After a short breather, the Ghost Bear team begins retracing their steps bridgeward. Gooptaz and Lexi take the time to search for equipment while plodding through the huge cargo vaults aft of Habitation Ring Number 3. They get lucky and find a working Daedalus ship communicator. This enables the team to get the location and status of Star Mother, Strelok and the B/C teams for the first time since boarding the ship almost three days ago. B and C teams are reported to be making their way forward to the sanctuary of the fortified AI deck where Star Mother resides. Strelok is preparing to EVA outside the Science and Manufacturing deck in an attempt to bypass the alien-fortified Exoplanetary Ops deck and reach the Sensor Mast and communications deck. Communications must be cut short due to the risk of alien eavesdropping.
The Ghost Bears become lost while trying to bypass sealed blast doors connecting the four modules of Hyper-sleep Deck 2. Each module is a self-contained fusion-powered spacecraft 475-meters long, harboring 1250 hyper-sleep chambers. If necessary these modules can detach from the Daedalus to orbit a planetary body or re-enter the atmosphere with an estimated 95% chance of colonist survival in the case of a water landing on an earth-type planet (85% survival if other than water landing). The modules are designed to float for up to 50 years in the oceans of Epsilon Eridani IV or Earth. They can be towed and linked together to form anchored floating cities of at least 3 modules. Each Module carries 50 tons of supplies and four 25-meter electric turbine hovercraft capable of carrying 80 colonists across 12000km of water or flat land, or towing a single cargo or hyper-sleep module across 4000km of open water.
Six hours later the team finds a way to the next deck. As the team traverses Habitation Ring 2 into Hyper-sleep Deck 1, Grek spots an impromptu ambush set up by a number of Xarmid technicians. The orange humanoid screams as he is struck by a fusillade of blue-white beams from alien energy pistols. The plasma overloads the Omega Suit energy screen and deals 2nd and 3rd degree burns to chest and arms. Grek collapses in agony behind a nearby bulkhead. Hopefully they don’t have any grenades.
While the rest of the team lays down suppressing fire in the general area of the well-concealed Xarmids, Bannstone sets up his scoped Gauss rifle and nails first one, then a 2nd Xarmid with precision fire bypassing their cover. The first falls dead with a hole through its triangular head. The second is hit in several legs and falls three meters from a ventilation shaft to land exposed in the middle of the 3-meter freight corridor. Grey and Sleestak make short work of the luckless alien. A third tech-bug flees down a 1-meter air-shaft. Grey catches and destroys the creature as it works frantically to open a ventilation grate, but not before it snatches up a pistol and splashes plasma across Grey’s activated energy screen…not enough energy to cause any harm.
Flashes of laser energy and screams sound from behind. Lexi is firing her laser pistol and rifle point-blank at Titus! Titus scrambles away, firing his laser rifle reflexively. Sudomo also fires and scores smoking scars across Lexi’s vitreous armor of steel-hard scales. Gooptaz notices a small blob of translucent goo attached to the snake-woman’s neck and screams out a warning. It’s the telepathic creature detached from the antimatter core control console. Grek dares to peek out from behind cover to reach out with his mutant mind-power. A Sreelathan somewhere aboard the ship is using the telepathic blob to control Lexi’s mind. Grek is successful in confusing Lexi’s mental processes, causing her to attack the nearest ‘friend’, which in this case is now the alien ‘psycho-cite’ attached to her neck. Lexi snatches the blob from her neck and splatters it across a wall. The scaly snake-woman slides to the floor unconscious. If not for this freak chance, both Lexi and Titus would probably now be victims of fratricide, and maybe others besides.
Titus lies on the floor incapacitated by smoking laser wounds. The human-like Android is quickly restored to full health by Gooptaz’s medikits, but the mutants Grek and Lexi require much more work. The last mutant-friendly healing salve is used up. Sleestak warns the team, “We’re running short of meds and can’t afford many more mistakes like that. We’ve got to be more careful if we’re gonna make it to the bridge.”
Another few hours brings the team to Hyper-sleep Deck 1. A group of Kruzomen appear, eager to trade water and another ship access card in exchange for the energy pistols and power cells recently looted from the Xarmid technicians. Might they be shadowing the intruders? The Kruzomen decline to act as guides this time, citing increased ‘bug’ activity in the area. The team is lost for five or six hours among the four Hyper-sleep modules of Deck 1. Just before finding a way into the forward habitation ring, a large group of Star Children appear out of the shadows. Sleestak again convinces the bald and robed cultists that his frieds are holy warriors of the ‘Star Goddess’. These fanatics pack an arsenal of explosives wired to suicide vests concealed beneath their robes. They donate a suicide-bandolier of six high explosive grenades, encouraging their new friends to join them in paradise after destroying as many alien demons as possible. It’s likely the Star Children are also shadowing the invaders as they bumble around the star-ship.
The team is able to quickly pass through Habitation Ring 1 using the blast door previously hacked by Strelok. The Auxiliary Propulsion and Reactor decks require only an hour to traverse as the team is now guided by coded messages send to their Daedalus communicator by Star Mother. In the safety of Star Mother’s armored sanctum, the Ghost Bears learn that Strelok made the desperate attempt to reach the Sensor Mast over 20 hours ago. B and C teams are already present and resting after their own ordeals. Power armor is replenished using atomic cells secreted away by Star Mother in the Science and Manufacturing deck, now abandoned by the aliens who have pulled back to their fortifications in the old Crew Quarters deck. Everyone catches a brief rest in preparation for the big assault.
The Communications Bunker
Shortly after the main team leaves the propulsion decks on their journey toward the bow of the star-ship, Strelok exits into space from a Science and Manufacturing deck airlock. Star Mother’s avatar follows close behind to take advantage of the optical distortion field. Unfortunately Strelok is spotted by a patrolling alien scout-ship after covering only 200 of 500 meters to the outer rim of the electromagnetic projector dish. A door slides open atop one of the two massive anti-gravity generator domes. The approaching scout-craft are visible only as distorted smears against the star-field. One disappears in a flash of energy, incinerated by the 3GW X-ray laser hidden in the dome. A second alien ship fires a stream of scintillating green plasma at Strelok’s tiny form, but misses and scores a 50-meter burn across the back side of the huge EM projector dish. Rather than turn tail and head back to the S&M airlock, Strelok ejects his atomic cell to avoid detection by alien EM sensors and hopefully draw away pursuit. Lack of an atomic cell will render several of Strelok’s features unusable, but at this point losing the atomic cell is the only hope of making it around the EM dish and into the Sensor Mast.
Miraculously, the avatar is able to float past unnoticed to the rim of the EM dish and then to the airlock at the base of the Sensor Mast. As Star Mother destroys multiple alien scout-ships and bots, Strelok joins Star Mother’s avatar inside the Sensor Mast deck. The surviving alien bots and ships melt down one of the X-ray lasers, but are then forced to take cover from the remaining laser in dead spots to the fore and aft of the ship. Before re-entering the ship, Strelok gets a glimpse of the 40-meter alien frigate attached to a makeshift dock at the bridge above the sensor mast. According to Star Mother’s previous reports, the Xarmid technicians converted one of the ship’s escape pod bays into a dock. This ship is safe from Star Mother’s X-ray laser on the other side of the EM projector dish and could probably be used to evacuate the Daedalus at any time, but for whatever reason the remaining Sreelathans don’t appear willing to give up the ship just yet.
Strelok locates the ship’s communications bunker at the base of the sensor mast. Fortunately the two bots spot several Xarmid battle-bugs waiting to ambush them at the only unblocked entrance. By concealing themselves among floating junk bouncing around this zero-G area, Strelok and the avatar are able to sneak past the ambush and enter the hollow spherical enclosure from another direction. Unfortunately for the aliens lying in ambush, they forgot to completely block one of the other five entrances to the 0g communications bunker. The two bots are soon observing the alien positions through a view-port in one of the inner vacuum doors, easily opened from either side.
Four battle-bugs lie in wait eight meters distant, peering down the open entrance to the large spherical control center. A small silverfish-shaped Xarmid ‘Controller’ bug hides on the wrong side of a structural support opposite its troops. A glossy black type-2 alien security bot hovers near a 360-degree command chair enclosure at the center. Thanks to prior examination of a destroyed example at Moonbase Ariadne, Strelok knows how to deactivate the type-2 alien bots, if only he can approach undetected.
Avatar lies in wait at the side entrance with modified blaster pistol and energy katana ready. Strelok floats across the 6-meter gap to attempt a stealthy deactivation of the alien security bot. The bot rounds the console and detects the intruder just before it is within reach. Strelok knocks out it’s energy-screen with point-blank fire from blaster-carbine and shoulder-mounted laser carbine. The avatar uses precision shooting to crit-out the bot quickly, which would otherwise make short work of Strelok.
The controller-bug is a few seconds slow in identifying the mortal threat. Star Mother’s avatar launches across the room to draw fire. The sophisticated bot is able to knock out two Xarmid battle-bugs with lucky head shots before the others return fire. Seconds later a decade of secret development and construction disappears in a cloud of burning confetti! Meanwhile Strelok incinerates the surprised controller-bug before it can react. Now Strelok is alone and facing two heavily armored and armed alien mercenaries. Neither have taken cover yet, choosing to fire continuously instead. Strelok has good cover behind the command console at the center of the control room. His shoulder-weapon is on backup power and will be out of energy soon. The optical distortion field and integrated energy-screen can’t be powered at all without the atomic cell.
Strelok’s next shots take out one of the two remaining Xarmids. Return fire from the last knocks out the energy screen in his Omega Suit, but inflicts only trivial structure damage. Now Strelok is entirely without energy screen protection. Fortunately his next shots mortally wound the last Xarmid. Strelok quickly finishes off the two Xarmids incapacitated by the avatar’s head-shots. Any hacking and repair work is going to be much more difficult without the assistance of the avatar.
After looting a functioning alien energy carbine and eight plasma grenades from the destroyed Xarmids, Strelok begins hacking various communication systems. As expected, the GHA receiver/transmitter has been permanently disabled by the aliens, so it won’t be possible to contact Narvu or Slinky at Black Mountain directly. Lexi will still be needed for that. After hours of effort Strelok is able to update the Daedalus comm system to transmit on the NUF band used by teams A, B and C…all teams are now in secure voice contact from all points of the ship! Strelok then discovers how to evacuate the alien atmosphere from the fortified crew-quarters deck. When the time is right, this should come in handy. Hopefully some of the Xarmids lack vac-suit helmets, or get sucked out into space when nearby airlocks open without warning. Finally, Strelok attempts to disconnect all the alien bots on the ship from the alien comm network. Unfortunately this proves beyond Strelok’s capabilities.
Turning his attention to the disabled alien security bot, Strelok determines that it is still mostly intact, having lost use of only one tentacle, all power systems, energy screen and 2 of 4 weapons (the two ‘negation guns’ are still intact, but don’t function through energy screens or against alien technology). The remaining five tentacles are deadly weapons. Strelok is able to deactivate the bot and repair the alien power reactor, but can’t quite figure out the alien language required to reprogram the bot, so it must be left deactivated for now. Perhaps Star Mother can figure something out.
Star Mother provides Strelok a route through electrical conduits and structural spaces between the Sensor Mast and the small Daedalus Command Bridge located immediately below the Flight Operations Deck. In less than an hour Strelok could reach the Bridge, but this would likely be suicidal if done solo. Perhaps the opportunity will arise to coordinate with the main assault force attempting to reach the Flight Operations Deck by way of Exoplanetary Ops and the EM Shield Projector deck. Strelok, now alone in the communications bunker below the bridge, waits for the signal to act.
Back in the Science and Manufacturing deck, the three A/B/C teams have moved forward in preparation for assaulting the alien-fortified Crew Quarters deck. B and C teams will try to pin down and distract the defenders while Star Mother guides the ‘A’ team (Ghost Bears) into the Exoplanetary Ops deck by a hidden route.