She was born aboard the Hammer & Sickle, a dwarven mining ship. When the crew learned they had a third Skittermander aboard, one that was eating even more voraciously than the two they already dealt with, the parents were told that would not be tolerated. The assumption was that they would move on with the larvae… but true to Skittermander nature the larvae was left to its own devices, relocated to the human-run mining and recon ship Rock and a Hard Place, as the parents flew off – still committed to their tasks aboard the Hammer & Sickle, for the time being at least.

Aboard the new vessel, the ship’s Engineer, Ryley Taeon – a technically minded Korasha Lashunta, took a liking to the cute, and hungry, little thing – adopting it as a kind of mascot. The Human captain, William Brady, was much less enamoured of the critter, regularly referring to her as “That no-good Skitter!” Often the phrases things like ‘Get that no-good Skitter off my bridge,” or “What did that NG Skitter do now?” were commonly heard, until everyone on board began referring to her as simply “NG” or “Enjee”.

Eventually, with Enjee regularly retreating to areas the rest of the crew could not reach when she was trouble with the captain, they developed a small drone (Nanny Under Friendly Fire, NUFF) with a camera to track her. This would come to backfire on them.

Noticing the difference between the Lashunta and Human reactions to her presence, Enjee became interested in meeting new alien races, keeping a small scrapbook with pictures and bits of information about them, as well as their machines and cuisine when possible. Her many arms lead her to becoming a fine assistant to any mechanical repairs with a tool always at hand, and her small size was a boon in getting to the hard-to-reach places that would normally require major disassembly of key ship components. To that end, she figured out how to reprogram her nanny-drone to serve her own needs, after her regular combats with it didn’t seem to have much impact.

For years the crew, even the irritated captain, grew attached to their tiny technician, and eventually it was almost forgotten what “Enjee” stood for. When Ryley was offered a berth on another ship that was too good in pay and perks to pass up, the crew had Enjee fill the gap until they found a new Mechanic-minded type to join. Needless to say, nobody was ever the right fit for the close knit crew, since none of them were better than the Skittermander.

The little larvae was finally reaching Skittermander adulthood when things went awry. It had begun as a normal mission to check out an asteroid belt in deep space for ore. In the belt they found an abandoned ship, still attached to the largest of the rocks. This ship, with the IFF Aces Low, had no distress beacon – but also no signs of life aboard and did not respond to hails to clarify the claim. The prospect of the recon value of a visibly intact ship was far too tempting to pass up, so they docked with the derelict and prepared to board.

Enjee was taking care of some routine ship repairs aboard the Rock, waiting to be called out to head over to Aces Low and troubleshoot the dead ship’s systems once the rest of the crew had declared it clear. But time started dragging on with no call. No answer to her calls. Radio silence. A day passed in eerie silence.

All at once, the docking portal opened up and the Captain staggered back through, dragging the pilot behind him. Both were wounded, weak and sick, the pilot unable to even stand as she clutched the gash in her side. After she was tucked in her bunk and some quick computer commands were entered, the Captain tried to explain, stuttering and stammering, tripping over his own words as he spun the story of finding shards of valuable noqual, a starmetal that his computer said was highly demanded in certain trade circles. The crew split up to try to locate more piles of this strange substance, and that’s when the screaming started.

The first sign the captain had of something wrong was when he teamed up with the ship’s gunner, Howie, to search together for a bit, only to find a glorious complete mass of noqual, glimmering green like crystal in the dim beams of light. And inside the pod of starmetal, he could just see something moving. As they started to haul this massive motherload, it began cracking, with a blue clawed paw tearing out. The Captain shamefully admitted that while the Howie stayed behind, the ship’s leader ran and didn’t see what happened exactly. Instead he retreated back to the airlock to ensure the noqual they had collected so far had not been disturbed and to regroup with anyone else who might have also had unexplained encounters.

There was no one else there, but a hefty pile of noqual had started to form. After an hour of eerie silence, the Captain used the suit comms to try to reach Howie. No reply. Nothing from the pilot, Filippa, either. Something seemed to be blocking the comms on this ship, when even the science officer Dr. Kraft could not be raised. Unwilling to leave his crew behind, he transferred the norqual back to the Rock, equally unwilling to lose the profit it promised, and headed back to where his reliable gunner had been left.

By this point in the story, the Captain was clearly not aware of Enjee anymore. His eyes were distant, his breathing strained, as if he were reliving the events of the previous day.

Howie, space suit torn and helmet missing, seemed to be crouched in the corner of the room facing away from Captain Brady, scattered remains of noqual still taking up the center of the floor in the familiar pile of shards from other finds, instead of the mass they had seen before. In response to the Captain’s entry, though, Howie struggled to his feet, moving awkwardly as if unfamiliar with his own body. When he spun around, a long blue tongue, engorged and tentacle-like, lashed towards Brady. The details of the fight were glossed over, but while the zombie-version of Howie got some hits in, ultimately the Captain put him down for good.

In trying to return to his own ship after the encounter, Brady found his exit blocked by a blue creature, almost feline, with a mane of waving tentacles. His description was vague, voice tinged with horror at what he had seen. Once gain the Captain fled, frantically calling over the comms for anyone’s aid. Nothing but silence.

Dr. Kraft was found huddled in a storage closet, and nearly shot the Captain on entry. Something had fundamentally broken in the good doctor, as he muttered to himself endlessly and would not look directly at Brady. It seemed like Kraft was reading a scientific article stored in his brain, over and over, but all the captain could make out was phrases like “Void Death” and “Akata reproduction” on repeat. Taking the doctor by the arm, they started to make their way back towards the airlock, hoping the creature had moved on from their only path to home.

It had not gone far. From a side passage it leapt onto Kraft, but not without getting a good bite into the Captain first, and then Brady was hauled bodily into the nearby crew quarters from behind, as a wounded Filippa came to the rescue. While they could hear the screams, they remained in their barricaded room until the noises stopped. Thumps against the door eventually ceased.

Both of them felt exhausted, nauseous, and terrified. Filippa had been hurt from multiple encounters, and was getting worse quickly. It was agreed that they would trade off taking watches while the other slept, before starting the race back to the Rock. Brady took the first watch, but when he tried to wake his pilot, who barely stirred in response, it dawned on him that she was further gone and wouldn’t be watching anything for a while. With the doctor dead, there was no one to treat her. Despite feeling ill himself, he decided there was no choice but to try to make it back to the airlock with her in tow, and hope the creature, or creatures, were far enough away that they could make their getaway.

Luck, for once, was on their side. Very little details were given, but obviously that short dash with the barely conscious Filippa being hauled along resulted in a return to their ship. Needing medical aid, the Captain had turned on the SOS and detached from Aces Low.

Enjee offered to take over monitoring the bridge, so the Captain could get some much needed sleep. His pallor had gotten paler through the story, his body sagged in his seat, and he was obviously sweating. With no medical knowledge, all Enjee could recommend was rest.

NUFF was waiting outside the crew quarters for signs of anyone waking up as Enjee began solo piloting away from the cursed ship. Once they were limping out of the asteroid field, she began to grieve for her friends Kraft and Howie – lost to the void.

Things seemed safe for a day, though Filippa was getting worse, bedridden and thrashing through fever dreams. Captain Brady spent most his time watching her, not well himself. Internal ship comms restored function as they drifted towards the outskirts of the belt. Enjee kept checking to ensure the SOS was still broadcasting, in case they found someone to help as the hours stretched on. Enjee wasn’t comfortable with setting up Drift travel yet, but it didn’t look like Filippa would be returning to the bridge soon and Captain Brady was reluctant to leave her side.

A ship moved in to censor range with no IFF, but obviously a Vesk freighter, and Enjee amplified the SOS, waiting for them to come acknowledge and offer help. To Enjee’s view, they had to help – which is why she was so surprised as they came close enough to scan the Rock, and then vanished into the Drift themselves, without a single word of response to the calls for help.

The Captain has become less responsive as the day wore on, lost in his own thoughts. Unexpectedly, over the comm, came his voice simply saying “We lost her.” Through NUFF’s camera Enjee saw the Captain pull the sheet up over Filippa’s head. The Captain locked himself in his quarters and refused to respond to Enjee’s plea that he return to the bridge to program their Drift course.

Once again the proximity alerts showed a vessel approaching the belt, an identifier showing them as a vessel registered from Absalom Station called the Excelsior, but as before it left, this time diving into the asteroid field, without responding to Enjee’s increasingly desperate communication attempts, nor the standard ship’s SOS. It hurt to see so few willing to help, so finally Enjee buckled down and started to carefully plan a Drift course back to Absalom.

In Drift space, things became strange aboard the Rock and a Hard Place. As NUFF had not been given any orders since being told to watch Filippa, it remained hovering in the crew bunk area, camera trained on the sheet-covered figure. Captain Brady was still locked in his cabin, non-responsive to any communication. NUFF suddenly started blaring a warning to Enjee when the formerly-dead figure stirred and staggered out of the bunk – blue tentacle tongue waving threateningly. Remembering the threats described by Brady about Howie’s changes, Enjee retreated from the bridge to Engineering, where she felt most safe. The move was likely a life saving one, as it gave her access to the small conduits a larger creature could not enter. As formerly-Filippa entered the room, Enjee was able to duck and dodge her way free of the attacks and into a space even the pervasive tongue-tentacle could not reach.

Frantically Enjee tried to notify the Captain, but there was no response. Without being able to leave her little conduit, Enjee couldn’t drop out of their scheduled Drift course, and communication within Drift wasn’t possible, so the ship proceeded to fly on towards Absalom – unresponsive to the drama unfolding within.

Using NUFF, Enjee “followed” the husk that had been her pilot and friend as it prowled the corridors. She crawled deeper into the ship, unarmed but unharmed, unable to fight back or be reached by the attacker. Finally she recalled NUFF and curled up with her tiny drone to watch out, catching what sleep she could.

When she awoke, still in silence, the drone was sent on another expedition to find Captain Brady and demand help, to no avail. While the small Skittermander was sleeping the Captain, or what had been her Captain, had emerged from his quarters… changed as Filippa had been. Together the two formed a small hunting pack, seeking the life emanations they could not reach deep in the ship.

Two more days passed as the ship sped on, Enjee traveling through the small passages in an attempt to reach supplies, control of the ship, or safety, with limited results on any front. After her first foray into the crew’s kitchen, one of the creatures nearly snagged her. From that point forward she used NUFF as her eyes before she would venture out anywhere. She was able to use her limited access to the computer from her location to reprogram the Rock’s communication array, redirecting it’s input to her control rig tablet, giving her the power to call for help when they finally dropped out of Drift space. Control of the piloting had to be done from the bridge, and any attempt to access it was quickly met with interference from the hungry creatures.

A day before the scheduled arrival at Absalom, the first of the terrors began slowing down, and then encasing itself in green crystal, Enjee recognizing it as matching the norqual currently stored down in the hold. Slowly Enjee realized the “motherload” of norqual that Howie and the Captain had tried to haul back had been a pod holding one of these things, waiting to attack. And now her crew had become the horrible threat. This pod stood right near the airlock, waiting for anything to enter the ship and continue the disgusting cycle.

While hungry and distraught, she recorded a message to call for help as soon as she was out of Drift space, even if that happened while she was asleep – with warnings as best she could of what waited anyone boarding the ship. The second creature also formed a pod of its own, a green cocoon on the bridge, ensuring Enjee could not get to the controls without outside assistance, as she had no weapons in her hiding spaces and no confidence she could take on one, much less both, of these things.

Time ticked by, and though only one standard day passed it felt to the Skittermander as though it were weeks crawling by. NUFF would try to comfort her, as best it could, but Enjee felt hollow and bereaved by the loss of the crew she relied on. Worse, the attacks from what had been her friends felt like betrayal of the highest order. Left to dwell, nearly alone and utterly scared, she recorded message after message for the rescuers she hoped to find, telling them as much of the story as she knew. The unwillingness of the earlier ships to respond had her fears magnified that she would not be recovered  – that either it would be safer to destroy the ship as a whole or to leave her adrift until she became one of the horrors, lost in space with no sense of self left.

Exhaustion had set in again, and despite her efforts to fight it, Enjee was sound asleep when the ship reached the programmed destination and dropped back into normal space near Absalom. By the time she knew what was happening the comms were alight from Station Flight Control, demanding more information in response to her pre-recorded pleas.

As best she could Enjee answered the barrage of questions, gave as many warnings about what the creatures could and would do as the listeners would put up with, and pleaded for them to come take her away as soon as possible. She was afraid to leave her hiding places, despite being hungry and weary. It would take another two days for the station to find a pair of adventurers from the Starfinder Society willing to take up the assignment, but in the meantime the station had made efforts to keep the ship in isolation, as well as reach out to Enjee regularly with updates.

When the Starfinders arrived, it was with tremendous sound and fury, as they quickly dispatched the remaining two creatures – doing most of the damage before the terrors were even fully disengaged from their cocoons. The two heroes had brought along a camera drone that they posed for regularly, apparently a live feed back to the news crews back on Absalom, who had become very curious as soon as the ship was off limits. Most of the reward the Starfinders expected was in the form of marketing deals and exclusive footage sales – though they had been promised the two cocoons of norqual as well. Introducing themselves as Waite and Derby, the two humans attempted to interview Enjee on camera, though she still found it hard to come all the way out of her hiding place and they were forced to send the camera drone in to her to record her answers. Still feeling deeply unsettled, they assured her she would be able to leave the ship soon, so she gave them the best answers possible, never knowing that the recordings were streaming to the various entertainment and news networks of the station.

Returning to the station and finding herself a temporary celebrity was disconcerting. She was hailed as ‘The Skittermander Survivor’ and those same news networks reached out for more detailed personal interviews. She turned them all down, was connected to a small Skittermander community on board Absalom, and began speaking regularly with a counselor until the fifteen minutes of fame blew over. As quickly as the attention had built, focus turned elsewhere and Enjee became just another mechanic for hire, with NUFF still in tow.

The ship’s existing cargo, including the recovered norqual from Aces Low, as well as the ship itself, were decided to be property of the young Skittermander – though the station did extract a recovery and rescue fee from those profits. Never wanting to board Rock and a Hard Place again, Enjee quickly found a buyer that was entranced by the newly infamous nature of the ship – rumors abound that it was haunted or cursed, and yet that drove up the price instead of down. This funded her living and adventures, as well as her therapy sessions, at the station for over a year, by which point she had decided that station life was too land-locked for her, and she needed to be out amongst the stars again, meeting a better breed of alien life than the Akatas that had left a nasty mark on her mind. In defiance of the things she’d seen, she presented an upbeat front to the world.

Her next gig would be aboard the Vigilant with the Captain Nathaniel Wingate, where she elected not to provide the details of her former ship-life, instead relying on the reputation she had built over the last year on the station and a demonstrated knowledge of ships. It seemed to work, since Wingate took a chance on the seemingly chipper Skittermander.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s