Having recently escaped from an Imperial partol, the crew of the Shark have set course for Ehlak, the homeworld of the Helav. This course skirts the war front. About 4-5 days into the trip, there was a loud explosion from the engine room. Lance immediately dropped out of hyperspace as Zin-shee curses resounded throughout the ship. Relena raced towards Engineering, while Kelda ran a scan. Apparently the secondary power coupling, that Noumalia had warned the Captain about previously, had finally failed. They were unable to use the hyperdrive until it was replaced.
Kelda's scan indicated that the area of space was quite clear, but there was an inhabited industrial world called Peretrana within sublight travel. It seemed a pretty ordinary manufacturing industry, but it was likely that they would be able to source some spare parts there, since it was a local centre for starship components. After three days sublight travel, on approach to the world, Lance noted a proximity alarm - a gravitational source that was not on the charts. Scan indicated that the entire sector of space was filled with destroyed warship remains - both Guild and Imperial ships, in various states.
Scans showed a very faint beacon coming from the primary world, which appeared to be more or less lifeless. Lance noted that an industrial world could not be simply shut down, so they feared the worst.
The debris around the planet made the approach difficult, and the Shark took some hits on the way in, despite the newly-repaired shields, but they made it - albeit with a shiny hull. At this closer range, a scan showed no lifeforms on the near hemisphere of the planet. Kelda was also able to determine that the ship debris surrounding the planet was the remains of a battle between Guild and Imperial navies - a battle that the Guild came off the worse from.
A suitable landing site was located, nearby to both the beacon and the manufacturing centre. The landing was somewhat rough, but the Shark was built for rough landings. Noumalia and Relena stayed with the ship while Unity, Lance and Kelda set out to search for the parts and supplies they needed.
This area of the planet was a wasteland - what used to be a large city had been bombed into rubble. They had a map showing the location of a nearby warehouse belonging to a starship component manufacturing company. There were dead bodies scattering the streets, mostly civilian but with some local security forces. Further into the city, the bodies were more security and less civilian - the bodies have been fairly gruesomely killed in small arms fire or hand to hand. It was clear that there was a ground invasion, and quite recently - probably within the last week. Continuing on, it became clear that this was the site of a major battle, since there were now Imperial corpses - including Murrk and mBari - as well as local soldiers and militia. Kelda, hidden as usual, stumbled across something different.
It was the corpse of a dreadar - something that they had encountered before - but this time enhanced with cybernetic weaponry. Instead of its regular four arms, it had two arms with autocannon, and two with scythelike blades. Kelda updated Relena (by comm), Lance and Unity about the thing. The cyberwear did not appear to be Dracan in origin, and although it was thoroughly destroyed, Lance and Unity were able to observe that the metal of the cyberwear was almost melted into the being's flesh. This was definitely not a regular cybertechnique. The cyberwear was heavily damaged, but Lance was able to take some components as samples.
Kelda identified the dead Imperials to be a part of the Imperial Fleet Kra - long considered a first-strike force, led by Swordmaster Ree. Relena, on board ship, noticed that the beacon has changed frequency, transmitting on a much faster cycle. She was able to narrow down the beacon's location to a particular office block, but could not get a stronger fix.
She sent the away team to investigate - Lance was able to determine using his x-ray cybereye that it was a destroyed office building. They decided to make the spare parts a priority, but Relena continued monitoring the beacon. The away team located the warehouse and started to search. Unity located the component required using the... creative... description that Noumalia had provided before they left.
Kelda caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye, but could not identify it, and in fact became quite sure that her eyes were playing tricks on her. Lance hefted the device to his shoulder and they started back for the Shark. There was discussion about whether to investigate the beacon, but Relena ordered them to head straight home. But at that moment, the beacon stopped and a signal came over the ship's comm. It was the sound of an open line, but there was no sound at the other end. Someone had left the phone off the hook.
Noumalia sent a telepathic message to Kelda to return immediately, and the away team started running. However, she was able to sense something very faint and far away - a familiar mental smell. She wasn't able to get any more information about it without getting closer.
Finally, Lance arrived with the power coupler and Noumalia started to install it. Relena and Kelda did a scan sweep of the ship, and found nothing except for Lance's secret collection of videos. After a while the comm switched off and the beacon started up again on its original cycle. Relena sent Lance and Unity to investigate the building where the beacon was, setting a time limit to return. A new scan indicated a definite life sign in the building of interest. Kelda was not certain how she missed it the first time, since it was extremely clear. She sent a warning to Lance and Unity, who easily found a way to the basement level. They knew quite well that if there was someone alive on this planet, they were not getting off unless on the Shark.
Lance easily located the body on the floor of a storage room - Karla Krace, unconsious. Unity checked for injuries and ensured that she could be moved. A day or two later and she might not have made it. Lance picked her up just as Unity was ambushed by a Shansk. Fortunately he was able to parry its energy bolts, although it was a close call. Lance threw Karla over his shoulder and opened up with the autocannon while Unity attacked with his sonic sword, shouting to Relena over comms that there was a Shanask attaking them. Relena swore. Unity duelled with the thing, distracting it while Lance shot the thing in the head. The Shanask was killed, but Lance's gun jammed. Unity grabbed the Shanask's strange energy blade before the pair of them hightailed it back to the ship.
There was still a couple of hours' work to repair the power coupling. Kelda took up a perch hidden on top of the ship as a lookout. Unity tried to revive Karla. Lance sat in the ship's turret, despite having no skill in that area.
As Noumalia was on the last stages of the repair, Kelda noticed dark figures start to appear all around them. The Shanask were surrounding the ship. Looking up, it was apparent that the Shanask had brought their moon into orbit. Lance raced for the bridge and tried to get the ship started. Kelda made for the turret and opened fire on the surrounding Shanask, with little effect. Relena calculated a random jump while Lance planned a course out of the atmosphere without running into the Shanask moon. As the Shanask attempted to storm the ship, Noumalia completed the final work on the power coupling. Lance launched the ship, taking out a few of the Shanask with the ship's drives on the way up. They made the jump to hyperspace.
Relena spent the hour in hyperspace attempting to interrogate Karla, who was more or less hysterical. She called on Noumalia, who was able to read images from Karla's mind. Unity diagnosed her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, reliving the battle. Karla had witnessed thousands of cyber-dreadar overrunning the planet, leaping on every living being and slaughtering them. Noumalia attempted to calm her, and made her understand that she was now safe.
Now able to talk coherently, Karla related what had happened on this unfortunate world.
The Imperial fleet had appeared from nowhere, wiping out the system defenses very quickly. Troops were dropped all over the planet - partially conventional forces, consisting of familiar regiments of Imperial infantry and cybertanks, and partially the imperial supersoldiers. The have been rumours about Imperial supersoldiers circulating in the Guild for some time. The Shanask were not involved in the fighting, but instead were looking for Karla. She said that the Shansk were not involved with the Imperials - in fact they were the good guys, and were hunting her because she had been bad. This did not reassure Relena at all.
Quotes of the week
Are they back yet? Are they back yet? Are they back yet?
Nothing works on this ship except for the cameras that I set up in... never mind.
I Don't. Like. The Shanask.