Episode Number: 3×06
Written by: The authors of the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 26th August 2023
- Paljara: Orion owner/operator of the S.S. Castle Rock and suspected Orion Syndicate member
- Braxton: A Human systems hacker
Following the theft of Tilikaal artefacts from Narendra Station, we have found the perpetrators’ vessel stuck in a gravimetric anomaly. As we prepare a combination rescue and retrieval mission, I can’t help thinking they did this to themselves.Captain’s Log: Stardate, 49183.3
Plot: Zepht leads a boarding party on to the dangerously unstable wreck of the Castle Rock, hoping to retrieve the missing artefacts.
The ‘A’ Plot: With no response from the S.S. Castle Rock to hails, Konin calls an impromptu conference to discuss the situation. Azonan and Zepht believe they can limit the violent movements of the stricken ship by using an anti-graviton beam from the tractor emitters.
Their operation is successful and Konin organises a boarding party, to include the pair of them, along with Dr Conners, Raynor and D’Ghov. Quinn will pilot them across in a shuttlecraft, due to the potential dangers of transporting into the anomaly, and before they leave, Conners administers an anti-nausea drug to each of them.
Quinn pilots the craft into the anomaly’s field of effect with little difficulty. The ride is rough, but he is able to dock with the side of the Castle Rock, allowing the boarding party to cut their way in. Tricorder readings show the anomaly is centred towards the rear of the primary hull, within the main hold.
The interior structure is in a bad way, but still intact. They make their way along a badly-twisted passageway, periodically rocked by tremors rippling through the hull. Eventually they reach a cross-corridor, surprising what appears to be a Gorn working on machinery behind an access panel. A brief conversation ensues, before the Gorn agrees to go and find his superior.
Rather than wait, the boarding party turns into the main corridor of the ship and investigates the crew quarters. They find an Orion crew member in a cabin being violently sick, presumably as a result of the gravitational shifts. Conners treats him for both the nausea and dehydration before taking his weapon for safety’s sake.
They reach the main hold, finding that the distortions are much worse here. The walls and floor are buckled, with crates and their contents scatttered everywhere. To make matters worse, the gravimetric shifts are coming more frequently. The tricorder indicates that the centre of the effect is behind a wall of crates.
As they advance, a new fluctuation hurls debris at them, causing bruises and minor cuts. Behind the crates, they find two Orions, a Hupyrian, and a Ferengi watching a Human holding a Tilikaal artefact. The artefact is a grey stone dodecahedron, with each face presenting a single glyph pulsing in characteristic blue light as the disturbances occur. Wires connect the object to a box of Orion technology, which is in turn connected to the Human’s skull by a single cable. Six more artefacts in a crate also light up in unison with the first.
The unfortunate man’s limbs are badly twisted and broken, a result of the gravitational shear, and his eyes are open, but showing only the whites. He screams in pain as each disturbance begins, seemingly triggering a process that leads to the next disturbance. Connors immediately tries to scan him, but finds that her medical tricorder is being blocked by something.
The Orion captain, presumably Paljara, immediately requests the help of the team. She explains that Braxton, an experienced user of the neural datalink, thought he could discover something useful about the items by connecting directly to them. He almost immediately reacted as if he’d been possessed by something else. He has been talking in a strange language, and seems to react to people that aren’t actually present.
Azonan reaches out to simpy disconnect the cables, but is repulsed by a force field completely surrounding Braxton. Zepht attempts to decode the visible symbols on the artefact from a distance, but is only able to work out that a couple of them mean things like “danger” and “intelligence”.
As they watch, Braxton looks up, staring in an apparently random direction, and utters an incomprehensible phrase. This repeats every minute or so, always in a different direction, but the universal translater is unable to decode the phrase, as it is too short. Despite this, Zepht is convinced it is Tilikaal. He addresses Braxton directly in Federation Standard, which results in the hacker turning to face him, asking “what is your purpose?” He does not seem impressed with the answer and returns to his previous actions.
With the disruptions beoming more frequent, it is imperative that they shut the device down, so Azonan begins working out how to penetrate the force-field. A phaser or disruptor beam powerful enough to pierce it would probably vaporise everything inside, so it requires more finesse. Gathering together a pile of Starfleet and Orion technology, he assembles a device to shut it down.
Conners immediately leans in to scan Braxton, who is not in a good condition health-wise. Azonan opts to simply disconnect the datalink from the artefact, which results in the whole assembly shutting down. Braxton begins to scream in pain, requiring that Conners sedate him.
Paljara thanks them for their assistance, then informs them that they’ll be leaving now. She orders her men to take the boarding party prisoner, but Zepht is ready for a betrayal. He orders a party beam-out, taking Braxton and the artefacts with them. Moments later, the Castle Rock’s personnel are beamed directly into Lexington’s brig as the transport explodes.
The Arc: Zepht tracks the vectors toward which Braxton seems to be directing his attention, and believes they point to the locations of Tilikaal sites, most of which are in unexplored space. Some have already been visited, such as Orgun and Candidate Three, while others are in Klingon, Romulan and Federation space. He theorises that the artefact holds an artificial intelligence which is attempting to communicate with other A.I. devices at these sites.