“Having escaped the VinShari and with repairs complete, we are tracking increased tetryonic filament activity and associated EM radiation bursts. Our new friend Thacinn has helped us track these phenomena, which all seem to be leading to an unexplored star system with a single planet. Thacinn has agreed to assist the science team with scans on board while an away team investigates planetside. While it’s anyone’s guess what awaits us on this world, we know the trapped Tilikaal cannot wait for us indefinitely.”
Arriving in the system the Potemkin detects a single star orbited by a single tidally locked world. Scanning the world proved difficult due to interference from objects in orbit, but there are signs of Tilikaal technology on the surface. To investigate further the away team must take a shuttle down, on their way through the atmosphere they encounter a jellyfish looking creature which interferes with their navigational sensors resulting in a collision with one of its tendrils. Pilot and engineer worked together to bring the shuttles systems back online and to reroute power to the inertial dampeners, restarting the engines and then pulling the nose of the shuttle up at the last moment to save them all from being pancaked on the surface of a calm ocean.
A vast ocean stretches out around them, in the distance a rock mountain range rose; the source of the signals.
“Under a sunset sky, you reach a band of black basalt pillars rising from the water, with several 400-meter-tall spires across the horizon, each with a flat top and glowing blue veins of power coursing through them. A few crystalline ships land or take off from the tops of the spires. Many lights float around buildings that seem to be made of glass.”
Floating in the water next to the spire are clusters of shimmering particles wildly flashing a rainbow of colors. Tricorder readings show that these are living beings with electrical bio-signs that appear to be in distress. The alien bodies are clear liquid and rapidly dissolving. The away teams quickly tune the tractor beam to a frequency that would allow them to rescue the creatures without harming them. During this process a small group of crystalline spheres, each one meter in diameter, approaches, floating in the air. The away team realize that this is a first contact situation and attempt contact, the crystalline creatures use light patterns to communicate and using their tricorders they manage to make contact.
“We are the Sunseekers. Leave alone what is natural!”
Unwilling to say more, the creatures make to attack the shuttle when a dozen or more angular-shaped Cal-Mirrans arrive. The lights flashing across these individuals are in a slower, almost calming rhythm.
“We are the Cooperative. There will be peace.”
“The new group of aliens flash in a hypnotic pattern. You and all those around you stop fighting. Your head starts to ache and around you appear images of yourselves and the Sunseekers, playing out the fight that has just occurred. You are frozen in place and can only watch. When the conflict ends, the vision dissolves, and everyone drops to the ground, disoriented.
“I apologize for the abrupt greeting,” one of the newcomers says. “Welcome to Cal-Mirra. I am Ayr-amin Gold, lead Unifier of the Cooperative government. The time refraction was necessary to assess who started the conflict. You were not harmed, though I apologize if you were disoriented. This was the most effective means to determine root cause. I am not surprised that it was these religious zealots, even though they are here in the city as a delegation from the Ray.”
Ayr-amin invites them to a sumit with other factions and explains that there are strange vibrations coming from the spires which are destabilizing Cal-Mirran citizens, causing injury and death. Even though the spires are sacred to some factions he wants to dismantle one of them to study it. Ayr-amin requests that the away team investigate the source of the signal and bring back evidence that it is the spires that are the root of the problem, he offers to send with them a guide.
As the team pass from the twilight into the darkness of the planet they see a VinShari Stormbreaker class vessel, heavily modified into a habitation. As soon as the near they are attacked as the broken vessel fires two energy harpoons holding their vessel still.
One crystal wall of the ship’s interior blinks into a viewscreen, displaying an obsidian cloud. “You’re in my dark,” the cloud says. “If you’re lost, go home. If you’re a VinShari spy, you’re dead.”
The ‘cloud’ issues a riddle they must answer or be destroyed: “What is beautiful yet brutal, “Gentle yet powerful, Versatile yet unwavering?”
A few moments of consideration and the away teams answers, “Water” They are allowed to land.
The inside of the VinShari ship is covered in technology from half a dozen other races, including Federation and Ferengi. Studying the data that the ‘cloud’ had gathered the away teams Assessor guest is able to determine that a single spire is the epicenter of the problems this planet is suffering. So, with their cloud Cal-Mirra now guiding them they take the away teams shuttle and quickly fly to the nearby tower. They arrive to find that the aspire is partly under water but still stretches high into the sky.
Plunging into the water the shuttle descends down the height of the spire. All of a sudden the ship is buffeted as a very large creature flashes past at less than a meter from the hull. Sensors indicate the creature is a good nine times their size and so make the decision to seek cover at an airlock that had just come into view.
“Supplemental. Our search for methods of helping the Tilikaal has led us through the heart of Cal-Mirran society and now out beyond the reaches of civilization. We found an unlikely ally in a near-paranoid scientist, Gar-zalash Black, who is obsessed with the energy pulses. Perhaps he can help us find the seat of this power so we can help both the Cal-Mirrans and the Tilikaal.”
The away team reach the bottom of the spire and find an exchange airlock which cycles to allow them entrance to the dry chamber. The chamber contains controls covered in glowing blue veins and runes. Emergency lamps reveal hundreds of stasis sarcophaguses similar to those found in other Tilikaal facilities encountered. Scanning the room, and the pods the away team discover that some of the Tilikaal have been dead for a long time, others are showing life signs that seemingly appear and disappear at random and the remains of an assessor are discovered crumbled near the controls.
In time with pulses of electric blue energy that pulses through the wires there is a vibration through the entire structure. It is these vibrations that are causing micro sub-space fractures, also, in time with the pulses and vibration some of the Tilikaal who remain in stasis take breaths, their life signs spiking before falling dormant again. They away team surmise that some of the Tilikaal are trying to reenter this universe and their bodies.
Their new friend, Gar-zalash starts to record audio and visual while listing off a series of conspiracy theories pausing only to point out that no one will see this as the signal isn’t strong enough to stream the video back to anyone. Elli decides to link her tricorder and commbadge to the shuttle to allow him to stream what they have found back to the others. This was part of their mission after all!
“Supplemental. After an involved investigation, we’ve found the place we sought: a gateway that connects to the Tilikaal’s pocket dimension. With the energy pulses speeding up and likely damaging more Cal-Mirran homes and harming more Cal-Mirran citizens, it is imperative we open the gate as quickly as possible, allow the trapped Tilikaal to come through, and then disable this technology. Much depends on our success.”
Sar-alya aids the away team in reactivating an arch, faint screams can be heard when near it, the displaced Tilikaal begging for help.
A swirling pocket of prismatic color fills the arch and sends a powerful wave of tachyon radiation through the chamber, forcing Gar-zalash into a brief reverie of Time Refraction, which also envelops you.
As the wave of radiation washes over you, your head throbs and the chamber goes dark. As light returns, you see an image of past Sar-ayla move warily around the long-dead Assessor and float to the pods in the room, somehow modifying their mechanisms. The machinery makes a high pitched whine and she vibrates nervously – she clearly knows she shouldn’t be here and has no idea what she’s doing, but looks curiously at the beings inside. The sarcophagus implodes, crushing the being contained within. A shimmery blue silhouette appears in the flickering archway.
“Friend – what have you done?”
“I…I’m sorry, I was exploring the Unknown and found this place. What are you?”
“Displaced.” The form extends a hand. “Assist my people in retaking physical form in your dimension, and I will show you unknown realms such as you have never imagined.”
Sar-ayla flutters pink. “What must I do?”
“Engage the pulse initiator from your side. It will take time to reach full power. Find a being who can open the gate, whose biology won’t short the controls. Then…prepare for us to take physical form.”
The time refraction ends and everyone in the room collapses. Gar-zalash turns on Sar-ayla. “You’re a lying spy after all! You used us. Never trust a government agent – I was right to harpoon you.”
“I want more out of life than becoming a ship!” Sar-ayla snaps. “I want to explore. And now the rest of our people will have that chance.”
Trying to communicate through the arch only resulted in ominous sounds, nothing they tried worked. Seemingly as the were about to give up the attempt and try something else the sparkling aderi of Ash’Tamalia appeared before them.
“Ash’Tamalia!” Sar-ayla says excitedly. “I did what you asked. Can I explore your realm now?” “You did well, Sar-ayla.
Revelation is indeed coming.” Ash’Tamalia latches their aderi onto a large glowing blue vein of the spire and it lights up in a brilliant white flare.
A faraway thunder rolls closer, shaking the spire, until a crackle of lightning rips through the vein. It blows out a section of stone, and seawater begins rushing into the chamber.
Ash’Tamalia reaches out and snares Sar-ayla in another surge of energy, and pulls her close. The Tilikaal technologies in the chamber surge with power as Ash’Tamalia manipulates the lightning and Sar-ayla’s form, and creates a humanoid-shaped crystalline body for her aderi. As the two entities merge into one, the away team hear Sar-ayla’s cry of anguish, which is soon replaced by Ash’Tamalia’s victorious laughter.
In a new voice reverberating with power, punctuated by flashes of crimson light, Ash’Tamalia says, “Not every world possesses this unique power of creation. I’ve been watching your evolution, your growing energy talents.” Ash’Tamalia opens and closes a glassy palm that crackles with blue energy. “Soon all our lost power will be restored, and in my control.”
At that moment a surge of Cal-Mirrans who had been watching the Stream arrived.
“And our sacred spires from ruin,” Recana-El says, then screeches at Ash’Tamalia’s melded form. “Abomination,” she spits. “What have you done to Sar-ayla? You desecrate the natural form of our people!”
“No – I perfected it.” Ash’Tamalia snaps their crystalline fingers and more Tilikaal aderi pour through the gate. Ash’Tamalia prepares to call down more lightning to transform more Tilikaal, while others frantically search for their bodies within the sarcophaguses.
The away team engaged the very powerful Ash’Tamalia with weapons only to discover that their phasers were ineffective.
“Our Peacekeepers are capable of handling this invasion,” Ayr-amin sneers. However, it is clear the Cal-Mirrans from the city are being deeply affected by the strong energy pulses. They flicker and seem disoriented. “We don’t need the help of the rogues.”
Recana-El, unaffected, flashes. “And Sunseekers don’t answer to tyranny. Stand aside and let us counter the invaders. Alone.”
The away team left Ash to the Cal-Mirrans and went to work to destabilize the archway instead! They interrupted the powerflow and caused a feedback loop, this inturn disrupted the archway enough to overload the power conduits.
As the arch collapses, the vibrational pulses slow and then cease. Any Tilikaal who were attempting to create Cal-Mirran bodies revert back to sparkling aderi spirits who cluster around a furious Ash’Tamalia.
“This isn’t over.” She twines her fingers in an intricate dance and uses some of the remaining spire technology to teleport herself and her aderi allies away. What havoc will they wreck in the Expanse? To what lengths will Ash’Tamalia go to get what she wants?