The story begins with Erma and her crew preparing to jump into another part of outer space in search of the ILR fleet that attacked Dornthant. When everything seemed ready and at the time of the jump, something went wrong and the ship was unable to do so, considerably damaging the ship and injuring several crew members, including Erma.
Seeing the reason why the ship was unable to jump in another direction, it was evident that there was an error or fluctuation in the jump process which caused the ship and its crew to be accidentally exposed to a large amount of cosmic energy for a short time, temporarily incapacitating them, and in this particular case, apparently there was even a death to regret. All those jumps that Erma's ship had made in a short period of time had made a dent in the spaceship, although the crew should be grateful that it could have been worse, as they could have ended up in an unknown place in space, or even in Another Dimension. When they saw how many people were affected by the accident, they found that 62% of the crew were injured on several levels, but most of them would recover without much trouble.
Meanwhile, the ship's crew frantically tried to assess the damage and to bring together the injured caused by the accident, and when they saw that Erma was unconscious, the situation became even more desperate, as they had to find someone to replace her for the time being, and that someone was Nagai, the XO of the ship.
Several days later, Erma regained consciousness, and she tried to find out what had happened the whole time she was bedridden, which both the doctors in the infirmary and the Net explained to her in detail and suggested that she rest, as she would need many days to return to work again. On the other hand, Nagai, who was now the captain of the ship while Erma recovered from the misjump days ago, prepared the ship to jump again, this time with more caution, because it would be a soft jump, which would cause the ship to take more days to reach its destination.
Erma listened to Nagai's orders, which caused her to complain, but the doctor explained that they couldn't risk having half the crew out of action again, not to mention herself if the jump failed again. This was especially relevant, since due to her Talent powers, she was very sensitive to jumps, and any medication she could took to avoid that would only calm the symptoms, but not solve the problem at all. She asked the doctor if all this would affect her social status, which would depend on the type of medication she could use, but if she were sedated it would be even worse, as she would be completely useless.
Leaving aside the EDF, we see the crew of an ILR ship (which has nothing to do with Barlahan and company) called Chamda, which is chased by an unknown ship. To their misfortune, jumping was impossible, as they were in an area where it was impossible to do so, and to make matters worse, the enemy ship launched three ACVs against them and the only thing they could do was avoid them, while they found some way to defend themselves. Shortly thereafter, they realized that the drones did not appear to be attempting to attack them and were only immobile with the intention of intercepting the Chamda if necessary. The crew realized that if the ACVs tried to attack them all at once, they might have a chance to avoid them, but they should find a way to do it first.
Days later, the Chamda crew was prepared for the attack of the EDF drones as they approached their ship dangerously. But, instead of being attacked with ballistic ammunition or some other type of conventional weapon, the Chamda was hit by a very powerful beam of light that gradually disintegrated the ship's hull in a single shot, but without destroying it. As for the crew, they are desperately trying to know what hit them, since the ship's computers cannot determine the type of weapon they were attacked with, apart from the fact that the ship's hull was almost destroyed, and the inside of the ship was seriously damaged, and in trying to figure out what happened to the other ACV that was aiming at them, that drone also turned out to have an MCC inside it and by opening fire on the Chamda, the ACV completely destroyed the spacecraft, as well as its entire crew...
...Except for two people, who survived the attack.
Those two people were Hawsah and Taiho, who were the only members of the Chamda crew who survived the attack, and Hawsah floated in the void of space along with the wreckage of the destroyed ship, trying to find more survivors, without success. And as for Taiho, the latter was seriously wounded and he was drowning in his astronaut suit with his own blood. When Hawsah saw that he couldn't do anything for his partner, all he could do was put Taiho out of his misery and blowing his brains out with a gun floating around. After doing this, Hawsah tried again to find the rest of the survivors, without success, while another ACV with another copy of the MCC was hanging around waiting for orders.
Meanwhile, the unknown ship, which turns out to be an EDF ship, and from which the ACVs came originally, was still in the area, while several officers watched closely the events and how they were more or less satisfied with the results produced by their new secret weapon, even though they were not happy that the Chamda had not been completely destroyed with a single shot. Therefore, and in order not to leave any evidence or witnesses of the existence of such a weapon, the EDF ordered to use the three ACVs with MCCs in the remains of the destroyed ILR ship in order to eliminate it completely and any survivors who might still be there, although this last part is never seen on-screen.
These previous events, along with what happened in Dornthant, caused another collateral victim: The Net itself, which, after seeing how the conflict was becoming more and more bloody and genocidal, decided to take an extremely desperate step to prevent an entire civilization from destroying itself, along probably with its own Creators, something that makes clear to a neutral third party, in this case a member of the Enchawah family, the owners of the corporation of the same name, Techuman Enchawah.
The Net explains to Techuman what it intended to do, something that he cannot believe, because he thought they had control over it, but the computer explains the reasons why it had made that decision, which included the use of the Matter Conversion Cannon, the assassination attempt on Dr. Elaki Kalahahahaii, along with the exposure of the nanomachines in the body of the aforementioned researcher. All of these events had caused the Net, as well as the Creators (or whoever was controlling the AI) to terminate the "grand experiment" (in this case, the creation of the entire anthropomorphic civilization for scientific purposes) and now the number one priority was to prevent the anthropormorphics from destroying each other (along with the Net and its human creators). And for this, the Net would be divided into several independent AIs who would work with all parties to the conflict. Thanks to this, the Net could participate in all the decisions of both the EDF, ILR and Enchawah without taking sides with any of the three superpowers, but at the same time it would control anything they could do, especially any attempt at mass destruction or genocide that any of the three parties might attempt.
And with regard to Dr. Kalahahahahaii, she recovered successfully from the injuries she suffered in her laboratory due to the assasination attempt on her, thanks to the nanomachines that adhered to her body due to the explosion. Although she still had some fever from the effects of the nanites, the Net assures her that it was because they were settling in her body, helping her to repair the damage from the explosions, leaving her better than new, though without the biomechanical advantages that the artificial humans on the ship had beforehand.
But now that she was well, all she wanted was to get out of that room where she was quarantined so she could study the effects of nanomachines on her body and prevent them from infecting other people. Meanwhile, Tutaun, the doctor's assistant, informed her of what had happened so far since the day of the attack against her, among the next things that the EDF had installed some kind of malware on the corporation's computers in order to spy on them. On the other hand, Enchawah had ordered the search for those responsible for the attack throughout the entire system, while the corporation was evaluating its relationship with the EDF because of this. Unfortunately for all the members of the corporation, there was no way to check whether the EDF and therefore the ConFed were behind the attack.
And with regard to the latter, it was reported that four members of the EDF had been arrested, although two of them committed suicide before being captured. The conversation took a sudden turn when Techuman Enchawah, the aforementioned member of the clan that gives the company its name, also participated in the video conversation. The man explained that they had tried to find out what was behind the Net, now that it had been divided into several independent AIs, but the AI's operating system was protected by several layers of encryption that they did not know about, and that apparently Dr. Kalahahahahahaii's infestation with nanomachines, coupled with war-related events, had triggered some kind of program, which was protected by the encryption mentioned. And while nothing they had found on the operating system gave any clue about the Creators, what they did know was that one of the layers on the Net was responsible for observing and managing the entire anthropomorphic civilization as part of the grand social experiment.
Hearing all this, Kalahahahahahaii could not help but think that she was no longer master of her own fate, seeing her newly healed body rebuilt by the nanomachines created by her human Creators.
Once out of the quarantine chamber, the doctor was very happy to see everyone in person again, instead of having to see them from a distance from a monitor, although her joy was short-lived, since now they had to give her another check-up: one of personal orifices. After that embarrassing examination, Techuman was happy to see that she had fully recovered.
Unfortunately for both Enchawah and the doctor, both the attack and her being contaminated by nanomachines put all parties involved in a complicated dilemma. On the one hand, Techuman would like to reward her and her family for all the sacrifices they have made for the corporation and free her from any obligation to them, but on the other hand, considering the current war situation and the fact that she was now the target of the EDF, that would not be possible at the moment. Because of this, Techuman gave Dr. Elaki Kalahahaii two choices, which affected her freedom and life considerably: The first was that she could continue her life with or without Enchawah, but the corporation reserved the right to subtly monitor her if necessary, and the second was that she could join Enchawah, which gave her access to all the company's resources, in addition to owning authority, in exchange for following certain rules. Obviously, he gives Kalahahahaii the opportunity to think through her decision on the matter.
Once on the street, the doctor carefully reflects on the offer offered by the corporation and how it may affect her life and career as a scientist, and without also saying the effect that the nanomachines she still has in her body could have on her in the long run.
Another person who is aware of the whole problem with the Net is Itzak Arrat, who is awakened from his sleep by the same AI, albeit with lots of difficulties, since the EDF is using a program to hinder its actions. In addition to informing him of the latest details, The Net also informs him of the EDF plot against Enchawah, as well as other nefarious plans against him and his crew, something that will be seen later.
And with regard to the latter, Arrat informs the EDF members with whom Enchawah was working on a joint mission that their presence on the ship and in the corporation is no longer welcome and that they could now be considered arrested, something that angers them and in a spectacular turn of events, they threaten to destroy the ship with a device they had on hand that would destroy the ACVs they lent to Enchawah with everything and themselves included. Unfortunately for them, the Net had purged the self-destruct program, leaving them defenseless, and basically, at the mercy of Arrat's crew.
Meanwhile, in Ish-tako, we see Toki finishing her bath, while a young assistant of hers tells her that she has a meeting in half an hour. She asks the aide for help to get dressed, something the man refused rather embarrassed. Once dressed, Toki discusses with the young assistant if there was anything they needed to worry about, to which the man responds that not for the moment. The assistant, a Vulpine, acknowledges that he was new in the job, that he had never worked with the main staff before and that Toki is from Danet, a planet famous for its inhabitants, including Toki, for being quite sexually liberated.
Faced with these concerns, Toki advises him to leave the difficult parts to his computer, and that he would have no trouble acclimating to his work. And as for her being a Danetti, Toki responds that many of the things about her compatriots are a bit exaggerated, especially the stereotype that Danet's people drag anyone, especially young officers, into their personal orgies.
And with regard to the meeting that Toki was going to lead, half of it is interrupted by the Network, which lets Toki know what her intentions are from now on, something that surprises her and her men, since to date she had no idea what was happening to it and its relationship with the Creators. The Net, or at least the version they had installed on their computers, lets everyone know that it doesn't intend to take over any functions and that unlike the old version of the Net, it now intends to work with the anthropomorphics as an equal, rather than just obeying orders when it was convenient.
On a different scenario, the action now takes place with the ILR on this occasion, in this case with Captain Barlahan and his crew, who intended to try to attack a civilian space station to plunder its assets, by deceiving the station's computer into thinking that the ILR ship was a friendly ship. But there was a small problem: The computer seemed to refuse to cooperate with the ship's crew in the accomplishment of that mission and the only thing they could do was gut the computer, and that would still take many days.
The ILR was not the only one with problems with its computer systems, since the space station that intended to attack was waiting patiently for the enemy ship, without knowing its true intentions. Meanwhile, the new version of the Network also infiltrated the space station computers, but not without first informing them that the spacecraft that was about to approach the station was trying to trick them. The station administrator asks the Net if it does not intend to deceive them, to which the AI replies that they had less than 40 hours to find out before they could be attacked by the ILR.
Obviously, the administrator panicked and ordered the entire crew of the station to gather, something that the Net had already done beforehand, causing the administrator to get angry, believing that the Net had hostile intentions, when in fact it was trying to warn the man that the ship intended to attack the station and that they had no means to defend themselves. In addition, the Net warned the administrator that the only way to get rid of the AI was also to gut all the computers from the station.
The Net (or the version of it that was on the ship) had also prevented Barlahan's ship from attacking the station by blocking all the ship's computers and preventing the communication systems from functioning. The only person who could talk to the Network was Ipcha Tankannahai, who was warned beforehand by the Net that they could not attack the station, as it was a civilian target, which was against their own laws and the Net would enforce them, whether the crew liked it or not. The only thing the young lieutenant could do is ask the AI to talk to the captain.
In doing just that, the Net warns Barlahan that from now on the AI would control the ship, as a system created by the Creators to prevent anthropomorphic people from destroying themselves, but would remain in a neutral position. It would not attempt to undermine Barlahan's authority or anyone else's, but he would prevent any harmful action against civilians or innocents, and that included destroying the station or the enforcement of orders to execute prisoners in his possession, something that Barlahan did not intend to do anyway. Instead of destroying the station, the Net better gave him a better, less violent idea.
Back at Erma's ship, the aforementioned protagonist noticed that her hair was starting to gray, most likely due to the effects of the continuous jumps she and her crew were making in the last few months, something the Net mostly confirms. The Net also informs her in passing that it was also the new version of it replaced the previous version, and explains to her broadly the same thing it had explained to both the ILR and the members of the civil space station long ago. Because of this, Erma brings her entire crew together and informs them of the sudden change of events regarding the Net and how she would now work with them as an equal, but at the same time try to prevent any harmful action towards innocent third parties, especially considering that the EDF was now corrupted to the core, nor would it will try to prevent Erma's mission, as long as she does not get in the way of the EDF or the ConFed.
- Blessed with Suck: As already mentioned before, Erma is quite sensible to FTL travels due her Talent powers, but since the ship misjumped, damaging it, she was seriously affected compared with the rest of the crew.
- Killed Offscreen: Hawsah, the lone survivor from the ILR's Chamda, was likely killed by the combinated assault of three MCCs in order to leave no evidence of the existence of that weapon, albeit we never see this part on-screen.
- Mercy Kill: Hawsah, one of the survivors of the Chamda, who was destroyed by the Matter Conversion Cannon, is forced to kill his fellow crewmember Taiho when he was drowing in his own blood inside his space suit, so he could stop suffering anymore.
- Leave No Survivors: In order to protect the existence of the MCC, the EDF fires all their three ACVs sporting that weapon on the remains of the Chamda so they can kill whoever survivor from the MCC's initial onslaught.
- Taking You with Me: After the whole EDF plot against both Dr. Kalahahaii and Arrat's ship is discovered, the invited EDF officers tried to self-destruct the ship, but the Net managed to purge the self-destruct program before they could do anything else.
- Touched By Nanomachines: Dr. Kalahahaii's body was healed in a better-than-new state thanks to the nanites she found inside the artificial humans from the derelict ship.
- Wave Motion Gun: The EDF finally test the Matter Conversion Cannon with a live target, in this case with a random ILR ship.