Following a trail of fragmented coordinates, the Blind Jump crew have reached an enormous Founder spacecraft – and they aren’t alone. It appears two other prospecting teams have reached the ship as well – and one of them left a sniper behind who almost killed Whooey.
Binx yells at the sniper to stand down, but the only response is another hail of needle fire. Whooey sprints into the room, diving behind a piece of Founder machinery and drawing his welding torch. Miaulong also moves in, fires a missile at the sniper, then ducks into cover as well. The missile slams into the sniper’s battle armor and detonates the container he is hiding behind, but the sniper appears unfazed. Shuhb pulls his chameleon cloak on and sneaks around to the flank. Max moves into cover and fires his plasma rifle, scorching the sniper. The sniper returns fire and hits Max hard, injuring him badly through his armor. Lefty moves in and fires, choosing his angle carefully, but his attack bounces off the sniper’s power armor.
Binx moves into cover and fires, but the needle shatters on the sniper’s armor. Max fires his plasma rifle again despite his wounds, and scorches the sniper again. The sniper snaps off a plasma burst at Whooey, injuring him; Whooey retaliates by trying to hack the sniper’s power armor without success. Miaulong fires a plasma missile, exploding three tanks around the sniper, who reels back, badly hurt. Lefty moves out of cover and fires, then ducks back. The spray of plasma bolts hits home, punching through the sniper’s armor and more or less incinerating him. Whooey pulls out his Founder medkit and applies it to Max, as does Binx, partially healing Max. Max picks up the sniper’s monoatomic sword, and the crew proceeds further into the ship.
The crew quickly reach a space filled with an enormous machine. Chunks of the machine are missing, and lightning arcs from point to point throughout the room. Red lights flash on the monitors, with a prominent countdown visible from the corridor. Three badly-damaged suits of power armor lie on the floor. Miaulong flies a drone in to investigate the suits, determining that they contain dead bodies. Whooey charges into the room as soon as he thinks it’s safe, and reads the text next to the countdown. It reads, in galactic standard units, 87 minutes. He plays with the terminal for a minute and eventually determines that it reads, “Vacuum tap severely damaged. Implosion event in 86 minutes.” Binx moves in and makes an attempt to shut down the power plant, but her hacking skills are not up to the task, even with help from Whooey.
The crew moved out at speed, knowing the clock is ticking. They arrive at a large chamber with strange conical machinery. A dead body in power armor lies on the floor. “Is anyone else concerned that there are dead bodies everywhere?” says Binx.
“Is anyone concerned that some of them are still here, since the ships were still there?” says Miaulong.
A series of tones plays over a speaker nearby, followed by a 30 second pause, then the tones repeat. Miaulong flies a drone through the room; just after the tones play again, the drone sends a “Total System Failure” message and crashes, completely inert. After considering their options, the crew tries another path. With only 40 minutes remaining on the countdown, they run through the ship, reaching a life support plant. Three armed racer drones patrol the space, shifting plasma bolters from point to point as they fly. Without time to mess with hacking, the crew decides to open fire. Whooey tries to hack anyway, and the drones attack him. A massive blast of plasma blasts Whooey back, burning him badly even through his battle armor and knocking him out. Shuhb moves in and fires at two of the drones with his autoneedler, shredding them both. Max moves in and destroys the last drone with a plasma burst. Binx applies the Founder medkit to Whooey, getting him back on his feet but still with severe injuries. Whooey applies his own kit, but remains badly hurt.
The crew arrives at a multi-level space, and as they open the hatch, they hear needle and plasma fire from above. The space looks like a command center, filled with consoles and with ladders leading up to catwalks around the outside walls above. Whooey and Binx check out the consoles. They show the countdown warning, but also a statement that “Intrusion Detected – security countermeasures on data vault activated”. Whooey concludes that some of the people in the room are attempting to hack the ship’s database and download a bunch of data. He immediately begins counter-hacking. Max moves over to a ladder and peers up at the firefight while Binx hops on another console to try to shut down the engines. Miaulong sends his drone up to investigate the firefight, and Lefty checks out the other monitors to see if he can help Binx or Whooey, as does Shuhb.
Whooey’s hacking attempts are detected, and the fighters upstairs turn some of their attention to the crew on the main floor. Binx spots a hacker on the deck above and fires a needle rifle burst, but misses. Max climbs a ladder and cautiously pokes his head above the next deck, spotting three sentients in battle armor, two of them shooting up at the next level, one working on a console. He fires a plasma burst at one of the armored figures, hitting a bit off center and spinning it around. The figure he struck ducks into cover, training his weapon towards Max. Whooey continues his work on hacking the Founder database, but it is extremely challenging. Another armored figure turns to Max and charges, swinging a monoatomic sword into Max’s armor, but merely scoring the paint. Miaulong sends the drone up another level to find three more armored prospectors, and then he fires at the armored enemy not fighting Max, sending a blast of lightning into him but merely singing his armor. Shuhb activates his chameleon cloak and moves up the other ladder, but he clangs his needler against the ladder and the one fighting Max yells, “Check the other ladder!” Before his comrade can react, however, Max fires his autoneedler, shattering needles against battle armor. Lefty fires his plasma bolter at the enemy fighting Max, scorching his armor, then fires his Founder pulse raygun without effect.
Max draws his Founder welding torch and swings it at the enemy who attacked him, carving through his armor and badly burning him. “Get this guy off me,” yells the wounded human.
“You play with fire…” says Max.
Whooey yells, “Only if you surrender!” then continues hacking without much success. The enemy near Shuhb fires a plasma bolter, but Shuhb ducks down and the bolt narrowly misses. Binx moves over to Whooey and starts assisting with his hacking attempt. One of the enemies on the third level fires at the drone, blasting it to pieces. Miaulong fires a plasma missile at the enemy near Shuhb, sending a wash of plasma over him but only scorching him. An enemy on the third floor fires a missile at Max and his adversary, but the explosion only distracts them. Shuhb pops up again and charges, swinging his welding torch and carving a molten gash into his opponent, who reels back. Max’s opponent makes a run for it; Max swings his torch and finishes him off. Lefty fires his plasma bolter and raygun and the surviving enemy on the second level, finishing him off as well.
Miaulong fires at the hacker on the second level, but without effect. The hacker runs for it, and Max allows him to go by and run through the first level. Whooey finally gets some traction on his hacking and begins to decode the database. Binx starts working delaying the explosion, while Lefty runs over to use his spray armor on Shuhb. Max climbs to the third level, poking his head up cautiously to see three more armored figures. He fires his plasma bolter, narrowly missing one of the enemy. The enemy fires back but also misses, then takes cover. Shuhb goes up the other ladder, but is spotted immediately. He fires his autoneedler at the nearest foe, who rolls to the side, frantically dodging. Max’s opponent fires, scorching his armor badly; the plasma burst burns through and injures Max badly. Max screams then hangs limply over the ladder rungs.
Lefty fires up at the enemy menacing Shuhb, unleashing a savage blast of raygun and plasma that disintegrates the target. Max’s opponent runs for cover, firing at Shuhb as he goes. The plasma bolt strikes a particularly thick section of spray armor and evaporates. Miaulong moves over to assist Whooey and Binx with their hacking. The hacker on the third level runs for the fourth; Shuhb pops up and yells, “No one hurts my friends!” He charges the armored figure who struck down Max and incinerates him with a welding torch. Binx manages to delay the implosion by 25 minutes. Whooey continues hacking, going deeper into the Founder system. The fleeing hacker runs out the nearest door. Shuhb goes to Max and carries him down the stairs so Binx or Whooey can treat him. Lefty charges up to the top level and sees the last enemy working on a console. He fires his plasma bolter and raygun, but misses with both. Miaulong continues to assist Whooey with his hacking. The last enemy leaps through the open central core to the ground, hitting and rolling and running for the door. Seeing the last one is a Contemplative, Whooey says, “My brother in Contemplation, why do you fight so? Surrender and we will aid in your escape!”
“I know of you, fallen,” says the Contemplative. “I will take my chances on my own.”
Shuhb shrugs and swings his welding torch at the Contemplative, badly injuring them. Miaulong swings her torch as well, incinerating the Contemplative. With no opposition, Whooey manages to complete the hack of the database. The crew realizes that the ship will inevitably explode, but they can download the dataset of how to build the ship. This technology, however, would permit large-scale jumpships – which would permit interstellar warfare for the first time. The crew retreats to the Blind Jump, and finds the last surviving enemy sitting on the deck. “OK, I’m not a pilot. Could I hitch a ride home with you guys?”
“Do you surrender?” demands Whooey.
“Sure,” says the Tlainax engineer. “I was working for Lharan Yards. If you have the ship data, they’ll reward you handsomely for it. You guys looking for more crew? I’m Whalnar.”
“I like him already,” says Max.
“OK, but we’re going to have to haze him,” says Shuhb.
“Do you have access to your ship?” asks Lefty.
“I do,” says Whalnar. The crew takes both ships and heads out in the galaxy to meet their destiny…