Second Contact, Part II

Epis­ode Num­ber: 4×05

Writ­ten by: The authors of the Shack­leton Expanse Cam­paign Guide

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 6th April 2024

Guest Stars:

  • Iry­ax Nedaon: Lead­er of the Akaru.
  • Com­mand­er Mauti: Akaru com­mand­ing officer of the Star­ward.
  • Akaru’Bak Chiel: Akaru pro­vin­cial governor.
  • Com­mand­er K’rigosh: Akul’s first officer aboard the Mup­wI’.
  • Lieu­ten­ant Rusk­erg: Tac­tic­al chief aboard the Mup­wI’, pos­sess­ing an air of Vul­can-like calm.

We have returned to Setu at the per­son­al invit­a­tion of the Iry­ax, but our plans to nego­ti­ate an alli­ance may have been dis­rup­ted by the pres­ence of an unex­pec­ted rival. Mean­while, I have been receiv­ing tele­path­ic calls for help from some­where on the planet.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 50148.3

Plot: Cap­tain Kon­in and his seni­or officers attempt to find out the Klin­gons’ inten­tions before the nego­ti­ations start. Zepht leads a cov­ert mis­sion to invest­ig­ate the mys­ter­i­ous facil­ity at the bot­tom of Setu’s seas.

The ‘A’ Plot: As the wel­come ban­quet for the nego­ti­ations con­tin­ues fol­low­ing Cap­tain Akul’s unex­pec­ted appear­ance, Kon­in attempts to find out why the Klin­gons are here. He won­ders aloud if their sud­den appear­ance is some kind of dip­lo­mat­ic trick, on the part of the Akaru, to gain some kind of advant­age in the upcom­ing talks. Both Chiel and Akul voci­fer­ously deny this, plead­ing that the Mup­wI’s pres­ence is pure coin­cid­ence, the bird-of-prey hav­ing arrived about a day before Lex­ing­ton. When Akul is sud­denly invited to the treaty talks, Kon­in real­ises that the Klin­gon com­mand­er­’s sur­prise is genuine.

Kon­in dis­cusses the tele­path­ic dis­tress calls with Chiel, attempt­ing to find out if they are com­ing from the Akaru or some sub­set of them. After sev­er­al prob­ing ques­tions, she finally admits that it can­not be the Akaru, who are not cap­able of tele­pathy, and that none of the Akaru’bak would be send­ing such mes­sages. It seems the Akaru-bak are not aware of the dis­tress calls, but Kon­in reas­ons this may be either because their tele­pathy is largely restric­ted to the Akaru, or because their form of tele­pathy is more of a kind of tele­path­ic “pres­ence”, based on the tele­path­ic “slaps” he wit­nessed earlier.

Chiel talks dis­cretely to the Iry­ax, who gives Kon­in per­mis­sion to invest­ig­ate the dis­tress calls, as long as he keeps them fully informed.

Des­pite the din­ner­’s dip­lo­mat­ic nature, the Klin­gons are unable to res­ist approach­ing it with their usu­al gusto. Akul and K’ri­gosh relate tales of their com­bat prowess, but this does not appear to be going down well with the Akaru. When K’ri­gosh gets car­ried away and breaks a glass on the table to emphas­ise a point, Akul sends him out of the room to cool off.

Zepht is sus­pi­cious and pleads a bath­room break. Fol­low­ing the Klin­gon officer, he spots him using a com­mu­nic­at­or, but is unable to get close enough to over­hear. He dis­cretely asks Ensign Elser on Lex­ing­ton to inter­cept the call, but he fails and the attempt is detec­ted, caus­ing K’ri­gosh to break off the con­ver­sa­tion. Zepht cov­ers for his eaves­drop­ping by approach­ing and ask­ing where the toi­lets are. He adopts a some­what sar­cast­ic atti­tude and the Klin­gon is unable to res­ist an exchange of insults before remem­ber­ing where he is and stalk­ing off.

Raynor spends most of the even­ing care­fully ques­tion­ing Lieu­ten­ant Rusk­erg as the lat­ter becomes pro­gress­ively intox­ic­ated on the strong Akaru wine. He dis­cov­ers that the Klin­gons are act­ively invest­ig­at­ing Star­fleet dis­cov­er­ies from mis­sions before the war, look­ing for sys­tems with exploit­able resources or use­ful ruins.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Kon­in arrives at the Iry­ax’s throne room for the planned talks. Chiel and anoth­er of the Akaru’bak are already present, sit­ting at a table in front of the throne, while Kon­in and Akul, who arrives shortly after, each have their own tables.

Nedaon begins by explain­ing their aims in call­ing for the dis­cus­sions. They have decided that the Akaru would be best served by ally­ing with oth­er, more power­ful polit­ies, both for their con­tin­ued pro­gres­sion and for their sur­viv­al. The con­flict between the Klin­gons and the Fed­er­a­tion, along with the recent appear­ance of the Vin­Shari, has only rein­forced that decision.

The Iry­ax is look­ing for some kind of secur­ity agree­ment, where the ally would come to the aid of the Akaru if they are attacked. They would also like detailed data on the galaxy at large, includ­ing assess­ments of likely threats and dangers to their own explor­a­tion. In return, the Akaru can provide a vast amount of raw mater­i­als, includ­ing dilith­i­um, and agri­cul­tur­al pro­duce, as well as the abil­ity to rap­idly design and man­u­fac­ture advanced tech­no­lo­gic­al items.

Kon­in warns that a defence agree­ment with either power runs the risk of draw­ing the Akaru into con­flicts they might oth­er­wise avoid, and would make them a poten­tial tar­get for their ally’s enemies. The Iry­ax acknow­ledges this but remains res­ol­ute in their opinion.

Akul states that he would be hon­oured to bring Setu into the Imper­i­al fold, offer­ing weapons, ships and troops, in return for the kind of goods on offer.

The ‘B’ Plot: After the ban­quet, the cap­tain requests that Dr Con­ners car­ries out a med­ic­al exam­in­a­tion in the hope of determ­in­ing if the tele­path­ic mes­sages are just a hal­lu­cin­a­tion. She is not able to find any evid­ence of such an issue, and com­ments that Selvek is also detect­ing trans­mis­sions since they arrived in orbit, although, as a Vul­can touch-tele­path, he is not able to make out any words.

Zepht points out that the Tilikaal also appear to be tele­path­ic and they have one aboard – maybe Thacinn has heard the mes­sages? Unfor­tu­nately, their guest is only able to give a char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally vague answer: yes, he’s heard them, but assumed they were examples of the cries for help from the Tilikaal aderi, so has been ignor­ing them.

In the hope of solv­ing some of the mys­tery, the cap­tain gives Zepht per­mis­sion to organ­ise an exped­i­tion to invest­ig­ate the mys­ter­i­ous facil­ity on the ocean floor off the south­ern coast of Boka. Although he has expli­cit per­mis­sion to invest­ig­ate the cries for help, the cap­tain is keen to avoid any issues with Akaru secur­ity, so he orders Zepht to under­take the mis­sion in a cov­ert fash­ion. Raynor and Azon­an volun­teer to help out.

Ini­tial scans show that the facil­ity is pro­tec­ted by a power­ful force-field, sim­il­ar to the deflect­or shields on Lex­ing­ton, so it will not be pos­sible to beam dir­ectly into it. They are able to determ­ine that the struc­ture con­sists of sev­en indi­vidu­al build­ings, half-bur­ied in the se bed, and linked by pres­sur­ised tun­nels. Four of the build­ings appear to have been com­prom­ised in the past, and are full of seawater.

They elect to take the ship’s aquat­ic shuttle, so Quinn offers to fly it. He notes that if they plunge dir­ectly from orbit into the water at speed, they should be able to avoid Setu’s intru­sion detec­tion sys­tems. They take deep sea envir­on­ment suits with them, in case the shuttle is unable to dock with the structures.

Quin­n’s man­oeuvre works: the shuttle enters the water ver­tic­ally about a minute after leav­ing orbit, dis­pla­cing a huge amount of super-heated water, but it soon becomes appar­ent that those Akaru that saw the event assumed it was some kind of met­eor­ite fall. At the point of impact, Quinn lets out a high-pitched screech, but it’s unclear if this is an adren­al­in-fuelled whoop or a scream of fear.

Deep beneath the sur­face, they close with the facil­ity, dodging some quite large deep sea creatures. The struc­ture itself is vis­ible beneath its viol­et-shaded force-field, lying half-bur­ied in the slope on the edge of the con­tin­ent­al shelf. It appears to have ori­gin­ally been entirely beneath the seabed, and exposed by tec­ton­ic action. Sensor scans show that it will not be pos­sible to beam through the field without pat­tern enhan­cers, and that it is designed to res­ist the pas­sage of large bodies.

It may be pos­sible for Human-sized bod­ies to pass through, so Zepht, Azon­an and Raynor don the envir­on­ment suits for a walk in the mud. Azon­an moves at a steady speed across the seabed, but wheth­er it’s due to nerves or enthu­si­asm, Zepht speeds past him and slams into the force-field. He falls through, but the energy dis­charge dis­ables the fine manip­u­la­tion con­trols for his suit’s gloves. Raynor is unable to bal­ance the set of pat­tern enhan­cers he’s car­ry­ing and loses his foot­ing, banging his hel­met against a rock. With hor­ror, he real­ises that this has caused a tiny crack which is now let­ting in a jet of water. He picks up the enhan­cers and moves faster in the hope they can get into the facil­ity before the hel­met fails entirely.

Des­pite their set­backs, they are able to pass through the force-field and reach the wall of the nearest build­ing. It looms ten metres above them and there is no obvi­ous entrance. Zepht scans the sur­face with his tri­cord­er and real­ises that it pos­sesses the same kind of portal as oth­er Tilikaal struc­tures. Adjust­ing the set­tings, he beams a remote com­mand and a por­tion of the wall fades away, reveal­ing an air­lock-sized room bey­ond. They all clam­ber inside, and the wall fades back into place, before the water drains away.

The tri­cord­er determ­ines that the atmo­sphere is breath­able, and Raynor is able to open his hel­met, dis­gor­ging about a half-litre of sea­wa­ter. Azon­an takes a few minutes to seal and rein­force the crack, and is also able to fix Zeph­t’s con­trol issues, while they exam­ine their sur­round­ings. The design of the walls matches pre­vi­ous Tilikaal ruins they’ve seen, includ­ing the char­ac­ter­ist­ic blue energy flashes along angu­lar grooves in the walls, but the floor is a couple of cen­ti­metres deep in silt, and met­al grills have been laid onto it to facil­it­ate walk­ing. The place is obvi­ously in a state of disrepair.

They cau­tiously advance down the pas­sage­way and enter a large cent­ral cham­ber, filled with what appears to be Tilikaal com­puter sys­tems. Many of the struc­tures seem dam­aged and inact­ive, but a num­ber are still work­ing, with lights flash­ing, and appar­ently com­mu­nic­at­ing with a 2 metre dia­met­er column in the centre of the room.

As the oth­ers exam­ine the sys­tems to see if there’s any­thing they can extract from them, Raynor real­ises that his tri­cord­er is show­ing traces of cop­per-based bio­lo­gic­al mater­i­al with­in the pil­lar. When he points this out to the oth­ers, a pan­el opens in the pil­lar, reveal­ing an immob­ile humanoid fig­ure strapped into a chair, with cables con­nect­ing it to the sys­tems around it. The fig­ure is ema­ci­ated and appears to be Vul­canoid, but when they exam­ine it more closely, they real­ise it is actu­ally Romulan.

Its eyes sud­denly open, star­ing straight at them: “Help… me…”

The Arc: The Klin­gons are act­ively expand­ing with­in the Shack­leton Expanse, and are mak­ing use of Star­fleet data gathered dur­ing their allied oper­a­tions on Nar­en­dra Station.

Obser­va­tions: Dif­fer­ent spe­cies have wildly dif­fer­ent ways of using tele­pathy, which are often incom­pat­ible. Some, like Betazoids, primar­ily com­mu­nic­ate by men­tal “voice”, while oth­ers can trans­mit and read emo­tions or images. The Akaru’bak mani­fest as a kind of vir­tu­al pres­ence to the recip­i­ent, but are not able to detect or read oth­er spe­cies’ tele­path­ic signals.

Boka is the south­ern con­tin­ent of the Akaru home­world. Warm­er than Telesh, it boasts a num­ber of cul­tur­al centres and the main Akaru shipyards, as well as a diverse biosphere.

Lex­ing­ton’s deep sea envir­on­ment suits are based on the stand­ard mod­el, but mod­i­fied to with­stand vast pres­sures. Resem­bling 23rd cen­tury vacu­um-rated suits, they include sol­id armour plates across the limbs and torso, along with a tough hel­met, but do not restrict mobil­ity as much as might be expec­ted. Built-in deflect­or shield and struc­tur­al integ­rity field gen­er­at­ors rein­force the plates and joints against the massive pres­sures in the depths.

Ref­er­ences: Quin­n’s ocean-enter­ing man­oeuvre is a vari­ation on an orbit-to-sur­face freefall man­oeuvre per­fec­ted by Erica Ortegas in the pre­vi­ous cen­tury, and used fre­quently by mod­ern C.O.R.V.U.S. pilots.

Ques­tions: What is a Romu­lan doing here and what is he con­nec­ted to? And is K’ri­gosh up to any­thing nefarious?