‘Forests of the Night’

Epis­ode Num­ber: 201

Writ­ten by: Dar­ren Watts

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 27th Novem­ber 2021

Three days ago astro­met­rics repor­ted a new super­nova, only about twenty years old, on long range sensors. I’ve ordered us into a dis­tant orbit around the neut­ron star it cre­ated and fired off sev­er­al probes to meas­ure the size and extent of the supernova’s impact on sur­round­ing space. It seems the shock­wave has been trav­el­ing at about thir­teen kilo­met­ers per second since the super­nova, which means that the shock wave itself has traveled slightly less than a light-year at this point. The crew are busy ana­lys­ing the data, and I should have an update soon.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 9871.7

Plot: Lyo­n­esse encoun­ters an appar­ently-aban­doned ali­en ves­sel in the vicin­ity of a recent super­nova. The board­ing party encoun­ters ghostly lights and hos­tile veget­a­tion and plants, while some­thing stalks them in the shad­ows as they try to solve the mystery.

The ‘A’ Plot: Con­tinu­ing core­wards in the hope of find­ing anoth­er exit from the neb­ula, Lyo­n­esse and her crew enter a void with an unex­pec­ted fea­ture for this region: the bright blue light of a young neut­ron star. Cap­tain Mas­uda imme­di­ately orders an invest­ig­a­tion and the ship enters a dis­tant orbit to study the phenomenon.

Three days later, their data col­lec­tion is com­plete, and they head towards the exit from the void. Sensors now detect a metal­lic object mov­ing away from the neut­ron star. It does not appear to be under any kind of con­trol and is headed dir­ectly towards the leth­al ener­gies of the void wall.

The cap­tain decides to invest­ig­ate fur­ther and the ship moves closer to what now appears to be a large ves­sel, a sau­cer about 2500m across and sev­er­al hun­dred thick. The ves­sel is giv­ing off radi­ation that makes scan­ning dif­fi­cult, but there do appear to be dif­fuse life signs with­in the ves­sel. It appears to be drift­ing, and is pre­sum­ably out of con­trol, as it is on a dan­ger­ous course.

Giv­en that the ves­sel appears to be in dis­tress, the cap­tain calls a seni­or officers’ meet­ing to dis­cuss inter­ven­ing. The ves­sel does not appear to be cap­able of warp speed, but is clearly inter­stel­lar in nature due to its loc­a­tion, trig­ger­ing a dis­cus­sion about the Prime Dir­ect­ive. Even­tu­ally, the cap­tain decides that the risk of being cen­sured for res­cuing a prim­it­ive crew does not over­ride the human­it­ari­an require­ment to offer aid, and a board­ing party is prepared.

The ves­sel’s radi­ation will make trans­port­ing dif­fi­cult, so a small team, led by Mas­uda, and includ­ing Dr Vale-of-Winds, Lt Astan, Crew­man Ewendi and a pair of secur­ity per­son­nel, suit­ably pro­tec­ted against the radi­ation, takes a shuttle­craft to one of the large dock­ing ports vis­ible on the out­side of the sta­tion. Unfor­tu­nately, the radi­ation trig­gers a surge in the thrusters and des­pite Mas­uda’s best efforts, the shuttle rams the port. This leaves the craft wedged in the door, but Astan is able to ven­ture out in an envir­on­ment suit and use seal­ant foam to pre­vent furher atmo­sphere loss.

Enter­ing the ves­sel, they dis­cov­er a large pas­sage that seems to encircle the sau­cer. It’s dark, but they have lights on their suits. Pick­ing a dir­ec­tion, they begin to explore. A large door on the inner side of the pas­sage opens into a huge pres­sur­ised room that appears to con­tain an abor­etum. It’s dark, the veget­a­tion appears to prefer the low light levels com­mon with­in the neb­ula, but it’s the most dir­ect route to the cent­ral hub of the ves­sel. They ven­ture inside, try­ing to find a route through to the far side of the room.

Vale car­ries out some tests and informs them that the atmo­sphere is breath­able and that radi­ation levels are much lower than might be expec­ted, giv­ing them the oppor­tun­ity to take off their hel­mets as they explore the room. Sev­er­al of the team, includ­ing Vale, are imme­di­ately over­whelmed by the strength of the smells and rendered a little light-headed. They press on through the veget­a­tion, which is highly var­ied in size and appear­ance. Tri­cord­er scans indic­ate the pres­ence of elec­tric­al sources ahead, but there does not appear to be any large anim­al life.

The atmo­sphere, along with the sub­dued light­ing, height­ens the sense of ten­sion in the room and sev­er­al char­ac­ters begin hear­ing and occa­sion­ally see­ing move­ment, although tri­cord­ers con­tin­ue to deny the exist­ence of any­thing that could move. Sud­denly, one of the secur­ity guards is knocked down as he is grabbed by a vine that wraps around his ankle. Free­ing him is the work of moments, but they are now aware that some of the plants are hostile.

They man­age to dodge oth­er flor­al attacks and fol­low a stream to a clear­ing, where they encounter what appears to be a small life form sim­il­ar to a tribble. As they watch, a new one emerges from a small mound in the grass, and when Vale invest­ig­ates fur­ther, she dis­cov­ers an arti­fi­cial “womb” beneath the mound. Evid­ently, the envir­on­ment is being act­ively maintained.

Fol­low­ing the stream fur­ther, they come to a small hill that appears to con­tain both the source for the stream and the centre of the elec­tric­al read­ings. As they move in to explore, they become aware of move­ment: robot­ic fig­ures are approach­ing from sev­er­al dir­ec­tions. Mas­uda and Astan find them­selves lead­ing a defence as secur­ity robots attack, while Vale and Ewendi attempt to loc­ate the power source. They find an entrance to what appears to be a con­trol room, where they encounter a some­what obsess­ive AI. After some argu­ment, they are able to get it to shut down the robots.

Fur­ther invest­ig­a­tions show that the ship is one of a num­ber of arks built by a people call­ing them­selves the Vahari, to evac­u­ate their world before the super­nova. The Grif Val­ata was dam­aged and its crew killed.

Mas­uda decides to repair the engines and AI and send the ves­sel on its way. If this is done care­fully, its own­ers won’t even know they were there.

Obser­va­tions: The Vahari were nat­ive to a plan­et that once orbit­ted the now-neut­ron star, and set out to evac­u­ate their entire pop­u­la­tion via sub­light ark to anoth­er star. This par­tic­u­lar vehicle, Grif Val­ata, was car­ry­ing samples of plant and anim­al life, but became dam­aged due to the ion storms of the region. The crew had died and the arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence gov­ern­ing the ves­sel had failed to adapt to the dam­age, becom­ing fix­ated on main­tain­ing the envir­on­ment to the exclu­sion of all else.

Ques­tions: Where are the Vahari now? Did they make it to their des­tin­a­tion? While they are obvi­ously too prim­it­ive to be the K’si, are they related to them in some way?