We are the stars that sing with our lives

Epis­ode Num­ber: 2×10

Writ­ten by: Aaron Pollyea

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 8th April 2023

Guest Stars:

  • Doc­tor Mitchel Al’Malki: Head of the archae­olo­gic­al team explor­ing Alpha Tory­ui II.
  • Lieu­ten­ant Hal Thompson: Com­mand­ing officer of the Stafleet Corps of Engin­eers pla­toon sup­port­ing the archaeologists.
  • Cap­tain Lemeki Muavesi: Com­mand­ing officer of the U.S.S. Mogami NCC-44785.
  • Com­mand­er Nat­alie Sig­mund: Com­mand­ing officer of the U.S.S. Cass NCC-72667.

A pri­or­ity mes­sage from Star­base 364 has deployed us to the Alpha Tory­ui sys­tem to ren­dez­vous with U.S.S. Mogami to assist in the evac­u­ation of a team of archae­olo­gists and sev­er­al unique ancient arti­facts from below the sur­face of the second world. I’m intrigued by the mys­ter­ies the plan­et con­tains, but what we res­cue here may be all that will answer the many ques­tions that we have about who was in that sys­tem, and why.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 48673.4

Plot: Sent to assist with the evac­u­ation of a team of archae­olo­gists from a sys­tem in danger of immin­ent destruc­tion, Lex­ing­ton is nearly caught in the cata­strophe herself.

The ‘A’ Plot: An ensign from U.S.S. Mogami mater­i­al­ises with­in an area marked off by trans­port enhan­cers with­in a large cav­ern under the sur­face of Alpha Tory­ui II. She approaches Lieu­ten­ant Com­mand­er Azon­an, inform­ing him that sensors have indic­ated that the col­lapse of the Alpha Tory­ui itself is immin­ent. He imme­di­ately con­veys this to Lieu­ten­ant Thompson and Dr Al’Malki, point­ing out that this means they will need to evac­u­ate as soon as pos­sible. Al’Malki is reluct­ant to agree to this as his team are mak­ing sig­ni­fic­ant dis­cov­er­ies, but the two engin­eers point out that remain­ing would mean cer­tain death. The archae­olo­gist reluct­antly agrees to begin evac­u­ation plans, but demands the oppor­tun­ity to take as many of their dis­cov­er­ies with them as possible.

Fol­low­ing a week in space­dock at Star­base 364, Lex­ing­ton has returned to act­ive duty, and is called on to assist with the evac­u­ation. As she arrives at Alpha Tory­ui, Kon­in is hailed by Cap­tain Muevesi on the Mogami. Quickly bring­ing the cap­tain up to date on the situ­ation, he explains that his ship is very small and does not have the capa­city to carry everything that has been dis­covered, which is caus­ing prob­lems with the archae­olo­gists. He also points out that his ship is not well-enough equipped to determ­ine when the final col­lapse will occur.

Lt Cdr Zepht imme­di­ately goes to work to try and pre­dict the col­lapse, car­ry­ing out detailed scans of the star. Dis­cov­er­ing a mys­ter­i­ous shad­ow, opaque to sensors, deep beneath the sur­face, as well as a ring of wreck­age and oth­er debris orbit­ing close to it, he dis­patches a probe to get more detailed data. This reveals the pres­ence of a small star­ship circ­ling the star at the min­im­um safe distance.

Kon­in then beams down to the plan­et him­self, to speak dir­ectly to the exped­i­tion lead­ers, as radi­ation from the col­lapsing star is mak­ing sub­space com­mu­nic­a­tion unre­li­able. Meet­ing Al’Al­maki, Thompson and Azon­an, he learns that the archae­olo­gists and the engin­eers are still arguing over the evac­u­ation: the sci­ent­ists want more time to cata­logue and pack their valu­able dis­cov­er­ies, while the engin­eers are con­cerned that this is increas­ing the risk of being caught in the com­ing catastrophe.

The cap­tain sides with the engin­eers, impos­ing a dead­line, but prom­ising addi­tion­al assist­ance and resources. When he sug­gests that trans­port­ers would speed things up, Al’Malki expresses his con­cern that using them to move the arte­facts will risk fil­ter­ing out sur­face con­tam­in­ants that may prove to be import­ant in research. Azon­an con­firms that this is a pos­sib­il­ity and that turn­ing these fil­ters off would be time-con­sum­ing due to the num­ber of safety set­tings that would need to be over­rid­den. Kon­in prom­ises to make his shuttle­craft available.

When Kon­in takes the oppor­tun­ity to ask about the third ship, Thompson explains that this the U.S.S. Cass, a run­about being used by a Star­fleet astro­phys­i­cist to study the star in detail.

Return­ing to the ship, he assigns Lt Cdr Quinn to organ­ise Lex­ing­ton’s shuttle­craft com­ple­ment to help with the evac­u­ation. He also con­tacts Cass, speak­ing to Com­mand­er Sig­mund, who agrees with their assess­ments of the situ­ation and offers to sup­ply the data she has dis­covered to help with cal­cu­la­tions regard­ing the impend­ing col­lapse. With this assist­ance, Zepht and the astro­phys­ics depart­ment are able to refine their mod­el, determ­in­ing that the final col­lapse will occur in around 14 hours.

Later, Quinn is on his latest return trip to the sur­face, when he receives a dis­tress call from anoth­er shuttle­craft. Divert­ing to assist, he finds the stricken craft low on power and plum­met­ing towards the mol­ten side of plan­et. With some deft pilot­ing, he suc­ceeds in grabbing it with a dock­ing clamp and tows it back to Lex­ing­ton for repairs.

An urgent mes­sage from Cass indic­ates that the col­lapse appears to be accel­er­at­ing, and that whatever is hid­den by the sensor shad­ow appears to be com­press­ing the stel­lar mater­i­al. Zepht attempts to identi­fy the shad­ow, but learns only that it appears to be hid­ing a void with­in the star. A mes­sage is sent to the sur­face urging the archae­olo­gists to start pri­or­it­ising only the most import­ant finds for evacuation.

A grav­it­a­tion­al wave eman­at­ing from the star shakes both the ship and the plan­et, and Mogami reports that the plan­et­ary crust is becom­ing less stable. The but­tresses built by the S.C.E. pla­toon pre­vent any col­lapses, but Thompson believes this can only get worse. As more waves shake the cav­ern, the engin­eers begin shor­ing up some tun­nels and ensur­ing oth­ers are evacuated. 

Zepht and Sig­mund are now able to determ­ine that the col­lapse will occur much soon­er than pre­vi­ously pre­dicted, in about four hours. Mean­while, Quinn real­ises that the effects of grav­it­a­tion­al shear from the waves will make it impossible to form a sub­space bubble in about two hours: this will make it impossible to go to warp.

Mogami reports that her holds are full and they will be leav­ing shortly, tak­ing most of the engin­eers and archae­olo­gists with them, although Azon­an remains to help with the final evac­u­ation. An alert from Sig­mund indic­ates that the final col­lapse is imin­ent, and that she is also leaving.

Kon­in orders one final round trip and then they’re going, regard­less of who or what may be left. All unne­ces­sary per­son­nel return to the ship by trans­port­er. As the deck crew unload the final shuttle­craft, Zepht spots a fast-mov­ing cloaked object as it swoops past the ship at a sig­ni­fic­ant por­tion of the speed of light, but is unable to identi­fy it. The deck­hands report that sev­er­al arte­facts were beamed out of the holds as it passed.

Then the biggest grav­it­a­tion­al wave yet hits the ship, and her warp bubble collapses.

As the engin­eer­ing depart­ment tries to get the warp drive back online, Kon­in orders depar­ture at full impulse, in an effort to give them as much time as pos­sible before the blast from the star hits them. Fif­teen minutes later, the star col­lapses in on itself, releas­ing a viol­ent shock­wave, mov­ing at the speed of light.

As Selvek has been inca­pa­cit­ated by the same tele­path­ic sig­nals the cap­tain has been receiv­ing, Azon­an steps in to lead the engin­eer­ing team. They work stead­ily to replace dilith­i­um crys­tals and cracked con­duits, and with a major effort, they get the sys­tem back online just as the shock­wave reaches them. Quinn is able to use the half-formed sub­space field to surf the wave out of the sys­tem, but it soon col­lapses again, depos­it­ing them about 10 light hours out from the star.

This turns out to be a safe enough dis­tance from which to watch as Alpha Tory­ui gets ever bright­er, but at the moment it seems it should explode, it simply van­ishes, pulling the rest of the sys­tem into a huge sub­space rift. As the rift closes without a trace, a tid­al sub­space effect pulls them halfway back into the space it occupied.

The cargo crew later report that while this was tak­ing place, many of the recovered arte­facts began to glow, giv­ing off green stream­ers of energy, before appar­ently gen­er­at­ing nar­row, short-lived sub­space ruptures.

The ‘B’ Plot: Once Lex­ing­ton arrives at Alpha Tory­ui, Kon­in begins to devel­op a mild head­ache. It gets pro­gress­ively worse over time, mak­ing him short-tempered, and he vis­its sick­bay, demand­ing paink­illers, when he returns to the ship. While there, he notices that Selvek is also present with a sim­il­ar com­plaint, but when a med­ic­al tech­ni­cian offers to scan for phys­ic­al causes, he responds irrit­ably, ask­ing if his request was unclear.

Later, he becomes aware of a hiss­ing back­ground noise, which devel­ops over time into aud­ible whis­per­ing, but is unable to make out indi­vidu­al voices. As it gets louder, it is becomes obvi­ous this is the source of his head­ache, and he real­ises the voices are tele­path­ic in nature.

Return­ing to the dig site, he explores the cav­erns, try­ing to find points where the sig­nals are stronger, before even­tu­ally return­ing to exam­ine the arte­facts in case they are con­nec­ted. Back on the ship, as the last grav­it­a­tion­al wave hits, he is finally able to identi­fy many indi­vidu­al voices, although he can­not make out what they are saying.

It is only when the rift opens that Kon­in is able to make out what one voice, stronger than the rest, is say­ing: it appears to be a call for help.

The Arc: The crew are encoun­ter­ing events sim­il­ar to those exper­i­enced by the ori­gin­al Lex­ing­ton crew, although they don’t know it. It may even be pos­sible that those respons­ible for these devices, or their vic­tims, are still alive somewhere.

Obser­va­tions: Alpha Tory­ui is a dying sys­tem, centered on an expand­ing red giant at the end of its life. The star will shortly col­lapse, shed its out­er lay­ers in a nova event and become a white dwarf. The second world, like its sib­lings, is heat-blas­ted and bar­ren, although it was once class‑M. It is tide-locked, one side facing its star, and covered in mol­ten rock as a res­ult. The only signs of life are in huge arti­fi­cial cav­erns beneath the sur­face, where Fed­er­a­tion archae­olo­gists have found build­ings and tech­no­logy from an ancient civilisation.

Lieu­ten­ant Com­mand­er Shon Azon­an is an Andori­an engin­eer­ing officer, with pre­vi­ous exper­i­ence with archaelo­gic­al work. As he is cur­rently between post­ings, he has been assist­ing Lt Thompson’s S.C.E. team with their work on Alpha Tory­ui II.

U.S.S. Mogami is a Calypso-class frig­ate, cur­rently assigned to con­vey and sup­port Lt Thompson’s S.C.E. pla­toon. Ves­sels of this class are often assigned to mobile research pro­jects, much like the Nova-class.

Dr Al’Malki is reluct­ant to use trans­port­ers to move the arte­facts although it would speed the evac­u­ation immensely. This is because 24th cen­tury trans­port­ers include a lot of fil­ters and oth­er safety meas­ures to pre­vent dan­ger­ous patho­gens and chem­ic­als being beamed aboard. These could the­or­et­ic­ally remove a lot of evid­ence that could provide the con­tex­tu­al data the archae­olo­gists don’t have time to record in situ.

Selvek, as a con­tact tele­path, is nev­er able to make out voices in the tele­path­ic broad­cast, he just hears the whispered babble. Over time, this erodes and over­whelms his psych­ic defences.

Dia­logue: The dom­in­ant tele­path­ic voice as the sys­tem van­ishes: “Tilikaal… help us!”

Ref­er­ences: The Star­fleet Corps of Engin­eers is a Star­fleet agency ded­ic­ated to provid­ing engin­eer­ing sup­port wherever it’s needed. The agency is primar­ily respons­ible for build­ing and main­tain­ing Star­fleet’s facil­it­ies across the Fed­er­a­tion, as well as staff­ing star­ship con­struc­tion yards and sup­port­ing research into many tech­no­lo­gies. Some depart­ments spe­cial­ise in unusu­al engin­eer­ing prob­lems and there are rov­ing pla­toons that can be assigned to vari­ous engin­eer­ing tasks as required.

Ques­tions: What does “Tilikaal” mean? Who stole the arte­facts at the last minute? And what happened to the Alpha Tory­ui system?