The Nova Class Cruiser, USS Aurora, lost in the Shackleton Expanse
Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 47257.7
Captain Matsumoto Sulu
Today has seen us make a great discovery, and at the same time extend a worrying mystery. But I’ll come to these in their good time.
Following our rescue mission to save both the Romulan Warbird Devian, and her captain, Nurama, I’m pleased to say relations between us are better than ever. They seem to have genuine gratitude for our efforts to save them when we could have left them to die: it makes me wonder what they would have done if the situation had been reversed, and having wondered I’m very glad we were not at their mercy. I need to make sure we never put ourselves in that position. But for now the Romulans are treating us with respect, probably helped by the fact that we have, in their eyes, established a technological superiority (at least in warp engineering). We will see how long this lasts…
But as I said the Romulans have been treating us with every sign of co-operation and good faith. Captain Nurama offered an officer-swap between our two ships whilst we are following this same mission. I accepted: this brings some risks (we will have to keep an eye on the liaison officer to protect Excelsior’s technology and secrets), but if we can forge stronger ties with these people that can only be a good thing, both here deep in the Shackleton Expanse and back along the neutral zone.
So the Devian’s First Officer, Sub-Commander Andeel, joined us on Excelsior, and Rekan went across to the Warbird Devian, before we gave the order to proceed together after the signal. Limiting ourselves to Devian’s best cruising speed of Warp 8 meant it would took us 11 days to cover the 30 light years or so to the next signal. I took advantage of the time to get to know Andeel a little better, and have to say I found him open-minded and engaging, willing to listen to Federation ideas of peace and co-operation. I have grown to like him: as a Romulan he’s very similar to the Vulcans I have known, just with a sense of humour.
We scanned down the source of the signal, Rekan using Devian’s scanners (and learning a little more about Romulan capabilities) and found a star system with a yellow G3 star and an M Class planet. But as we approached the planet Devian started to suffer system failures – nothing critical but enough to take their warp engines offline for a while. Thankfully we had reached orbit and could scan the planet to find the signal.
Our scanners found the signal coming from deep within a structure on the surface, shielded as the others before it. But there was something odd. This close we were able to detect that the signal was different, and some good investigation showed there was in fact another signal within the signal! This new weak signal, hiding within or drown-out by the signal was familiar, was something we recognised and could decode: it was a distress signal, a Federation distress signal, a signal from the crew of the USS Aurora… We had found Captain Evangeline Harper and her crew!
We established voice-comms, and Captain Harper told us they were trapped, with no idea where they were. She was surprised we had come across them so swiftly, as they were the only UFP ship this far out. When we questioned this “swiftly” comment Harper us they had been there just an hour, having been aboard Aurora before blacking out only to wake up, finding themselves in this place.
I left it until later before I told Harper she’d disappeared over a year ago.
But we couldn’t rescue them straight away: the crew of Aurora were trapped somewhere inside this huge structure and the shield prevented us beaming them out.
That’s when the second signal appeared.
As with the alien signal we couldn’t decode it, but it felt dark and aggressive, coming from a point in deep space and almost talking to the other signal. The two signals started to synchronise, ending in a series of pips: it took Rekan only a few moments to recognise a count-down…
The source of this second signal was about 5 light years away, too far for the damaged Warbird Devian to repair and get to before the pip countdown reached zero. So it would have to be Excelsior, to fly there and see what could be done to stop the countdown, or work out what would happen at zero hour. So with Engineers Resh and Tokhtakhounov tending Excelsior’s warp engines we hit Warp 9.9 again and dashed towards this new signal.
But at the same time First Officer Rekan led a joint UFP / Romulan away team to find a way into the structure, and see if they could rescue the crew of the Aurora. I felt uncomfortable leaving him and my crew potentially at the mercy of Nurama and the Devian, but Torgh and Ketsu were with my First Officer, with tactical, medical and engineering teams. Expert tricorder skills identified what seemed like a way in to the alien pyramid and the Away Team soon found it. Defensive turrets spat energy at them, but combined phaser and Romulan disruptor fire put them out of action without loss of life, although Torgh – leading from the front as I’d expect – was hit twice, and by all reports the marksmanship of my crew was the better of the two.
After several hours they penetrated deep into the pyramid and found Harper and her crew. Rekan swiftly led them out, away from the structure and outside the shield’s perimeter, as the countdown continued to tick away. Now they could be rescued from the planet’s surface I immediately ordered Excelsior to turn about and rush back, now we could beam them all aboard. As we did the original signal faded away, leaving only the second signal behind.
Harper and her crew were all beamed aboard (Excelsior entirely capable of looking after 80 more souls). Once Ketsu passed Harper medically fit I debriefed her, telling her she’d been lost for a year, that everyone had assumed Aurora was lost with all hands. I also asked where Aurora might be, but Harper had no idea. She was certain that an hour before we found them she’d blacked out on the bridge of Aurora and awakened in the pyramid. It was an hour ago, she was sure.
But, it’s wonderful that we have found Harper and the crew, although the mystery of the USS Aurora still remains.
Once the seemingly unreliable Devian was operational again we headed off to the source of the new signal. Deep in interstellar space we found a wormhole (my first actually). And the first for Nurama if her reaction was anything to go by. Quite a daunting and exciting sight.
But no USS Aurora. No new aliens to meet. No new civilisations to embrace. No other clues at all.
So here we are. I’ve been ordered to explore the Shackleton Expanse. I should probably just do some preliminary investigation, then report this to Starfleet and move on. I shouldn’t go through the wormhole. But I expect Nurama will.
Who knows what rests on the other side? And the explorer in me is just dying to see…