Episode Number: 3×05
Written by: The authors of the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 12th August 2023
- Lieutenant Kahbel: Klingon security chief on Narendra Station.
- Greft: Ferengi shopkeeper.
I am informed that a number of valuable artefacts have been stolen from the secure storage facility on Narendra Station. Our new chief of security has been tasked with solving the crime. But there is another pressing matter: there are quite a few charges against my Chief Engineer which have been brought to my attention. Before I involve the JAG Corps, I intend to investigate the circumstances myself.Captain’s Log: Stardate, 49182.7
Plot: While Captain Konin grapples with his chief engineer’s apparent murder of an unconscious prisoner, Lieutenant Commander Raynor investigates the theft of a number of Tilikaal artefacts from a secure storage area on Narendra Station.
The ‘A’ Plot: LtCdr Raynor is contacted by Commander Murphy on Narendra Station. Retiring to his office to take the call, Raynor is informed that there has been a theft from the secure storage area of the station. As the stolen goods are artefacts collected as part of Project Diamond Hedge, the Tilikaal research effort, Murphy wants someone trustworthy from off-station to investigate. He would be working closely with a Klingon counterpart as part of the temporary local agreement with General Kargan.
Raynor confirms the order with the captain, then exits the ship onto the starbase, where he is met by Murphy and escorted to the warehouse level. The Klingon investigator, the newly-promoted Lieutenant D’ghov, is waiting impatiently for his arrival, accompanied by a pair of Klingon warriors and another pair of Starfleet Security personnel. Hasty introductions are made, and Murphy briefs them on what happened.
About two hours earlier, researchers entered the Project storage locker and discovered that several crates had been opened, and artefacts removed. Further investigation showed that the break-in had occurred during an eleven minute window about 26 hours earlier. No activity was recorded on the security sensors until the end of this period, when the image of the locker interior instantly changed to show the current state.
Murphy opens the locker, and D’ghov and Raynor enter, waving tricorders around and examining the opened crates. It rapidly becomes clear that the intruders were careful not to leave DNA and other traces around the area. Thinking that some scientific expertise would be helpful, Raynor requests the assistance of Zepht, and D’ghov summons Lieutenant Kahbel, Klingon security chief on the station, under the terms of the temporary agreement.
Zepht examines the sensor records and spots an anomaly that indicates that some kind of holographic projector was used to foil the recorders. Given that it is not possible to beam into the chamber due to a combination of transport inhibitors and transport-blocking materials in the walls, they suspect that a vehicle may have been used to carry the projector, along with the perpetrators. Zepht notes that all the stolen items were collected during the dig on Alpha Toryui I, but have little in common except portability.
Examinations of the lock show that it was opened by a rapid brute force attack delivered by an external device. Zepht notes that there does not appear to be any logic to the pattern of attempts, making it appear to be organic in origin. When he suggests an artificial intelligence, D’ghov points out that maybe it could be the result of the hacker connecting their mind directly to the system using a neural datalink. Despite the dangers of permanent damage, such devices are regularly used by the Orion Syndicate.
Raynor requests that Quinn, back on the ship, check into the records of ships leaving the station since the robbery. Excluding Starfleet and Klingon vessels, there were four, all civilian; one of them, the S.S. Castle Rock is owned by an Orion, Paljara, who is suspected of connections to the Syndicate. They decide to return to the ship to investigate further.
As they cross the hangar level, Raynor is beckoned over by a furtive-looking Ferengi. Introducing himself as Greft, a “humble storekeeper”, he implies that he knows where they might find some items they are looking for. He can tell them for a price. Zepht attempts to intimidate him into giving up the information, but the Ferengi is not impressed and stalks off, threatening to sell his information to the Romulans.
Sending Zepht back to the ship with the others, Raynor pursues the Ferengi by himself. Catching up with him, he tries to negotiate a price to see the artefacts, eventually settling on two strips of gold-pressed latinum, with a “recovery fee” to be negotiated later. Greft takes him to his store in the tourist quarter and leads him into a back room, before showing him a crate full of carved stone objects. To Raynor’s limited experience, they look like genuine Tilikaal artefacts, but he pulls out his tricorder to analyse them in more detail. Greft immediately panics and grabs a phaser from a drawer, waving it while Raynor attempts to knock it out of his hand. Raynor wins the scuffle, but gains a black eye in the process. Scanning the artefacts reveals that they are simply crude fakes, and Raynor turns Greft over to station security as a forger.
Back on Lexington, Zepht has tracked the Castle Rock’s progress along her usual trade route. Captain Konin agrees to a pursuit, once Raynor is back aboard, along with D’ghov, who insists on accompanying them. As they depart, Zepht notes that the Castle Rock has not moved at all in several hours, apparently stranded between systems.
They arrive quickly, arm weapons, and close in on the Orion ship, which appears to be stuck in a very localised gravimetric anomaly. The ship is being spun on multiple axes, and is randomly being jolted in to new directions. It must be extremely unpleasant for the occupants. Zepht believes that either she’s stuck in the centre of the anomaly, or is its cause.
The ‘B’ Plot: Konin begins his investigation of Azonan’s actions on the Zeta Gracha mission by interviewing the officers involved. Quinn thinks that the Andorian was evidently traumatised by the memories revived by the Romulans, and that his reaction was understandable, if extreme. Raynor also sympathises as a fellow veteran. Zepht relates the full story, but regards Azonan’s actions as inexcusable, and believes that the engineer should suffer a suitable punishment. The captain is also aware that the illegal nature of the Romulan activity needs to be taken into account.
After reviewing the reports, and Azonan’s own explanation, he visits the officer to deliver his judgement. Rather than take it to court, he’d rather resolve this within the “family”, especially as he has himself experienced traumatic wartime events. Azonan is reduced in rank to lieutenant, and given an extended course of counseling, the return of his rank to be dependent on the counsellor’s judgment.
The Arc: It looks like the Orion Syndicate is taking an active interest in the Tilikaal research. This could indicate the beginning of more interference from other rivals of Starfleet.
Observations: More of Azonan’s history during the Cardassian Wars is revealed. It took him 18 months to recover from his plasma burn injuries after the Donegal incident. He had been scheduled to transfer to the U.S.S. Bellerophon shortly before her loss at the Battle of Wolf 359, explaining a lot of his psychological trauma. This was the Nebula-class predecessor to the ship lost at Candidate Three late last year.
The research programme investigating the Tilikaal and their ruins has now been designated “Project Diamond Hedge”, indicating that Starfleet Intelligence is taking a stronger interest in it.
The S.S. Castle Rock is an older Earth-built freighter, owned and operated by the Orion captain Paljara. The vessel operates a circular route back and forth along the Klingon/Federation border, transporting passengers and essential supplies, as well as those odd goods her owner judges will fetch a worthwhile profit.
The Orion Syndicate regularly makes use of neural datalinks to interface organic brains and computer-controlled systems. Their use is extremely dangerous to the operator, potentially resulting in permanent brain damage from miscalibrated connections, but allows a “hacker” to respond to system defences at an accelerated rate.
Dialogue: Zepht spots the gravitational anomaly: “I have a very bad feeling about this!”
References: The stolen Tilikaal artefacts were all part of the hoard recovered from Alpha Toryui I.
Questions: What is happening to the S.S. Castle Rock?