Strelok activates Edmund, the fearsome MkIX Sentient Organic Cybernetic Combat AI lying dormant in the Class V ordnance vault beneath Ares Base. Sleestak is on-hand to insinuate himself into the insane Borg’s new holovid delusion: a lighthearted song-and-dance number from the 20th century titled Singin’ in the Rain. The holographic image of a handsome young pure strain human with hazel eyes and elfin smile hovers above the 3-meter duralloy sphere, singing and dancing to the strains of ancient music. No doubt the aliens will be even more baffled by this apparition than are the inhabitants of Ares Base.
During the course of the film, Sleestak assumes the roles of the leads best friend, Cosmo Brown, and then the head of a movie production studio, R.F. Simpson, subtly altering the story to include a competitive audition for the new ‘talkie’ musical The Dueling Cavalier. Naturally the Sreelathans and their minions assume the role of dastardly competitors. The Xarmids are in for a treat, or would be if Gene Kelly hadn’t been reincarnated as a 3-ton ball of cybernetic destruction.
Strelok prepares for his upcoming mission by disassembling a selection of weapons and tools and hiding them inside his own components. The robot is dropped off a few hours later at the ruins of Nagoya Fortress equipped only with primitive scavenger tools and weapons. These ruins cover one of the few remaining Japanese islands not sunk beneath the waves between world wars 3 and 4. After a few hours of playing hide and seek with hunter killer bots still wandering the ruins, Strelok is identified and deactivated by a Xarmid outpost. The android-brained bot joins hundreds of other Terrans on their way to the Daedalus hypersleep chambers.
The Ghost Bears return to Ares Base and pick up Titus, Sudomo, Lexi and two additional teams joining the assault.
- Sleestak, Gooptaz, Bannstone, Grey and Grek
- Titus Andronicus
- Sudomo Salim
- Lexi (wearing a modified vaccuum-suit helmet)
- Titus, Sudomo and Lexi carry between them: 50md tech III food, all the sustenance doses, 15l water and 1 of each repair kit: computers/electrical/robotics.
This team is a combination of New Utah Federation and Omega Team 5 (2).
- Colonel Sands (Inertia Power Armor / laser rifle, gyrojet pistols)
- Commander Langreen (Armscor MkIII Powered Battle Armor / Blaster Carbine, Power Sledge, Black Ray Pistol)
- Security Leader Armbruster (Armscor MkIII Powered Battle Armor / Blaster Rifle, Alpha Class Anti-matter Bomb)
- Doc Holliday (medic) (Combine Powered Scout Armor / gyrojet rifle, laser pistol)
- Major Rodriguez (pilot) (Combine Alloyed Plate / laser rifle & pistol)
- Maggie (pilot/co-pilot) (Omega Suit with 24+24 oxygen / laser rifle, gyrojet pistols)
- Candice Sheyun (tech) (Omega Suit with 24+24 oxygen / laser rifle)
- Omega Team 5 Bot: 25th century silvery-white security robot, 2m high humanoid (HP:72;AC:2;MV:16m (legs);Power:1 atomic-cell(30d);AT:2x paralysis rods,2x laser pistols(20s each),1x Class C Riot Gun with 6 clips of ammunition + 10 stun grenades (INT:16) and 10 tear gas grenades).
- Commander Elliot Smith (laser+stun+grenades)
- Security Leader Gibbs (laser+stun+grenades)
- Security Specialist Andres (gyrojet+energyblade+mini-missile-launcher+explosives)
- Security Specialist Dmitry Ustinov (gyrojet+laser+explosives)
- Science Team Leader Barnard (laser)
- Technical Specialist Cheng (laser+energyblade+grenades)
- Medical Specialist Mendoza (laser)
- Omega Team 6 Bot: 25th century silvery-white security robot, 2m high humanoid
Grek and Armbruster supervise loading of the Omega Device aboard the Xarmid cargo shuttle (Grek and Armbruster previously figured out how to arm the bomb atop a mountain 100km from Ares Base). Bannstone and Titus fly to the nearest planetary drill facility around 2500km distant, just south of Great Slave Lake in central Canada. The vast 5km flat-topped pyramid comes into view, followed by the adjacent 500-meter-square hyperspace platform. Over the course of a 20 hour period thousands of huge 10-meter cubes of nickel-iron and other elements are deposited on the platform by giant barrel-shaped robots traveling back and forth between the drill facility and the platform.
By chance the Ghost Bears arrive only a few hours before the end of the current transport cycle. The lights illuminating the facility change from constant purple to flashing green and the robots clear the platform. A few minutes minutes later the platform is enveloped in a perfectly reflective bubble. From prior observations, the Ghost Bears know that ten seconds later the bubble will disappear to reveal an empty platform. Bannstone darts the Xarmid shuttle down toward the silvery bubble. Grek and Armbruster toss out the tactical fusion device originally found by Grek years ago in the Ruins of Orm. The nuke should insure this particular facility is disabled and prevent any immediate pursuit. For an instant those inside the spacecraft glimpse millions of tons of metal ingots lit by greenish illumination.
Grey, Sleestak, Langreen and Armbruster are already pushing the heavy transport cradle off the open loading ramp above the field of huge metallic ingots, now lit by the stark white glare from a vault of glittering stars. The armed Omega Device passes through the energy screen and tumbles out to bounce along the dusty surface of the moon. Seconds the later the transport is speeding away from the 5km crater. The alien moonbase is briefly hidden from view as the transport passes beyond the expansive stealth screen concealing it from human observation. The Xarmid transport is 60km away when the stealth screen blinks out of existence to reveal a crawling mass of darkness enveloping the platform, several 500-meter cargo ships and finally the entire crater. Voids in the space-time continuum spread out from the crater like concentric cracks in a mirror. Large sections of the moon begin sliding into the writhing mass of darkness where the crater once stood. Before passing beyond the moon’s horizon, those within the transport glimpse far vistas and bizarre visions within the expanding cracks. Strange things fall through the gap even as new sections of molten moon slide away into nothingness. How far will the destruction spread? There is no time to stay and watch as the team speeds towards moonbase Ariadne.
The broken gap where the team previously blasted open the biodome causeway has not been repaired by the Xarmids. Bannstone performs a quick flyby. Sleestak tells Gene Kelly, aka ‘Edmund’, “This is your big moment! You’ll be dancing against a lot of privileged Hollywood insiders and director’s favorites, so don’t pull your punches.” Kelly replies, “Oh don’t you worry, I’m gonna knock em dead!” With that the defense borg whirls out of the cargo hatch and straight into the biodome causeway beneath the crater rim. Edmund’s dance of death should keep the Xarmids in the biodome busy for a while, or perhaps even destroy them all along with the thousands of zombified Terrans wandering beneath the pressurized dome.
The transport rockets away from the moon toward the Daedalus high above. A few minutes later the titanic bulk of the starship fills the view-screens. The massive hull is over four kilometers long. Scores of alien robots can be seen crawling along the surface. Telltale distortions slide back and forth across the surrounding star field: stealthed Xarmid ships of various shapes and sizes. Just as Star Mother promised, the aliens are ready and waiting with every ship and bot they could muster.
Bannstone, Sleestak, Titus and Maggie try to work out the best approach toward the tiny escape pod bay visible in the outer skin of the 3rd habitat ring. Bannstone darts the craft forward on a crash-course for the 3-meter opening. Unfortunately the stealthed cargo shuttle is spotted by patrolling Xarmid scoutships. As the craft slams down over the opening, multiple beams of green plasma knock out the shields. B-team exits the cargo bay and blasts their way through the far end of the empty escape pod bay. C-team follows and races onward into the depths of the 900-meter habitat ring. Before leaving the smoke-filled cockpit, Bannstone sets the shuttle to fly directly away from the Daedalus on autopilot. The Ghost Bear ‘A-team’ passes through the cargo hatch as the burning transport darts off into space pursued by a half-dozen Xarmid scoutcraft. While B-team blasts a number of approaching alien bots, the Ghost Bears dash into the Daedalus.
The Ghost Bears begin exploring the aft habitat ring, looking for a way into the core of the ship. Minimal emergency power and lighting exist in about a third of the interior spaces in the habitation ring. All major routes through this deck, and indeed the entire Daedalus, are blocked by blast doors or simply deactivated and without power. The invaders are often forced to squirm through ventilation shafts, maintenance access conduits, or even along depressurized interior structural spaces.
A-team will attempt to find a way to the propulsion decks to locate and disable the self-destruct device at the antimatter drive core. B-team will run interference and block any pursuit by aliens following through the escape pod bay. C-team will find a way forward and attempt to make contact with Strelok or Star Mother. The communicators carried by the invaders only function through a few hundred meters of the thickly shielded Daedalus interior. A few hours later contact between the teams is lost.
A resounding double-boom echoes through the habitat ring. Sleestak and Grek cautiously lead the team forward. Ten minutes later the source of the noise is located. A small room, possibly a cafeteria, is blackened and scarred. Smoke and the stench of burned corpses still lingers in the area. Charred bits and pieces of several victims are scattered about the area. Gooptaz uses his forensic skills to determine that 3-4 Xarmid battle-bugs were destroyed by the blast, along with several humanoids, possibly pure strain humans but definitely not members of B or C teams. The explosives experts Grek and Grey determine the carnage was caused by two small satchel charges detonated at very close range. Could this be the work of the ‘lost tribes’ referred to by Star Mother? Gooptaz theorizes they’ve been unintentionally radicalized by the shipboard AI.
Some hours later the team emerges from the habitat ring into the central core of the Daedalus. Gooptaz’s natural sense of direction is key to avoid going in circles within the vast maze of darkened ducts and twisting conduits. Sudomo occasionally recognizes familiar signs or spaces. Titus is helpful as well, though he’s much more familiar with the bow decks starting from the reactor deck forward. Neither Sudomo nor Titus are familiar with the propulsion decks where the team is hopefully headed. The team pulls Goop back to a safer position in the march order and Grek moves forward into the scout position. Sudomo and Titus are also protected in the middle with Bannstone and Lexi bringing up the rear. After hours of creeping back and forth, Goop finds a route to the first of three cargo decks located between the aft habitat ring and the propulsion decks.
Each cargo deck features four 280*70 meter jettisonable cargo modules. Thousands of 8-meter sealed computer-coded cargo pods are packed into each cylindrical module. Each pod holds 30 metric tons of material. In all the Daedalus cargo decks carry over 1 million tons of cargo, not even including the colonists in the hypersleep decks forward of habitation ring 3. Each cylindrical cargo module is designed to perform a powered re-entry into the atmosphere of an earth-type world. The modules can land in water or even on land if necessary (at much higher risk). The cylinders float upright in water and can function as powered cargo ships. A robotic autopilot can steer a course to link up with other splashed cargo or hypersleep modules, independently or as directed by the Daedalus. The cargo and hypersleep modules can link together to create geometric floating cities anchored to the ocean floor.
After several hours of wandering through the extensive cargo vaults, Grek spots five figures standing silently in the shadows not 20 meters distant. One steps forward, a barbaric tribesmen resembling nothing more than a traveling tinker or trader. All six wear ancient clothes and junk armor bedizened with all manner of scavenged items displayed as if for sale. Three men have long bushy beards similarly festooned with merchandise. Those not wearing ancient headgear sport varnished black mohawks. Two women have long hair woven with trinkets. This ‘lost tribe’ has likely been observing the interlopers for some time now.
When Sleestak mentions that his group is sent by ‘Star Mother’, the leader of the tribals laughs and replies in ancient English, “Bah! You should quit listening to fairy tales, my friend. Obviously this island is the primordial brain-egg of all-father Robson Kruzo where we poor mortals are stranded until the return of the prophet King James. But meanwhile, let us discuss more profitable subjects…might I interest you in this only slightly damaged Class-A access card?” This tribe calls themselves the ‘Kruzomen’ and are surely descended from the colonists freed over 170 years ago. According to Star Mother, freeing these colonists was part of a failed attempt to retake the Daedalus from the aliens. Hundreds of survivors scattered into the depths of the Daedalus where the aliens could not reach them. The Sreelathans eventually gave up their efforts to rid the starship of these human vermin. The survivors devolved into several primitive tribes lurking among the many miles of passages and conduits.
The Kruzomen seem to be most interested in trade. The Ghost Bears have a number of spare hydrogen cells, but not a lot of food and water as they never expected to spend this much time finding their way through the Daedalus. Bannstone barters hydrogen cells in exchange for food, water and a ‘Class-A’ Daedalus access card. The Kruzomen are expert traders and probably get the better end of the deal, but the access card increases the chance to successfully navigate the labyrinth of passages, doors and access ways. Sleestak speaks with the Kruzomen leader and discovers there are at least two other tribes of lost colonists in the Daedalus: the ‘Advancers’ and ‘Star Children’. The Kruzomen warn that the Star Children are dangerous fanatics identified by faces dyed half black and half white. Trade with them is possible, but risky. Stak and Lexi overawe the Kruzomen and convince them to guide the team at least as far as the 2nd cargo deck.
The Kruzomen guide the team through a bewildering maze of conduits and ventilation shafts. Clearly they are experts at avoiding the aliens and their robots. In under an hour the Kruzomen reach the central core of cargo deck two, a huge 60 by 200 meter zero-gravity hall with mechanized cargo transport belts, all disabled long ago by the Xarmids. The Kruzomen melt away into the depths of the starship like wraiths.
While making their way toward the 3rd and final cargo deck, the team stumbles upon a small farm inside a long low space created by the intersection of multiple ventilation shafts. Here one of the lost tribes grow various vegetables under illumination brought in from other parts of the ship. There are also a number of cages holding birds, large nutria-like rodents and thousands of live insects in glass cylinders. The area is currently unoccupied though signs of recent activity are everywhere. Perhaps unseen tribesmen watch even now? The team quickly eats their fill of dried meats, prepared insect/berry pastes and fresh vegetables, conserving their few pre-war rations and sustenance doses. Hopefully the locals are feeling charitable. Just in case, the team travels on for another two hours until they reach the 3rd cargo deck. Gooptaz, Sudomo and Titus locate a space which the team barricades so everyone can get some much needed rest.
Silent figures somehow enter the barricaded space undetected while Grey and Sudomo are on watch. Grey looks around to see three men wearing robes with heads shorn bald as bullets. The nearest wears a tattered and patched royal blue robe sporting a gold monogram ‘Daedalus Grand Luxor’. The other two wear an ancient lab gown and black pea coat. Their most striking feature are faces dyed pitch black on the right, chalk white on the left. Grey kicks Sudomo and both begin yelling into their mics to wake the rest of the team.
The blue-robed tribal intones in a solemn voice, “the Star Goddess speaks to us of the coming ascension to heaven. Are you angels sent to help us forward, or devils sent to cast us into the pit?” Sleestak quickly convinces these fanatics that he’s a fellow holy warrior of the ‘Star Goddess’ (apparently another name for Star Mother). While they have no food or water to trade, the Star Children agree to lead their fellow soldiers as far as the antihydrogen generator stack at the top of the propulsion deck.
An hour later the barely-seen tribesmen take their leave. Before disappearing back into the depths of the 3rd cargo deck, the leader advises his new friends: “do the bidding of the Star Goddess and heaven is yours!”. Ahead are multiple identical halls arranged around the periphery of this section of the hull, each 55 meters long and 16 meters wide, bisected down the middle by large transparent pipes filled with dimly glowing gas. The team must break into cramped mechanical spaces not intended for living personnel in order to reach the next in a series of antihydrogen generator chambers.
Arranged outside this section of the ship are four 300 by 400 meter ‘hydrogen collimators’ responsible for gathering up all the usable hydrogen collected by the 2500km electromagnetic bell projected in front of the Daedalus during interstellar travel. During the course of the 10.5 light year journey to Epsilon Eridani over 16 billion tons of interstellar medium would be collected. 75% of this material is hydrogen. Half of this hydrogen is converted to anti-hydrogen by the antihydrogen generator stack for use in the antimatter drive core farther down the propulsion section.
The Terran liberators have been aboard the Daedalus for almost 28 hours now. An hour later the team is moving through the 5th antihydrogen generator chamber when Grek spots motion 25 meters ahead. The orange mutant dives for cover behind one of the structural supports along the outer wall. Grey, Sleestak and Bannstone follow his queue. Gooptaz looks around and spots hulking humanoid figures at the other end of the hall where the team emerged through access panels only 5 minutes ago. They must have been standing silently behind the structural bulkheads the entire time, intentionally waiting for their targets to reach the center of the room before attacking. Goop, Sudomo, Titus and Lexi dive for cover behind the heavy supports holding up the glowing pipeline. Blasts of green fire flood the hall from both directions.
Strelok wakes up to a strange alien landscape: a wide grassy field strewn with flowers. Above is a dome of unbroken blue sky lit by a golden sun. Birds sail through the pristine air while 4-legged animals graze in the distance. Nearby is a comforting presence visible only as a pulsing golden haze.
The presence moves off toward a tall forest of ‘trees’ in the distance. Strelok follows the golden glow through a dark maze of wooden pillars shrouded by dense foliage. Animals of all shapes and sizes wander the trees, leafy forest floor and outcroppings of dark stone. The warm presence leads the sentient bot through a maze of brooks, fallen logs and narrow flowered meadows. This is when Strelok notices a dark being like a mass of indistinct tentacles floating in a distant non-space, but not yet taking notice of Strelok or the guiding presence.
The forest gives way to rolling fields. In the center is a large flat area strewn with colorful machines arranged around a small wooden box structure. Small humanoid creatures (human children?) climb all over the machines to no apparent purpose. The presence leads Strelok from one device to the next. Taken together, the devices impart specific information the import of which Strelok can’t yet deduce.
Star Mother seems to be using this series of landscapes to teach something, perhaps a deck schematic or computer architecture. Strelok pays closer attention. The next landscape is a formal garden dominated by a complicated 3-dimensional maze of living plants (hedges). The presence drifts away for long periods, leaving Strelok to find its way through the maze.
Strelok emerges from the maze into a dark cold coffin-sized space. There is a hiss and dim light enters. Beyond the open hatch is a dark hallway lined with hundreds of vertical pods…hypersleep chambers? In the distance a group of Xarmid technicians are scuttling beside a floating platform laden with sprawled humanoid forms. The aliens pause briefly to place one of the unconscious figures into an open hypersleep chamber, then move out of sight around a curve in the hall. More Xarmids with additional prisoners are approaching from the other direction.
The information imparted by the forest, playground and hedge maze takes on new significance. A partial schematic of the Daedalus is now imprinted in the bot’s android brain. This is Hypersleep Module 1 of Hypersleep Deck 1 in the Daedalus star-ship. Looks like the Xarmids decided to preserve this android-brained borg for future research, a decision they will be regretting very soon. Thus begins a cat and mouse game to escape the scores of Xarmids and alien bots busy converting prisoners into popsicles.
Three hours later Strelok emerges into Hypersleep Module 2. Strelok is able to find a hiding place and successfully reassemble most of the tools and energy weapons secreted about his chassis. Four hours later Strelok begins working his way toward the forward end of the star-ship.
An hour later Strelok is trying to open a door at the end of a long curved access conduit when six Xarmid technicians appear in the distance. The Xarmids are as surprised as Strelok, but seeing only a lone figure, they seriously underestimate the danger. Two draw pistols and begin to work their way up the sides of the passage, taking cover behind structural supports, while the other four lay down cover fire with pistols. Strelok takes cover until the two Xarmids approach, then pops out and blasts both at short range. In a brief exchange of fire, two more Xarmids are dispatched. The last two flee but are tracked and destroyed quickly. Strelok hastily exits the area before reinforcements can arrive.
Unfortunately the mental map provided by Star Mother is less than complete. Strelok wanders lost for a time and ends up in Habitation Ring 2, directly opposite the intended destination. While trying to find a way out of the hab ring Strelok finds a major transportation route between hypersleep decks 1 and 2 blocked by a heavy 4-meter blast door. The door is proof against most hand-held explosives or energy weapons. Strelok is able to hack the control mechanism and open the door. This might be a help to other teams moving through the Daedalus, if only some way to communicate can be found.
Strelok finds a place to sleep in a small machine room accessible only by crawling through a half-meter access shaft. While lost in the huge habitation ring, Strelok comes face to face with three surprised Xarmid controllers or ‘brain-bugs’. The small silver-fish shaped aliens are quickly destroyed. One flees and by chance leads the way to a communications terminal before being cut down. This Xarmid carried a Class C ship access card. Strelok is able to hack the comm terminal and briefly get in contact with the star-ship AI deck.
Star Mother confirms that the main team gained entry to the Daedalus through hab ring 3 and the assault is well underway. Team A has disappeared into the stern of the ship. Team B is blocking a large force of Xarmids and robots attempting to enter the ship through the same empty escape pod bay in hab ring 3. These Xarmids apparently evacuated moon-base Ariadne after it was invaded by Edmund. The current location and status of Team C is unknown, but they hacked at least one terminal in hypersleep deck 2 / module 7 around 6 hours ago. Star Mother is blocking alien movement and communication across the entire Daedalus, making life very difficult for the Sreelathans trying to locate and expel the invading natives. The remaining Sreelathans are now isolated in an alien star-ship controlled by a treacherous AI and crawling with deadly natives. Sounds like a space-horror movie, but we’re the monsters in this one.
To avoid detection Star Mother must close the communication channel within a few minutes. The AI is able to impart brief information about two of the ‘lost tribes’: the ‘Star Children’ and the ‘Kruzomen’.
“The ‘Star Children’ were possibly our greatest mistake. In trying to mold my children into a weapon against the Sreelathans, we created a cult of lunatics. Please be careful around them as they are prone to suicidal attacks. If you can convince them you serve Star Mother, they may be willing to guide you to your next destination as long as it is not too far from their local domain.”
When speaking of the Kruzomen, Star Mother exhibits what can only be described as a peevish exasperation:
“The poor Kruzomen, as they call themselves, are descended from the original operators of the ship’s commercial emporiums. The circumstances of the 26th century did not always permit the luxury of determining exactly who was awoken. These unfortunates will be brought back into the fold of civilization eventually. You may be able to trade with the Kruzomen for valuable artifacts such as access cards or ship-board communicators. They may also act as temporary guides if offered sufficient inducement.”
Strelok finds a way back to the 1st Hypersleep Deck and then into Hab Ring 1 a few hours later. A small party of Kruzomen tribals emerge from the depths of the habitation ring. Strelok trades away all the alien energy pistols and power cells collected from 9 dead Xarmids over the past 24 hours. In exchange he receives a precious Daedalus ship-board communicator and access card. If any of the other teams find a comm terminal or similar communicator they will be able to communicate across the entire length and breadth of the star-ship. The Kruzomen looked at Strelok as an easy mark, which he was, so they don’t offer to guide the strange robot forward. The tribals disappear into the star-ship laden with their new loot.
With help from the two access cards and Star Mother’s guidance, Strelok finds his way into the forward section of the ship, starting with the Reactor Deck. The 75 meter long by 130 meter diameter reactor deck is dominated by the ship’s auxiliary 40-Gigawatt fusion reactor and 20,000 tons of proton-boron (1p+11B) fuel allowing for 20 years of operation at 100% output. As the reactor has been operating at around 1% output for the past 250 years, over 17k tons of fuel remain. The auxiliary reactor provides power and initial propulsion when not traveling interstellar space.
The auxiliary reactor combined with a 3-month Earth-Sun-Jupiter/Saturn slingshot manuever provides the initial acceleration required to reach .2% lightspeed – the minimum velocity needed to gather sufficient interstellar hydrogen for the antimatter engines. From there the 2500km electromagnetic scoop and antihydrogen/hydrogen engines generate an average thrust of 5g over the course of the 10.5 light year journey to Epsilon Eridani, reaching 99.9% light speed at the halfway point and reducing total shipboard flight time to 1.88 years (10 years 9 months earth time).
The entire forward 1100-meter section of the Daedalus can detach from the aft sections and operate as an interplanetary spacecraft. This leaves the Aft Sections with no energy screen and auxiliary power for only 30 days, but the three self-contained Habitat Rings can support 3000 persons for many decades.
Strelok finds his way forward to the Anti-Gravity Generator Deck in 2-3 hours, then becomes lost in the labyrinth of mechanical spaces and access conduits filling the huge 180 meter cylinder. Two 100-meter anti-gravity field projectors extend from the sides of this deck. These huge generators provide manuever power for the 3-million ton bulk of the Daedalus. Later Star Mother divulges that these turrets also house secret 3GW X-ray lasers with a range of 40,000km. The existence of these weapons was known only to three besides the Starship Control Computer: the ship’s Captain, First Officer and the future Colonial Governor (all taken from their hypersleep chambers and long-dead).
While wandering through the a-grav deck, Strelok finds an epic story scratched along 40 meters of isolated maintenance conduit wall. Each panel is almost three meters high. Great artistry and perhaps more than a century of effort went into this extensive mural. The first panel depicts a ship floating through space with a planet in the background that may be earth. Floating stick-figures of men flock desperately through the void toward the ship…or is it an island in a vast windy sea? The island is caught in a storm and pushed far from the home world. A new and somewhat smaller globe, obviously the moon, now hangs in the background. Mythical beings invade the island, forcing the stick-men into hiding. Many die or become empty shells with great staring holes for eyes. The next panels tell of the struggle of the stick-men to survive, the crowning of their first great chief ‘Robson Kruzo’, trade with other tribes including men in uniforms and fancy hats and others wearing long gowns with faces stained half-white on one side, half-black on the other. An angelic being appears. The uniformed men and black/white-faced men bow down to the new god, but the ‘Kruzomen’ turn their faces away. The last panels convey the trials and tribulations of the Kruzomen as they enrich themselves through trade with other tribes while cleverly outwitting both ancient demons and impatient gods. The last panel shows an angry goddess having a tantrum while the Kruzomen snicker and taunt from various hiding places.
In a stroke of luck Strelok makes it through to the next section of the ship, the ‘AI’ deck. This smaller deck is home to the original Daedalus Starship Control Computer, the only surviving ‘Eve’ MMCI (Massively Multiphasic Cybernetic Installation), now evolved into the sentient being known as Star Mother. One of three screw-shaped blast doors surrounding the inner sanctum slowly rotates open, allowing the exhausted Strelok to stagger inside. The impenetrable 5-meter thick portal slowly spins shut. Vistas of impossible dimensions spread out beyond the transparent walls of the wide hallway beyond. The hall ends in a 3-meter high helix of glowing blue jewels…the heart of the MMCI.
Star Mother can communicate directly with Strelok here and reveals that the Sreelathans have discovered what she is up to and are attempting to hack in and destroy the MMCI, though this deck is impossible for the aliens to physically access. It will be a few days before the Sreelathans can get past Star Mother’s electronic defenses. This will result in the demise of Star Mother and insanity for those few thousand original colonists still sleeping aboard the Daedalus. Star Mother has been keeping the colonists sane over the centuries of unplanned hypersleep by exercising their minds in simulated virtual realities. Strelok experienced this VR environment before waking in the Daedalus. In fact the children in the playground were the minds of actual colonists. Beyond the glass walls of the access hall is a shifting kaleidoscope of virtual realities inhabited by an ever-diminishing number of colonists.
From a hidden cell steps a white, red and black humanoid robot, ostentatiously feminine and armed to the teeth: an avatar of Star Mother. This advanced humanoid robot was built by Star Mother on the sly using the ships extensive design and manufacturing facilities and incorporating stolen alien technology. The bot, nicknamed ‘Eve’, is assigned to Strelok: “finally, the girlfriend of my dreams!”. Eve is not truly sentient, but hosts a segment of Star Mother’s capabilities and can operate autonomously to a great extent when not in direct communication with Star Mother (as would currently be the case outside the AI or Science & Manufacturing decks).
Star Mother informs Strelok that forward progress beyond the Crew Deck will not be possible without a significant armed force (such as Teams A, B and C). After further discussion, Strelok discovers there is a slim chance of an EVA from the Science & Manufacturing deck to the communications control center at the base of the 300-meter Sensor Mast. Access to the comm control center could enable all manner of havoc, such as disabling communications and/or power with all alien bots in and around the ship, as well as establishing contact with all the Terran invaders and lost tribes. The major obstacle is the deployed Electromagnetic Shield Projector, a giant plate-shaped disc over 900 meters in diameter. Getting around this obstacle will require a nearly 1-kilometer trip through space along the outside of the hull. The chances of avoiding detection by patrolling alien bots and Xarmid scoutcraft must be considered marginal, making this a borderline suicidal undertaking.
A more reasonable option would be to continue roaming the ship to open additional access routes and otherwise interfere with Xarmid operations. Even more reasonable: stay put inside the sanctuary of the AI deck until relief arrives.