Nejeor – Gate 1
Dozens of Corpse Fleet warships had invaded Nejeor space, and they were accompanied by a ﬂagship that had to be at least six miles long, larger than any starship the crew had ever seen! They were heavily outgunned, however, the nearby computers also indicated the activation of a number of automated defenses placed all around the Nejeor system. These seemed to be keeping the Corpse Fleet at bay for the time being, and the undead might even be distracted enough by the barrage that the Starfinders were not completely doomed.
While it would have been possible to stealthily evade the fray long enough to enter the Drift and escape, that would leave the Stellar Degenerator in the hands of the Corpse Fleet. The Starfinders knew that the undead would have no compunctions against using the superweapon on the Pact Worlds’ sun and other systems beyond. The crew had not forgotten their promise to the artificial intelligence Osteth to destroy the Stellar Degenerator.
While studying the displays, they recognized an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. By infiltrating and seizing control of the Corpse Fleet ﬂagship, they could steer it into the portal to collide with the Stellar Degenerator and destroy both.
An alarm interrupted deliberations and the security monitors showed a group of eight corpsefolk marines taking position in the entryway of the control center building. The crew exchanged weary glances, then made their way to the hall to engage the Corpse Fleet invaders. The undead opened fire as soon as Galakrond opened the door, but the vesk’s pilfered new armor protected him from the worst of it and he soldiered forward. A flash grenade stole blinded Galakrond, rendering him mostly harmless for crucial moments.
Kima advanced to support the vesk and engaged with the nearest marines, while Kusanagi struck from the safety of the hall and Glitch peppered the undead with destructive magic. The solarian found himself surrounded, and leaned into being the focal point, summoning a black hole to pull all of the Corpse Fleet soldiers next to him. This allowed Glitch to evoke a devastating wall of fire that burned every single one of the undead, and weakened them enough that the rest was mere cleanup.
While the Starfinders recovered from the encounter and took any useful items from the bodies of the fallen soldiers, it occurred to them that the undead must have arrived on the controller moon with a ship. Once they’d rested, they set out to search the jungle for the vessel, finding it about half an hour later. It was a Blackwind Sepulcher model, far less impressive than their own ship, but it did give them an idea.
They boarded the Corpse Fleet vessel and found a single cybernetic zombie wired into the controls. The animate did not so much as react to the Starfinders’ intrusion. Letting it be, Glitch hacked the console to unlock pilot controls and Kusanagi flew the ship over to where the Sunrise Maiden was docked. Then the crew set to work, swiftly removing pieces of the undead starship and hastily bolting them to the outside of their own. They also slopped on black and red paint on the exterior, and turned off life support, relying on their armor’s environmental protections. Their camouflage completed, they lifted off from the controller moon.
The surrounding space was constantly illuminated by ﬂaring beams of energy that lashed out from the system’s controller moons, and gouts of incandescent ﬂame pulled from the suns by gravitational pulses. The ancient weapons were wildly inaccurate and fired haphazardly, often fading out before reaching their targets or detonating in apparently empty space, but even so, the Corpse Fleet armada was beginning to show signs of extensive damage. The largest of the Corpse Fleet vessels was enormous—bigger than many space stations. It was surrounded by explosions and debris, both from its own hull and from the escort ships that had been destroyed protecting it, forming a cloud that blocked most efforts to get a clear image of its exact shape. However, blasts from the massive ship’s powerful weapons clearly marked it as the most effective member of the armada.
The crew risked a quick scan to see what they could learn before attempting to approach the massive Corpse Fleet ship. This massive vessel was called the Empire of Bones, and it was bigger than even a colossal starship. It was practically bristling with capital weapons, and like most Corpse Fleet starships, it didn’t contain any atmosphere.
The many explosions of the ongoing battle were partially clouding the Empire of Bones’ sensors, and many of its weapons were trained on the ancient kishalee defenses. It might be possible to slip in closer to the vessel and board it without those on board noticing. The Starfinders figured that they could land the Sunrise Maiden on the Empire of Bones’ hull and it would remain undetected for an extended period of time. Hopefully, long enough for them to seize control and aim it at the Stellar Degenerator.
The only other ships currently in the Starfinders’ path were four Crypt Wardens spaced roughly evenly between the them and the Empire of Bones. The crew exchanged glances, then began the approach.
As they drew near the first Crypt Warden, they received a challenge communication from it. They had anticipated this complication, and enacted their plan to get through. Galakrond was at the helm, piloting the ship, and he tried to emulate the flight pattern of the armada’s ships. Kima was on weapons, and he fired at the kishaleen defenses, making it appear as though they were trying to protect the nearby Corpse Fleet vessels. Glitch was in engineering as usual, and he created a fake malfunction in the communication system. After all these precautions, Kusanagi transmitted a garbled response that the crew hoped would pass as a legitimate Corpse Fleet identification.
The first Crypt Warden continued on its way, and so the crew continued forward. Twice more they met with success, and flew on past the Corpse Fleet ships. The final undead vessel was particularly suspicious, and initiated a scan of the Starfinders’ starship. Glitch quickly set to work dampening the crew’s vital signs, to prevent the scan from picking up any signs of life one what they were pretending was a vessel piloted by the undead. The ruse succeeded, and they sighed with relief as the final Crypt Warden flew away.
Empire of Bones – Hangar Country
They mag-locked the sunrise maiden near an open hangar bay and spacewalked to a nearby airlock and entered the Empire of Bones. Kusanagi offered to scout and activated his cloaking field before advancing into the hangar bay.
During his swift recon, he noted that dull red lights illuminated the massive chamber. A heavy crane arm dangled from tracks on the ceiling, and empty racks for small fighter ships lined the fore and aft walls. A nearly invisible force field covered the gaping hole in the starboard end of the room, while two large doors exited to the port. In addition, there was a large window to the port looking into an enclosed room. He paused briefly to get a look inside the room past the window.
The long, narrow chamber was crowded with controls, monitors, and readouts that covered the walls and even the ceiling. Colored lights blinked and ﬂashed adjacent to numerous switches and keypads. Doors exited to the fore and aft, and two cybernetic zombies were physically wired into the control panels. He assumed the controls inside operated the crane and other hangar mechanisms, then continued his circuit.
The ﬂoor held a dozen iris hatches, each fifteen feet in diameter. Most of the hatches were closed, but one toward the fore end of the bay was open. This hatch contained a threnody-class assault aircraft, and a corpsefolk marine appeared to be performing some sort of maintenance inside the closed cockpit. The android returned to the airlock to report his findings.
The crew thought to circle around the backside of the aircraft, hoping the undead would have a harder time seeing them, but they failed to cross to that point before they were spotted. The engines whirred and the assault fighter engaged the Starfinders. Galakrond and Kima advanced on the ship to try disabling it to get to the undead pilot.
Meanwhile, Kusanagi and Glitch sprinted across to the aft door of the control room, finding it locked. Once they bypassed this, they entered the room and began hacking the controls. The pair were blasted by a death ray that filled the entire room, and they swiftly exited, rejoining the fight against the pilot after the Threnody was brought down.
They determined that the trap had not reset, but they worked quickly all the same collecting as much information as they could from the system’s computers. The consoles were designed to track the fighters stored in the hangar bay, and they didn’t have access to local security or provide maps of the interior of the Empire of Bones. They noted that a message had been logged regarding their intrusion into the hangar bay, but as of yet, there was no ship-wide alert to your presence. They also found and downloaded a local map of hangar country to their own datapads, but much of the map showed no information beyond describing particular areas as “secure sites.”
The section security post was most likely to be one of the secure sites listed on the map. The other secure sites were likely areas with valuable or fragile equipment or personnel but weren’t directly necessary for the zombies to perform their fighter-monitoring duties. Not having a full map of the Empire of Bones on minor computer systems was a security precaution. This arrangement was fairly common in strict military groups and paranoid mercenary organizations. Since the rank-and-file crew members don’t need the full details of every section of the ship, such information was available only on a need-to-know basis. Any senior officer or security officer at a security post was likely to have access to more complete ship records.
In summary, if the crew was going to take control of the Empire of Bones, they knew that they had to find information about the layout of the ship and how to get to its bridge. Secure sites seemed like a great starting point to gain more intel about the vessel’s security and plotting a path forward.
They made their way down the portside hall until they came to the nearest door of one of the “secure sites.” Kusanagi bypassed the control panel to unlock the door and Galakrond stepped inside. A metal podium with numerous controls on it stood in the center of the room. Padded, vertical beds with numerous straps and restraints filled the space, most with numerous stains and small tears in their padding. Each bed sat beneath a bright spotlight from the ceiling, which illuminated the room brightly. Four large vents were visible in the ceiling, and an undead drow stood in the middle, gazing calmly at the intruders.
“Well, come on, then,” he said without intonation. The vesk was only too happy to oblige, and a moment later the door closed and locked once more, leaving Galakrond separated from his companions.
But only for a moment, as Kusanagi once more overrode the lock on the door and it reopened.
“Shit,” muttered the nihili. Moments later, the undead was no more.
When they searched the room, they found something within a compartment within the central podium. It was the same size and appearance as a humanoid finger bone. This small key had a micro plug that can be inserted into any of the computers onboard the Empire of Bones, datajack augmentations, or handheld computers such as datapads. When plugged in, a key attempted a handshake protocol with the device, looking for the receiving program that trial and error determined existed only in the Empire of Bones’ security terminals. When it connected, the key transmitted encoded information to that receiving program, helping the user gain access to sensitive information on the terminal.
Glitch theorized that with more of these security keys, their chances of overcoming the system’s defenses would only increase. He urged the others into seeking them out, starting in the other “secure sites” of hangar country. Moments later, the crew heard something advancing from the hall, shortly before a foursome of security robots appeared outside the chamber door. The robots were no match for the Starfinders, but they did suggest that they couldn’t simply sit around in one place for too long.
They continued to the next “secure site,” a short distance down the hall. The room had only a single door in the aft wall. A small dais in the center of the room was raised up a few feet, and pillars lined the walls. Each pillar supported a display, all of which showed collections of video streams of hallways, hangar bays, rooms, and other locations within this section of the Empire of Bones. They had found the security post, and leaning casually against the fore wall opposite the door, they saw the security officer.
“So. You imagine you can take the ship, is that it?” she rasped.
“Something like that,” said Galakrond. “Who are you?”
“Malakar. Remember it. You will all make excellent subordinates. After you’re dead, of course.”
She raised a gun, but Kusanagi was faster, dashing into the room as a pair of grenades hidden by the door went off. The crew was staggered by the unexpected explosions, but they recovered swiftly and pressed the fight. Galakrond struck next, and Malakar backpedaled, shooting him with a lightning blast.
“I noticed you’re not particularly well-protected against electricity,” she said, tapping a nearby screen that showed the vesk getting fried by a robot.
Kima moved toward a flank and brought his solarian blade to bear. Malakar nodded in respect and said, “You might make a good lieutenant once I’m in charge.”
“Really? A lieutenant?” said the lashunta.
“Sure,” she said. “If you talk a little less.”
“You really don’t know me, then,” said the solarian with a grin.
Glitch thought to end the fight with another wall of fire, drawn into a circle so tight that it seemed to be a column of flame centered on Malakar. Unfortunately, her spell resistance caused the heat to wash over her harmlessly. The ysoki cursed, but he needn’t have worried. The undead security officer, for all her grand proclamations, did not last the span of two more heartbeats.
They found another emergency security key on Malakar’s corpse, but even with the two keys and the former security officer’s biometric hand scan, Glitch insisted they were going to need all the help they could get bypassing ship’s security. He advised the crew to seek out any remaining security keys in the immediate area before he attempted hacking the security console. The others agreed.