Episode Number: 2×11
Written by: Jim Johnson
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 22nd April 2023
- Doctor Helena Taliaferro: The Betazoid civilian head of the Shackleton Expanse Research Programme.
- Commander K’Qir: General Kargan’s adjutant.
- Lieutenant Commander Sar Doveli: Starbase 364’s Zakdorn joint head of security.
- Lieutenant Kahbel: Doveli’s Klingon counterpart.
- A tall being of unknown origin.
We’ve been recalled to Narendra Station, where Admiral Hebert and General Kargan have called my senior staff and I in for a major scientific briefing. The fact the other captains and staffs assigned to the Expanse are here too doesn’t bode well. I suspect someone has figured out how to put together some of the puzzle pieces we’ve found over the last several months. I’m deeply curious to see what the picture looks like, though I admit to a certain level of dreadful anticipation as well.Captain’s Log: Stardate, 48942.6
Plot: Captain Konin and his senior officers attend a briefing concerning the discoveries made so far within the Shackleton Expanse, before being sent to take a closer look at a potential archaeological site close to the Romulan border.
The ‘A’ Plot: Admiral Hebert summons all her senior staff to a briefing at Starbase 364, along with their Klingon counterparts and a number of civilian scientists. Captain Konin and his senior officers attend as part of the Starfleet contingent, and study the live data streams on the main display with some curiosity, as they seem to be coming from remote sensor probes. Once everyone is present, Hebert introduces Doctor Helena Taliaferro, who proceeds to summarise what has been discovered in the Expanse so far, identifying Lexington as the source of much of the data.
Concluding her main briefing, she postulates that a highly-advanced civilisation, which she has provisionally designated the “Ancients”, once spanned the near part of the region, using technology that could manipulate subspace and physically move planets. She bases this on data from five star systems that she has labelled “Candidates”. Four of them have already been visited by the Lexington crew, while Candidate Three has only been surveyed at long range by Bellerophon.
Then she proposes that a starship needs to visit Candidate Three to gather more data, which causes a bit of a stir. Hebert protests that the system is far too close to Romulan territory to risk a starship without knowing what is at stake. To everyone’s surprise, General Kargan agrees, pointing out that the Star Navy heavily outguns allied vessels in this region, and that dying gloriously for no gain would be foolish.
Hebert turns to the gathered personnel, asking them to discuss the situation amongst themselves and come up with proposals. Quinn approaches the general to discuss the possibilities of extending starship cloaking devices to other vessels: sadly it seems it is not possible. Zepht gets involved in a detailed discussion with the other scientists over the data; it seems he’s regarded as a bit of an expert, especially since Taliaferro credited him with helping crack the Ancients’ written script. Konin talks to the doctor, informing her of the telepathic “voices” he heard at Alpha Toryui; she says this data did not make it to the reports she received, probably because of medical privacy rules, so he agrees to release it to her. She is not familiar with the word or name “Tilikaal”.
Then Taliaferro notices a change in the data streams coming in from the probes, which are located in the Candidate Three system. She rushes over to double-check the data, and the room goes quiet as a vast green starship shimmers into view in front of one probe. Moments later, the data streams go dark, as all of the probes are destroyed with disruptor fire.
Hebert reacts immediately, clearing the room of civilians and anyone else not part of Starfleet or the Klingon Defence Force, although Taliaferro remains. Once the doors are closed, a heated discussion begins as to what to do about this blatantly hostile act. At length, Hebert is persuaded that they need to know what the Romulans are up to, and orders Konin to Candidate Three to find out. He has two tasks: find out why the Romulans attacked the probes in neutral space (preferably by asking), and to collect as much data as possible about the system. The latter aim is why she selected Lexington with her enhanced sensor systems. Kargan immediately volunteers MupwI’ to escort them and help reduce the risk of the Romulans responding with plasma torpedoes.
The two ships are on their way within an hour. Whilst en route, Konin orders tactical drills to ensure the crew is ready, and to make contingency plans for a Romulan attack. Zepht studies the data collected about their destination: Candidate Three is heavily affected by the same kind of subspace and electromagnetic anomalies commonly encountered elsewhere in the Expanse.
Zepht scans for Romulan vessels as the ships emerge from warp, but between the conditions in the system and the likely use of cloaking devices by any such ships, he finds nothing conclusive. Akul contacts Konin to let him know he’s going hunting before MupwI’ peels off and cloaks as Lexington heads on toward the largest of the system’s three class‑M planets.
Despite Quinn’s best efforts, the ship hits one of the subspace anomalies on her approach, damaging the shields. Azonan immediately gets to work to restore them, but a damaged emitter fails, requiring more intricate repairs. Arriving in orbit, Zepht identifies a significant energy expenditure in one tower on the surface, with a corresponding power source deep below.
The captain organises a landing party to take a closer look, including Azonan, Zepht, Boone and a Caitian medical crewman named Servalan. He also authorises phaser rifles, due to the possibility of encountering hostile Romulans. As they arrive, they note that they are surrounded by ruined buildings of a somewhat familiar design: pentagonal doorways and linear grooves in the walls resembling circuitry. Scans show the power source over a kilometer below the surface, and faint energy currents running through conduits delineated by the grooves in the walls.
Azonan continues to examine the power currents with his tricorder as they head towards the tower Zepht spotted earlier. He realises they consist of dense energy plasma, not unlike that used in Starfleet’s EPS conduits, and are flowing towards the tower, possibly from outlying collectors focussing the power from below. He identifies a nearby building as containing a junction point, and the group levers up the door, so he can enter. Able to take more detailed readings from this position, he confirms the plasma hypothesis and notes that the building acts as a substation, combining and amplifying plasma currents before redirecting them towards the tower.
As they cautiously approach a large columned building at the foot of the tower, Konin scouts ahead. He comes across a significant group of Romulan soldiers, who appear to be searching the area for something. As he watches them, he identifies another group gathered around an officer and a very tall humanoid of an unknown species. Suddenly, a very clear telepathic message reaches him, welcoming his party and offering the hope that they will be more amenable than the others.
The ‘B’ Plot: With Selvek suffering the Vulcan equivalent of a crisis of confidence after the telepathic onslaught at Alpha Toryui, Konin requests that Lt Cdr Azonan takes over the role of Lexington’s chief engineer, with his predecessor acting as his assistant. He oversees the latest round of repairs, taking the opportunity to retune the entire warp drive system.
The Arc: Worries that the Romulans may also be researching the Ancients force Hebert and Kargan into more urgent action.
Observations: Dr Helena Taliaferro is an intelligent, but somewhat arrogant, civilian scientist, hailing from Betazed. Konin is bemused when he cannot read her telepathically, as if she is either incapable of telepathic contact, or is blocking it for some reason.
The Candidate systems are:
- Candidate One: Orgun
- Candidate Two: Seku
- Candidate Three: HIP 73788
- Candidate Four: HIP 73513
- Candidate Five: Alpha Toryui
The Amargosa system would also have been included, but its primary star exploded on stardate 48632, about three months ago.
The Candidate Three system is very close to Romulan space. It has three class M worlds, designated II, III and IV. Candidate Three II is twice the diameter of Earth, although its gravity is only 20% higher and its surface is completely covered in structures, many of great size. Although the conditions are suitable, there is no life on the surface more complex than single-celled organisms. The other two worlds are both habitable, but III is heading towards greenhouse status and IV is very cold. Taliaferro is convinced neither is native to the system, based on the proportions of isotopes in their sensor signatures.
The Ancient culture appears to have been capable of tremendous feats of technology, including “planetary translation”. Azonan points out that this means they could move worlds, and may have been responsible for Candidate Three’s intruder planets.
Dialogue: Captain Akul informs Konin of MupwI’s unorthodox enhancements: “Between you, me and the viewscreen…”
The tall being is not impressed by the Romulans: “May you be more congenial than these people.”
References: According to Taliaferro, the Ancients were distinct from both the Iconians and the T’kon, both of whom exerted considerable influence in the Shackleton Expanse region.
Taliaferro also notes that some researchers believe a hidden cabal has been obscuring previous evidence of the Ancient culture.
The remote probes are destroyed by a Romulan D’deridex-class warbird.