This series is submitted by Star Trek Adventures Uber-Fan Daniel Li
Episode 1×3 “Drawing Deeply From the Well”
By Aaron M. Pollyea
From Strange New Worlds
Airdate: May 29, 2022
While Lexington’s computer systems underwent a thorough scrubbing to make sure the machine consciousness was well and truly gone, two of the senior staff left on their own assignments. Dr. Grelox took a team from Starfleet Medical to Valakis at the request of the newly warp-capable Menk government, curing the extinction-level genetic disease afflicting the Valakians which Grelox’s mentor, Dr. Phlox, refused to do over a century before. Commander Thalon traveled to Kaminar for a security conference, preparing the new Kelpien-Ba’ul Alliance to cooperate with the Federation in the event that the Klingons violate the Organian Peace Treaty.
By the time Lexington was cleared for duty, the Kaminar conference was still ongoing, so Lexington had to proceed with its next orders without Thalon aboard. The Lexington picked up Grelox from Valakis, then spent three weeks traveling well beyond the claimed borders of Federation space, deep into the Beta Quadrant to system J05+833 and an artifact known as the Big Dipper. Discovered by the Lexington’s sister ship Kongo in 2261, this ancient, giant skyhook orbiting a “hot Jupiter” planet known as Purgatory had a 200-person team from the Starfleet Corps of Engineers (SCE) living aboard and studying it ever since.
The SCE requested help from a fully-equipped starship when damage to the skyhook’s ramscoops appeared 8 months earlier when the engineers finally got the skyhook working and the ramscoops began to descend into the atmosphere and bring back refined materials, most notably dilithium. The SCE had its own ship on the station, the USS Bunker Hill, whose Tellarite crew came up with the working theory that the Klingons were attacking or sabotaging the Big Dipper to deny it and its extracted resources to the Federation. Damage to the ramscoops is consistent with detonation from photon torpedoes or mines, although of a much higher yield than is currently available to either the Federation or the Klingons. However, the nearest Klingon colonies and starbases are weeks away—this place is really out in the sticks—and Bunker Hill detected no signs of Klingon ships since it arrived.
An away team of Athytti, Sabin, and Ter’Rec beamed over to “the Hub” station at the center of the skyhook and were briefed on the situation by the station’s commanding officer, Captain Patricia Cosalia. All available resources were placed at Lexington’s disposal to finally solve the mysteries of the Big Dipper: who built it and who is attacking it?
The crew began investigating aboard the Hub. Sabin uncovered some clues as to the origin of the Big Dipper: the structures were clearly built with nonhumanoid physiology in mind and much larger bodies than humans or Klingons possess, and the language on the consoles shares some root words with Klingonese although it does not resemble any known dialect, past or present. However, some important pieces seemed to be missing, and a lengthy attempt to research the subject came up dry. Athytti interviewed members of the SCE detachment and they reported nothing unusual, although they did mention that most of the skyhook’s systems are automatic and are not under the engineers’ direct control. Sabin analyzed the sensor logs from Bunker Hill and determined that after 11 days of patrolling the system, it found no signs of Klingon vessels, and only a single vessel (Acamarian bulk freighter) had passed within 10 parsecs. The logs also showed minor gravitational fluctuations in space-time from the tethers attaching the ramscoops to the Hub at their lowest point of descent into the atmosphere. Ter’Rec added that the tethers would be at their greatest strain at this point in their motion, but that would not explain the space-time fluctuations unless something was interfering with the tethers directly or causing damage to the ramscoops. Sabin had the Lexington scan the rest of the planets in the system for clues but found none. A scan of the Hub using its internal sensors showed no Klingon life signs aboard, seemingly ruling out sabotage for the moment.
In a brilliant meta-example of sequence-breaking, the crew decided not to bother taking out a shuttlecraft to inspect the ramscoops personally, as Captain Cosalia had suggested. Instead, Ter’Rec and Sabin modified Lexington’s already-badass sensor array with precise calibration for the interference of Purgatory’s atmospheric layers, networking with Bunker Hill’s sensors and several probes to conduct an interferometric analysis. The sensors revealed multiple power sources across the planet radiating anti-neutrinos, and where large concentrations of those power sources warranting further investigation were located. Attempts to modify a probe to reach that deep atmospheric layer failed (the probes were crushed) but gave Ter’Rec enough information to modify a shuttlecraft to survive down there long enough to allow around 30 minutes of exploration…in theory.
To get an extra edge, Athytti requisitioned the prototype Captain’s Yacht from Bunker Hill, and Captain Haft was none too happy about it. However, the yacht had several advantages over a Class-F shuttlecraft: more powerful engines, sensors, and computer systems; a larger interior hull to hold all the mobile generators and shielding technology needed to make the modifications; and four consoles for crewmen to use instead of the shuttlecraft’s two. Also, unlike a shuttlecraft, the yacht was armed.
It took most of a day in the Hub’s shuttlebay for Ter’Rec to make the modifications he had envisioned. In the meantime, Sabin monitored revolution of the ramscoops from the Hub’s command center and had just heard from Ter’Rec that the yacht was ready when the ramscoop reached its lowest point and the gravimetric disruptions, much greater in scale than in the past, jolt the tethers and the Hub, with the command center taking the brunt. Sabin and a number of the SCE crew were knocked off their feet, and he hit his head on the console on the way down, suffering a concussion. The sensors monitored a massive thermonuclear detonation in Purgatory’s atmosphere near the ramscoop. As Sabin was still ambulatory, he made it to the transporter room and from there to the Lexington’s advanced sickbay, where Dr. Grelox was able to treat the concussion and get him back to duty in a matter of minutes.
With Ter’Rec at the helm, Sabin at science, and Athytti at tactical, the captain’s yacht launched from the Hub and descended into Purgatory’s atmosphere. Ter’Rec managed to guide the yacht safely through the first layer of high winds and storms, but upon entering the cloud layer, a wavefront briefly overloaded the shielding and the weapons systems went offline as the EPS conduits ruptured. Ter’Rec was not about to leave flight control to make repairs in the back. The yacht was now deep enough to lose comms with the Hub and the Lexington in orbit.
The yacht finally broke through into a transparent layer at a depth six times deeper than the Marianas Trench on Earth, where the atmosphere was denser than water. Here, the crew discovered an astonishing ecosystem of silicon- and arsenic-based marine life with dilithium-based nervous systems. Sabin got some excellent scans of these creatures when a LADAR pulse began scanning the yacht. Ter’Rec pinpointed its source and made another breathtaking discovery: a crystalline city floating on iridescent bags with laser light sparkling from nearly every surface, with numerous large animals and metallic craft circling the city.
There was little time to take in the scenery, however, as massive life forms larger than a shuttlecraft with many tentacles and fins and a single laser-emitting eye approached the yacht, toting huge machine guns equipped with what the sensors unmistakably identified as nuclear ammunition. These were undoubtedly some of the weapons used to damage the ramscoops. However, Athytti was able to determine that since the creatures had not used their weapons, or made threatening gestures with them, they were not being aggressive. Sabin used the yacht’s sensors and computer system to ascertain that the pattern of LADAR eye beams and flashing fins was language–an attempt to communicate. Sabin adjusted the universal translator to decipher the language, while Ter’Rec modified the yacht’s shields and Bussard scoops to mimic the fins and lasers so the crew could respond. These highly-intelligent creatures called themselves the Free, and believed that the crew was the Old Gods who sent the Eater of Souls to harvest them long ago. Sabin checked the computer again, as something from his earlier attempts to research the Big Dipper finally clicked. The Old Gods were the Hur’q (which explains the proximity to the Klingon Neutral Zone) and the Eater of Souls was the Big Dipper skyhook they had constructed. Centuries ago, when the Hur’q occupied this region of space, they harvested the Free and other dilithium-rich life on Purgatory for minerals. When the Hur’q fled back to the Gamma Quadrant and eventually went extinct, the Big Dipper floated into a higher orbit and went dormant and the Free were left alone…until the SCE reactivated the Big Dipper and started harvesting again, inadvertently killing the Free and devastating their ecosystem once again. With less than 10 minutes remaining before Ter’Rec’s modifications would no longer allow the yacht to survive at this depth, Athytti succeeded in persuading the Free that the Federation personnel were not the Old Gods, that they were sorry for the harm they caused in their ignorance, and that they would move the Big Dipper to a safe altitude and no more of their people would die. At first skeptical, the Free eventually accepted her sincerity and forgave the Federation. They asked for aid in rebuilding their infrastructure, in particular, that common materials from the higher atmospheric layers be sent back to them. Agreeing to these terms, Athytti concluded the conversation and Ter’Rec began the yacht’s ascent back to the Hub.
Back on the Hub, Captain Cosalia became physically ill upon hearing of the devastation the Big Dipper had inflicted on the Free, and asked the Lexington to transport her back to the nearest starbase for court-martial. However, Ter’Rec managed to reassure her that she would never be convicted and could not have known better, and rather than resign, her best use would be to stay and use her expertise to ensure that the Big Dipper and SCE presence worked in the best interests of the Free. Their mission accomplished, the away team beamed back to the Lexington, leaving the SCE teams to build off the modifications Ter’Rec made to the yacht to enable other small craft to explore Purgatory and develop a long-term relationship with the Free.
Peter: Dr. Grelox, Athytti
Modular laboratory focus: n/a
Crew support used: 2
Lexington damage: 0
Casualties: 1 wounded
On the next Star Trek Adventures…
1×4 “No Good Deed”
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