Into the Maelstrom

2 ABY – 09 Golf – 8 Benduday () As they cruise outsystem in normalspace, the group compiles and reviews all their sensor data on the asteroid field and the strange pirate attacks. wants to give them an edge of some kind, so he and C4-BL3 quickly scratch-build an unpowered decoy to resemble a while Kantarra keeps an eye on the sensors. Soon they are maneuvering through the field itself. C4-BL3 is confounded by the massive sensor “noise” all around them, seemingly caused by some material within the asteroids themselves. guesses at the location of the (1000km diameter) sphere of space where all the recent encounters have been, and they launch the makeshift decoy probe into it. They also start transmitting their transponder code. Nothing happens.

Attempting to find and intercept the probe, first circumnavigates the mysterious bubble of space, which is actually quite lively with many ship-sized asteroids tumbling about. Despite his best efforts, one of them glances off the Porgatu and damages it. Without any sign that ghostly pirate ships have taken the bait, decides to take the ship into the dangerous sphere. Approaching what could only be the center of it, the Porgatu's crew feels themselves passing through a magnetic field.

Inside the field, in the very center, they see a small asteroid with some kind of station built onto it. A debris field floats above the station, still slowly expanding outwards – apparently freshly made. Further above is the hulk of the Incom X4 , apparently recently destroyed, with a gaping hole torn all the way through its hull at one point. looks for a place to park the Porgatu or otherwise dock with the damaged .

Before he can, though, a fighter appears at long range in front of them, and two more soon appear in the distance behind the Porgatu. throttles the shuttle up and heads straight at the ship in front of them. The fighters are all of the same design, obviously TIEs of some sort, but of an unknown type with 3 fins arranged around a central pod. angles straight at the incoming – presumably hostile – fighter and tries to give Kantarra the best shot possible. Before they close to a distance where the fighter can effectively use its laser cannons, Kantarra blasts away with the Porgatu's new heavy laser cannons. One of the four cheek turret lasers scores a direct hit on the TIE's central pod before its own guns can reply. The first fighter disintegrates.

lets out a Durese yell of surprise and triumph as he jerks the shuttle around to face the two fighters approaching from astern. Although their aim was temporarily thrown off by the sudden maneuver, first Kantarra and then C4-BL3 each find their targets. Before the second TIE can close to effective range, Kantarra again uses the longer-ranged heavy laser cannons to good effect, blowing off one of the TIE's stabilizers. She sends it spinning wildly out of control. The third TIE roars into range, but just as it's about to open fire, C4-BL3's reflexes anticipate it and unleash a devastating volley from the quad laser turret. It bursts apart into a million pieces with an impressive explosion.

Before anyone can celebrate or even say anything coherent, a massive shadow appears overhead. C4-BL3 instantly recognizes the signature of the Dugan's Hand – the 300-year-old ghost ship which the had sent them to find and . But it is very much “alive.” The size of a naval frigate or , it's positively bristling with turbolasers (presumably responsible for blowing the large holes visible in the nearby).

Immediately the Porgatu is seized, gripped by a powerful and ineluctable tractor beam. At the same time, their audio comms light up. The Dugan's Hand transmits a barrage of pirate cliches that would be comical under other circumstances – “Arrr!, avast ye scurvies,” etc. … which quickly is overtaken by error messages spoken by some ship's vocoder or 's voice. powers the drives down as the crew prepares to face the unknown.