“What is ‘KLONG’?” queries Nero over the in-ship intercom.
“I don’t know,” says Milo, “I’m the pilot, your the mechanic. You tell me.”
Console alerts and readings are quickly reviewed, and the FTL system reports that it cannot generate a stable mass effect field, due to gravity fluctuations occurring on the rear port cargo nacelle.
Linking up the video relay from the ventral turret targeting computer, the group spies the edge of a foreign object attached to the hull behind the rear port landing gear well. While the targeting camera can just see it, the limb of black material they can see is too close to the hull to be fired upon by the turret.
Nero gets one of the hover drones the group has, and links it’s sensor array to the onboard comm-net. Before releasing it into space via the aft airlock, Milo brings the ship to a full stop. While no longer at FTL, the Albatross was still coasting through interstellar space at quite the clip. While the released drone would have retained the same inertia, it was designed for in atmosphere maneuvering, and would have been much harder to control in pure vacuum, and much easier to accidentally spin off into the black. With the chances of failure minimized, the drone slowly skimmed the underside of the ship until it could see the object.
Roughly circular, just shy of 3 meters across and slightly over a meter thick, rather like a large farm tractor tire that had been filled in solid in the center, the object possessed a number of small nodules, and was coated in a dead, flat black material, though it was scored and ridged, likely from eons of micro-impacts. The object appeared to be adhered to the surface of the ship – likely due to magnetics or a focused mass effect field. Continued review of the FTL system clearly pinpointed it as the source of the random, pulsing gravity fields that were causing the interference.
Not being a match for any of the current citadel races’ tech nor design aesthetics, the group makes the assumption that it’s probably old – leftover from some long deceased civilization. But the question becomes, how is it still powered? Having passed through the defensive kinetic shields, it’s possible that it’s actually leeching power from them to power itself – but then how did it knock them out of FTL? Every likely answer seems to bring up another. Regardless, they decided that the first step is to get into their environmentally sealed armor, and then shut down all power on the vessel, including the reactor, and not even leave anything on battery.
The extra heavy bulkhead between the main ship’s space and the port cargo nacelle is where they all meet up. Moving in with omni-tools set to scan, the group shuffles between the cargo containers of frozen fish and seafood, and tries to get a reading on the object through the hull.
With almost 15 minutes passed since the power down, the object showed no signs of ending it’s gravity flux. However, at about the same time the hover drone noted small flashes of light from the underside of the object, the crew heard the sound. Something was cutting in to the hull plate of the ship…. and fast.
Taking position behind various cargo crates. they waited. The outer hull was breached, clanging, tacking, and skittering was followed as something skittered and flowed into the space between the inner and outer hulls, then the whine and skreel of something applying cutting tools to the inner hull; another clang, and again the skreel of curring as the inner wall was attacked – a 1 meter wide circle quickly glowing red, then yellow-white. Sparks and molten metal flew – but the circle stayed – then retreated as if plucked out by an unseen hand. But the hold, already depressurized by the crew, reacted barely to the sudden access to vacuum.
Into the hold flowed metallic limbs coated in black-grey coating, though silvery white metal and plastic showed throw at the multitude of joints. It was a mass of jointed limbs, sensor pods, claw tipped grasping radial hands, and weapons – including circular saw-like blades, small cutting lasers, and what looked like several bare mass effect gun rails with their attendant blocks of projectile material. Steadying itself into a low center of mass with 5 limbs extruded from the central mass, the robot deployed several gun barrels as the heat signature of the group.
Mass Effect rounds richochets around the hold, tearing into the group as their return fire blasted away rotary joints, and focused shots cracked ocular sensors on one of the thing’s “heads”, while stray fire ripped open a container of fish spraying water, ice, and fish into the weightless hold. Smoke and screeches of metal erupted from the creature as several shotgun like blasts erupted into the group, breaching Illyria’s armor defenses, and dropping Milo, but overwhelmed by the attack and system failures, the killer bot spins and pours intself into the hole in the hull, cutting into the nearest duct work, and skittering off into the innards of the Albatross with the sound of ticking claws and dragging metal.
It’s only after the few moments it takes for Nero to stim Milo back to consciousness that he notices that Illyria hasn’t moved – at all – stock still, rifle still aimed at the robot’s exit hole. And isn’t on the helmet comms.
Inside, Illyria curses and screams, then like her krogan father, digs in for the long haul as the taunting voice of the dead batarian bounty hunter informs her of her situation: power assist joints locked, comms off, targeting system of the linked battle rifle working a a prox detector to detonate it’s power core if someone gets too close – oh, and the complete venting of the suit O2 supply.
Nero starts scanning and working furiously as Milo moves to open the bulkhead door to let atmo back into the cargo bay. With the suit comms off he tries to overload the suit with a Combat Engineer electrical pulse from his omni-tool – but the suit’s taser system includes a grounding array to prevent electrical discharges to the user or suit. Instead he sees the infrared comm beam from the rifle to the suits ocular system, and splices himself into the beam.
The door opens and there is a rush of air into the hold, and out into the hole – leaking past the alien space mine on the outer hull. With it go hundreds of small fish, water droplets and shards of ice, and Milo maneuvers the deckplate over the hole – and the slushy stream covers and fills the cracks, slowing the rush of air long enough for Nero – sure enough that he’s stopped the prox mine and movement detonation streams from working – to move Illyria into the main hold and for Milo to manual shut the bulkhead again.
Popping the faceplate reveals an unconscious and unbreathing Illyria, but with the rush of cold air, she chokes and begin breathing again…though still unconscious.
They limp to the med-bay, re-establishing battery power on the way by engineering – and en route there is a brief skittering in the ceiling duct work, and a circular plate of metal pushes out of the ceiling (as the gravity is still off – the crew moving by mag boots). The killer mech slides several gun limbs out and fires – but only one triggers, the other two, ancient and damaged by the previous fight, spark and shudder. The creature retreats with only a graving hit on Nero.
Once Illyria is situated in the med bay, Milo and Kark get to work on the group. While certainly not back to full strength, the most critical injuries are dealt with, though Illyria still suffers from several clusters of nerve damage due to her ordeal.
With the shadow operating system on the armor purged and it’s hidden data files copied to a spare data pad, the group decides to restore full power, and then lure the creature out. Unfortunately, the most open space with all the cargo on board, if the engineering and reactor control room. Fortunately, they need to be there to re-ignite the reactor core.
The group spends the 30 minutes bringing the reactor back up to full power with nary a sighting of the creature. Five minutes later, whatever priorities it had change, and it comes out of the life support ductwork into the engineering space – still sparking from several joints, it appears undeterred, and opens up with a salvo of gunfire. The crew return fire making sure to aim away from control panels and the reactor access air lock, striking several solid hits on the amorphous mannequin of joints. Closest to Milo, it’s surges toward him, spin saws and cutting lasers twirling in an attempt to shear him apart.
Before it can complete it’s grisly assault, another salvo brings it down into a smoking, sparking heap of twitching proto-limbs which finally go still.
Milo feels like another trip to the med bay is in order, but before they go, they check the status of the space barnacle and the FTL systems.
The hover drone noted a power spike, then slow drop in power about 10 minutes before the kill-mech started the final battle. Ship sensor confirm no abnormal gravity wells and that FTL is possible. Linking to the hover drone’s camera shows the icy sludge has leaked and frozen in weird icicle formations out from underneath the object.
Nero remote controls “Bartleby”, the salvaged heavy combat Loki-mech, through EVA, clearing the ice and working to move the space barnacle slowly along the hull until it can be rolled into the forward cargo bay along with the Blazemaster, and in fact, into the rear hold of the truck – though only after they take the various other materials stored inside and shove them in various crew compartments.
A cursory examination of the hollow where the kill-mech was housed shows several blackened wire and circuit clusters. A cascade of short circuits caused by water and fish slurry was likely the death of the space barnacle’s advanced computer.
With the crisis averted, the crew takes a deep breath…