Empire of Bones – Cyber Control
Captain Ghurd Nashal had been monitoring the command section station since he realized that intruders had gained access to his ship. He could not figure out how they were hiding themselves, but Nashal could clearly see the violence inﬂicted on his pet ellicoths. His attention was pulled away for several hours to attend to the destruction of the Nejeor system’s defenses and repairing the damage to the Empire of Bones. When that was finally complete, Nashal attempted to communicate with the intruders.
The Corpse Fleet captain was genuinely interested in talking to the warriors bold enough to attack his miles-long starship from within, and he hoped to get them to reveal their ultimate goal. We wasn’t sure if he would be successful, so he also had his science officer, Lieutenant Renzar, prepare to track the intruders if they answer his communication. He sent a request to parley across all the displays in the command section grav-train station that explained how to adjust comm units to be able to speak with the captain. He was pleased when he finally received a response.
The captain began by asking their names, honestly noting that he would rather know more about such interesting opponents before having them destroyed. One of the intruders introduced himself as Kima, but the others remained silent. No matter, thought the captain. At least they were talking. He nodded to the ghoul Renzar to start the trace.
Nashal mentioned that he would have been willing to allow them to escape with their lives if they simply ﬂed, but they had angered him by killing his favored pets, as grotesque as they were. This was not true, of course, but Nashal wanted to see how they would react to the claim. Kima was nonchalant about destroying the beasts, which confirmed for Nashal that these would make excellent undead subordinates.
The captain asked why they had come, and to his surprise and delight, Kima answered the question. The intruders planned to take the ship and crash it into the Stellar Degenerator to deprive the Corpse Fleet of their prize. An audacious plan, and one that might even work – assuming they could take the bridge and figure out how to actually fly the Empire of Bones.
Renzar nodded to Nashal, and the captain congratulated the intruders on their moxie. He encouraged them to survive what came next before terminating the transmission with a grin. Oh, this was going to be a glorious day, indeed.
Empire of Bones – Command Section Grav-Train Station
The Crew finished off the last of the four baykoks that Nashal had sent after tracing the call. The undead had managed to wear down the freshly rested Starfinders enough that they needed a few minutes to regroup. They activated the TombRobber virus and entered the corridors that led to the bridge, finding a convenient storage room to wait out the next inevitable patrol. Half an hour later, they reached the double door to the antechamber of the Empire of Bones bridge. Glitch overrode the lock, then stepped back to allow Galakrond to lead the way.
The large room had an additional set of double doors centered in the fore wall opposite the crew’s entrance. Two large computer consoles ﬂanked the fore door. Ten-foot-wide raised platforms with metal railings ran along the port and starboard walls, each with an exit out of the room. Four large display cases made of a clear material stood evenly spaced in the center of the room. Each case contained a different item under a harsh white spotlight: a red-and-gold spear, a humanoid skull and spine, a desiccated severed hand with a gem embedded in the palm, and a spacesuit helmet with swirling red mist within it and blood spattered on the inside of the visor.
Of more immediate concern were the three formerly human undead guarding the apparent trophy room. They carried no weapons, and did not appear to be wearing any armor, but they moved unnaturally quickly, their bodies contorting as they sized up the Starfinders. “Kurobozus,” muttered Glitch. “Undead monks, kind of like solarians,” he added. “Kind of.”
The kurobozus were swift, but their reliance on physical attacks made them all but helpless against the doughty front line of the crew. Kusanagi and Kima had their bells rung, and the blows to the head rendered them unable to communicate for minutes after they undead lay motionless on the floor.
While the afflicted Starfinders recovered from the effects of the monk’s head shots, Glitch examined the items on display, identifying each in turn. He took for himself the Warlord Stone set in the palm of its original owner. This stone held the collected memories, philosophies, and tactics of an ancient alien warlord. He didn’t have the hour it would take to commune with the item, but in the long term, it would prove quite valuable.
Kusanagi took possession of the Eyes of Rhean, a pair of pale sapphire gems from the head of an inevitable. Once Glitch explained their function, the android placed the gems over his own eyes. The Eyes burrowed into Kusanagi’s skull and replaced his own eyes. This gave him improved darkvision and would allow him to use one of the eyes as a spy drone. Galakrond picked up the Spear of Fates, a golden spear with a ruby blade that functioned as both a doshko-like melee weapon and a powerful plasma caster.
Finally, the two-foot-long metallic centipede covered in runes interlaced with the skull and spine of one of Admiral Serovox’s defeated foes. This Runeworm was claimed by Kima, who placed it near his ear. The item animated and entered his body, intertwining with his internal anatomy and releasing an arcane virus that rewrote and improved the lashunta’s DNA. He shuddered as it finished its work, but smiled as he felt the effects of the symbiote.
The fore door led to the bridge, but it was dead-locked. The crew thought they might be able to hack it, but it seemed prudent to clear the port and starboard rooms of enemies, lest they find themselves flanked and outnumbered by superior foes. They approached the portside door and Galakrond opened it up.
Three rows of computer displays took up the center of the room, with additional control panels lining the fore wall. Monitors lined the port, starboard, and aft walls, showing various decks and grav-train corridors of the ship’s interior and the Gate of Twelve Suns, as well as the position, direction, and possible firing arcs of dozens of armada ships in the system. Heavy doors were set into the fore wall – another entrance to the bridge.
Another pair of korobozus flanked the door the crew had opened. A ghoul had taken cover behind the central row of computer displays. Finally, the skeletal remains of a vesk casually turned from his position near the aft wall – Captain Ghurd Nashal. The captain’s torso was occupied by what appeared to be a large purple worm with three grasping pincers on the end swaying out of the skull’s mouth. It retracted long enough for Nashal to say, “Ah, you made it. Welcome!” Then he turned toward the ghoul and said, “Lieutenant Renzar, greet our guests, won’t you?”
The ghoul opened fire with a line of plasma that burned Galakrond. The vesk soldier also took fire from the captain while he fought one of the kurobozus. The other undead monk entered the trophy room to keep the other Starfinders out. It was a tense thirty seconds or so while Glitch chased the ghoul around with corrosive haze and Kusanagi struggled to even hit the kurobozu. Then the tide turned as Kima weakened it enough that a pair of shots from Glitch’s recently acquired pistol to put it down.
About that time, Galakrond finished off his monk foe and advanced on the captain. Kusanagi entered the cyber control room to engage the ghoul, who tried to override his technological side, but failed. Kima moved to assist Galakrond, and the worm inhabiting Nashal managed to strike the solarian. He resisted the paralytic substance oozing from the wound, and the Starfinders managed to make an end of the Corpse Fleet officers in short order. Nashal’s final words were, “You would have made a fine addition to this crew.”
The doors to the bridge were deadlocked from this room, as well, but Kusanagi found a bridge keycard on the captain’s body. The crew readied themselves, then opened the doors to confront the Corpse Fleet admiral.
Empire of Bones – Bridge
A dais in the center of this large room supported an imposing throne-like chair with a computer console just in reach. Five-foot-deep recesses were located to the port and starboard of the dais, and walls of holoprojectors that stretched down from the ceiling surrounded each. The projectors filled the pits with three-dimensional holograms of the local space, including the Gate of Twelve Suns, the ships of the Corpse Fleet armada, and the Stellar Degenerator – a massive cone-shaped megastructure sitting in a section of nonstandard space beyond the Gate.
Three ﬂoor-to-ceiling windows showed the stretch of space in front the Empire of Bones. Rows of chains sat in front of bank of controls adjacent to the windows and most of the port and starboard walls. Curved walls cut off the port and starboard corners of the fore walls; each had a door set in it – emergency evacuation shafts. A pair of kurobozus guarded the emergency exits, a hulking vesk-like giant with a large hammer stood near the dais.
Atop the throne sat the elebrian necrovite in charge of the armada – Admiral Serovox. They grinned as they glanced over their shoulder at the Starfinders. “I swear, this has been the most interesting endeavor in a long time. How in all the worlds did you manage to make it this far?”
“Had a little help from a disgruntled security officer,” said Kima.
“What, Malakar? I know … knew all about her plot. Honestly, I was looking forward to the struggle between her and Captain Nashal. A senior officer does need to encourage ambition in subordinates, after all. She was making real progress, too. Ironically, I was going to offer her command of her own ship at the completion of this mission. But I suppose you put an end to all that. What help could she give post-mortem?”
“Couple of handy viruses,” said Twitch. “Made us invisible to your automated security and let us create fake security alerts.”
Serovox chuckled, genuinely impressed. “That is resourceful. Well done. I didn’t believe Nashal when he said you’d make for good recruits, but it appears he may have been correct after all.”
“Do you always talk so much?” said Galakrond.
The necrovite nodded, unabashed. “In the end, the brief abnormality of your lives will end, and I’ll see to it that such fine specimens as yourselves are converted into potent agents of the Corpse Fleet. Under my command, of course. I find it useful to have a quick word with the ﬂeeting ﬂicker of life a body hasn’t released yet in order to determine what form of undeath will best suit it in the eons that follow its last breath.”
“We can’t let you have the Stellar Degenerator,” said Kima.
“Why ever not?” asked the Corpse Fleet admiral. “Life is the source of all foibles, all weaknesses, and ultimately all conﬂict. Only the whispered perfection of undeath can be allowed to exist … obviously.”
“We disagree, and we will defeat you,” said the solarian.
Serovox shrugged. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose here. Even if you manage to defeat us, the Corpse Fleet has more ships. More armadas. And all the time in the universe. As long as the Stellar Degenerator exists, the Corpse Fleet will seek to control it. Sooner or later, we will succeed. And then, everything dies once and for all.” They leaned back comfortably in their seat. “I suppose you’ve come to stop me, then. Somehow.”
“That’s the idea,” said Galakrond, Spear of Fates gripped tightly and eyes straying to the giant bodyguard.
Serovox glanced at the weapon and tutted. “I see you’ve taken some of my collection for yourselves. Cheeky, but it hardly matters.”
“Enough!” roared the vesk Starfinder, lurching forward to engage the brute. For its part, the gatecrasher was happy to oblige, knocking Galakrond to the floor with his massive hammer. Kima moved to assist, while Kusanagi engaged the nearer of the two kurobozus, and Glitch started casting spells.
With a knowing smile, Serovox cast a spell of their own, disappearing from view. The technomancer nodded with respect, having recently added a similar spell to his repertoire. He produced the spell ampoule of see invisibility taken from one of the kurobozus in the trophy room and activated the magic within. The admiral had not moved from the throne.
Kusanagi played cat and mouse with his foe until Serovox cast a wall of force to trap the two together. Movement hampered, the android was forced to adapt. Kima and Galakrond finished off the larger undead about the time that the other kurobozu crossed the bridge to attack the solarian. It did not long survive the pair.
Once Serovox realized that Glitch could still see them, they flew to the far after corner of the bridge, putting the throne dais between them. The technomancer grinned, getting the admiral back in line of sight and casting a wall of fire in a snaking pattern that went through the necrovite. Serovox burned brightly and was no longer grinning as they were forced to fly through several layers of the flaming wall to escape the heat. It was then that Glitch noticed the admiral was regenerating!
“Can we smash through that magic wall?” Galakrond asked Glitch. At the ysoki’s nod, the vesk set to work with the Spear of Fates, making incremental progress. Kima joined him in the effort while Serovox chased Glitch around, scorching him with explosive blasts that seemed to be never-ending. After several seconds of progress, the Corpse Fleet admiral took a break from blowing up Glitch to cast another wall of force, double-layering it around the outside of Kusanagi’s cage. The operative yelled out Serovox’s position, since the necrovite had moved within his blindsense.
Glitch remembered a spell gem of see invisibility that the crew had recovered from the storage bay of the Sunrise Maiden. He used it to allow Kima to find and target Serovox as well. The solarian flew off the floor to strike and found the well-armored admiral a much tougher target than he’d originally supposed. After he did successfully strike Serovox, the necrovite decided that he was a significant threat and dispelled his enhanced sight.
After that, Galakrond started tracking Serovox’s movement to the best of his ability and called out locations for Kima to strike. Glitch got in on the game, since he could see the necrovite precisely, and the fight turned from a rout to a victory shortly thereafter. The Starfinders hit the deck exhausted after almost two full minutes of exertion. But they knew they couldn’t rest much longer.
Glitch found a command key on the throne and in short order had granted the Starfinders authorization to crew the Empire of Bones. Once they had prepared, they pointed the ultranaught at the interdimensional portal and prepared to smash it into the Stellar Degenerator. A pair of Omenbringers designated Dusk Blade and Orphanmaker were in the space between them and their target, and these two ships moved to intercept when they realized that their leadership was no longer helming the Empire of Bones.
Even in the hands of mortal amateurs unused to its controls and specific workings, the Corpse Fleet vessels were no match for their own capital ship, and soon enough it was time for the Starfinders to rush toward the Sunrise Maiden and try to make good their own escape. It was a near thing.
When the Empire of Bones collides with the much larger Stellar Degenerator, for a split second, it appeared that nothing would happen. Then the ultranaught deformed in shape, with rays of black and red energy shooting out of it. The Stellar Degenerator cracked at the point of impact, and then exploded in a prismatic fireball of incandescent plasma. The shock wave of the explosion warped the space around the portal, and then the demiplane tore itself apart, destroying its contents. Those Corpse Fleet ships close to the portal were ripped to pieces as ripples in reality emanated from the catastrophe. Those ships from the armada that survived ﬂed into the Drift over the next few minutes. The stars that had formed the Gate of Twelve Suns started to fall out of sync with one another as the Sunrise Maiden entered the Drift.
Days later, the crew returned to the Prime Material plane in Pact Space and returned to the Lorespire Complex to debrief with Starfinder leadership. Chiskisk, their original contact, was particularly interested in hearing the tales of their exploits, and recommended that they write up accounts of their adventures or take their story to the vid-lecture circuit. For their efforts, they were each awarded the rank of Venture-Captain, and each began to take a more active role in guiding the Starfinder Society into the future.