Though faith in faster-than-light travel is firm in the present era, it is best to bear in mind that very much remains unknown about the Fold, the medium by which vast interstellar distances can be crossed in mere days. Due to the high-energy nature of fold physics, the distressing occurrences that strike the Fold Network every few years cannot be thoroughly investigated without permission and funding from the local governments. As a result, most of these incidents go unexplained.
Recently, however, one particular fold accident has incurred consequences far too large to be ignored: that which befell the Mercy-class hospital ship USNS Eden several days ago. The ship had moored itself in orbit over the planet Focalor in the Tarthanac system, aiming to provide medical care to the crews of falling satellites following the planet's devastating polar inversion crisis.
Through a series of events that remain poorly understood, the USNS Eden engaged its Fold Drive prematurely while still in orbit. On-the-fly triangulation of its fold trail revealed that it had plotted a course for the neighboring Cezar system.
No arrival signal was detected by Cezar's fold control. The ship had vanished, along with 230 crew, 551 patients, and a sizeable section of the mooring fixture. Investigators assumed that the torn mooring shaft had caused the ship to veer off course and tumble into deep space.
However, six days later, something entirely bizarre occurred. A freighter called the S/N Schulz entered the Cezar-Tarthanac fold from the Cezar side, but what emerged on the other end was none other the USNS Eden. Strange things, however, had happened to it.
Security scans from the few satellites remaining in orbit around Focalor had absorbed several facts about the altered Eden.
1. No passengers were alive on board.
2. The mooring fixture had remained attached to the ship, but it had been duplicated symmetrically to the ship's opposite side.
3. The interior of the ship had been filled entirely with a growth of crystals. They were believed to be protein crystals and... something else.
4. Large, luminescent outgrowths of entirely unknown crystals had occurred on the ship's exterior. Some are believed to act as propulsion, while others act as armor.
5. The Eden was now a Mercy-class ship only in name, for immediately following its arrival in the system, it opened fire on surrounding trade vessels. One would presume that some of these crystals serve as armament.
6. Return fire is ineffective against the ship. Armor is entirely ineffective against its weapons. Subduing the Eden will require drastic measures.