Expeditionary group TX-6 watches as the craft (Tennan calls it a gravity injector or the gravity needle) launches from Thneed's moon and begins to accelerate towards the slip-knot. After some discussion, they rush to the Snake Eyes and rush off in pursuit, but they're about 4 hours behind when it exits the system. Sensor sweeps during the 2-day journey indicate that maybe about 10% of the craft is occupied, meaning that there may be about 150 people on-board. Sensors and telescopes indicate that the needle has numerous torpedo launchers and magazines (16-20), and 30-40 LOS turrets, of unknown type. The engine signature is something the team hasn't seen before.
So they continue to follow, and by the time they get to Crystal 9, the area near the slip-knot is a mess, with multiple hot, radioactive clouds of debris traveling along the last paths that defense ships were once accelerating. The slip-knot station is no longer maintaining spin gravity, and has sustained major damage. Just as they enter the system, they see the needle jump back out. They take about an hour to re-orient, and head back out themselves. Crystal 9 system security is busy and does only cursory verification of their identity.
When they get to the New Greenland system, there seems to have been no battle. The needle is gone, but it's passage seems to have been without the violence in Crystal 9, maybe because it was only there for a few minutes to reorient, and maybe because the New Greenlanders didn't immediately challenge it.
After 1/2 an hour to reorient, EG TX-6 takes the Snake Eyes through into the Reich V system. It looks like the needle has just finished reorienting itself and is burning hard for the north slip-knot, and the naval forces of the system are moving to intercept. Cal talks with the local military, warning them of what happened in Crystal 9, but the Reichians are determined to resist. A couple of days in, the Reich V ships begin to engage, and are mostly destroyed easily by the needle. Two of the (three) known reich dreadnoughts engage, and one is able to get in a couple of minor hits on the craft before it is destroyed by a salvo of torpedoes. The other one limps away with major damage. After this the Reich navy keeps its distance.
Shortly after the needle crosses the plane of the ecliptic, five ships come out of stealth between the needle and the north slip-knot, and it soon becomes apparent that they belong to the Roanokians. They trade fire with the needle, but neither of them seems to have the upper hand. Eventually, Eden is able to analyze the Roanoke ships' behavior and determine that they're probably moving in for boarding, and are probably intending to capture the ship intact, so they can take the weapon with them.
The team tight-beams the needle itself, and talk to a man who identifies himself as the captain, an attractive older, bald man named Michael Grave. He claims not to be worried; he's simply going to activate the needle's weapon if they get too close.
They talk with the remaining dreadnought captain, a man named Reitzhof. He's drinking heavily and looks very unhappy, and he isn't made any happier by Cal's reports of what the needle may be capable of. He agrees maybe they can get some messages out the south slip-knot if necessary and ask any ships with are able to leave to actually do so, but evacuation of the system's population simply isn't possible.
Tennan communicates with the Roanokians and directs Phoenix to put them near one of the approaching Roanoke ships, which makes them vulnerable to any fire between the ship and the needle, but she claims will offer protection when the gravity injector operates.
And then they begin to debate what to do next…