Vandor gets the party access to Ishmael's secure server, which contains several revelations:
Ishmael's pirate crew has been doing jobs for the NeoMars government
they were hired to escort this shipping vessel to fend off the insectoids that were coming after the Psycho Ore
Ishmael hates Hector with a passion
Ishmael's crew's attack on Krazo's homeworld was also a job for the NeoMars government — Krazo's mother, hailing from the race that helped pioneer the discoveries for NeoMars which led to the Awakening project, was trying to enhance Krazo's abilities in unsanctioned ways, which included the magitech weapon embedded in his chest
the shipping route to Earth is made possible due to a newly completed warp gate system between Freeborn and Sol
making use of the comandeered gunship and subterfuge, the party manages to bypass the security at the warp gate and return to the Sol system
descending to Earth, the party locates a large energy source which coincides with the destination of the shipping route; they make a further bluff claiming that the cargo ship has reduced propulsion capacity and comms systems are down due to the spiders, and will be a few hours behind them; they request to dock in the hangar of the facility to refuel and are granted this after a bit of back and forth
feigning a smoke break, the party leaves the hangar while the ship refuels to search for an alternate entrance to the facility proper, since the entrance from inside the hangar is heavily guarded
around the other side of the building, they find a locked, featureless door with four pillars (2 on each side) nearby, with slots near the base of the pillars. after a bit of investigation, they are unable to discover how the lock system operates.
the party is approached by a guard and, sensing that time is running out for their subterfuge, stun him and quickly return to the ship, hoping to take off again and try to check the facility from above with fresh eyes
session 19: crisis
while ascending the stairs to the ship, the party is privy to commotion amongst the guards and those few left in the hangar run through the internal door that leads to the main facility. a few seconds after it closes behind them, an explosion blows it open
investigating the chaos, the party enters a corridor system with a few branching paths and a pile of rubble (presumably from the explosion) in the middle. a giant spider (the same kind as from the shipping vessel) is visible to Vandor from around the corner as he takes point
the party begins dispatching the spider; a guard's screams are heard from further in the corridors as he is overwhelmed by two other spiders.
they finish off the first spider and proceed toward the center of the corridor system - Vandor goes around the rubble to one side, while Cobalt hits the rubble with a grenade to open the path around the other side (hoping to hit a spider with the rocks but to no avail)
the spiders attack on both fronts, one going from the north with projectile spikes firing off its back (Vandor taking a hit from only one of the three of them), the other coming through the dust from the grenade explosion firing a freezing beam weapon from its mouth, which both Cobalt and Miliardo narrowly avoid
at this point the party's teamwork is well-oiled and they dispatch the spiders quickly, with Krazo joining Vandor's beam sword slashes with his trusty pistols, and Miliardo assisting Cobalt's rifle fire by dropping one of the giant rocks onto the remaining spider; they proceed to the next area beyond the maze
the next room seems to be a large laboratory with stasis tanks lining one wall, in which a ZX00 mech soldier is doing battle with a Megapede, and while valiantly attempting to hold its own, not quite able to keep up with the beast
Cobalt quickly notices the capsules containing human bodies in stasis along the north edge of the room
the party goes gung-ho to take down the giant insectoid, Krazo even going so far as to use his chest cannon which he can now control to a degree, but between the beast's heavy armor plating and nimble movements, they find it difficult to land a solid hit. Miliardo gets lucky with a Glaive cast which impales the Megapede from below with a stalagmite, and reduces its mobility. Vandor signals to the ZX00 that the party is friendly (using NeoMars military sign language), and the pilot signals back with its FOF signal lights that it appreciates the help and will not attack them
the Megapede thrashes about in rage as the party slowly chips away when they can manage to make a hit - then Miliardo succeeds in casting Slow and further reducing the beasts ability to dodge; Vandor and the ZX unit double down with their beam swords and are able to inflict some heavy damage on the beast...
session 20: mysterious return
the beast falls at one more strike of the ZX00 soldier's beam sword
the soldier briefly exits their mecha to thank the party in person for helping him survive, and comments that the whole facilityis likely gone to shit by this point.
the party investigates the capsules, and after everyone including the mecha pilot conclude they're better kept in a safe place, the pilot offers to move them to the ship as thanks
beyond the laboratory's exit doors is a small hall that opens into a large circular room, with Hector across from a strange figure at once humanoid and beastly - a hunched man with gnarled beaerd, spider legs erupting from his back
the two appear to be arguing, the strange mutant screaming at the top of his lungs "your game is over; it's been long enough!"
hector, dismissive, tells the party "this nuisance from the back of beyond has caused enough damage already; would you mind helping me?" and holds up a hand with astral sigil emanating from it, to fire a maser beam at the thing. "you beast, congealed from the depths of the abyss, don't meddle in affairs that aren't your business"
the battle breaks out swiftly; hector's maser beam fires, and the being quickly teleports around and just next to hector, dodging the beam and leaving what seems to be a flaming oil slick at the spot where it just was. the two engage in close combat while the gunslingers take shots at the mutant, to no avail yet.
while placing down a riot barrier Krazo notices that the beast is familiar; none other than Captain Ishmael
as Hector and Ishmael separate from a flurry of melee, Krazo tells everyone "that's the Captain! Ishmael!"
stunned, the rest of the party ask "how?"
Ishmael crouches near the barrier and seems to vibrate as he says "I have gone beyond the veil and seen the truth of this universe. and this man and his cohorts" - he points to Hector - "are long overdue for the smothering of eternal darkness" and a giant spider materializes from inky darkness next to him
the party continues their intense brawl with Ishmael, even bringing the vehicle out of the wingpack to try to gain some tactical advantage. but in the midst of battle, with Cobalt driving the vehicle; Krazo decides to fire on hector, and Miliardo follows suit, casting Halt on him.
Ishmael warps to Hector and grabs him by the throat, lifting him up and impaling him with his spider legs. Vandor closes in to Ishmael and takes a wide slash at him, grazing Hector and causing Ishmael to recoil onto the ground and start collapsing into a pool of darkness.
as the mutant writhes it screams "this isn't the end! it will never end!" and his voice distorts to a low growl as it fades into nothingness "I AM ALWAYS COMING FOR YOU!"
Hector recovers his awareness and looks in disdain at his charges. "you lot have seen a lot, and almost did something unforgivable. maybe we should just start this project over...", he says. Krazo holds his guns forward and quickly fires a midrange shot at Hector, who pulls an Obi-Wan, his body collapsing into the floor, and suddenly appearing walking into the room from the far coridoor.
"don't get too full of yourselves. I make the rules in this universe, and they are absolute."
Cobalt puts it into first gear and slams on the gas
session 21: to kill the immortal
just before being rammed with the land cruiser, Hector seems to stop time, with himself as the lone exception, and begins walking liesurely around the room.
he addresses the party: "I told you; my rules are absolute. now give me one reason I shouldn't eliminate you and start over with a new generation..."
Vandor exclaims "you sent us on this wild goose chase! we deserve to know the truth!" the voice seems to come from the very air rather than from his throat
Hector chuckles and takes a few steps toward Vandor "for aeons and aeons, we have ruled this world; and that one. Neo Mars. We discovered the path to immortality, and we used it to bring hitherto unknown levels of peace and order to our society, even as we were discovering new technologies and meeting other races in the vastness of space. but a darkness hunted us. over millenia, there emerged a trend of interdimensional beings attacking the very heart of our society - the psycho ore, and our infrastructure here on Earth."
he turned to glane at everyone. "so we decided to fight back against it. we raised an elite cadre of warriors as part of a special program which, over generations and generations, would accumulate the psychic and spiritual prowess to do battle with and destroy this ephemeral invader"
Krazo yelled out - "then... you must know about the scar on my chest! this insane power I wield that's haunted me in my dreams..."
Hector mused, "ah, your mother was a descendant of one of the races we met first who helped us to improve our Core technology and make it environmentally sustainable. however, she didn't agree with certain aspects of our work, and rebelled by using her family's technology to embed a magitech weapon in your body..."
remembering Ishmael's documents detailing how the pirates were hired by Hector to destroy the colony, everything clicked in Krazo's mind... Vandor responded: "Hector! if you destroy us now, then we will not do what we are meant to do... if you let us live here, we will destroy this evil you speak of, for we have already seen it take enough life in our journeys!"
Hector, having arced around from the far side of the room to close to where Vandor is, considers for a moment with his hand on his chin. then he flourishes his sleeves and snaps his fingers, releasing the time freeze. "very well"
Cobalt uses her utmost driving skills to drift and keep the cruiser from slamming into the wall, and Krazo and Vandor share a knowing glance.
suddenly, Krazo lets loose a torrent of crackling energy from his chest, grazing Hector who dodged just a moment too late. Vandor takes a swing with his beam sword, while Hector creates a sword of fire and parries, creating a wave of flame aside Vandor.
Hector tries to take another strike at Vandor as Cobalt fires a rifleshot, causing him to shift his body in avoidance and miss his slash.
just as Hector pivoted to get a better angle on Vandor and Cobalt, Krazo focuses his mind and body and lets loose another beam of energy from his magitech cannon, dangerously draining his body's energy stores. Hector is caught head on in the blast and is blown against the wall; when the light fades, his body - shrivelled and burned amongst this lacerated robes - collapses onto the ground, and he's barely able to hold himself up with his decrepit arms as he says "I'm not... the only one... it's really not the end..."
his body disintegrates into dust and a core drops to the floor and rolls toward Krazo and Vandor. Miliardo and Cobalt run to their companions and the four investigate the unique core, with shimmering silver surface and glowing multicolored etchings in an unknown symbology...
Miliardo mentions that they might be able to find out more if they bring it to the library on Mesmer 7. still, the party looks toward the exit coridoor remembering Hector's last words, and pocketing the core in Brawl's pack, the party braces themselves with recovery potions and healing magic before considering their next moves...