Heading back to the gate on the watery, icy planet called Gnome, the crew picked up a strange reading. A human-sized eel with odd finger-like fins was swimming towards them. It showed little interest in them, but further analysis showed that it was using echolocation and responded to sounds. It was eating the algae.
Ms. Black (Thessa) broke into Madeline Yu‘s stolen server and found that her research centered on the algae and how they seem to reproduce faster when under stress (such as when a large eel-like predator is introduced). She was hoping research on this type of behaviour would help transhumanity survive another extinction event. The server also housed the station’s cameras, which showed Madeline had recently gone off on a research swim.
Once back at the gate, the crew had to wait for their scheduled return. After a couple hours, they heard a “clink” on the hull. Sensors showed that it was a smart mine, meant to precisely clear biologicals out of a structure. Nine more were close by, connecting wirelessly to Madeline Yu.
Doctor Calamari (Octavius) sent out a message, asking Madeline what she was doing. She instructed them to leave the gate and let her pass. Eventually, they did. But the crew sent a message to Fletcher letting them know Madeline went through the gate. Several hours later, the crew returned to Mars. Fletcher updated them that Madeline was apprehended by Firewall soon after she left the compound, and is now being interrogated.
After a week of rest, the crew prepared for the next outing: to the moon called Exaltation. The crew uses some reputation to allocate a Xu-Fu for Thessa and a stockpile of weaponry.
As they prepare to leave, another individual stepped up to the platform. A man in a glossy black TerraGenesis Smart VacSuit and fractal gloves greeted them, “Sorry I almost didn’t make it. My name is Albert James, TerraGenesis team commander. You’ll be reporting to me for this outing. I run a tight ship, so always maintain formation and don’t even breath if I don’t authorize it.” He meshed his bio, listing degrees in oceanography, psychology, forensics, licences to drive ground and aircraft, and experience leading 21 previous gate-crashing expeditions.
The crew hops two gates to get to Exaltation (an anarchist-controlled moon).
Exaltation was discovered three months ago by the anarchist Love and Rage collective. The environment is extremely conducive to life, with only a little more oxygen and a little less gravity than Earth normal. The gate is underground in a cave network. The underground creatures are fed by sustained by large underground lakes fed by surface rivers. Recon teams found a wide diversity of plant and animal life including a number types of ambush predators. Attempts to cull the number of predators failed because they seem to have extensive social ties, and are able to bring large numbers of individuals together to provide a coordinated defence or attack. The Love and Rage collective is currently assessing whether or not any further development of the moon is financially viable.
The crew exited the gate and stepped into a large, dark cave, surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. Small winged reptiles with glowing orange markings chirped and skittered away as the crew arrived, flying off when they got too close. A case stood at the control panel. “Welcome to Exaltation,” the case’s AI meshed, “the local predators are in a particularly active state this week, and we recommend visitors take all possible precautions. Shall I inform Professor Yu of your arrival?”
Professor Albert James brushed past, instructing the team how to set up the probes and sensors. Mister White (Solomon) distracted the professor with a discussion on some of his favourite topics listed on his resume. After a few minutes of walking, Thessa picked up sounds, and using echolocation, saw three monkey-sized creatures rushing towards the professor. They were six-eyed monkeys with large leech mouths surrounded by a ring of teeth. One bit his utility belt, one got a mouth full of vac-suit, but the third landed squarely on the side of his face, starting to feed immediately. The professor’s face sagged and his screams were slurred as the creature’s toxin took effect. Doctor Calamari set off a flashbang to set them scurrying, but only two ran, the third firmly stuck to the side of the professor’s face. Thessa drove the Xu-Fu over and delicately grabbed the cuddly soft creature and gently extricated it before releasing it a few steps away.
The professor asked to be taken to the gate as he slowly fell asleep from the full effects of the toxin. Xenobiology research showed that the creature’s venom is relatively harmless — it just keeps victims asleep as the creature and its family feed. The professor should be safe surrounded by the lights set up by the case.
Dropping the probes, the crew headed off to find the alpha-fork of Madeline Yu on Exaltation.