|Season 3, Episode 5|
The Next mission begins, as do where many of them do, on the bridge and at the command of FltCapt Renos. The USS Darwin is to set course towards the Raikenoff’s folly, a nebula in the Delta Quadrant and engage at cruising speed. Lt Merrick R’Ven is asked to give the bridge crew a highlight of the last time they encountered this region. At last scan it was a class 2 planetary nebula, 10 AU in diameter, larger than what is thought to be standard for this class of nebula. Also that it should not adversely affect Shields, propulsion, weapons, however sensors will only have a range of several kilometers and communications will be reduced or intermittent. Additionally the region is turbulent and possesses volatile gasses and chemicals. Weapons discharging into the nebula will create a chain reaction in that region which will further inhibit sensors. Lt Randal Shayne tells them it will take 7 hours 34 minutes to reach.
With that in mind Renos asks LtCmdr Nate Wilmer and Ens Luis Esqueda to use the data from R’Ven to try and boost the sensors to make navigation within the nebula easier. Their work makes it difficult for R’Ven to work since they all at the same station. In an effort to help R’Ven sends Wilmer and Esqueda the data from the Darwin’s last visit. LtCmdr Rendal Rennyn also came to help and after looking over the notes he told Wilmer and Esqueda that he had something to show them in the cargo bay and they left the bridge. This was just fine with R’Ven as it left him unfettered use of the science station again.
As the ship continues towards its destination Rennyn down in Cargo Bay 2 displays to the group a few modified Aids to Navigation, and the three of them: Rennyn, Wilmer and Esqueda begin working on the probes, getting them ready for possible deployment. Meanwhile on the bridge R’Ven does note that there has been an increase in metaphasic energy in the nebula and that it may affect the the shields requiring an adaption. He recommends using probes to analyze the interior of the nebula. Shayne on the other hand suggests using a shuttle to enter the nebula and investigate and with R’Ven’s help they can adjust it.
R’Ven, with permission from Renos relays all the salient information to several of the department heads: Lt Graeme Cook in Sickbay, LtCmdr Brell in Engineering and LtCmdr John Valdivia and Ens Christoper Lambert in the Astrometrics Lab. Most of them already have varying degrees of knowledge about their destination and request to be kept in the loop. To which R’Ven agrees.
With that done Renos lays out plans for the Darwin. They would send in send the Darwin and deploy both probes and shuttles strategically to map and explore this nebula and they were to find the best places to deploy and work on coming up with a search pattern.
Just as that was R’Ven was displaying a grid pattern on the screen Doctor Cook arrived on the bridge stating that he needs to speak with Renos about a patient. After a few words to the Captain they both went into the the ready room, and for the first time R’Ven is left in charge of the bridge and that he was to contact Cmdr Varaan and update him.
In the ready room Cook reveals that the patient is none other then the Captain! Cook asks the captain about Zackdorn, The QSD and Raikenoff, wondering if this will cause an outburst. It does not, in fact Renos appreciates the concern, something that stuns the doctor. Shifting to his tricorder for a more thorough diagnosis Cook and renos continue to discuss the nebula. After Cook gives Renos a clean bill of health Cook sits down to discuss Dr. Tarna and getting him a proper burial, but his body was still part of an ongoing case. Renos admitted to the need to catch up on things and they talked of Rosek and the difficulty in getting the body back. Their conversation ends in frustration and anger not only at the murder of one of their own but the uncooperative nature of the Numiri government
Meanwhile back on the bridge, Merrick’s surprise and being ‘given’ the bridge was broken as Valdivia calls the bridge and shares with R’Ven his theory that the rise in metaphasic energy is not natural but due to a weapon that the Numiri have developed and that he would be in hazmat trying to confirm it and to let the captain know.
Agreeing R’Ven closes the channel and opens one to Cmdr Varaan and relays Valdivia’s news as well as the Captain’s update. With that done he returns his attention to Shayne and the two began to discuss what may constitute the most efficient search pattern. A short time later Varaan arrives back on the bridge, asks for updates and takes a seat. A few minutes later Renos and Doctor Cook arrive back in the bridge and then Captain Renos arrives as well and outlines his plan for exploring the nebula. As the Darwin finally arrives in the area of the Folly Renos dismisses the senior staff to get some rest before they actually make entry the next morning.
As all over the ship the shifts changed, Valdivia emerged from Hazmat and discussed a few details with LtCmdr Emery Rhyn about a Metaphasic beam and how it can be stopped, both of them are cut short as Renos' command to change shift blares over the loudspeaker. After a quick call to the bridge both of them head towards the Astrometrics lab.
The call to the bridge finds most of the crew already changed to the next shift. The Captain, the helmsman and other were already gone, but Varaan was still here and R'Ven was on the way out when Valdivia called to give his report, a call that R'Ven "hijacks" much to Varaan's consternation.
With most of the alpha shift off to get some much needed rest, the Darwin and her crew continues scan the nebula, a region of space that seems to have undergone a strange change, but the nebula remains largely opaque to their scans. However deep inside the region something uncoiled itself, moved flickering in mix of starlight and unbridled energies as muscle mixed with will and curiosity! It raised its head erect as if tasting something new in the offing and then moved on.
What was it and what other secrets was the nebula itself holding? It will all be revealed in . . .
The next morning at 09:30 finds Renos holding a meeting with the Darwin's senior officers about entering the Folly. First Renos introduced to LtJG Iniko Mpeba who was was returning to the darwin after several months away. Then Renos talked about how they were going to use the Darwin, the science probes and a shuttle to map the nebula and see what lay within. Interestingly during Gamma shift, limited sensor reading of the interior of the nebula had revealed that there was something artificial inside. To that end Varaan was to take Logan and Doctor Cook to investigate the artificial site. Rennyn was to take Shayne, Lambert and Mpeba and man the survey shuttle. They were to remain within 12 to 15 thousand kilometers of the Darwin and both teams were to have regular check-ins.
Renos was about to go on but was interrupted by Commander Nicu Icavoc from the bridge who revealed that they were picking up organic readings. Possibly life signs.
With a new eagerness Renos finished laying out the assignments: Brell and Pond were to ensure that the away teams are adequately inoculated and prepared for the effects of radiation. Valdivia, R’ven were to choose which one of them would be flying the probes in astrometrics. Everyone else was to report to the Captain on the bridge.
With that the individual groups dispersed to make their plans and prepare for entering the nebula!
Quickly the teams got themselves together. The shuttle teams reporting to sickbay first and then to the shuttle bay in preparation to move out into the nebula, adding in any last minute modifications. Brell and Pond got the MSD panel reconfigured to be able to monitor and lock onto any biosigns on the shuttles.
The bridge was no less a hive of activity.
With Icavoc now at Operations, Valdivia at the Sciences and Wilmer at the Helm, Renos asked for a report which revealed that the organic signatures were located on the border of the zone containing the most metaphasic energy, and the possibility of it being a Numiri ship had been largely ruled out. With so little data to go on Icavoc suggested sending one of the probes to investigate while they discussed what exactly metaphasic energy was and what effect it could have on the ship and the crew. To which Renos agreed and Valdivia gave the order to launch the probes!
R’Ven had not been idle in Astrometrics either. Not having the time to do physical modifications to the probes, he contented himself in doing a few software augmentations, adding in Borg subroutines while watching the sensor feeds. At Valdivia’s orders R’Ven launched the navigational aid probes and added a standard probe to scan the life signs.
As the ship Darwin pierced the outer layer of the nebula the ship was buffeted until inertial dampeners and the skills of the helmsman were able to compensate for the increased turbulence.
Meanwhile the probes were launched, and with the increased sensor data now appearig on his screens the motion of the lifesigns and their movement reminded Merrick of the schooling of fish, triggering one of the memories he had received from the not-Borg nanoprobes. At the same time Merrick detected a larger life sign trailing the small ones at the edge of sensor acuity, and he called the bridge to alert them.
On the docking bay the shuttles were being prepared for launch after their crews had received their vaccinations.
Rennyn, Shayne, Mpeba and Lambert were the first to get to their shuttle, and Mpeba and Lambert set to work installing aby last minute modifications to the sensors and the shuttle itself. However Rennyn noticed a bit of friction between Lambert and Shayne as things got underway and asked a few questions. After the last adjustments were made, the data feed between the Darwin and the shuttle was established and the Santiago was launched.
Meanwhile on board the shuttle Ayora things were not so smooth. Varaan and Logan had arrived and began to prepare themselves for launch, but Doctor Cook had taken ill and Doctor Pond was called in to take his place. Also Stennes had been removed from the team to attend to other matters and was replaced with Icavoc. With the change in personnel they did not have as much time to modify the ship and the result was that they would be relying more on the telemetry fed to them by the Darwin. Also they were mixing Pond Logan, which may be asking for trouble.
The crew of the Ayora made up for the delays by launching and the quickly making their way out into the nebula and located the installation that they were to explore. Jostled about by their initial entry into the nebula their flight smooths out. After making a progress report to the Darwin they docked their shuttle. Donning their EVA suits, with Icavoc needing a bit of help as he was still dealing with the partial loss of an arm, they were finally able to enter the installation. A scan of some of the writing that was found indicated that this installation was Numiri, the data suggesting that it could be an abandoned listening post or gas collection facility.
Back on the Darwin, things were becoming more interesting as well as well. That the smaller fish are being pursued by what appears to be a larger predator fish. Renos theorizes that these creatures are cosmozoan entities. The question was, what did they do next? Firing itinerant pulse from the main deflector dish, stalk them and close into an optimal range for study and observation, or even bring them inside the sphere for study are a few of the ideas put forward.
As the darwin continues its approach it Valdivia discovers that the smaller entities are being attracted to the probes and that is putting them in danger of being killed by the predators, so he has R’Ven shut down the probe’s active scans. In Astrometrics R’Ven does so but points out that the perhaps they could use the probes to actually guide the ‘fish; into the sphere and suggests that they may not want to see what happen. Renos thanks R’Ven for his suggestion but would rather pursue other options given the concerns about harming the fish. Interestingly Brell, who had recently come to the bridge since Pond had been sent to the away team, endorsed at least some of R’Ven’s idea, perhaps they could cycle through the probes’s sensor spectrum and see what attracts them.
At the same time the Santiago, is also approaching its target. While they had to deal with the turbulence of entering the nebula, they had little to no trouble communicating with the Darwin they receive the updates about the cosmozoan lifeforms in the nebula, something that caught Lambert’s attention as he worked on the sensors. It was only a sharp sound from Rennyn that pulled him away as Rennyn reported seeing "an eye!" At the same time Lambert’s work on the sensor grid bore fruit as it reported subspace distortions off the to starboard. His sensors began to pick up life forms four times as large as the shuttle, something that seem to bear a striking resemblance to a prehuman aquatic dinosaur.
On the bridge Captain Renos asked that the ship be brought around so that they could get a better view of the predator around the Darwin. As the bridge crew reacted to the view Valdivia called the civilian oceanographic Scientist Hars Vlin and asked him to view the spaceborn lifeforms from the sphere viewport and for his insight, however Hars was too sick to take him up on his offer and instead asked for the sensor data to examine.
At the same time LtCmdr Emery Rhyn, since there are no shields in the nebula boosts the structural integrity field and Wilmer keeps them at a safe distance. Valdivia notes that some of the ‘fish’ are being distracted by the probes and Valdivia asks R’Ven to shut down the probe’s active scans, which he does by placing them in passive scan mode. However R’ven suggests in turn that they use the probes to lure the spaceborn creatures into the sphere, but Renos declines, and gives Brell a stoney look when he agrees with R’Ven.
Then Varaan calls saying that the shuttle Ayora is beginning its exploration and will make contact again in one hour.
Meanwhile the bridge crew continues to try and find ways to lure the cosmozoans into the sphere for study and then a predator approaches. Wilmer suggests scanning the smaller ‘fish’ to see how they communicate, but Valdivia points out that that would only give them a starting point since they could not know what aspects of communication they would pay attention to. The last suggestion was: ‘hill-billy hand fishing with the tractor beam’ although Wilmer was not too confident of its success. When Renos said ne was not looking for anything too traumatic Valdivia suggested voiding the Darwin’s front sphere and pulling the Cosmozoians inside, and that the spaceborn animals were actually using gravity to ‘swim’ with and they probably think that the Darwin is a larger version of themselves. He goes on to suggest that if they switch from impulse engines to thrusters and activate the sensors in the same way that the probes were doing that the fish would become interested in them as well. Renos agrees eagerly and in short order there were 4 creatures swimming around the inside of the sphere. Renos has Brell take Valdivia and Rhyn to examine the new residents of the sphere and R’Ven is called to the bridge.
At the same time Varaan and his team have docked the the Ayora in the landing bay of this massive ceramic station. Icavoc, Pond and Logan had followed him through the airlock and into the station proper. Pond notes that the area is depressurized, but cannot tell if there are any structural failures. Icavoc doesn't detect any powers or system failures and theorizes that it may be intentional. Pond scans and finds a large room and Icavoc suggests that they look for any text that would reveal the species that built the station. Logan picks up no traces of anyone in either direction. Calling it a unanimous, Varaan directs his team in the direction Pond indicated.
They soon approached the large compartment. The doors were shut, but a placard on the adjacent wall contained multiple lines of symbols. Logan can still find no heat or power traces in any of the walls, floor or ceiling save for the away team. Icavoc scans the placard and reveals that it is a Numiri station, and that it could be an abandoned listening post or gas collection facility.
Logan suggests that with the lack of power and activity that they should be safe from active security measures, but should be warey of passive traps. Especially 8 inch high, 32 inch high trap lines. Varaan states that Logan would have to earn his pay and Pond comments that these are oddly specific values, which Logan quips that he has studied their knives …. Their music is not overly pleasant listening.
Varaan asks Logan to give him a hand with the manual override for the door, not wanting to put Icavoc in the awkward position of having to try with only one arm. Logan replies: Say the word.
The door opens to reveal a room at least 3 decks tall and Varaan surmises it to be a cargo bay. Logan manages to find spent boonytraps, and believes where these were there may still be others. Ivcavoc sets his tricorder to scan for biological matter but finds nothing.
Then Pond Screamed!
Back on the Darwin, they are dealing with changing circumstances. Merrick arrives on the bridge just after Brell and Valdivia have left and takes his seat at the science station and gives a report to the Captain. Interestingly Renos receives a call from Starfleet command and takes it in nir ready room, leaving Wilmer in charge of the bridge. R’Ven reiterates his update to Wilmer that sensors had picked up fleeting secondary life signs from the large predatory creature that nearly impacted the ship earlier as well as the Santiago. While the energy from the nebula makes acquiring a precise reading difficult it appeared that the readings came from either inside or in very close precise proximity to the creatures.
Also they are getting no direct communication from the Santiago but they have enhanced sensor feed is registering impacts to the shuttle, subspace pockets and other similar disturbances that were forming or appearing around them. And that there is a cosmozoan that appears to be at least four times as large as the shuttle.
Using the enhancements that have been implemented on the Santiago Merrick updates the sensors on the Darwin and on the Probes as well. Other Cosmozoan fish are detected of all size, shapes and varieties. Also small wormholes and what would appear to be Cosmozoan nests. And that is when Wilmer comes to the conclusion that this is an alien mating ground!
At a command from Wilmer the ship’s warp ion signature is altered to its most subtle configuration. Several of the officers worry that this may make it more difficult to maneuver when it is called upon. But they are to use maneuvering thrusters only to move.
Once the Darwin implements the change the data feed from the Santiago shows that hundreds of tiny being swarming out a small worm hole near their location. A quick call to the Santiago allays any fears as Rennyn says they are going to hold position until they can move without harming the young. R’Ven relays Wilmer’s theory that this whole region is a mating ground. But then R’Ven detects a much larger Cosmozoan, one larger than the Darwin itself is holding position at the extreme edge of their revised sensor range.
Rennyn says they are going to steer clear of than and closes the connection.
On the bridge Renos has reappeared after nir call and actually asks Wilmer “Did you miss me?” Vacating his position at the center seat Wilmer updated Renos about what has been seen. R’Ven informs Renos about the much larger Cosmozoan that is holding position. Renos wonders about the away teams and informs them that Starfleet is recalling them to work on damaged communication relays between the Alpha and Delta Quadrant. Renos notes that the metaphasic energy that permeates the nebula appears to be damaging the young and R’Ven investigates. At the same time R’Ven is still examining the huge Cosmozoan. It is still holding position, energy coalescing and dispersing at its tail end, but nothing threatening. Occasionally it opened its large jaws and sucked in several smaller Cosmozoans and then closed them again. As Merrick watched the creature/ship.
And then the ship’s internal sensors detect an energy discharge from within the sphere near where Commanders Brell, Valdivia and Rhyn are working.
Brell, Valdivia and Rhyn, after stopping to get appropriate EVA gear quickly make their way down to the science lab which is linked to the containment sphere to get a closer look at the fish that have been brought on board the Darwin. Standing inside the airlock they plan their mission. Valdivia wanted to take readings and warns that the creatures possess a field that surrounds them at a strength that the Darwin would not easily detect but that it would make it painful to touch. He also professes a desire to tag the fish, even though it is something that is no longer done, but says he would put a request in for it as SST. It was something that Brell frowned upon.
Once the medical technician gives the team their innoculations they enter the sphere itself and start moving towards the creatures. As the approached the creatures stopped movement and approached them. Brell’s tricorder was picking up more signals in the subspace bands as one of the fishlike creatures passed by no more than twenty meters from them. Taking a moment to discuss if the creatures are capable of scanning them or not they begin to scan the creatures as well while using their thrusters to navigate around the sphere. One of the cosmozoan approached them and there was a surge of energy that painfully surged through their bodies and suits and they lost consciousness.::
On the Santiago things are getting interesting as well. The life forms seems to be moving around the shuttle, barely acknowledging their presence . . . or the Dawin’s as noted by Lambert. In fact they are congregating around the area of the shuttle when Lambert barked out to stop the ship! No sooner had Shayne brought them to a halt the shuttle was rocked fiercely and the crew knocked around like pinballs inside. Lambert was picking up subspace pockets and some kind of nest and other subspace anomalies converging on their position and and were four times bigger than the shuttle. Mpeba speculated that the creatures may actually see in different wavelengths and noted if the creatures could not see them, then it would be difficult for these creatures to avoid hitting them. When Rennyn asked if they could fly out, Shayne thought that their chance for success were dubious at best, but felt more confident once they were able to actually identify that the subspace disturbances were actually just the creatures.
Rennyn suggested using all the updates and reroute to navigational sensors to help Shayne get them out and clear up their ability to see, level of help that was beginning to annoy Shayne who felt that he had it. Lambert began a metaphasic Sweep which showed that there a great many of the Cosmozoans out there of all shapes and sizes, and the next order of business was to get out from the area and perhaps clear a path that Shayne could fly them out through. While the crew thinks Shayne is forced to perform evasive maneuvers. Mpeba comes up with the idea of modifying the shuttle phasers to emit the same energy as the cosmozoans do, while extending the shields and setting the shield frequency to not allow that energy past, rendering them effectively invisible. And then Lambert announces the appearance of a wormhole!
Then Lambert realizes where the Wormhole is coming from the Cosmozoans themselves!
Mpeba runs a few simulations and announces that the shielding may make the distortions from the Cosmozans worse . . . and then Rennyn announces "Incoming! It’s the biggest one yet! Evasive maneuvers!"