The team emerges from the linked gate to find Iskra / Nataly mysteriously vanished from their midst. Finding no apparent time lag, and lacking other explanations, they launch their scout missile and search the nearby area while waiting for results. They find a set of footprints which lead to a picked-over cache of gear, possibly from their previous selves trip to this location? The tracks seem to be sunk into the ground, indicating either extreme weight, or a muddier past for the currently arid and parched area. Anna Cornucopia also finds and grabs samples of a burrowing insect that she doesn’t recognize. The team sees a blue sun during a break in the dust storm, and also a comet that appears to be heading their direction, although it is hard to tell given their limited observing apparatus and the interference from the storm.
The missile sends back a data packet, and alerts them to an energy signature about 20k to the east. Realizing that they can’t get there and back before the first check-in, they send out two recon hoppers and wait. The check-in is pretty lowkey, Anna passes her specimens through and refills her air, and it sounds like Iskra did not reemerge from the other side, so they decide to proceed without her and arrange another checkin in 18 hours. Not having heard from the hoppers (they lost comms at a few K, it seems there is some interference possibly caused by the storm), they head east, towards the signature.
About halfway there, they come under fire from three figures hiding in the scrub. Between Micha “Corvus” Ashland‘s laser pulsar, Silver’s rocket launcher, and the reaper drone’s four assault rifles, they make short work of the 3, leaving one alive to question. Corvus rips off the dead men’s masks and is horrified to realize that he just killed his former morph. He panics and screams. Anna and Silver question the last man, who is using the morph of the original Firewall sentinel who set off the whole investigation. Howeever, it seems to be a different ego, espousing exhuman ideology, wearing the morph, so Corvus kills him before they gain much useful intel, although Anna discovers that her previous morph/self is off on an unspecified ‘mission’.
They head out again, and make their way to the signature without further problems. They come across a clearing, with a low concrete bunker in the center, surrounded by a ring of solar arrays. They see a junk pile off to one side, and decide to use it as cover for their approach. Disturbingly, the pile seems to be composed of sheet metal, struts and ablative coating, etc of the type that might be used on a military satellite. Having just recovered from their run-in with Myrmidon, they decide to approach cautiosuly. Corvus spots two figures in watchtowers, who the team quickly kills after Anna stumbles and gives away their presence.
They race for the bunker door, and Corvus hacks it open. They exchange fire with two more exhumans inside, and the reaper takes heavy damage. They clear the first room, a dining area/lounge, and move into the second, counting 12 bunks and small lockers. They enter the third room, a medical facility with an ego bridge and a serious surgery bot (explaining the exhumans heavy morph modification, perhaps), and continue to the fourth room, which contains a large fabber and some storage crates. Corvus hacks the security door at the far end of the room, and they enter a computer room, most of which is taken up by the core of the satellite they found bits of outside. Two more exhumans are frantically manipulating various devices, and one flips a large switch as they enter. Corvus downs her with his agonizer, and the other exhuman executes her and then kills himself.
The team searches around to figure out what they were doing, and it looks like they had sent a large data packet using a one-time emergency farcaster. They also verify that there are only 11 corpses, whereas there are 12 beds & lockers. Anna’s morph is missing, so they decide to investigate further. The team also recovers a data core containing 12 informorph personalities, which they decide to wait to dive into. They decide not to fuck with the satellite core, and to instead report it to Firewall once they return to the gate.