SAFCO begins where they left off, on the Precursor world in the Great Nebula of the Void. Having defeated the alien android possessed by the being inhabiting the Universal Translator, the team decides what to do.
Professor Zal Twist is stabilized in the ship’s autodoc. The Baroness insists that before leaving they attempt to at least take a sample of the withered Precursor bodies in the pods. Barney examines the alien technology, consults with Lucky, and makes a very difficult roll, successfully figuring out how to power-down a pod. He examines the power cable, and after very careful description of what he is doing, confirms there is no power in the cable. He cuts it.
Meanwhile, Flint has brought a lift from the cargo hold of the ship. They manage to lift one of the pods and take it to the ship. Flint brings the body of the alien android. Lucky discovers that while the brain and the Universal Translator are destroyed, the body does still have some charge left it its battery. They remove the destroyed UT and secure it.
Their business here complete, they take off. Once back in space they jump to one of the systems they had previously scanned containing a gas giant. In an effort to cut some time off their return trip to Mylor they do some additional scanning but discover no systems with refueling points. They proceed back to system 2, home of the planet-wide sentient psionic fungal network. They avoid the planet and refuel at a gas giant. They then jump back to Zal’s System, refuel, and return to Mylor. Five weeks travel time.
The Baroness talks to authorities once in orbit smoothing things over for SAFCO, who were wanted for her abduction in the subsector. She explains she stowed away. All is well.
The team decides, after getting the fairly recovered Zal Twist to the hospital, to go inform the Scouts of the very serious threats to the Imperium lurking just a few parsecs away in the Void. In particular, the Fungal Network. Administrator Billy Zoom is glad to get the information. The Scouts have been preparing to survey that area, and this will keep them out of danger. The fungal planet will be interdicted immediately until the Imperial Quarantine Bureau decides how to handle that threat. Zoom tells that that a freighter full of religious cultist had recently left Mylor in the direction of the Nebula. Should they go to that world it would be an immediate danger, so their ship will be found and stopped. Or destroyed if necessary.
Zoom tells Roger that, sadly, the base recently lost a Scout crew and ship, so the ship that Roger mustered out with — the Rambler — has been pressed back into service. To compensate Roger, Zoom offers the team five IISS grav bikes that are about to be decommissioned as newer models have arrived. Rogers takes the deal.
Roger asks Zoom what else has happened during the months they’ve been gone. Zoom tells him that the local underworld on Zapata is rumored to be in somewhat a state of chaos. Turf wars are breaking out, confusion in leadership…
The team has earned the 100K credits from Zal and the University of Zapata for their help in the expedition. The Baroness arranges for the Precursor pod and the android body to be taken to the University of Zapata. One of the greatest archaeological finds in centuries — funded by her family. Her status should increase in the circles of nobility. Zal will go down in history.
The team heads toward the Happy Gluck to relax and celebrate survival of yet another expedition into the unknown of the Void.