Upon closer inspection, Heem-Lyeh's situation is more severe than expected and he has suffered 67% third-degree burns over his skin. It seems likely that only parts of his body can be saved and the overall fate seems less certain than previously. Along with the other wounded, he is ferried back to the biggest city in Vetekai and he immediately heads towards the operating table. The rest of the players confront Fuub, who arrives shortly with a helicopter.
Before doing anything else, Fuub and Meek-Ria want to head to the observatory at the high end of the mass driver and observe the space battle taking place, as it is very important to their assessment of the situation. Most of the players join them.
For BHI, things seem to be going well. Sybaris attemts to attack the factories with long range weapons, but the remaining BHI and Karamat-Via fleets meet with them and no serious damage is caused. Even though the BHI-aligned fleets are insufficient to beat the Sybaris force, Akmavala's forces join the fight to protect the infrastructure, as agreed, and the attack is thwarted. Most of the other participating mercenary forces, such as the Sirak clan, desert immediately. The flagship and main support vessel of the Sybaris fleet is destroyed and the rest of the assets scatter and flee towards the asteroid field or the outer gas giants. Later on, some are seen fleeing the system and others remain hidden. Regardless, Teask-Dumar has lost a major portion of its military might and even though Sybaris technically still has most of its strength, it is questionable whether it can continue operating.
Some of the crew are ready to celebrate the war as over, but Fuub tells the players to calm down and prepare for the future, as there is lot to be done, including the annexation of Teask-Dumar assets. When talking about the recent events, Meek-Ria informs them that he has been the target of an assassination attempt and that the move to Vetakai was partly done to mititgate further risk. As of now, Fuub has gathered a substantial amount of favor within the general population and other working-class awese and is likely to be less susceptible for attack, but it certainly seems that he and his closest collegues are likely to form a clique inside BHI, giving Fuub a measure of implicit power. As part of his new position, Fuub-Ark seems it prudent to relieve the players from Veer-Nivas and Bivo-Ak's command and instead propositions for them to jump back to his service (with double the previous wage) and act as fast response troops for whatever trouble is brewing at any given moment. Everyone seems okay with this and Fuub grants them leave for a few days because most want to visit VGS for some investments towards the future.
As an update on other matters, Ivan decides that it is necessary to hire Hune-Boo as a permanent secretary and instructs her to dress smartly as she is now a member of a prestigious mercenary organization. What this entails for a working-class awese female is not extensively discussed, and no such requirements are targeted towards CheekyChic69, though. The players receive information that Heem-Lyeh is stable and will survive. He is still being rebuilt in the hospital, though, and will likely be for a while. It is unanimously agreed that their Hematosis class dropship is to be named "Entropy", with the next best contenders being various russian female names and "Eleanore".
On the way, when the players' ship is starting to decelerate, Ivan notices something strange when checking up the fusion drive. Two bombs have been planted in the conduits leading to the fusion drive, and their explosion would make controlling the engines impossible. He sets out to disable the bombs, and phones the bridge to get hold of Alexander to catch whoever built them.
The bombs are in a location which is not directly visible for any security cameras, and the suspect is narrowed down to a couple of the engineers and combat engineers that the players hired recently. It makes the investigation easier that once a call for these crew members is made, one of the lifeboats in the ship launches and a blip appears in the radar several million kilometers away. It appears that the blip is a dropship of the very same size as the player one and it is approaching quickly.
This calls for action. Juho doesn't bother to catch the saboteur and promptly fires a PPC barrage towards the lifeboat, utterly vaporizing it. As Ivan works with the bombs, several interesting features seem to come up. He seems to have caught them extremely recently and the devices seem to be done by total amateurs. Definitely not the work of a real combat engineer. This leads to a snap decision and Ivan decides to empty the room into a vacuum and have his brother disable the bombs wearing one of the powersuits, both of these being precautions which make the explosion more survivable. As the brothers are cutting the wires, it indeed becomes apparent that they were amateur jobs. Nothing explodes and the devices prove to be just as simple as they previously appeared.
This leaves the trouble of the dropship pursuing them. The players are not hailed and the ship makes no attemt to contact them, but it seems obvious that it belongs to the Sirak. It seems evident to everyone that a direct confrontation with the opposing dropship is impossible. The Sirak are likely to possess more fighters and a crew vastly more experienced in space combat. An order is given for everyone to strap in and prepare for extreme acceleration as Alexander and Juho draw up an escape plan.
First of all, the players decide to take every possible risk to discourage pursuit. Secondly, they decide to aim towards the VGS station, as all feel that it is unlikely that they will be able to make it back to Kersia without being caught. Moreover, considering VGS's security in the previous trips, it is to be expected that they would forcefully inhibit combat near the factory.
The players go in for a hard slingshot manouver that momentarily takes them to the shadow of the planet and several of the moons, where they burn heavily without being seen in an attemt to deceive their opponent and slow this pursuit. The first manouveres are a success and the pursuers bet too heavily in them trying to slingshot back towards Kersia, which makes them unable to reach the players before they broadcast their position and plight to the VGS and break towards the factories. For a brief moment, the pursuers seem to head toward VGS, but two assault ships launch from the factories' inner hangars and the dropship disengages, switching its course and burning towards the inner system.
The players are allowed to dock on the inner dock. While onboard the station, they witness a larger amount of the same assault ships that scared their pursuers away and half a dozen of the dropships they possess docked to a jumpship which seems designed simply to transport them. While making weapon purchases, Gunther and Eurich inquire about the ships and further inventory, and the crew are invited upstairs to discuss these matters. They are escorted by armed men and suvak awese into a lavishly decorated room where a person who resembles Vincent Barr (by chance?) to an alarming degree tells them to sit down and shows them their inventory.
The VGS representative (who Ivan designates as "The Illusive Man") emphasizes that the factories have an exclusive production agreement to an unnamed third party, but that he has been following the conflict in Kersia and believes there to be a… plausible deniability for the players to have acquired their wares from other sources, so there should be no barriers on doing business. However, despite being shown a very advanced lineup of equipment, it seems evident that none of it really meets their needs at the moment. The players spend around six million on special weapons, but even though Alexander would want to buy another Striga, the others talk him out of it. Eurich inquires for various weapons of mass destruction, which seems to irritate and alarm the representative. They are shooed out but not exactly shown the door and at least no-one tells the players that they are unwelcome in the future.
Even though the players are more careful with their interception points and options on the return trip the Sirak are nowhere to be seen during the return trip. Just as they reach the orbit and read news about further pirate attacks in the asteroid belt, all news outlets are interrupted with a press conference held by Countess Miave of Diave A.
The Countess presents herself less ascetically than Akmavala and like her, is also seen in the presence of her mentats. The overall message of the conference is vague and while Miave refrains from making threats, she notes that Akmavala overstepped her bounds in the extent of her intervention in the corporate war. Further, it is noted that Teask-Dumar should be allowed to keep control of its current infrastructure and that reparations need to be discussed.
As suddenly as it began, the transmission ends. Fuub immediately calls the players to action and orders a negotiation with his collegues in Vetakai's largest city. Huug-Gun, Alexander and Eurich are invited as military advisors.
While the rest of the crew stay back and spend time talking to other mercenaries present, the leaders of Black Nebula meet Fuub-Ark and his apparent cavalcade of trusted friends and collegues in a darkened hall, where Fuub tells them his assessment of the probable course of events leading to the situation. Present are around ten working and two warrior class awese, the other of which is the leader of another loyalist (as if the players are?) mercenary organization whose name translates roughly as Shadow Flare.
As before, Meek-Ria and Fuub-Ark are well-informed. They know that the orbital factories have been constructing a battlecruiser and two destroyers specifically aimed at space superiority, which is certainly a force that the corporation is not allowed to possess considering its political power. It seems evident, that Akmavala, who is likewise not highly ranked enough for this kind of an investment, is the only possible customer. From here on, Fuub goes on to construct a conspiracy, whose victims both of the heavy industry corporations might be. He suggests that both the initial attacks and the attack on the peace convoy were framed, and that the latter was used to kill of a large amount of the BHI high command in order to replace some or all of them with people loyal to her cause. The warships being build are done in order to challenge Miave, and that crippling Teask-Dumar was paramount in trying to deny the countess a possible ally and serious production capacity during the upcoming war. Fuub admits that he has no direct proof, but that this is the only combination which seems to make sense.
Following the lecture, Fuub proposes a conspiracy within BHI, the most pressing purpose of which is to survive the upcoming events. As a secondary objective, he suggests that if possible, it should be investigated to which extent BHI is under Akmavala's control. A plan to reseat BHI's leaders and regain internal independence should be discussed separately.
The room descends to (surprisingly civil) discussion and speculation. The members discuss possible outcomes and present strategy. Almost everyone agrees that if Akmavala is able to prolong the conflict even slightly, she is likely to win, and that siding with her while working inside BHI is probably the prudent choice.
At this point, the players are escorted out by Meek-Ria, and informed that they do not need to concern themselves with the strategy. For now, it is more important to consolidate BHI's power and resume the annexation of Teask-Dumar property. They are told that a formal briefing of future targets will ensue in short order and that they should be prepared for launch.