Knowing that their ability to save Quesas Ba Ona and Andrew Tofske, Ph.D. was running out and that the alien device could activate at any time, the players decided to call in the big guns. Shortly after reporting to the C.S.S. Victory of their difficulties the flagship, along with four support ships and the Lighthouse all exited Drivespace in orbit of Delphin.
The players were taken before The Committee on Verge Integration to deliver their report on the alien device. It was decided to let M.I.N.A. attempt to interface with the device while the players descended to Delphin to recover Ona and Tofske.
After descending to Delphin’s torrid surface the players made their way into a city built of organic-shaped ferrous buildings. They followed their sensor data to one such structure to find the alien race of centurians hunkered away from the sandstorm. Each centurian seemed unfazed by the players and when psychically probed returned only drone-like orders they had been given.
Reaching the inner-most chambers the players discovered Ona and Tofske under psychic domination, being used as drones. A psychic exchange took place between several members of the group and the centurian leader. An exchange of personnel took place in which Ona and Tofske were bartered for SAM, a perfectly compliant never-dying drone. The players extracted the prisoners through the violent winds of the sandstorm in which Shepard became the target of a native lifeform called the Shuriken.
SAM remained on Delphin taking orders from the centurians for three days before being recovered. Meanwhile the other players returned to the Victory to discover that M.I.N.A. had successfully communicated with a virtual intelligence inside the terraforming device. The ancient machine had been able to offer a plethora of data on the ancient stoneburner race and revealed that it was the caretaker of the last known stoneburner embryos.
A debate then occurred where the Committee on Verge Integration and the players non-unanimously agreed to spare Delphin (and its lifeforms) the terraforming process that the alien device was primed to initiate. With a 30-hour clock dwindling a desperate search for candidate planets took place in neighboring star systems. Dr. Tofske assisted the players and eventually the furthest possible system that was accessible within the time-window bore a glimmer of hope. Captain Brooks set a course for the red star of Pallas and everyone prayed or crossed their collective digits.
The Last Hope of the Stoneburners
As the C.S.S. Victory dropped out out of drivespace the hope of all present began to sink. Pallas was a young dim star with three gas giants ringed with ice and metals orbiting closely to the star.
“Dr. Tofske, report. I thought there were supposed to be four planets here,” commanded Captain Brooks.
“It appears as if the fourth planet collided with the star’s surface within the last dozen years. Telemetry from the Tendril system could never have revealed that,” Dr. Tofske replied.
“So we’ve come all this way, and for nothing? I can’t believe that. Launch a series of probes to analyze the moons in orbit of the remaining planets!” Captain Brooks ordered hopefully.
The probes were launched and the minutes ticked by as data slowly crept back across the void of space.
The first planet held 13 moons in its orbit, all of which were molten infernos far worse than Delphin as their gravitational parent orbited at less than one tenth an AU from Pallas.
The second planet contained six moons, three of which held atmosphere. However, all data relevant to elements necessary to sustain life came back negative on each of the three moons.
Finally, the third planet orbiting at a distance of 2.5 AU had two moons, only one of which had even the faintest form of atmosphere. As the information fed into the Victory’s computers though, the chances of the moon being a possible site began building bit by tiny bit. They were sparse, but the moon contained frozen rivulets of SO3 (Sulpher trioxide, known to Terrans as acid rain). Storms with winds in excess of 250 miles per hour were registered with temperatures approaching -150 degrees F. Geological scans shows heavy seismic activity and subterran volcanic activity feeding the sulpher trioxide lakes.
The chances were slim but it was the stoneburner’s only chance. The crew of the victory deployed the ancient alien device into the atmosphere of the moon. With other missions and other living beings to interact with the Victory was unable to remain in orbit to monitor the success or failure of the experiment. Captain Brooks did leave one small vessel of Science officers behind to monitor possible communications from the device.
A week later, after retrieving SAM and arriving in the Corrivale system a message was received from the science team in the Pallas system. They had received a faint signal from the surface of the new stoneburner world, without the assistance of M.I.N.A. however they were unable to translate it. After the datapacket arrived in the Corrivale system M.I.N.A. set to work deciphering the message.
Several hours later M.I.N.A. appeared to the players and their mentors who had been waiting with baited breath.
“I’m not exactly sure how to say this…” M.I.N.A. hesitated.
“It’s okay M.I.N.A.,” said Captain Brooks, “It was a longshot, we all knew that. I want to thank everyone for the work they put into this. It was a noble goal.”
“Sir, it worked.”
“What!? Then what’s the problem?”
“I think it best if I just tell you what the message said. First of all, it wasn’t a message intended for us. It was for someone else. The message was broadcast to a sector of space we haven’t yet explored, beyond the western edge of the Verge. The message reads thus, ‘Priority: Urgent. Terraforming cycle initiated. Time until prison completion…’ and I’m still working on deciphering the temporal markers used in this message, we’re unfamiliar with the orbit track of the planet it uses as a basis… The message continues, ‘Message : Clarification. The maker’s enemies, destroyers of 10,000 worlds will be awakened in…’ and then it repeats the time code.” M.I.N.A. paused then punctuated, “Sir, I’m not entirely sure what we did was a good thing.”