In Ten Forward, Ensign Ara approached Yeoman Nala, who was sampling a large number of different foods, to test her reaction to some of them as a newly Joined Trill. Ara spoke with her about their mission on Orgun III and Nala’s feelings towards Faz, embarrassing her. Ara noted that he suspected that even Vulcans struggle with feelings sometimes, and Nala changed the subject to the topic of their impressions of Q instead. Their meeting was interrupted by a summons to the bridge.
They responded to learn that the Volant had been ordered to investigate the stellar research station, “Angstrom Station,” located in the Dran’Ankos system. The station was on a tidally locked world orbiting a brown dwarf star, with a portion on the night side, connected via tunnel and tram to another section on the day side. The station had lost contact a few days before, with the last message a strange one, sent by senior stellar researcher Amelia Adams. Between screams of pain, she noted, “the mutiny failed… they’re everywhere now.”
Upon arrival in the system, they discovered the sun, previously quite stable, was increasing in temperature, and was starting to destabilize, potentially reaching dangerous levels within 12 hours. The station itself had confusing life form readings, alternatively noting 24, 47, and 942 life forms. They discovered the station itself had taken extensive internal damage, and one of the trams between the two sections had taken heavy damage, from the inside of the tram itself, possibly due to mining charges.
The stellar shields on the station were at maximum, preventing transporters, so Ensign Ara flew a shuttle with an away team. Captain K’mir opted to take a direct hand in the mission, along with Yeoman Nala, Lt Commander Klynn, Lt T’rel, Chirurgeon Bisha, and Science technician ensign Smith, a half-Vulcan, half-Human raised by her Human family.
Ara successfully landed the shuttle without damage, and they found the shuttle bay a disaster area, with a dead ensign by the door, a phaser burn to his face. Chirurgeon Bisha determined the victim was killed by the phaser, but there was something else wrong with his nervous system. Ensign Ara reported he sensed anger and pain — a great deal of pain — from somewhere in the station. T’rel briefly heard a strange organic squelching sound coming from a vent, but it vanished before others were able to hear it.
With power and computer systems down, the Away Team was forced to crawl through the Jeffreys tubes, making their way towards Ops. As they emerged from the tubes, however, a gang of scientists, screaming in rage and fury, swinging makeshift clubs. T’rel and K’mir’s phasers should have individually taken out the first target, but even together, it only seemed to slow their target down. Klynn, thinking quickly, blasted a coolant system in the roof, filling the area with freezing temperatures, as K’mir ordered others to retreat. Bisha, noting she was buying the rest of them time, charged the scientists, her Andorian physiology allowing her to ignore the severe cold of the coolant. She grappled and threw two of them towards T’rel, who nerve-pinched them and knocked them unconscious; Bisha then knocked the others out by slamming them into each other.
Once they were secured, K’mir spoke with Bisha separately. Bisha promised to explain in full detail once the situation was no longer immediately dire, and simply noted that she was not defying the Captain’s orders. K’mir nodded and accepted the explanation for now.
Operations had clearly been the site of a battle, with two bodies there, along with quite a bit of collateral phaser damage. Klynn was able to determine that the main reactor was approaching critical. Checking the operations logs, they discovered that, 10 days prior, maintenance was needed on an exhaust manifold due to biological contamination — odd, because the planet was supposedly lifeless. Several hours later, one of the maintenance workers was involved in an accident that claimed the lives of the other two workers; he had been taken to medical for emergency treatments for some sort of parasite. The final log noted simply, “It’s all those damn scientists’ fault. They’ve cut off comms. They are coming.”
K’mir at this point reached out to the Volant, currently under Barret’s command. A scan of the surface of the world outside the facility verified it was lifeless. While Barret and K’mir spoke, Khurron interrupted, noting the Volant was being send a message.
“This is Commander Atrani of the Warbird Decius. Your weapons testing in the Dran’Ankos system is an aggression that is clearly in violation of the Federation’s treaty with the Romulan Empire. We order you to leave this system immediately. There will be no further warning. Commander Atrani out.”
The Decius, accompanied by two other Romulan Warbirds, was approaching the system, only a few hours away.
K’mir opted to return to the Volant to handle this situation. They ordered Bisha, T’rel, and Ensign Smith to secure medical, while the other three would head to Engineering and attempt to restore power. A second team of science and medical officers would come to try to help the prisoners they had captured.
Ara, Nala, and Klynn passed the officer’s quarters as they headed for Engineering. They ducked into Amelia Adam’s quarters, finding it the location of some sort of fight. They also found additional duty logs, discovering that the chief researcher T’vol had asked to examine one of the creatures that had been discovered ten days prior. A day later, the creatures were reported infiltrating the base at all levels. Fights began breaking out on all levels, with several personnel being evacuated to the dayside facility by the tram, only for the tram to be destroyed. The missing shuttlecraft had been taken and piloted into the sun, destroying it. The holding tank ruptured in engineering, causing power and computer systems to shut down, with only emergency systems in place.
Bisha, T’rel, and Smith moved down to the lower level, where Medical was located. As they passed the mess hall, where a barricade had apparently been constructed and then brotken through, they again heard the strange squelching sound. T’rel investigated, finding an Andorian shuddering in the shadows. As they watched, an organic disk-shaped organism detached itself from the Andorian’s back and fluttered into a vent, while the Andorian screamed and charged. Bisha and T’rel managed to stun the Andorian, while Smith managed to gain a scan on the strange organic creature. Bisha discovered the victim had been stung in his back, with alien cells beginning to overwrite his own nervous system, activating the pain centers of his brain, even when unconscious.
Above, Nala scanned the commander’s quarters for life as they passed, giving her just enough warning as one of the strange organic disks emerged and began circling her, as if looking for an opening to attack. She blasted it with her phaser, sending it fleeing; despite multiple phaser hits, it escaped. Ara attempted to commune with the creature, gaining a sense that it was part of a hive mind of some kind. At this point, T’rel contacted them, reporting what they had learned of the strange creature they caught a glimpse of. Ensign Smith began searching the Volant’s databanks for anything that could match what they were facing.
Bisha, T’rel, and Smith arrived at Medical, to discover one of the creatures was dead in a specimen container. Three other dead people were there. As Bisha attempted to treat the unconscious Andorian, Smith found what they were looking for. Records from roughly 100 years ago, the USS Enterprise had encountered strange neural parasites on the planet Denova. Though there were several fatalities, the Enterprise discovered the creatures and their infections could be cured by strong enough ultraviolet light. Bisha immediately began treating the Andorian.
Approaching Engineering, Nala, Klynn, and Ara discovered that there were emergency bulkheads blocking access to Engineering. Upon opening one of the bulkheads, they discovered why: dangerous stellar gasses were loose in the chamber. Opening the bulkhead caused other emergency bulkheads to shut, trapping them in the engineering section. Nala worked to find and distribute emergency rebreathers while Klynn, assisted by Ara, worked to re-engage the central power core and use it to cleanse the air systems in the area. They discovered the gasses had been collected by something called the Inversion Drive, and when the Drive had been turned to maximum, the tank holding the gasses had ruptured. With power back on, they were able to reactivate the central computer, as well as direct atmospheric systems; they immediately increased the amount of ultraviolet light in the base, giving them significant protection from the parasites. With access to the computers, they also learned that the Stellar Inversion Drive was a device designed to draw rare elements from within stars, even potentially at the cost of the star’s life. It was clear the Inversion Drive, being controlled from the day side of the base, was behind the bizarre behavior of the system’s sun. They also found a communication link to the day side, but the day side simply had a padd reading scans of the star, but the screen was obscured with a Vulcan symbol of “the end” drawn in green blood.
With K’mir back on the Volant, he immediately reached out to Starfleet command, suggesting that the Romulans breaching the Neutral Zone was an act of war. Admiral Whatley replied by noting that he hoped diplomacy could still win out. He asked K’mir to assure that the Stellar Inversion Drive be removed from the base before the Romulans arrived — because while it was never intended as a weapon, it could inarguably be used as one, and as such, if the Romulans discovered it, it could be quite dangerous politically.
With the night side under control, security and medical teams moved through it to find and treat any survivors and evacuate them. Klynn, Ara, Nala, Bisha, T’rel, Smith, and a newly arriving Kritassen moved to the tram section to begin heading for the day side, where they discovered, in an adjacent airlock, Amelia Adams, the stellar researcher who had sent the signal that had drawn the Volant to the area. Injured by the parasites, but still with her own mind, she was in a great deal of pain, but with UV treatment from Bisha, she was soon restored to health. She explained that the chief researcher, V’Tol, had gone mad, and was responsible for killing more than one researcher. She also knew he had turned on the Stellar Inversion Drive, and would soon destroy the system. T’rel ordered Ara and Nala to take Adams to safety.
When the crew realized that the remaining tram to the day side was booby-trapped with a bomb, they opted instead to teleport. Klynn worked to lower the solar shields just long enough to allow them to transport over, where they found V’Tol, literally covered in the parasites, operating the Stellar Inversion Drive. V’Tol soon spotted the crew, and began raving at them about how they must be purified, how only the Stellar Invesion Drive would purify them all. When they attempted to convince him to stop, he attacked them with his lirpa.
T’rel attempted to stay at range, shooting at him with her phaser, but he resisted attacks that could have taken down most any humanoid. In addition, several more parasites entered the chamber, circling the Volant’s away team. When Ensign Smith ran to the Stellar Inversion Drive to attempt to turn it off, V’Tol spun and threw his lirpa, imbedding it in her chest, killing her instantly. Klynn managed to change the environmental controls in the day side, increasing the ultraviolet light, but then fell to an injection from a nearby parasite. Bisha slashed the parasite in half before falling to one himself. Kritassen managed to increase the UV light even further, causing the creatures to begin to die, and T’rel finally managed to knock V’tol out.
An hour later, the base was cleansed of parasites, all survivors were brought aboard, the Stellar Inversion Drive had been deactivated, and all records from the base had been cleared from the base computers. Hoping to avoid conflict with the Romulans, the Volant fled the area, though they were puzzled — these strange parasites were far from their previous worlds. How had they managed to get to the Dran’Ankos system?
Bisha reported to K’mir, to attempt to smooth over misunderstandings; though K’mir noted that it was not necessary, Bisha insisted. She explained that she knew information that K’mir did not, and under those specific circumstances, she was acting to protect lives. She was planning to ask for understanding and lenience when it came to moments in which Bisha’s training could be an element. Before she could ask this, however, K’mir responded by noting that, there would be times that K’mir knew things that Bisha did not, and expected them to be trusted in the future, and that Bisha actively rejecting one of K’mir’s first direct orders did not do a lot to engender that needed trust. This response did not sit well with Bisha, who felt her professional judgment, as well as her cultural approach to saving lives, were both being pushed aside in favor of the Captain’s authority. Strong words were exchanged, and Bisha finally responded, coldly, that K’mir’s orders would be obeyed in the future. K’mir noted that they didn’t believe Bisha made the wrong call, but asked her to consider why K’mir saw her actions as a potential call for concern. Bisha was dismissed, and the two parted with some frustration, though K’mir puzzled if Bisha was going to adjust to Starfleet from her Marine background.
Elsewhere, Commander Barrett was working on the notification for Ensign Smith’s death, the first such notification he’d ever been responsible for. T’rel approached him and offered to provide cultural context for Smith’s Vulcan family, which Barrett accepted. When the emotional work was completed, T’rel suggested Barrett come meet someone who might be helpful under the circumstances… and introduced Barrett to her cat, Admiral Boots.