A Piece of the Puzzle

Epis­ode Num­ber: 1×11

Writ­ten by: The authors of the Shack­leton Expanse Cam­paign Guide

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 20th August 2022

Guest Stars:

  • Lieu­ten­ant T’rhyn: Vul­can astro­phys­i­cist, Lex­ing­ton’s chief sci­ence officer.
  • Dr Hans Schneider: Human med­ic­al officer.
  • Lieu­ten­ant Com­mand­er Gomez: Deceased former chief engin­eer of Lex­ing­ton.
  • Cap­tain Parahk: Com­mand­er of the IKS Suv’chu (formerly com­mand­er of the IKS Ya’leth).

The “Lady Lex” is on her way to Beta Niobe on the orders of Star­fleet Com­mand. Beta Niobe exploded in a super­nova about three months ago, killing the nat­ive pop­u­la­tion of its only plan­et, Sarpeidon.

Accord­ing to clas­si­fied records made avail­able to us with these orders, how­ever, the nat­ives actu­ally evac­u­ated the plan­et by means of a time travel device known as the ata­va­chron. Ana­lysts believe this device used tech­no­logy cre­ated by the ancient civil­isa­tion we have been investigating.

Giv­en the resi­li­ence of much of this tech­no­logy, it is hoped that some rem­nant of the device may have sur­vived the explo­sion. We are to enter the neb­ula form­ing around the super­nova rem­nant and hunt for sur­viv­ing materials.

I can­’t help ima­gin­ing a very large burn­ing hay­stack – con­tain­ing a very small needle…

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 5722.1

Plot: Lex­ing­ton vis­its Beta Niobe, scene of a recent cata­stroph­ic super­nova, to invest­ig­ate the pos­sib­il­ity that the now extinct loc­al pop­u­la­tion had access to Ancient tech­no­logy. When the ship becomes trapped in the anom­alies caused by the expand­ing super­nova rem­nant, the crew has to rely on an unex­pec­ted ally for help.

The ‘A’ Plot: As Lex­ing­ton heads towards the Beta Niobe super­nova rem­nant, the seni­or officers gath­er in the con­fer­ence room to dis­cuss the upcom­ing mis­sion. Lt T’rhyn gives a present­a­tion cov­er­ing both pub­lic and clas­si­fied data about Beta Niobe, Sarp­eidon and the ata­va­chron. In answer to ques­tions about poten­tial dangers, she explains that the former star sys­tem is now envel­oped by high-tem­per­at­ure gas, push­ing out­wards led by an extremely hot shock­wave. Warp drive will be unus­able so close to the rem­nant itself, and oth­er sys­tems will be vul­ner­able to dam­age from heat and radi­ation effects. Shields will need to be main­tained at full strength at all times. A’Mathi notes that his team will be on full alert for the dur­a­tion of the mission.

As the ves­sel approaches the super­nova rem­nant, they get their first detailed view of the glow­ing gas cloud. T’rhyn’s ini­tial scans for Ancient tech­no­logy quickly pick up a sub­space sig­nal of the type they are famil­i­ar with. With the source appar­ently loc­ated just inside the shock­wave, the cap­tain is keen to beam it aboard or tract­or it from out­side the cloud, but the dis­tances are decept­ive and this turns out to be impractical.

They are forced to enter the neb­ula, with Adred per­form­ing a com­plex man­oeuvre to min­im­ise the chances of dam­age to Lex­ing­ton. Once inside, they find them­selves sev­er­al mil­lion kilo­metres from the sub­space sig­nal source and need to get closer in order to identi­fy it. Mul­tiple sys­tems fail­ures are already ensur­ing the engin­eer­ing team is kept busy.

They begin to detect two ships closer to the source. At this range, they can­not identi­fy them, but as they approach, they resolve into a Con­sti­tu­tion-class ves­sel and a Klin­gon D7, and they appear to be fight­ing. Pryce orders red alert and Adred to move closer to the battle.

Nossaag heads to the bridge to assume his battle sta­tion, and exits the tur­bo­l­ift. Reach­ing his sta­tion, he begins to sit down, then stag­gers back­wards when the chair appar­ently van­ishes. He fetches up against the tur­bo­l­ift wall, and real­ises he has yet to enter the bridge, for­cing him to repeat the whole pro­cess, although noone else notices.

As they get closer, sensors are able to identi­fy the Star­fleet ves­sel, but it appears to be USS Lex­ing­ton. As they are pro­cessing this inform­a­tion, a cloud of gas obscures the scene. Once Adred has steered around it, the fight­ing ships have van­ished. Con­fused, Pryce stands the crew down to yel­low alert, keep­ing watch for the van­ished Klin­gon vessel.

The impulse drive finally fails, mak­ing fur­ther pro­gress impossible, although A’Mathi pri­or­it­ises its repair.

On the bridge, prox­im­ity alerts begin sound­ing as a pre­vi­ously unseen aster­oid explodes just off the star­board bow. T’rhyn notes that it looked like a photon tor­pedo det­on­a­tion, but there are no oth­er ships on sensors, and a cloak­ing device would be largely inef­fect­ive in this envir­on­ment, mak­ing it unlikely to be the Klin­gon. Moments later, sensors pick up an aster­oid on a col­li­sion course from the same dir­ec­tion. Without impulse drive, they can­not evade it, so the Cap­tain orders it des­troyed. Giv­en its size, Nossaag opts to fire a photon tor­pedo, gambling that the rein­forced shield will be able to res­ist the blast. He fires, but the tor­pedo and aster­oid just disappear.

T’rhyn hypo­thes­ises that, as they have seen examples of time loops, and of a dis­con­nect between cause and effect, the region may be sub­ject to tem­por­al anom­alies. These may be caused either by the super­nova itself, or side effects of the ata­va­chron. Oth­er crew mem­bers are report­ing odd events as well, on some occa­sions before they actu­ally happen.

A’Mathi is work­ing inside a Jef­fer­ies tube when he feels an impact, hears a warp core over­load siren and smells smoke. He des­cends to find the main engin­eer­ing bay deser­ted, except for a lone fig­ure work­ing on the main con­sole. A force field blocks off half the bay, which is open to space. The officer asks why he has­n’t evac­u­ated, then says it does­n’t mat­ter now as the doors are sealed, and he needs help eject­ing the core to save the ship. A’Mathi, sus­pect­ing this is the pre­vi­ous chief engin­eer, Lt Cdr Gomez, helps him. Togeth­er they eject the core, which explodes almost imme­di­ately, bring­ing down the force field and eject­ing them both into space. Just before he loses con­scious­ness, A’Mathi spots a stricken Pryce look­ing into the bay through the win­dow next to the main entrance. Then he comes to his senses, stand­ing in the middle of an undam­aged engin­eer­ing bay, with a juni­or crew­man ask­ing him if he’s ok. He orders the crew­man back to work and con­tacts the bridge to report that he’s actu­ally seen the ghost…

With the impulse drive still out of action, the crew need to find an altern­ate way of mov­ing the star­ship. A’Mathi sug­gests using the tract­or beam to “swing” the ves­sel along using aster­oids. T’rhyn agrees this may be pos­sible, so Nossaag sets it up, ini­tially tar­get­ting a nearby body. The pro­cess proves effect­ive, though not very effi­cient, and Adred has to do some deft work to reori­ent the ship as they finally approach a large slab of plan­et­ary crust, about 50 km across. It shows signs of arti­fi­cial struc­tures and some kind of com­plex under the sur­face; sensors indic­ate the sub­space sig­nal eman­ates from with­in. T’rhyn spec­u­lates the com­plex may have been a sub­ter­ranean bunker of some kind, blown off the sur­face of Sarp­eidon in its entirety.

Real­ising shuttle­craft shields would quickly fail under the loc­al con­di­tions, they opt to use armoured space­suits enhanced with per­son­al force­field gen­er­at­ors, allow­ing them to use the trans­port­ers. Point­ing out that the power reserves will only last an hour or so, A’Mathi pre­pares five suits, and Pryce, T’rhyn, Nossaag, Schneider and A’Mathi beam down into the bunker. T’rhyn quickly loc­ates the souce of the sig­nal, and after a half-hour of clam­ber­ing through rubble-blocked zero-grav­ity tun­nels, they do indeed find the ata­va­chron, the time travel pro­ject­or cre­ated by the Sarpeidons.

Tri­cord­er scans indic­ate that the main por­tion is Ancient tech­no­logy, inter­faced to Sarp­eidon con­trol and power sys­tems. T’rhyn con­firms that the Ancient por­tion of the sys­tem could be fairly eas­ily extrac­ted from its sur­round­ings, but Pryce wants to the Sarpeir­don con­trol device and its con­nec­tions as well. The party begins using phasers to cut into the sur­round­ing struc­ture, so they can free the devices and place pat­tern enhan­cers around them. The suits’ power sup­plies begin to fail, for­cing them to rush to com­plete the pro­ject before they take too much dam­age. Fol­low­ing a brief dis­cus­sion about who will stay to com­plete the work, Pryce orders Schneider, A’Mathi and Nossaag back to the ship, while he and Trhyn com­plete the extraction.

Ten minutes later, they place the final enhan­cers and beam it out, then request their own trans­ports back to the ship.

Pryce arrives on the pad, and imme­di­ately throws up from the radi­ation. Look­ing around, he sees the trans­port­er chief still try­ing to bring T’rhyn aboard. Com­mand­er Shiva informs him that the sci­ence depart­ment have dis­covered that the super­nova rem­nant is begin­ning to col­lapse into a black hole, and Lex­ing­ton is too close to be able to get away from its grav­it­a­tion­al field. Unfor­tu­nately, A’Mathi, suf­fer­ing from radi­ation burns of his own, is report­ing that impulse drive is still not work­ing, and without it they will be unable to escape the sin­gu­lar­ity. Pryce stag­gers out of the trans­port­er room towards the bridge, but col­lapses, sub­sequently awaken­ing in sick­bay after the mission.

The trans­port­er chief, mean­while, is unable to get a lock on T’rhyn. With the plan­et­ary frag­ment being drawn out of range by the increas­ing pull of the evolving black hole, she tells Lex­ing­ton to aban­don her. Shiva is reluct­antly forced to agree to ensure the safety of the ship and her crew.

At this point, sensors pick up the arrival of anoth­er star­ship: a Klin­gon D7 battlecruiser.

Des­pite their weakened state, Shiva orders red alert, , but then they receive a com­mu­nic­a­tion from the cruis­er. The face of Cap­tain Parahk of the IKS Suv’chu, formerly of the IKS Ya’­leth, appears on the screen: not­ing that he owes Cap­tain Pryce a favour, he offers to tow them out of the danger zone, which Shiva grate­fully accepts.

The epis­ode ends with the memori­al ser­vice for T’rhyn.

The Arc: Anoth­er Ancient arte­fact of the week. It seems that the Sarp­eidons’ ata­va­chron used Ancient technology.

Obser­va­tions: The Lex­ing­ton Ghost is real, sort of. A’Mathi exper­i­ences either some kind of timeslip or a place memory in which he meets Lieu­ten­ant Com­mand­er Gomez, chief engin­eer dur­ing the M5 war­games. He also wit­nesses the cir­cum­stances of his death.

Dia­logue: A’Mathi: “I sug­gest evac­u­ation of all non-essen­tial personnel.”

Dr Schneider: “Oh! That’s me!”

Ref­er­ences: Before the super­nova, Beta Niobe was the home of the Sarp­eidon civil­isa­tion, seen in “All our Yes­ter­days”. Much of the data regard­ing Sarp­eidon and the ata­va­chron itself is from the logs of Cap­tain Kirk, and has been clas­si­fied by the DTI, due to its con­nec­tion to time travel.

Star­fleet’s Depart­ment of Tem­por­al Invest­ig­a­tions is men­tioned by T’rhyn dur­ing her briefing.

IKS Suv’chu is a K’t’rika-class battle­cruis­er (D7) under the com­mand of Cap­tain Parahk, last seen in “Bac­chus’s Irres­ist­ible Call”.