‘Tongues of Flame’

Epis­ode Num­ber: 1×07

Writ­ten by: The authors of the Shack­leton Expanse Cam­paign Guide.

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 18th June 2022

Guest Stars:

  • Lolani-Taan: Ori­on merchant-captain.
  • Dareth: Lolani-Taan’s braw­ni­er son.
  • Gavreh: Lolani-Taan’s more cun­ning son, equipped with a num­ber of cyber­net­ic sensors and devices.
  • Lieu­ten­ant Gar­ren Har­rid: Cen­taur­an xenoanthropologist.
  • Lieu­ten­ant, juni­or grade Patrick O’Keefe: Lexington’s psy­cho­logy officer and ama­teur parasychologist.

We are return­ing to the Velk­ath colony on Dourap IV, to see how they have fared since their recent out­break of D’kar fever. Des­pite the sab­ot­age incid­ent that took place while deliv­er­ing the med­ic­al team on Stard­ate 5428, this prom­ises to be a routine visit.

The world itself is quite pleas­ant, it may be an oppor­tun­ity to author­ise some shore leave fol­low­ing the recent excitement.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 5598.8

Plot: While tak­ing shore leave on Dourap IV, Lex­ing­ton’s seni­or officers race against the Ori­ons for treas­ure on the far side of the planet.

The ‘A’ Plot: The star­ship Lex­ing­ton is return­ing to Dourap IV, for a fol­low-up vis­it after the D’kar out­break. Dr Mid­ax, not­ing that sev­er­al mem­bers of the crew are show­ing signs of stress fol­low­ing the events in the Bac­chus sys­tem, requests that they take the oppor­tun­ity to author­ise some shore leave. Des­pite the some­what spartan nature of a Tel­lar­ite indus­tri­al colony, Cap­tain Pryce decides to order 48 hours leave for all, one shift at a time, begin­ning with the alpha shift.

Adred flies the seni­or officers down in a shuttle­craft, and they go their sep­ar­ate ways. Pryce and Adred both head out to take advant­age of the coun­tryside, Nossaag heads out to take in some spec­tat­or sports (debates) and AMathi heads out to the loc­al golf course.

About 30 hours into the leave peri­od, Lex­ing­ton con­tacts the cap­tain, to reveal that they’ve detec­ted a strong energy sig­nal com­ing from the far side of the plan­et. Orbit­al sensor sweeps have revealed the pres­ence of ancient ruins beneath the jungle in that region, but the Velk­ath colony has no inform­a­tion about them.

Pryce sig­nals the rest of the seni­or crew and asks them to gath­er at the loc­al bar. He informs them of the news and invites them to help him explore the ruins and identi­fy the energy source. They agree and Adred requis­i­tions the latest shuttle from the Lex­ing­ton, before they head off to the ruins, invit­ing Lt Har­rid to join them for the expedition.

The site is a large ruined city in the centre of a region covered by thick jungle, not unlike the aban­doned Maya cit­ies in cent­ral Amer­ica. A cent­ral plaza is dom­in­ated by a huge five-sided step pyr­am­id rising out of the undergrowth.

Adred brings the shuttle in to land dir­ectly in front of the pyr­am­id, but at the last minute, notices that sensors are show­ing a large void beneath the sur­face. Wor­ry­ing that the sur­face will not hold the shuttle’s weight, he redir­ects his land­ing to a nearby loc­a­tion. They exit the shuttle and look for a way into the pyr­am­id, which appears to be the source of the energy read­ings. There’s noth­ing at ground level, so they are forced to climb up sev­er­al flights of steep steps; AMathi is the only one that does not have dif­fi­culty climbing.

Reach­ing the door, Nossaag checks for dan­ger­ous anim­als and plants, then clears the veget­a­tion obscur­ing the entrance so they can enter. At the end of a long pas­sage, is a square shaft with stone slabs stick­ing out of the walls, cre­at­ing a some­what unsafe stair­way spiralling down into the depths. A few near-misses later they reach the bot­tom, which is covered in water, although it turns out to only be about a foot deep.

Pryce receives a call from Lex­ing­ton, warn­ing of the arrival of Zhair­assha, under the com­mand of Lolani-Taan. They may have com­pany soon.

The explorers ven­ture into a tun­nel and soon become aware of lights ahead of them. These resolve into a group of 6 Ori­ons, Lolani, her two sons and a 3‑man body­guard. Lolani seems pleased to see them and intro­duces her group, but warns that these are Ori­on ruins, and not to be exploited by “Fed­er­a­tion col­on­isers”. Pryce pro­poses a tem­por­ary alli­ance for the pur­pose of explor­a­tion and she agrees.

AMathi detects signs of couple of large life­forms par­al­lel­ing their pro­gress in anoth­er cor­ridor. Gavreh con­curs but notes there does not seem to be any way for the beings to reach them at this point.

The Ori­ons con­fid­ently lead the way into a large cham­ber, which is knee deep in water, with a large raised hol­low hold­ing more water at the far end of the room. AMathi and Gavreh detect a large life-form with­in the room, just as one of the Ori­on guards is grabbed by some­thing under the water, dis­ap­pear­ing into the raised hol­low. The remain­ing guards imme­di­ately open fire with dis­ruptors, rais­ing huge clouds of steam and obscur­ing vis­ion. Dareth and one of the guards move for­ward, still fir­ing, and Pryce and Nossaag join them.

The cap­tain is grabbed by some­thing under the water, and both he and Nossaag shoot, caus­ing a tentacle to raise out of the water. Anoth­er Ori­on is grabbed, and more fir­ing ensues before AMathi is able to get them to calm down. The steam clears a bit, and tentacled mon­stros­ity can be seen tear­ing its latest vic­tim apart. Lolani announces that this is too much, and has Gavreh lob a dis­ruptor gren­ade into the pool. Once the group’s vis­ion clears, bits of creature can be seen strewn around the room. Nossaag wants to know why Star­fleet does­n’t have devices like this.

Push­ing on, they come to what appears to be a cent­ral cham­ber which, accord­ing to their scans, con­tains two dis­tinct energy sources. The cham­ber is sev­en-sided (a motif they recog­nise from Bac­chus IV) with a raised dais in the centre. There are entrances in the centres of three of the walls (one blocked by rubble) and vari­ous statues set in front of the remain­ing walls. There are piles of rubble every­where. On the dais, four rac­coon-like creatures, the size of bears, are play­ing with a pair of glow­ing rods. Two of the creatures more watch from the rubble piles.

AMathi con­firms that the rods are the energy sources they’ve been look­ing for, and Lolani points out that these are obvi­ously of ancient Ori­on con­struc­tion. Pryce opts for a quick way to get a closer look and opens fire on the creatures with wide-angle stun. All four of those on the dais drop uncon­scious, but this kicks off a gen­er­al fight as the oth­er two leap to the attack, quickly joined by two lar­ger examples emer­ging from one of the cor­ridors. Although the Ori­ons take some injur­ies, the intruders win out, leav­ing the creatures injured and unconscious.

AMathi and Gavreh take a closer took at the glow­ing rods and announce that they seem to be very high-powered bat­ter­ies – AMathi believes one could power a star­ship at warp for nearly an hour. To fore­stall any argu­ments, Pryce pro­poses tak­ing one, leav­ing the oth­er for the Ori­ons, since both vic­tor­ies were clearly joint efforts. Lolani con­curs with this equit­able plan and they leave in peace.

The ‘B’ Plot: While crawl­ing through a Jef­freys tube to carry out some main­ten­ance, AMathi dis­cov­ers a device he does­n’t recog­nise on a tri­pod in the middle of the tube. It appears to be of Star­fleet con­struc­tion, but he can­’t identi­fy its con­struc­tion: it seems to con­tain a sub­space radio sensor and a large quartz crys­tal. Call­ing back to main engin­eer­ing, he dis­cov­ers that this was placed by Lt O’Keefe, in an effort to help loc­ate the alleged ghost. Once he has com­pleted his repairs, AMathi sets up a false sig­nal for the device to receive later.

At the end of the epis­ode, an excited O’Keefe reports that the “ghost” may be of a cat or pos­sibly a lost Caitian crew member.

The Arc: The ruins show some sim­il­ar­it­ies to those the crew have encountered else­where and may be from the same civilisation.

Obser­va­tions: The Ori­ons claim to have once con­trolled a huge empire stretch­ing across por­tions of the Alpha and Beta Quad­rants, although this is dis­puted by many Fed­er­a­tion xenohistorians.

AMathi likes to play golf when he gets shore leave – appar­ently it’s a nation­al sport on Cait.

The cast dis­plays the usu­al set of cringe-indu­cing leis­ure fash­ion when they arrive at Pryce’s meet­ing, although Nossaag is wear­ing half of his uni­form and AMathi is in a clas­sic tweed golf­ing out­fit, the plus-fours being ideal for his digit­i­grade limbs.

Ref­er­ences: The Velk­ath colony was first vis­ited by Lex­ing­ton in epis­ode 1×01, ‘Adrift’, when it was hit by an out­break of D’kar fever. Lolani-Taan also made her first appear­ance then, when she attemp­ted to extort the col­on­ists into buy­ing medi­cine at inflated prices.

Ques­tions: Do the Ori­ons have a genu­ine con­nec­tion to the ancient race that built the ruins?