The crew spent some time unwinding and catching up on recent events after their return to Barnett. The scout service contacted Capt Bartholomew 'Slug' Slugopolopolous for a debrief since the return from Lagar. The Major apologized for having to commandeer Slug's scout vessel for a priority mission, but was able to extend an offer: A new mission specific ship is being rushed into service. He will be given use of the vessel if he accepts the mission. The mission itself is somewhat specialized and stands a much greater change of success with the expertise of a few of his known associates.
The biological computers discovered by Capt Jones and crew are uniquely suited to defend against infection. The design, however, is only suitable for smaller ships. It would take years reverse engineer and build out computers suitable for capital ships, space stations, and the like. Further, these computers are so effective at combating infection, some speculate that they were built for that very purpose. Perhaps the original builders are familiar with the source of the virus and have techniques which can be utilized to defeat it.
- Find the source of civilization that built these devices.
- Enlist the aid of that civilization in the manufacture of newer/larger devices
- Find the source and origins of the virus, if possible
- Find a way to purge the virus from infected systems
- Determine if there is a way to inoculate against the virus
Ashley helped negotiate a 'free fuel for life' deal – Slug ultimately accepted the mission but soon found the ship to be incomplete. Some finishing touches were needed in order to make the vessel 'expedition ready'. A ships boat was purchased along with vehicles and drones. Additional equipment was borrowed from the Heinlein. While waiting for deliveries, the crew was able to stock up on supplies and spend a few weeks brushing up on their studies. Interesting tidbits of information learned from Newcasts:
- Scientists have finished constructing an air gapped research facility on a small asteroid. No physical, nor transmitter based network connections are available. All data coming out of the facility is completely analog based reporting.
- Infection starts as a seed. Once delivered, it needs to 'unpack' itself. Depending on the speed of the host system, this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to days. It may even just lay dormant and wait for an opportunity to retransmit the infection.
- Scientists have been able to design a rudimentary test to determine if infection is present. When the virus infiltrates a system it will start by exploring control paths. A small widget can be integrated into a detection device. The act of exploring controls on an otherwise unnecessary widget will cause a control arm to extend, lighting up a notification, which in turn physically breaks the control arm in the process.
- A new class of ship constructed in partnership between SAIC and Ultra Prime was rushed thru trials and sent to Lagar where they engaged the enemy. Their heroic sacrifice is believed to caught the Viral invasion off guard and suspended it's march into more densely populated areas of the sector. Sadly, there were no survivors from the Lagar system.
- CAIN forces are numerous but are limited to smaller jumps, this allows the Corporate Federation time to potentially meet threats. Minor battles happen occasionally, but it's more of a stalemate for the time being.
- Corporate Federation is issuing Letters of Marque to privateers authorizing them to engage in acts of piracy in territory held by CAIN. Letter of Marque is also an electronic breaker wired into the comm system, should the ships computer show signs of corruption, the reactor will blow.
- Most Privateers hope that there are no CAIN forces present and an easy snatch and grab job will net quick profits.
- A privateer fleet has formed under the banner of an unknown party. The fleet has been conducting deeper excursions into enemy territory trying for bigger jobs. They have even returned back to Federated space with refugees
- Refugees state that largely, CAIN is securing industrial capabilities. Farming worlds and humans seeking refuge are left alone unless they pose a threat to industry.
- There are many robots being used for these purposes. Oddly, no one has seen a Zerubabel Enterprises robot being used.
The ship set course for Maikaguun, but misjumped on their first stop coming into Udibi. They arrived far into the outer solar system. Luckily, a nearby comet was located which allowed them to refuel over the course of several days. Meanwhile, Daphne spent several days with a protein bar in one hand and a servo-spanner in the other as she calibrated the jump systems. Slug and Tomi were able to lean on Erik Erricson to install the same neural technology that he previously gifted the other crew members.
The next jump into Maikaguun was successful, placing the ship within km of their anticipated arrival point near Maikaguun III. Tomi immediately jumped on the powerful new high resolution scanners to see what secrets the system would reveal. An odd phenomena was noted as it appeared as though 2 identical, manufactured? planets were in orbit around each other at Maikaguun IV.
The crew cautiously approached the planets and found a large thick cloud a the lagrange point of the orbits which their scanners would not penetrate. The launch entered the cloud and found a partially disassembled planet at the core. Seeming relatively safe, the crew returned to the ship and proceeded on to the planetary fragment. Tomi's scanners, no longer blocked by the gaseous cloud, was able to locate a number of points of interest:
- A large metal plate on the surface. The plate is many many kilometers across and has a seam running the length of it. Adjacent to the plate is a small ship's launch, common to lab ships.
- some distance away, a crashed ship of unknown origin on the surface, it was very will embedded into the rocky terrain and was almost overlooked.
- A lab ship, possibly identical to the one traded in by Capt Jones, was found in a degrading orbit. Scans revealed the ship to be dead, and completely without power.
Deciding to start in orbit, the crew docked with and boarded the lab ship and found it to be abandoned. A brief search that it was as it appeared: a scientific vessel. The crew quarters appeared to have been vacated for a mission, and then never returned. The ship eventually ran out of power and started it's slow decent as it slipped from orbit. Tomi also noticed that there were empty droid charging stations on board.