A Kristang relay station did not provide any intel on secret missions to Earth, so Skippy the Magnificent implemented measures to look at other sources and the ship moved on. After journeying to the nearest "Super-Duty" wormhole, Skippy revealed that the Pirates' Wormhole Controller Module was not powerful enough to make a wormhole connect across the vast distances of intergalactic space. Instead, the Elder Wormhole Controller Module would have to be augmented with Rindhalu technology which could be found on one of their dead worlds (planets destroyed in the The Elder Civil War, the The AI War and the war between the Maxolhx and the Rindhalu).
The crew find suitable "range extenders" on a dead world, but Skippy also finds evidence that the Rindhalu had a working Elder AI before the planet was destroyed and that rumors about the Maxolhx having one too may be more than rumors.The crew found a Super-Duty wormhole that could connect to the target satellite galaxy they wanted to visit, and completed the jump. However, once in the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy, Skippy found that the wormholes were behaving in strange ways that he could not consciously understand. They found a wormhole that connected to only one habitable planet. The planet turned out to be an uninteresting yet pleasant location for [[Humans}humanity]]'s beta site (tentatively called Avalon), and Skippy found out that the star system had indeed been modified by the Elders before they left. Skippy suspects there is a stealthed gas giant in the system similar to Vera in the Roach Motel. It's tentatively named Maris. Skippy did not find anything troubling, but both Joe and Skippy had a nagging feeling about the planet.
The Dutchman left to return to Earth with news of the beta site candidate, leaving behind most of the crew, Chotek, The Three Stooges and equipment. On the way back, Skippy receives terrible news. Major Perkins of the Mavericks had asked the Jeraptha to accompany the Maxolhx expedition to Earth to find out what was going on there, and the two cruisers had failed to show up at the rendezvous having been destroyed by the Pirates. Highly suspicious, the Maxolhx were now sending a full battlegroup to Earth and they had already blockaded the Gateway wormhole to Earth with more than 80 ships. Joe's brilliant idea to make the Maxolhx not care about Earth had failed because Perkins had unknowingly doomed humanity.
After discussing the problem, Joe realized in hindsight that everything including and after the attack on the Thuranin surveyor ship could have been avoided if he had instigated the Kristang civil war instead of attacking the ship, but he had been afraid of the political consequences of doing so.
Joe initially gave up on trying to stop the Maxolhx attack and planned to go to Paradise to take humans to the beta site to ensure humanity survived somewhere in the universe. However, he then had the idea to frame the Bosphuraq for the attack on the Maxolhx. This plan would conveniently match with the actions the crew took on their last mission away from Earth.
To sell the cover story, the crew destroyed all remnants of the Dutchman that were left behind when the Maxolhx ships were destroyed and replaced them with debris from Bosphuraq ships. They then jumped back to the Bosphuraq research system they had attacked and modified the star to suggest the Bosphuraq had been working on spacetime weapons.
The cover story worked, but the Maxolhx became so desperate to convince the Rindhalu they weren't weakened by the apparent Bosphuraq attack that they decided to send a battlegroup to Earth anyway, despite the mission being completely unnecessary.
To make things worse, Skippy found out that the Elders had faced an existential threat that had caused them to create a shield that sealed off the Milky Way and its immediate neighborhood from intergalactic jumps, and that this threat was so severe that Skippy was prevented from giving details about it. The Elders likely transcended physical reality to escape the threat and left behind Sentinels and Guardians to protect the shield.
While the crew decided whether they wanted to go to Paradise for a last-ditch effort to take at least some humans to Avalon, Joe had the idea to capture a Maxolhx warship by getting Skippy to slice it in half using a wormhole. The first attempt at catching a Maxolhx ship almost ended in the destruction of the Dutchman before Skippy vaporized the cruiser collapsing the wormhole while the cruiser was transitioning through.
Skippy was then able to successfully slice apart an Extinction-class battlecruiser and capture the first three quarters, but the other quarter was destroyed when it experienced a reactor failure and exploded. However, they were able to get part of another Extinction-class battlecruiser as well as two halves of a heavy cruiser.
The five sections were enough to create a complete, upgraded battlecruiser and upgrade the Dutchman, but to fully power the Maxolhx battlecruiser (renamed Valkyrie) the Pirates needed to get replacement "Vacuum Power Multipliers" (VPMs). While considering ways of getting these VPMs, Joe had the idea to jump the battlegroup heading to Earth outside of the Milky Way by sending them through multiple chained wormholes. To avoid the scout ships alerting the rest of the battlegroup before they could be stranded, their core files would need to be modified to fool the ships' AIs.
The Pirates changed the files at a Maxolhx space dock, then went to obtain new VPMs at an automated supply base. However, the station turned out to have Maxolhx crew performing maintenance and the Pirates suffered a devastating ambush, losing almost all of the Special Tactics Assault Regiment (STAR) team.
Major Fal Desai and Captain Renee Giraud, who were original members of the Merry Band of Pirates, were both killed in action. Gunnery Sergeant Margaret Adams was severely wounded and received a traumatic brain injury (TBI) with the possibility of a recovery unknown. Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Smythe was also severely injured, losing both of his legs below the knee.
Despite his grief, Joe moved ahead with the mission to strand the Maxolhx battlegroup outside the galaxy. Skippy successfully dumped the battlegroup in deep intergalactic space and helped the Pirates give a final sendoff for the Maxolhx crews. They successfully covered up their actions and bought Earth a brief respite, but the blockade of the Gateway wormhole, was still in place and humanity was still under threat of the Maxolhx sending even more ships in the future, nevermind the potential threats of the two senior species having Elder AIs and of whatever caused the Elders to leave the galaxy.
Joe decided that he had had enough of sneaking around, and that it was time to kick some ass.