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 gets back underway to Deep Space 3, running nearly a day late. An engineering investigation shows that the cracked crystal had a flaw that was almost impossible to detect ahead of time. This kind of thing has happened before, but they are lucky there has been no damage to the ship from the sudden stress.
As they arrive at DS3, they are greeted personally by the station commander, who advises them that Dr T’len of Project Noir is impatient to meet them. Capt Masuda beams across with some of her senior officers.
Cdr M’Niri skips the usual tour of the station, taking them straight across the trade floor to the main lifts, where they ascend to the conference suite. Waiting for them are Dr T’len, a severe Vulcan, and the rather more friendly Adrian Coulson. T’len immediately comments that she is glad they have finally decided to turn up, and leads the way straight into a meeting room.
What follows is a very terse briefing about Project Noir and the Lyonesse’s expedition into the Black Cluster. T’len is obviously irritated by the delays, and apparently by Starfleet in general; she strides out after less than twenty minutes, saying she has supply meetings to attend. Coulson apologetically takes questions and goes into more detail on the project’s findings so far.
Lt Astan realises that he knows Coulson from his time at the Academy, where Coulson had taught intelligence procedures. He admits that he has been assigned to the project by Starfleet Intelligence: it is no secret that they are keen to learn more about the civilisations in the area.
He also gives them instructions for a secondary mission, to determine the fate of the VES Sonak, a Vulcan exploratory vessel that entered the nebula at the beginning of the original project, but has never returned.
While the ship takes on its last supplies and equipment, Astan takes the time to learn more about the strategic and security situations in the sector, while Vale uses 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 departs for the Cluster itself, making for a recently identified entrance to the interior. After a few final checks, the vessel heads towards the entrance, although Ensign Kheled nearly aborts the entry to the narrow passage at the last moment, when he becomes convinced it is closing on them.
The passageway is smaller than it seemed and space for manouevre is tight. Further drama ensues when the proximity alarms go off, causing the ship to again come to a halt, although there is nothing visible on screen. Masuda orders a detailed examination of the sensor logs before they move on, but, other than the mass detectors that triggered the alarm, and a brief reaction from the shields, there is no record of an object coming close. Either the vessel has nearly been hit by another object of about the same size, or it is all a false alarm.
With no evidence either way, it is decided to proceed further into the passageway, where Communications is beginning to pick up what appears to be a signal from a subspace relay buoy.
Lyonesse follows the curving tunnel through the clouds for the next week. Before long it is noticed that although the helm shows them travelling at around warp 3, their navigation systems show that they are travelling much more slowly. Masuda orders the speed increased to compensate.
Eventually they emerge into a huge bubble-like void within the clouds, containing an entire solar system, complete with an orange star and three planets, all illuminated in a weird green-blue glow from the nebula itself. Two gormaganders pass close to the ship, and they locate the buoy in orbit around a rocky planet. Then they pick up a distress call…
The ‘B’ Plot: As Lyonesse presses on into the nebula, Dr Vale and her team find themselves dealing with an increased number of headaches, anxiety attacks and apparent hallucinations. The source of these symptoms remains unclear, but appear to be linked to the Black Cluster itself.
The Arc: The Black Cluster is finally centre stage.
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?