Episode Number: 102
Written by: Jon Crew
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 30th May 2020
- Commander M’Niri: Caitian Commanding Officer, Deep Space 3
- Dr T’len: Vulcan Head Scientist, Project Noir
- Lieutenant Commander Coulson: Human Administrator, Project Noir (detached from Starfleet Intelligence)
Captain’s Log: Stardate 9824.3, supplemental
I wish I could be making my initial log entry in happier circumstances, but Lyonesse’s maiden voyage has not gone as I hoped.
A faulty dilithium crystal forced a catastrophic emergency shutdown of the warp core, leaving us becalmed in interstellar space. Lt Valik and his team have performed stirling work bringing the system back online, but were I a supersitious individual, I would be seeing this as a worrying premonition!
Plot: Lyonesse’s progress towards the Black Cluster continues, as the crew gain more knowledge of their mission.
The ‘A’ Plot: With her warp core fixed, Lyonesse got back underway to Deep Space 3, running nearly a day late. An engineering investigation showed that the cracked crystal had a flaw that was almost impossible to detect ahead of time. This kind of thing had happened before, but they were lucky there had been no damage to the ship from the sudden stress.
As they arrived at DS3, they were greeted personally by the station commander, who advised them that Dr T’len of Project Noir was impatient to meet them. Masuda beamed across with some of her senior officers.
M’Niri skipped the usual tour of the station, taking them straight across the trade floor to the main lifts, where they ascended to the conference suite. Waiting for them were Dr T’len, a severe Vulcan and, the rather more friendly Adrian Coulson. T’len immediately commented that she was glad they had finally decided to turn up, and led the way straight into a meeting room.
What followed was a very terse briefing about Project Noir and the Lyonesse’s expedition into the Black Cluster. T’len was obviously irritated by the delays, and apparently by Starfleet in general; she strode out after less than twenty minutes, saying she had supply meetings to attend. Coulson apologetically took questions and went into more detail on the project’s findings so far.
Lt Astan realised that he knew Coulson from his time at the Academy, when Coulson had taught intelligence procedures. He admitted that he had been assigned to the project by Starfleet Intelligence: it was no secret that they were keen to learn more about the civilisations in the area.
He also gave them instructions for a secondary mission, to determine the fate of the VES Sonak, a Vulcan exploratory vessel that had entered the nebula at the beginning of the project, but had never returned.
While the ship took on its last supplies and equipment, Astan took the time to learn more about the strategic and security situations in the sector, while Vale used her last chance before the Cluster to acquire plants, seeds, and soil for her arboretum project, as well as some medical supplies, from the market.
Finally, Lyonesse departed for the Cluster itself, making for a recently identified entrance to the interior. After a few final checks, the vessel headed towards the entrance, although Ensign Kheled nearly aborted the entry to the narrow passage at the last moment, when he became convinced it was closing on them.
The passageway was smaller than it seemed and space for manouevre was tight. Further drama ensued when the proximity alarms went off, causing the ship to again come to a halt, although there was nothing visible on screen. Masuda ordered a detailed examination of the sensor logs before they would move on, but, other than the mass detectors that had triggered the alarm, and a brief reaction from the shields, there was no record of an object coming close. Either the vessel had nearly been hit by another object of about the same size, or it was all a false alarm.
With no evidence either way, it was decided to proceed further into the passage way, where Communications was beginning to pick up what appeared to be a signal from a subspace relay buoy.
Lyonesse followed the curving tunnel through the clouds for the next week. Before long it was note that although the helm showed them travelling at around warp 3, their navigation systems showed that they were travelling much slower. Masuda ordered the speed increased to compensate.
Eventually they emerged into a huge bubble-like void within the clouds, containing an entire solar system, with an orange star and three planets, all illuminated in a weird green-blue glow from the nebula itself. Two gormaganders passed close to the ship, and they located the buoy in orbit around a rocky planet. Then they picked up a distress call…
The ‘B’ Plot: As Lyonesse pressed on into the nebula, Dr Vale and her team found themselves dealing with an increased number of headaches, anxiety attacks and apparent hallucinations. The source of these symptoms remained unclear, but appeared linked to the Black Cluster itself.
The Arc: The Black Cluster is finally centre stage.
Observations: The nebula known as the Black Cluster has a number of unusual properties, including a high-density of subspace frequency-blocking subatomic particles. This makes it impossible to use warp drive and sensors except within narrow clear passages between the clouds.
References: The Black Cluster is a vast nebula of gas and dust, stretching more than 20 light years across the tip of the Aquila Reach. Although it contains stars, the material making up the nebula is opaque and the whole nebula appears dark. The material also blocks subspace activity, preventing its being probed with standard sensors, and also limiting warp travel, although narrow channels between the clouds appear to give access. Newer, more powerful sensors have given brief glimpses of huge shoals of spaceborne lifeforms (cosmozoa) within these channels and this has galvanised interest from the scientific community.
Deep Space 3 is an older Investigator-class station, similar to Regula 1. It is home to Project Noir, the scientific project to investigate the Black Cluster, and in which Starfleet Intelligence appears to have a keen interest. It also has an extensive local trade market used by prospectors and tramp freighters.
Potential local threats include two Orion gangs (the Black Cluster Syndicate and the Jaroh Family), the Kzinti and the mysterious Breen, who control a region of space beyond the Cluster.
DS3 already has one starship assigned to it, the aging USS Asante, a Sentinel-class light cruiser, similar in layout to Lyonesse.
Project Noir is the scientific investigation into the nature of the Black Cluster. Organised by the combined efforts of the Daystrom Institute, Starfleet Academy and the Vulcan Science Academy, along with a number of prestigious plantary institutes and universities, it was first founded more than thirty years ago, but was shelved during the hostilities with the Klingons. Now, in the wake of the Khitomer Accords, it has been reactivated, fully funded and equipped with the latest sensor equipment, which was already showing hints of more mysteries with the nebula. Lyonesse is to investigate these in person.
VES Sonak was a Suurok-class research cruiser, a design used in the 22nd century and encountered by the original Enterprise.
Questions: Is Starfleet Intelligence’s interest purely because of the potential threat of the Breen as indicated by Coulson? Or do they have ulterior motives?
What did nearly hit the ship as she entered the Cluster? Why was it so difficult to pick up on sensors?