Part of USS Cygnus: A Failure to Communicate

Questions etched in crystal

Sickbay
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Elodin walked into his office and, for one rare occasion, pressed the controls to shut the door. The Captain’s orders had been very specific, and he needed to focus all of his attention.

He walked around his desk to his chair, pausing only for a second at the Shrine to the Prophets to give Them a head bow. He taped into his computer and accessed historical records, searching for any mention of a Crystalline Entity. 

There were very few records containing any such mention. First and foremost was the USS Enterprise, which had encountered an Entity not once, but twice. Some of its crewmembers had even survived an attack, by seeking refuge in caves lined with kelbonite and fistrium. Nothing like what they had just found on the planet though. 

Elodin accessed the data on the residual radiation found in the soil samples. Slightly elevated levels of gamma radiation, but those were far from lethal levels, even in the first days following the attack. No evidence of complex carbohydrates remained, which was consistent with what the Cygnus had found. 

He searched for any mention of hydrocarbon levels, but there was no data on the subject. Either because the hydrocarbons had simply been absorbed into the naturally-abundant hydrocarbon reserves, or because the crew of the Enterprise hadn’t thought to scan for it.

What process would lead to the degradation of complex organic carbohydrates into hydrocarbons? thought Elodin. There were certain enzymatic pathways leading in the other direction, but nothing to reverse the process was known to the medical computer, at least nothing naturally-occurring. 

He read the last report from the Enterprise on their last encounter with the Entity. The thing had ultimately been destroyed by emitting a series of graviton pulses – why this had occurred, Elodin couldn’t even begin to fathom, since Starfleet’s and the Federation’s primary objectives were to seek out new life. The Entity certainly qualified as one of the most fascinating lifeforms ever encountered. Someone had clearly dropped the ball on that one, but the reports didn’t name names. 

Elodin moved on to the next report. The USS Titan had encountered several of the Entities some twenty years ago, and had successfully used the Enterprise‘s technique to establish communication with the beings, who referred to themselves as Branchers. 

Elodin sighed. All of this was fascinating to read, but it did little to address the immediate problem – how did one survive a close encounter with a Brancher? A Nebula-class ship’s shields would give them adequate protection, but what of a colony or an Away team?

He searched the historical records again, and came across a report from the Kallisko, a freighter operating in the area of the Brechtian Cluster. The entire crew had been killed, and all organic matter on the freighter had been absorbed by the Entity. But the ship’s computer had recorded sensor readings of the attack, and the process through which organic matter was converted into energy by the Entity had been documented, at least partially. Could they use this data to come up with some sort of protection at a biological level to avoid ending up on the Entity’s lunch menu? Now that was a question for the entire medical staff to reflect on.

He tapped the intercom. “Doctors Winter and Kin’Fuji, please report to Medical Briefing Room Two immediately.”