A fiery nebula and stellar nursery


The Potemkin continued to travel with the caravan heading toward the anomaly known mainly as the "Stellar Fountain." The 'Tem and crew has played host to many dignitaries from various races with whom the Federation has had no previous contact. As the sim opened, the crew were speaking about what they had learned, with Arnet and Prax especially mentioning the fascinating physiology and engineering, respectively, of their traveling companions.

Out of the blue, Rollands began to feel warm and asked Arnet to take a look. A brief scan showed she had a slightly elevated temperature. He advised she take her medicine just in case it was a symptom of her condition.

Everything else seemed normal until tactical and scientific sensors picked up an object in the distance the size of a ship. At the same moment (and unnoticed by everyone) Rollands seemed to stare into space. After a moment she was back to work, but started shivering. Noticing the shaking, Arnet performed another scan and found her temperature had dropped to below-normal levels and was still going down.

From what readings were coming on sensors, the ship appeared to be the Accipiter, which was damaged during the journey through a stellar nursery more than 10 days ago and had turned around for home. Before anyone could hail, the sensor image disappeared - at the same time Rollands temperature returned to normal.

The ship appeared on sensors again, but a full 90 degrees ahead of its last location. Once again it lasted only a few minutes before disappearing, but then reappeared on the other side of the Potemkin and closer. Then it was again gone, only to reappear a quarter-light-year directly behind the ship. During all this Rolland's temperature became erratic, but she refused to leave her post despite Arnet's objections.

The doctor grabbed a medkit and attempted to treat her symptomatically, while she focussed on the shift. It began to broadcast a signal that definitively marked it as the Accipiter, but that just created more questions. The Accipiter then slowed, falling farther behind the Potemkin. At the same time, Arnet noticed that Rollands how another trance-like bout and her temperature spiked afterward. Upon questioning, she seemed not to have noticed the incidents at all and shrugged them off.

Melina hailed the Romulan ship, but received a text-only message saying they were having communication problems. Feeling uneasy, Warp ordered the 'Tem to yellow alert and had it turn to investigate the Accipiter's sudden reappearance. The crew agreed the ship had been too damaged to have completed repairs and have caught up with the caravan.

Concerned with Rollands behavior, Arnet began to monitor her brain waves. Also, during her latest blackout, she seemed to have typed in a command on her console. Moments later, the Accipiter once again dropped off sensors completely - only to appear now ahead of the caravan.

At this Arnet called Prax and Warp over and explained what he had seen. Rollands had no memory of typing any commands, but Arnet's readings were showing her brain was executing commands during her blackout periods. She was ordered to step away from her console for the moment, while Prax examined the latest inputs it had received and eventually uncovering coded instructions she had entered. During this, the entire caravan suddenly jumped to warp without warning, and the 'Tem had to follow suit, while also hailing to find out the cause for their sudden movement.

The Alirii captain, Klorath, responded to the hail and asked why the Potemkin was returning to the fleet. He had been informed by the Malthusians that the 'Tem was returning to the Federation. Warp replied that he had said no such thing to the Malthusians and the vessel had only stopped to check some sensor readings. He asked for the fleet to stop while they sorted this out.

At the same time Jordan, who was looking over the brain readings Arnet had taken, showed that Rollands had several spikes in theta waves, something not normal in species that are neither telepathic or empathic. The regular intervals of the spikes were also a mystery. Arnet, seizing on the false information supplied to the fleet by the Malthusians, asked if they might be empathic. They could have caused Rollands to create fake sensor readings to keep the Potemkin from proceeding with the caravan for some unknown purpose.

Warp ordered the Malthusian ship hailed, but it did not respond. While this was happening Rollands suddenly walked to the helm and started inputting a course to take the Potemkin back to Federation space. Fuller jumped to stop her, and received a punch to the face while subduing her. Rollands then collapsed, and Arnet had her, Fuller, and himself transported to sickbay where Jordan was already working on a way to block the theta-wave instructions Rollands was receiving.

The Malthusians finally responded and after token resistance, their leader, Hallato, acknowledged they were the cause of Rollands' behavior and the lies to the fleet. He explained their behavior as saying they must be the first to reach the "Astralion" as only the first would be shown "the secret of the stars." Warp countered that there was no need for hostility, as all could learn about the fountain together. Hallato, however, was firm and declared that his ship would break off from the fleet and seek the "Astralion" by itself. After a moment, the Malthusians broke off from the caravan, jumped to warp, and was gone.

In sickbay, Arnet and Jordan worked to make sure Rollands couldn't be manipulated through theta-waves again, while on the bridge Warp and Prax agreed the convoy wasn't having the best luck so far - and the anomaly was proving to be a bad omen.

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