Episode 1×4 “A Cry from the Void”
By Ian Lemke & Spring Netto
From Strange New Worlds
Airdate: October 21, 2022
Four months passed since the USS Lexington made first contact with the Free in the gas giant Purgatory. After returning from Purgatory, Starfleet Command urgently diverted the Lexington to Gornar to investigate rumors of an internal political shakeup in the Gorn Hegemony. The notoriously isolationist Gorn sent a message inviting the first Federation embassy, and the Lexington was to deliver Ambassador Jamlaya Paret and her staff to establish the embassy as well as investigate the situation. As it turned out, the worker and religious castes had overthrown the warrior caste and replaced the Hegemony with the Gorn Commonwealth. The new government was still consolidating its hold on power and could charitably be described as a “fragile state,” but it appeared the Gorn were no longer interested in eating their neighbors…for now.
After three months in Gorn space, the Lexington was ordered to take the scenic route home, exploring a remote region of the Beta Quadrant beyond the Gorn border where no manned starship had ever gone before. Weeks into the humdrum of cataloging one planetary system after another, the crew was getting cabin fever. Ter’Rec and Xellein sat in the mess hall going over specs of the new Miranda class, daydreaming of refitting one. Athytti jossed Sabin about a letter he received from his former thesis advisor, Dr. Nassa Coleridge, implying she might be interested in more than a professional relationship. The boredom was abruptly interrupted by a tetryon shockwave striking the Lexington’s bow, as the mess hall’s occupants were thrown off their feet.
Arriving in main engineering, Ter’Rec set about restoring order and getting his damage control teams where they needed to go. Xellein called down from the bridge for help reconstructing an extremely powerful subspace transmission that stuck the ship simultaneously with the tetryon wave and overloaded her comm systems. Ter’Rec was able to spare a moment from repairs to restore the message. Sabin then deciphered it as a very basic distress call, something akin to “Help!” or SOS, nothing more complex.
The tetryon wave originated in the Abassa system, specifically the planet Abassa VII, 12 light-years away. Records in the library computer from long-range telescopes showed a class-M World with no higher life-forms covered 95% with an amethyst ocean with a few crystalline rock formations as “landmasses.” In response to the distress call, the Lexington diverted course to Abassa VII.
Arriving in orbit a few days later, having pushed the engines to maintain Warp 8, the Lexington crew saw the glittering, violet gemstone of a world just as magnificent as the telescope images. They also noticed something the surveys didn’t show: a wildcat mining operation of prefabs and industrial equipment on one of the crystalline islands. The ocean had a fairly high concentration of deuterium, needed to power fusion reactors, which would explain why someone would want to mine it. Two unmarked fighter-interceptors left concealment behind one of Abassa VII’s moons and fired warning shots across the Lexington’s bow, demanding that the Federation starship leave the system at once. Captain Birdsong persuaded the pilots to stand down, and was patched through to the boss on the surface, an Orion female named Lishka. She apologized for the rude welcome, as she and her employees are in a remote and dangerous part of the galaxy and tend to take security and privacy very seriously. Birdsong accepted her apology and inquired about tetryon wave. Lishka replied that she knew little and the situation was complicated and invited the Captain to dinner on the surface, which Birdsong agreed to. Lishka then singled out Lieutenant (j.g.) Xellein at the communications console at the rear of the bridge, saying “Looks like your Starfleet dream came true. See you at dinner.”
When the transmission ended, Xellein explained to the senior staff that Lishka was her older sister, who she hadn’t seen or heard from in 8 years. This required a bit of exposition on Orion culture: the men are slaves, formally or otherwise, kept in control by the females’ use of powerful pheromones. Not all Orion women have the ability to secrete pheromones and not all are equally powerful; females can also be enslaved by other females using more conventional means of coercion. However, Orion males are occasionally born with a genetic mutation—a “defect” as perceived by Orion society—making them immune to the females’ pheromones and mind-control effects. These boys are murdered by the Syndicate as soon as their condition is discovered, and Xellein and Lishka’s younger brother was one of them, killed as an infant before even getting a name. 8 years ago, Lishka gave birth to her son Rollo who was also immune (seems to run in the family), and as soon as they found out, she and Xellein fled Orion space with the help of their uncle Zaz. They split up on Beltane IX and, for her sister’s safety, Xellein has not tried to contact her since.
This also necessitated Xellein to report that her enlisted service was not spent as a transporter technician on Deep Space 2 but as a deep-cover operative for Starfleet Intelligence working in the Orion Syndicate. There was a possibility that someone in the mining camp might recognize her. However, no one hates the Syndicate more than Lishka for obvious reasons, so the likelihood that she was working for the Syndicate or tolerating their operation in the mines was very low, and the Lexington was probably not in any danger from the Syndicate here.
Captain Birdsong accepted Xellein’s request to join the away team, rounding out the party with Thalon, Ter’Rec, and Sabin. They took a shuttlecraft down to the mining facility, landing on an open-air platform with a magnificent view of the ocean and horizon. As they dismounted the shuttle’s ramp, they were greeted by a Yridian named Mithrin Vol, who introduced himself as Lishka’s right-hand man and chief of security, and four security guards. Vol escorted the away team down from the platform and through a small village that resembled a Gold Rush mining town from the Old West, populated by about a dozen different species, including humans and Gorn. Notably, there were no Orions visible in the workforce. A surreptitious tricorder scan revealed interference coming from the refinery, preventing Sabin from learning anything more about it. Xellein’s suspicions were raised, and she suggested to Vol that, given the density of deuterium in the ocean, a much larger refining operation would be needed to turn even a tiny profit. Vol agreed, admitting that the faculty is not very profitable at the moment, but Lishka is hoping to expand now that the method is proven.
At dinner, Lishka and Vol told their story. While hiding from the Syndicate, out of latinum for her son and uncle, Lishka ran across Vol in a cantina on Beltane IX telling tall tales of a planet made of latinum. She convinced Vol to take her to this world to investigate the rumor. That world was Abassa VII, and the rumors were at least partly true as the oceans were rich in deuterium. The two of them managed to cobble together a coalition of business partners to set up a mining operation on a shoestring, despite lacking any official claim to the planet or a mining license from the Federation, the Gorn, or anyone else. Lishka has been funneling the profits from the mine to an Underground Railroad helping slaves and especially immune Orion boys escape from the Syndicate. Birdsong recognized that Lishka was legally in a gray area. Abassa VII was just inside the Federation side of the Line of Demarcation in the Cestus III treaty, recognizing Federation and Gorn spheres of influence to avoid any further border disputes. However, the Federation never formally claimed the Abassa system or any nearby worlds. Lishka mentioned that she would be willing to do whatever is necessary to make this operation legal.
When asked about the tetryon wave, Lishka claimed to have monitored it and taken damage to the facility as a result of it, but to have no idea how it would have originated. Birdsong could tell Lishka knew more than she was saying but decided not to press the issue.
Lishka also requested the Lexington’s help locating six missing workmen, two of whom were in a deep-sea submersible while prospecting in one of the ocean trenches. Birdsong agreed to this request, theorizing that the miners’ disappearance might be related to the tetryon distress call. The away team accepted Lishka’s invitation to spend the night on the planet in guest quarters. Ter’Rec scanned for bugs and surveillance devices and surprisingly found one.
During the night, Lishka’s crews prepared a submersible for deep-sea diving. Sabin briefly beamed back up to the Lexington to scan for the miners’ life signs, sending out the three shuttlecraft to cover the planet more quickly, and located all six of miners’ life signs, weak and fading, at the bottom of a 30km-deep ocean trench. He estimated 4 hours until they were dead. It would take 3 hours for the submersible to reach its location, and interference from the nearby crystals made using transporters impossible, so time was tight. Birdsong, Ter’Rec, and Sabin set out in the submersible, making modifications to EV suits during the voyage to survive the water pressure in the trench.
Meanwhile, on the surface, Thalon and Xellein went looking for a way to reconnoiter the refinery. Tricorder scans from just outside the fenced perimeter still could not penetrate inside but revealed the interference bore the signature of jamming devices commonly used by smugglers and criminals, so not generated by the refining equipment itself. Locating a weak spot in the perimeter security, Thalon and Xellein successfully snuck past the surveillance devices and guards both inside and outside the facility and reached the security room. They chose not to give away their presence by deactivating the jammers, but got the piece of information they needed: in addition to the open and obvious deuterium extraction operations, the facility also had a section filled with the very different equipment of the kind used to extract and refine latinum. The quantity of latinum extracted from the ocean with this equipment wouldn’t be huge, but given latinum’s rarity and price, it would still be enough to make Lishka and Vol insanely rich within a few years. With this information, Thalon and Xellein exfiltrated the refinery and beamed back to the ship.
Back under the sea, Ter’Rec parked the submersible on the trench floor near the miners’ coordinates. They were encased in cocoons of crystal material growing out of a larger outcropping of crystal magnificently rising from the trench floor. The away team donned their EV suits for a closer inspection. Sabin determined that a liquid similar to the seawater was filling the cocoons. The miners were comatose but still alive and somehow able to breathe the water. A closer examination revealed that the liquid penetrated the miners’ bodies to the subatomic level, and in particular the brain and nervous system. The crystal formation itself was emitting low-level energy waves similar to those of a human brain. This led Sabin to the conclusion that the ocean was alive and might have been the source of the tetryon wave.
Using a cutting torch, Ter’Rec began to separate the first miner’s cocoon from the rest of the crystal formation. About halfway through, he experienced a flashback to the Battle of the Binary Stars, where as a junior engineer on the USS T’Plana-Hath, he was severely burned as the engine room was destroyed around him and most of the crew did not survive. Despite the flashback, Ter’Rec retained his composure and kept control of the cutting torch. He cleanly finished cutting the cocoon free, at which point the other five cocoons also spontaneously separated from the crystal formation. At this point, Sabin and Birdsong also reported experiencing flashbacks to times when they were badly injured and in pain: Birdsong to a shuttle crash when she was an ensign on the USS Hoover, and Sabin to an incident at the Academy in which a close friend was killed and he nearly was too and prompted him to pursue training as a field medic in addition to science. The commonality was wounds and pain—it seemed like the ocean was trying to communicate pain, and could do so telepathically, suggesting some form of intelligence. Sabin theorized that if the miners could be safely revived, he might be able to communicate with the ocean through them. However, the miners would be dead in less than an hour if left as they were.
The away team loaded the cocoons back into the submersible and Ter’Rec executed an emergency blow of the ballast tanks. The EV suits could barely compensate for the rapid change in pressure as the submersible shot upward toward the surface. At 15km depth, comms with the Lexington came back online and Birdsong signaled for beam-out. Xellein manned the transporter room but executed a point-to-point transport at 10km of depth, depositing the away team and all six cocoons in sickbay.
Although the away team members were shaken up by the flashbacks, Dr. Grelox confirmed they were uninjured and returned Birdsong and Ter’Rec to their duty stations. However, Sabin remained in sickbay to deal with the cocoons. He determined that attempts to cut through the cocoon would cause it to shatter, killing the miner inside. A specific sonic frequency could cause the cocoon to dissolve safely, and in a small area it could allow the cocoon to be punctured and the liquid inside tested. Ter’Rec fashioned a sonic cutting tool before going to main engineering. As soon as Birdsong arrived on the bridge, sensors picked up a storm with enormous waves buffering the shoreline where the refinery was located and would destroy the facility within 6-8 hours. Lishka hailed to ask for the Lexington’s help. Birdsong offered to evacuate the refinery, and Lishka agreed that she would sound an alarm and have anyone who wanted to evacuate assemble at the shuttle platform. However, the refinery was all she had in the world so she refused to evacuate—and many of the workers would refuse too. Lishka admitted she and her scientists suspected that the ocean might be alive and considered it a dangerous beast. They developed a countermeasure as a last resort, a nadion pulse that, fired from modified phaser banks, could kill the ocean life-form in a few shots. Birdsong persuaded Lishka that the ocean was sentient and that the Lexington should attempt a peaceful solution instead.
At this point, a detachment of 4 freighters and 5 interceptors deployed from various points around Abassa VII. The freighters were converging on what Thalon clearly recognized as a bombardment formation, with their weapons emitting nadion signatures. The interceptors were on course for the Lexington in an attack formation. All the spacecraft had switched off their comms and did not respond to hails from the Lishka or the Lexington. Lishka concluded that Vol had ignored her orders to stand down and was preparing to attack the ocean life-form anyway. Birdsong reluctantly concluded that force would be required to defend the planet.
Iban closed to torpedo range, and Thalon opened the battle by firing a photon torpedo at the lead freighter in hopes of scaring them off. Unfortunately, not only did the torpedo miss, the forward torpedo tubes suffered a malfunction preventing any further firing. Ter’Rec’s attempt at damage control failed, and Xellein’s attempt to dispatch damage control teams also failed. Both officers arrived at the “neck” torpedo launcher in person to try to sort out the mess, and discovered that complications had compounded. The first torpedo launch had jammed the loading mechanism in the port torpedo tube, warping the guide rails and making the tube unusable in addition to interfering with the automatic loader connected to the magazine. Security crewmen were trying to load the starboard torpedo tube manually, but the starboard launch doors were jammed as well and did not open fully. Xellein noticed these moments before the live round was launched into the stuck door, yelling for everyone to get out. The Lexington crewmen made it under the blast doors in the nick of time before the torpedo exploded, gutting both forward torpedo launchers and making them unusable for the rest of the battle.
Out of danger for the moment, the freighters opened fire on the planet below. Three of them failed to make an effective nadion strike, but the first one did, injuring the life-form, which retaliated with a tetryon wave, damaging the freighter. The interceptors made an attack run on the Lexington. Four of them missed, more concerned with staying out of the line of fire than shooting straight, but the flight leader had more nerve and precisely struck the Lexington’s stardrive section with a pulse phaser attack, damaging the computer system and taking the shields down to 50%.
Down in sickbay, Sabin and Grelox used the sonic cutter to bore a small hole in the cocoon and analyze the liquid inside. The liquid was working it’s way through the miner’s body, probably analyzing him, and the man also showed traces of tetryon particles throughout.
With the forward torpedo launchers out of action, Iban fired up the impulse engines and pursued the freighters into medium range, giving Thalon a good opportunity to blast two of the freighters with precise phaser shots and damage them enough to make firing the nadions difficult for them. The freighters then broke orbit and attempted to regroup. After Ter’Rec coaxed more power out of the fusion reactor, Birdsong also directed Thalon to fire the aft phasers at the interceptors’ flight leader before they could make another strafing run, which he did, destroying the interceptor in one shot. Lishka hailed from the surface, indicating that Vol had been flying the interceptor they destroyed and the other craft had agreed to surrender.
While the Lexington’s boarding parties took control of the surrendered ships, Sabin and Grelox achieved their final breakthrough, suspending the cocoons in nutrient fluid and using a modulated thoron pulse to cleanse the cocoons of the ocean liquid, stabilizing their vital signs and saving their lives. Once this was accomplished, Grelox brought one of the miners to consciousness, and Sabin was indeed able to communicate with the ocean life-form as it used the tetryons to relay images and concepts to the man.
Birdsong proceeded to sickbay, and in the ensuing few hours, she mediated negotiations between Lishka and the ocean life-form with help from some telepathic members of the Lexington crew translating images and ideas (the life-form had no previous exposure to language and struggled with words). While conducting follow-up surveys, Sabin and Ter’Rec discovered that the ocean entity had a unique life-cycle: it begins as a liquid, which over time hardens into crystal, which in turn crumbles into nutrient that forms more liquid. The oceanic entity had not encountered humanoid life before the arrival of Lishka and the refinery workers. At first, it was curious, but once the refinery started processing the seawater, it began to feel a sensation it had never felt before and barely understood – pain. This pain continued to increase as the refinery grew larger until it became intolerable. It was at that point that it released its cry for help in the only way it knew how: by blasting a tetryon wave
out into subspace.
Ever since the ocean life-form had been trying to understand the creatures that were causing it harm. It had some understanding that they had intelligence and was trying to learn how to communicate with them. To this end, it captured the miners from the refinery. The ocean can manipulate itself to form tendrils and even create basic shapes and images, but its best means of understanding humanoids was to essentially absorb them. When the workers were rescued by the away team, this process was only partly completed.
Notably, as confirmed by the surveys, the ocean entity could separate itself and form a reservoir in the vicinity of the refinery to deposit its waste. This waste material was ten times richer in deuterium and contains twice as much latinum, leading Sabin to exclaim “it poops latinum!” This arrangement was satisfactory to all concerned. Lishka filed the necessary paperwork to apply for a mining license from the UFP, and Birdsong sent a recommendation that the Federation formally claim the Abassa system, as the Cestus III treaty would allow it to do. In a month or two, Abassa VII should be an official Federation colony with a licensed mining operation.
Xellein is spending some family time on the surface with her sister Lishka and nephew Rollo while the Lexington conducts additional surveys of the rest of the system and looks for reliable ways for the ocean to communicate with humanoids now that they will be sharing the planet permanently. Thalon’s investigation of Lishka’s finances showed that her story was true, and an orphanage on Beltane IX run by Uncle Zaz is receiving most of the profits of the refinery. Wounded from the space battle are recovering in sickbay. Prisoners from Vol’s ships are in the brig until the civil authorities at the nearest starbase can take charge of them for trial. As for the forward torpedo tubes, an investigation and full rebuild will occur when the Lexington reports to Starbase 6 for repairs, but preliminary results show that the structure of the loading system and guide rails was probably weakened by the impact of the tetryon shockwave, and due to the inter-dimensional nature of the tetryons, was not immediately detected by the internal sensors. This leaves open the possibility of similar weakening of other parts of the Lexington’s structure, which will have to be assessed at the starbase.
Geoff: Ter’Rec, Birdsong
Fred: Sabin, Grelox
Jeremy: Thalon, Xellein, Iban
Modular laboratory focus: n/a
Crew support used: 4 + 3 Threat
Lexington damage: 1 breach, 2 complications
Casualties: 12 wounded
On the next Star Trek Adventures…
1×5 “No Good Deed”