With some brilliant navigation and piloting, Zeke manages to catch up to the unobtanium asteroid. Rothschild’s gunnery expertise is then put to good use firing several large harpoon cables deep into the massive rock. A bit more fancy flying results in killing the asteroid’s momentum and parking it far from any significant shipping lanes.
As soon as Toffee confirms that the asteroid isn’t overly radioactive, Tadpole enthusiastically leads an EVA expedition with golf equipment in tow. True to form, he manages to drive a ball right into an unobtanium formation and break off a perfect sample.
Back on the ship, the Professor and Toffee determine that the asteroid is about 60% pure unobtanium. Everyone is enthused by this revelation, but they still have business on the planet, which they attend to next.
Docking at the orbital station takes a while as the two remaining attendants (Ricky and Bubbles) seem a little confused about what to do with a non-Xanadian ship. Mishka and Zeke eventually sort things out while Tad heads to the bar. Though he was hoping to find a bit of trouble to get into, Tad is disappointed to find the bar almost empty. He helps himself to some free drinks poured by the automated bartender and then joins the rest of the crew.
They hop in the Beetle and head down to the planet, which proves nearly as abandoned as the orbital station. Rothschild goes off in search of his family while the others go with Zeke to find his cousin’s shop. Every person they observe along the way seems to have undergone massive cybernetic modifications, ranging from extra arms, to spider legs, to skin replaced with visual displays.
Zeke’s cousin is an equally disturbing sight as the only remaining non-cybernetic part of his body is his head. His enhancements haven’t dampened his hospitality, however, and he welcomes Zeke and friends. He explains that, over the past few years, cybernetic enhancement went from an expensive medical technology to a routine part of fashion. Thanks mostly to the Williams family, cybertech became so affordable that everyone was doing it. Building on the prevalence of cybertech, the Williams family then introduced “uploading” – a process that allowed people to leave the meat world completely behind.
Rothschild travels to his family’s estate – now a sprawling server-farm that encompasses the former sites of several nearby towns. Not wanting to interrupt the cryo-sleep patterns of their bodies, his parents make a holographic appearance and invite Roth to reject his flawed meat-body and join them in cyberspace along with the majority of Xanadu’s population. Roth is devastated to discover that the technology he helped perfect all those years ago became the source material for the current state of their civilization. Already somewhat disillusioned with recent events on the Dancing Queen, Roth decides to remain on Xanadu and try to repair some of the damage.
Zeke’s cousin takes the rest of the group to meet someone – the last person he knows who hasn’t accepted any cyber enhancements. That person turns out to be Joe Ollo, former sports superstar, currently AWOL from the Phorlorn military. Joe has been stranded on Xanadu for a few months now and is ready to leave any time. A quick deal is reached when Zeke’s cousin reveals that Xanadu’s slipstreams have been degrading for some time and will probably be impassable within a month.
The crew leave the planet and quickly fly back to their parked asteroid. They blast it down to size and, thanks to Zeke’s mad navigation skills, they manage to tow it with them back to Carthane.
After completing the transaction with their employer in Carthane, the crew spread out with three goals in mind:
- Find equipment needed to refine unobtanium.
- Purchase gear to collect the gas necessary to use unobtanium.
- Hire another ship to haul all this gear to Nylig with them.
Joe proves his worth right away by demonstrating that, indeed, everyone does seem to know Joe Ollo. He intimidates an inventor into giving them a ridiculously low price on the refining equipment and then agrees to an endorsement deal with a cargo hauler for goal number three. Arek manages to find a company that can supply the gas collecting equipment but it puts a bit of a dent in even his mighty pocketbook.
Soon after arriving in Nylig, the Queen runs into a Phorlorn Viper on patrol. Zeke initially suggests hiding everything but they quickly decide that won’t work and instead try to escape. The Viper attempts to subvert their computer systems but Mishka exploits the archaic Phorlorn operating systems (IE 634) and nearly shuts them down in response. Tad also proves his worth as a gunnery officer, pummeling the enemy ship into oblivion.