Into the Void, Episode 1, part 4.

When we left the Travellers, they had just left the moon we’ll call Zal’s World. Having made repairs to their ship, the Rambler, and the ship formerly owned by Croyd, they begin making their way with both ships to a safe jump distance. The survivors of Croyd’s crew all in cold sleep about the merchant ship, Roger calculates Nav routes for both ships back to Mylor, where they intend to return Zal and collect the other half of their pay.

As they make their way to the jump point, about the Rambler, Zal continues to frantically study information he’s able to extract from the Precursor data module acquired in the alien Ziggurat. The ships sync up for simultaneous jumps, and just as they hit the JUMP button Zal exclaims “Wait! Don’t jump!” It’s too late, jump has been initiated and the ships leave the system.

It seems that Zal has uncovered evidence of another Precursor site within that same system, on a rocky planet in the inner solar system. Too late. The ships are in jump space on their way back to Mylor.

During jump, the team each works on the long process of upgrading their skills. Roger begins learning proper operation of the Vacc suit. Lucky begins studying navigation. Barney begins studying Computer. Zal spends his time reading texts on Galactic Folklore. Fardt, having watched the Scouts pilot the ship, says “I think I can do that! I’m going to become a pilot!”, and begins studying ship piloting. Iron Balls McGinty just watches movies.

They arrive in the Mylor system and must decide what to do with the merchant ship and it hibernating crew. They land. They want to sell the Type A Merchant as-is, but fail to find a cash buyer on Mylor. After some discussion, Fardt makes a Streetwise roll – succeeds – and says “ I know a guy.” He leaves, and a couple of hours later come back with another Gluck named Rawlph whom they apprise of the situation. “For 15K I can make this problem go away, he says.” They agree. Rawlph sees about changing the ship’s transponder and registration. When asked what company name it should be registered under, the team tells him “Super Adventure Friends Co.” (SAFCO). They go about making complete quality repairs to both ships.

They still have a number of the Scumbags in cold sleep. They check all for criminal records/rewards. Two have records on Mylor. They wake them and turn them in for the rewards. They wake Ronda the Pilot and just turn her loose, as they do the remaining Scumbags.

Finally, they decide to cut Iron Balls McGinty loose. He’s been a pretty good crew member, but the scout ship Rambler is crowded, and he really doesn’t have any skills they don’t have. Still, he’s was true to his word when he joined the crew. They give him 10,000 credits – enough for high passage to another world. He thanks them, saying “I’ll have ten times that much once I get to the casino!”. They get contact info should they need him again, and they part ways with him.

They consider what to do with the Merchant ship. They don’t want to be flying a fleet around the sector. They are now the “legal” owners of the Merchant ship. However, it might prove useful in the future, at least until they can sell it. They pay to keep it at the Mylor spaceport.

Zal, of course, is anxious to return to Precursor system in the Void. He agrees to pay them the same fee as before, though he admits that will nearly exhaust his research budget for the time. At least until the University on Planet Zapata can see the value of the Precursor artifact and research he’s accomplished.

A week on Mylor. Maintenance is done on the ship. New gear and provisions are purchased, and they set off of the Precursor system. No jump mishaps. A week in jump. On the way, Lucky installs new heavier plating on the robot, making it a bit more resistant to damage.

They arrive in the system and locate the smaller, rocky inner planet. First they go to the gas giant to refuel, Roger skillfully avoiding the dangerous radiation bursts. Arriving at the smaller rocky world, they find it to be size 3, with a thin toxic atmosphere. No water – no large liquid bodies at all. From orbit the planet appears to be blasted. The surface is covered by massive craters. They scan the surface, but detect no abnormal radiation. Spending some time in orbit, taking turns searching for signs of Precursor civilization, Roger detects an obviously artificial radio signal. They trace it to its approximate point of origin. Having taken the “covered” air raft from the Merchant vessel, they leave the Rambler in orbit and take the air raft to the surface. As they descend, more surface features come into view. They see some volcanic activity. The surface is covered by some alien flora – clearly based on a completely different biology. Still no radiation.

Following the radio signal to its source, they see the ruins of an installation far below on the edge of one of the massive craters, next to a dry river bed which runs along the side of a cliff.

The examine the area from the air. The alien forest surrounding the small ruins is thick. They can see that something large — some things — seem to be moving in there. They find a landing spot in the compound far away from the movement. They decide that Roger and Fardt will stay in the air raft, keep it floating above the compound, watching for trouble, while the others investigate.

Donning protective suits and respirators, the landing party investigates the ruins. They notice what is apparently a collapsed bridge, leading across the dry river bed. On the other side appears to be the entrance to a natural cavern. Reporting to Roger, he brings the air raft down to get closer, confirming the opening and seeing that it’s big enough for a human to go through.

The robot reports something is approaching from the other side of the compound – audio sensors indicate something big. The team turns to investigate, to see 3 giant insect-like creatures approaching. The things are about twice the size of the air raft, 8 legs, and seem aggressive. Roger quickly brings in the air raft, they landing party gets on board, and he takes it up high in a nick of time. The beast stand below trying in vain to reach the air raft, opening their jaws and extending powerful 20’ “strikers”. The teams determines from their behavior that they are probably not sentient, and they are impeding the team’s mission. Opening a hatch, Lucky uses an auto rifle to test the creatures toughness. They are easy to hit, but 8 shots simply deflect from the monsters armor before one strikes a relatively soft spot. The monster barely notices. This will be a problem, as they have no more powerful weapons.

About this time, one of the monsters, then the others, seem to back down and begin retreating. From across the dry river bed, a new group of creatures has advanced. Insectoid — resembling a cross between a man-sized grasshopper and preying mantis, these creatures each old a circular device between manipulative limbs. While the team can’t see what is affecting the monsters, it is clear that the new creatures are using a technological weapon. They drive the beasts back into the forrest.

The team lands the air raft and meets the creatures. Zal attempts to communicate. The creatures seem friendly. They motion for the team to follow them, leading them into the cave entrance at the foot of the cliff.

The interior is of a regular shape. Clearly not natural, and opens into a large, square chamber. It is lit. There are openings all over the walls, which are 40’ high, in which the team can see many more of the insectoids.

There are two features in the room. First is a stone column extending to the ceiling, with a glass window displaying a technological system. In front of that is a small black stone pedestal. The leader of the insectoids again attempts to communicate, as more of the creatures some out front the walls. The team finds itself in the midst of an entire tribe. They can see that floating in the middle of the chamber in the column is some kind of slightly glowing metal ball.

The insectoid leader turns to the pedestal, bows, and on top of the surface a device is quickly materialized. The leader picks it up, clicks out some of it’s language, and the devices translates. “We are the Protectors. Are you the ancients?”

Zal responds. “No, we are not, we are simply seekers of knowledge. What do you protect?”

“We protect the Heart of the Gods”, replies the being, gesturing toward the floating ball in the column. “For Millenia we have served this function, awaiting the return of our creators.”

“May we look upon the Heart of the Gods?” asks the team?

“Yes, of course.”

The team sees, on display through the glass, a glowing metal ball floating in what is obviously a magnetic levitation/containment system”.

Zal looks astonished. “Boys, we have just discovered something of incredible danger. From my research of the last few weeks using the precursor data module, as well as folk tales, I had thought this might be possible. I believe this is a confined singularity power generator. Should this technology become known, it would change the balance of power in the entire Empire. Our civilization is not prepared to handle this power. We can’t allow this power to be taken — it will be misused.”

“I agree”, say Barney and Lucky. Roger nods.

The black pedestal becomes active again, as thousands of tiny black cubes form the 3-D image of an insectoid head and face, vaguely similar to the Protectors.

It speaks, the voice emanating from the spherical translation device.

“Greetings. I was one of the Ancients, and I’ve brought you here…to kill me.”

Total elapsed game time: 4.7 weeks.

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