Empire of Bones – Hangar Country
Across the hall, the crew bypassed the security lock to access another “secure site.” The room was dark, and only a few lit buttons and displays pierced the blackness, illuminating no more than the rough shape of the area. Panels of computer screens, bundled data cables, and digital readout displays lined the walls, with more than a dozen chairs arrayed in front of them. The constant chatter of beeps and clicks accompanied the data streaming across every readout.
In each of the chairs sat a cybernetic zombie, wired into the control panels in a similar way as those in the flight control room. Unlike those undead, these zombies were active – constantly tapping on their displays. They did not react to the intrusion, and so the Starfinders examined the displays and tried to figure out a way to hack the data stream. The connection was obviously some manner of techno-magical link, but after several minutes, even Glitch gave up trying to figure out how it worked. A search of the room turned up nothing more of note, and so they left the room.
The next “secure site” turned out to be a brig. It was more brightly than most of the ship, with crisp white light ﬂooding down from the entire ceiling. A series of four barred cells ran the length of the aft wall, each with a barred door and a keypad lock. A metal cabinet hung on the fore wall, behind a small metal desk with a computer terminal and a metal chair built into it.
As the crew spread out to search the room, they came under attack as four marooned ones – formerly dwarves by the look of them – emerged from hidden floor panels. The undead were swiftly dispatched with minimal injuries, and the Starfinders resumed their search. They found another emergency key in the pocket of one of the marooned ones, as well as some gear and valuables in the cabinet. Kima claimed a standard photon crystal that had been placed in a bag with a bunch of plasma sapphires. He grinned at the upgrade.
The crew briefly debated searching the remaining chambers near the hangar bay before Galakrond took it upon himself to decide for the group by opening the nearest door. The ﬂoor of the room beyond was covered in gravel, which stretched from wall to wall and was heaped in small hills and shallow hollows. The walls were scored and covered in small dents, and large sections are slightly discolored in what appeared to be spray patterns, but they seem structurally sound. The area was thick with dust, and to the left of the entrance was a metal cabinet with a large handle. The vesk stepped inside to inspect the cabinet, and a pair of large scaled, worm-like creatures immediately exploded from the gravel!
“Surnochs!” warned Glitch. “Killer jaws, and they also spit acid!” No sooner had he uttered his warning than one of the creatures did just that, spattering the ysoki with caustic spittle. Kusanagi entered the room and crawled up into the corner of the ceiling on the port side, hoping to stay out of the surnochs’ reach. Working together, the crew brought the creatures down with only superficial injuries to show for it.
Galakrond found a paragon semiauto pistol with merciful and venomous fusions in the cabinet. Glitch inspected the collars on the surnochs, which seemed to have been modified to serve as environmental protection. It must be how the Eoxians kept their pets alive in a ship with no atmosphere. He was pretty sure that he could modify the collars into force fields given enough time to tinker. Kima bagged the collars and the crew made their way to the last of the nearby rooms.
The ceiling, walls, and ﬂoor of the chamber were covered in heavy armored plates that showed scratches and signs of scoring. Many of the plates seemed newer and appeared to have been bolted directly over damaged plates without removing the old coverings. Twisted, wrecked pieces of junk were piled up in the corners and where the walls met the ﬂoor. Several pipes ran through the room near the ceiling, with numerous valves along their lengths. The doors had barely opened before some of the junk shifted and a pair of scavenger slimes riddled with weapons reared up to attack!
The LFD screamers that had fused into the oozes’ forms did the most harm, blasting most of the crew with painful sonic blasts. Despite that, the Starfinders persevered and destroyed the slimes. Unfortunately, the weapons they’d absorbed were the only items of value in the room, and the crew was already better-armed.
The Starfinders returned to the security post, attached the three emergency keys and placed the former Commander Malakar’s hand on the biometric scanner. Even so, it took Glitch a few tries to hack into the system. Once he did, he pulled up all of the information he could find about the Eoxian battle cruiser. The Empire of Bones was a unique ultranought, a massive warship larger than battleships, carriers, and even dreadnoughts. It was one of the ﬂagships of the Corpse Fleet and led its own armada of vessels. The ysoki pulled up the specifications for the ships arms and armaments, and Kusanagi whistled appreciatively.
Though crews throughout the ship were required for the vessel to function, all orders came from the command and control decks, which they were able to find on a map the technomancer pulled up. It was clear that though it might be possible to remotely hack some stations to control a single thruster or one sensor array, operating the entire ship required taking control of the bridge and cybercontrol in the command section.
Additional information from the security terminal indicated that the command link from cybercontrol governed both the sensors and the engineering crews. A different, related system on the bridge governed the gunnery and navigational crews. Controlling both the command link and the bridge systems allowed an individual to captain the ship.
Once they knew where they had to go, they searched for a way to get there. On a ship the size of the Empire of Bones, there were hundreds of ways to get from one section of the ship to another. However, the fastest and safest route from the primary launch and recovery decks – where they were – to the command and control decks was travel via grav-train. There were grav-train stations near both hangar country and the command section.
Before they set out, they decided to try to get more information on the beings in command of the ship. Admiral Serovox – a nonbinary necrovite – commanded the entire armada for which the Empire of Bones was the ﬂagship, and while they had the power to issue commands to any crew on board, they apparently rarely got involved in the ship’s day-to-day operations. According to the reports they found, this duty fell to Captain Ghurd Nashal – captain of the ship and Commander Malakar’s direct superior. In addition, Nashal’s record included a footnote mentioning something called Project Tombstone that appeared to have been added by Malakar and only existed on her security terminal.
Nothing about Project Tombstone could be found in the main security logs, but when they checked Malakar’s personal folders, they found more information. A quick glance through the files revealed that the commander was working toward some kind of mutiny, and there were extensive notes on how a minor threat to the Empire of Bones could potentially be used to eliminate, or at least embarrass, “inappropriate members of the command staff.”
Also in the Project Tombstone files were notes on a pair of computer viruses Command Malakar had introduced to the security computers across the entire Empire of Bones. One virus, named Wraith 2.0, prevented the security cameras and security robots on the ship from seeing or recording any creature that was entered into the virus’s memory. Malakar planned to use this to aid in her escape from the vessel in case her plans went south. Glitch casually added the crew’s images into Wraith 2.0’s memory. If Malakar’s virus worked, it would cause the ship’s security to ignore them.
The other virus was named TombRobber, and it was capable of creating false security alerts anywhere on the ship. Additionally, it could include in these alerts false security footage of anything in Wraith 2.0’s memory. Glitch also took control of TombRobber, which would allow him to activate it from anywhere on the Empire of Bones using his datapad. Each use of TombRobber would require a different emergency security key, giving the crew only three chances to use it to their advantage.
Satisfied that they’d done all they could to prepare, the crew headed deeper into the Empire of Bones to steal a ride.
Empire of Bones – Grav-Train Station
The main transport system to move from one deck to another in the Empire of Bones involved grav-trains, small multiple-car trams that ran throughout the ship on tracks that produced their own gravity. Massive shafts with grav-trains on every wall traversed the central spine of the ship, while smaller routes branched off from the major corridors, sometimes even running along the ceilings of large foot-traffic thoroughfares. Grav-trains could change routes at switching points every few hundred feet on most tracks, and grav-train stations were scattered periodically through the ship. The grav-trains usually operated on autopilot along regular preset routes, but an override would allow security personnel to take command of a grav-train and determine its route and speed when necessary. This was exactly what the Starfinders intended to do.
At the fore end of this massive chamber, two shallow channels ran from port to starboard, disappearing at both ends into open tunnels. Glowing tracks ran along the channels, and a four-car tram sat on the aft set of tracks. A hefty cargo crane could be seen on the fore side of the tracks near the port tunnels, with a pile of crates not far from it.
Low walls demarcated a twenty-five-foot-square area in the middle of the room, and five computerized workstations lined the interior of the aft wall. A large column descended from the ceiling above the square, reaching to within ten feet of the ﬂoor; it’s covered in displays showing arrival and departure times along various routes within the ship.
Three rows of hard benches lined an area to the starboard of the walled-off area. Two large cargo doors, each thirty feet wide and just as tall, occupied the port and starboard walls. A large metal trapdoor sat in the ﬂoor between the walled area and the portside cargo door. An observation post fifty feet from the ﬂoor and accessed by a metal ladder was in the port aft corner of the room. The crew entered the room from the middle of three sets of twenty-foot-wide bulkhead doors that were evenly spaced along the aft wall.
Unfortunately, the station was occupied by undead forces. A pair of skeletal baykoks – one in the observation post and another lounging on the benches – were supported by four bone trooper commandos in the station control area. The undead all watched the doors as the crew entered, and upon seeing that they were living beings made ready to attack.
The bone troopers opened fire on the crew, but failed to hit the well-armored front line. In response, Galakrond advanced and emptied his x-gen gun at the commandos. Glitch cursed, unwilling to risk damaging the station controls with an explosive spell that would catch all of the gathered bone troopers. He settled for magic missiles at the baykok protected by heavy cover atop the watchtower. Kima activated his solarian powers and made ready to support the vesk.
The baykok on the bench flew forward and uttered a dread howl, an otherworldly keening that left the crew shaken. Galakrond engaged his haste circuit and jetpack to engage the flier with his blade, and Kusanagi supported him with sniper fire. Kima surged forward to attack the bone troopers, and Glitch continued plinking the baykok in the tower.
The flying baykok was the first to fall, and the bone troopers scattered shortly thereafter, forcing Kima and Galakrond to give chase. Kusanagi advanced up the wall to eliminate the tower guard’s cover advantage, but that left him open to counterattack. One of the bullets was infused with negative energy and rendered the android paralyzed and hanging from the wall. Glitch rushed forward to the station controls and released the clamps holding the grav-train in place. He glanced up at the rest of the crew, thinking they could hop aboard and flee the scene, but the others were too deep into the heat of battle.
With Kusanagi indisposed, Kima came under fire from the tower, and turned to Galakrond. “You take care of the rest,” he asked, indicating the remaining two bone troopers. The vesk grunted agreement, and the solarian took flight, rushing the tower and bringing his weapon to bear on the sniper. After cleanup and a quick job looting the fallen, the crew boarded the train and set it in motion.
They’d been traveling long enough to regain their composure from the last encounter when a corpsefolk marine and two baykoks in a security tram spotted them. A chase ensued, in which Kusanagi took the helm and piloted the train through a number of different sections of the ship to shake the pursuers. There were miles of transit corridors dedicated to the grav-trains use, with numerous corridors, intersections, junctions, and switchbacks. The undead quickly fell behind and the Starfinders returned to the main corridor that led them to the command section.
Empire of Bones – Command Section Station
As the grav-train came to a halt, the crew was alarmed by a familiar rumbling roar sound. Glancing aft, they saw three massive forms hulking between them and the doors of the command sections of the ship. They recognized the beasts as a threat they had struggled against back on Eox – and then it had only been one! Apparently, ellicoths were a popular guard beast for the undead.
The beasts appeared to be starving, and they rushed forward with saliva splashing to the deck as they advanced. The crew noticed large collars around the ellicoths’ necks, likely an environmental protection gadget similar to what they’d seen on the surnochs below. Glitch was first struck, but escaped major harm in the beast’s desire to absorb his life force. The technomancer resisted the worst of the essence drain and retreated to the far side of the train and lobbed an explosive burst that caught two of the three ellicoths.
Kusanagi sniped at the beasts from inside the train while Kima and Galakrond advanced to engage the massive creatures in melee, suffering brutal gore attacks for their trouble. Glitch rushed to the port side and lined up an arcing surge that killed the most heavily wounded ellicoth and injured the other two. Kima finished off the second a moment later, leaving the third for Kusanagi and Galakrond.
As the final heavy body fell, the crew decided they needed to risk a longer rest to recover from the exertions of the day before they came face-to-face with the Corpse Fleet leaders. Glitch activated the TombRobber to distract the security forces and send them on a goose chase while the Starfinders hid and caught some sleep. They could only hope that the Nejeor system’s defenses would continue to repel the undead armada long enough.