RECUPERATIO: MOONWINGS Prologue: Jumpstart It scuttled through the darkness, finding its way on twelve little legs that made a chittering sound on the decks. It was the only noise, save for the drowsy bleep of idling systems as the slow ticking of the AI kept the ship afloat. Lights flickered on as it moved, their sensors picking up the motions of the tiny creature, and with each door that opened the artificial gravity kicked in, powered by the noisy spin of gyro-machinery. But the creature crawled on regardless, over old pipes and vent shafts, finding the shortest route through the ghost ship that was slowly waking to its presence. It was an hour later when it dropped from a vent and landed before a grand door overlaid with gold-etched symbols. It scuttled up to it before turning. And as the light flickered on, it caught upon the carapace of the creature's back. It was a mask. A metal face scuttling on mechanical, insectoid legs. The creature reared up and pressed its back to the surface of the door and there followed choral hissing as the locks disengaged. The massive doors parted and through a cloud of cryo-gas the mask skittered inside. Scaling a flight of stone steps, it circled the throne, hopping deftly over the rivulets of draining ice. Then it found the foot of its master and crawled upwards, scuttling along the length of his leg and onto his lap. Next it clambered up the chest, finding footholds on the defrosting fabric of his robe, before scaling his neck. The mask manoeuvred itself into position and clamped over the man's face, the legs spreading out like a twelve-pointed star before curling suddenly and snapping inwards. Each metal tendril penetrated a port in the man's skull, interfacing metal and flesh, piercing the brain and pulling the mask tight. It was golden now, cut by streams of gemstone black... a visage angelic yet grained with darkness. And beneath it, the eyes opened from their sleep. In a single motion the captain of the ship rose from his throne and took his first step forwards across the... "WRAAAAGH! OOPH!" Asmodeus fell down the stairs in front of the throne and landed in a heap. He laid there, mask-first in the water, and a slow moan escaped him. "I hate cryosleep." Getting up again, the pirate captain staggered from the chamber and started down the corridor, swaying from wall to wall. The mask shifted slightly as it got comfortable and little crackles of energy darted across its surface as the neural interface began to focus. It took him a few minutes, but eventually Asmodeus was walking upright through the empty halls of the Legacy Flagship. His hand slammed a button in the next corridor and the shutters lifted from the starboard viewing port. The voyage had gone perfectly. The Legacy (or the cargo freighter it was disguised as) was docked with the Pilgrim's Reach Jumpgate and the access shafts were now extending. He could see a few other ships similarly engaged, and they too would soon be granted access to the famous space port. No doubt robot ambassadors or automated messages would be powering up. Through the distant windows of the jump gate he could see signs of liveliness - robots and aliens rubbing shoulders in the corridors and bars lit by neon strips. Pilgrim's Reach was a truckstop, transport hub, outpost and entertainment venue all in one. And... most importantly... the only safe way to get through the Tacaton Nebula and into Moonwings Space. The jumps weren't cheap, and the paperwork wasn't light. But Asmodeus had amassed a small fortune in his Iwakuan days, and he had plenty of antiques and toys to trade with. Speaking of which... The captain continued down the corridor and over to the port side, halting before another chamber with doors similar to his own cryo-pod. This one had blue symbols though, and the glyphs were of a different language entirely. As before, he pressed his mask to the recess at the centre and with a resonant hiss the doors parted. "Rise and shine, sweet star of mine." He peered through the cryo-gas into the chamber, looking for his companion.