The Orion Heist, Part I

Epis­ode Num­ber: 3×05

Writ­ten by: The authors of the Shack­leton Expanse Cam­paign Guide

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 12th August 2023

Guest Stars:

  • 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?