‘Points of Departure’ Part Two

Episode Num­ber: 102

Writ­ten by: Jon Crew

Direct­ed by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 30th May 2020

Guest Stars:

  • 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?