgrim experiences a high-g deceleration which knocks everyone out briefly.

When they come to, they find themselves in a region of absolute darkness with no sign of stars. Arrayed in a perfect ring around several asteroids are a large number of additional ring-gates, though they all appear to be powered down as well. In the very center of this zone is a station that appears to be integrated into the largest of these asteroids; both the Vargr ship and the Kalamanaru vessel appear to be heading in that direction. The Imperium ship that pursued the Pilgrim appears to have suffered some damage and, at Haank’s suggestion, Admiral Gloval reaches out to what he will learning to be the Lightning as captained by Lieutenant Commander Ferris. The Lightning’s skipper is understandably furious with Gloval and the crew at their violation of Imperium law but after several minutes of … let’s call it ‘penis measuring’ for politeness, the two men agree to mostly leave one another alone for the time being. Gloval kills the comm-link when Ferris begins making yet another threat that includes words like impound and incarceration.

Upon seeing the Kalamanaru ship making a docking run at the station, the crew decide to follow suit, but opt to instead take the shuttle and board on the opposite side of the station. Lorain insists that she needs to be present since she’s the expert and she hands off the activation key to her uncle. After Ibrahim finishes attending to everyone’s superficial bruises and the like – Lorain’s father is the most badly injured, with a broken collarbone, so he cannot join them as he would like – the crew gear up and make sure they are fully armed and ready. Everyone expects to face Kalamanaru resistance somewhere and even Eddy grabs a gun.

Upon docking some hours later, the crew find the station dark and completely powered down. They are forced to manually open any hatches they find and they creep forward slowly, half expecting an ambush at any moment. Painted across several of the doors is an Old Vilani symbol for ‘Danger’ and Ibrahim reminds everyone of the ‘biological event’ that he read about. Since there is no atmo here, though, everyone remains sealed up in their suits. In the course of their examinations, they find a strange-looking foam or mold. Ever curious, Ibrahim cuts a piece free and deposits it in a sample bag that auto-seals up; while he does this, Eddy notices that this fungus seems to very briefly light up when Abe gets too close. After he passes this on, Ibrahim experiments, using a battery to determine that this strange mold-like substance seems to draw energy (and promptly drains the battery completely.)

Based on what they can see, the inhabitants of this station left in a hurry, which isn’t ominous at all. Moments after the crew use the turbolift shaft to proceed down a level into what appears to be a command deck, there is a minor rumble that vibrates through the deck of the station. Instants later, lights begin activating; Kalamanaru’s people have reactivated the reactor.

And then, almost instantly, the strange fungus-mold lights up in a brilliant almost neon blue light…

Player Notes:

  • Loki was out this week.
  • Amusingly, while listening to the recording on YouTube and working on the recap, I realized just how frequently we said some derivation of “What could go wrong?” when talking ourselves into doing something crazy. That should probably be our official company logo or something…
  • Every single one of the players has watched The Expanse on SyFy (and at least two of us have read the books that I’m aware of), so immediately upon entering the station and finding the strange growth in it, we started shouting “protomolecule.” Plus there’s the whole ‘GM is stealing from Book 3: Abaddon’s Gate’ thing for those of us who’ve read the books, so we’re all trying to brace for vomit zombies at any moment…
  • As stated above, we’ve started livestreaming our games. We play on Saturdays at 6:00PM Eastern and the live stream can be found at Ronnke’s Twitch channel. He’s also setup a YouTube Channel. Bear with us, please. This is still in it’s infancy. We have discovered that Twitch keeps the recordings only for two weeks, so it’s a good thing that he published to YouTube. With that in mind, I’ve removed the Twitch link for the “LiveStream” bit at the top.