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Centaur: Tales From the Deep Centaurus Expedition

Started by Planet of Hats, August 04, 2022, 11:35:52 PM

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Planet of Hats

This thread will serve as the master thread for narrative from the Deep Centaurus Expedition and the voyages of Captain Jadrys Itana of USS Copernicus. Its ongoing mission: To explore beyond the farthest human-charted stars of the Local Bubble and push deep into the constellations Centaurus and Lupus, to the Loop I Bubble.

Planet of Hats

STARDATE 99585.8
INTERSTELLAR SPACE
THE THERIONIC DRIFTS


"It's an unusually broad-ranging subspace transmission," Lieutenant Al-Absi reported from the operations console with a look up. "It's covering standard frequency ranges for linguacode and friendship messages as well as several other non-subspace bands."

"Can we clean up the signal?" Shifting in her command chair, Jadrys Itana crossed one leg over the other and propped her chin on her knuckles.

"I think so." The ops officer tapped his console rapidly. "I've isolated the source. It's a small object about 300 million kilometres ahead, bearing three three one mark three four nine. Mass... no more than two tons."

"On screen."

The viewscreen flickered, the backdrop of the Therionic Drifts zooming in sharply to illuminate a spindly shape against the blue-tinged molecular clouds. A single long mechanical boom and two rectangular sail-like structures radiated out from a long hexagonal body with a trailing thruster assembly, capped by an enormous toroid with a gently pulsing deflector-like lens at its heart.

"A deep space probe," Lieutenant Commander Fox surmised from the science station. "Probably no more than low warp-capable."

"The signal's clearing up," Al-Absi put in.

"Let's hear it," Itana ordered.

With a chirp, the comm system kicked on, and a soft, filtered female voice carried through. "--to share the call of the Prime Mover. You seek it within yourself even without knowing. We are moved through the universe by so many things, but at the heart of our existence is a power that moves us all. The first force. Come, contemplate with us--"

"That is not what I expected when I heard 'linguacode and friendship messages,'" Fox murmured with a blink.

In the seat to Itana's right, Commander Quispe scratched at the edge of the remnant Borg plating below her right eye. "These messages are incomprehensible."

Itana smiled faintly and shook her head. "No, not quite. It's not a friendship probe. It's a preaching probe."

"A preaching probe?"

"Think about it. Someone built this probe specifically to broadcast a wide message of religious significance."

Quispe furrowed her brows subtly. "It seems like an inefficient use of resources."

"Not to the ones who built it," Itana pointed out as she rose from her chair. Stepping towards the viewer, she laid one hand on the back of Fox's chair and the other on the back of Ensign Maksymowicz's at the helm. "Let it broadcast. See if we can pinpoint its system of origin."

As the bridge moved into a ripple of regular activity, Itana looked back to find Quispe squinting at the probe, nonplussed. She smiled lopsidedly to herself.


~


We left orbit a few hours later. About half the crew had-

The door chime again sliced through Itana's latest effort to make progress into Captain Picard's memoirs. Sighing, she laid the book aside, then tugged the hem of her tank top perfunctorily down to the beltline of her uniform slacks and rose from her couch. "Come in," she called.

With a hiss, the doors admitted the still-uniformed Yma Quispe, crisp as ever and with a PADD in hand. "Captain. I'm sorry to interrupt-"

"No no, you're fine," Itana assured with a wave of one hand. "The report on the probe, I take it?"

"Yes sir." She offered up the PADD; Itana took it and glanced down, though she knew the basics were coming by mouth. Her Number One didn't disappoint. "As suspected, it's a low-warp probe. We rate its maximum speed as roughly warp three. Our age and trajectory estimates confirm what we downloaded from their computer system: Its point of origin is a sector deep inside the Loop 1 Bubble. We haven't been able to pin down a precise star system, but astrometrics is working on it now. We were able to identify the senders as representing something called the Pyscillian Hierocracy."

"A priestly form of government," Itana mused. "Interesting. That explains the probe's mission."

Yma furrowed her brows slightly. "The translation and transmission systems aboard are quite sophisticated. The Pyscillians put a surprising amount of development into delivering this message widely."

Itana smiled mutedly. "And that confuses you, Number One?"

Yma pursed her lips, glanced away, then back. "Permission to speak freely?"

"Of course."

"It seems deeply unreasonable," she admitted with a frown. "I don't understand why anyone would hear the probe's message and be persuaded. Their philosophies make no sense."

Itana stroked the PADD with the edge of her thumb, scrolling through. "I'm not sure they do," she mused, settling to the arm of her couch and crossing a leg over the other. "It sounds like this Prime Mover is a sort of divine personification of the first cause - something they interpret as a source of cosmic order. A lot of what's here is about self-discipline and inner peace. I can see how someone would take interest in that."

"It doesn't seem rational to me." Yma looked to the window, again scratching the edge of her ocular plate. "I'm not sure I see the connection between divinity and the origin of the universe. It's a scientific phenomenon. And even then, the leap to self-discipline and peace seems... odd."

Lowering the PADD to her thigh, Itana tilted her head and paused for a beat. She offered a mellow smile up to the first officer. "Yma," she asked, "did you have much of a religious background? Before--"

"--before I was assimilated," she finished the sentence, lowering her hand self-consciously. "No, I don't think so. We visited a church once or twice, for relatives' sake. But I don't remember my family being religious. It wasn't that important to me."

"For some people it's the most important thing," Itana explained, touching the chain of her own earring. "You don't have to be a person of faith, of course. But for a lot of people it's a source of meaning. Not irrationality, mind you - there are those who carry it too far. But I'm reminded of growing up on Bajor. My family is religious. A lot of Bajorans are."

Yma tilted her head. "That always confuses me."

"Why?"

"You're an accomplished scientist. I would have thought science and faith would be mutually incompatible."

"Not at all. If you boil it down to pure logic, of course the Prophets are just sufficiently advanced aliens living in a wormhole. But that doesn't mean they didn't have a profound impact on Bajor in ways that matter to me." Itana smiled wryly, before letting the expression fade as she leaned forward. "There are dangers to being so lost in faith that it blinds you to reason, of course. But I think there's more than that. Philosophy. Moral guidance, for some. Ethics. Culture. Of course these things can exist without faith, but we all find our way to them differently, and faith can be one of those paths. For a lot of Bajorans, faith has been important for a long time - it was something the Cardassians couldn't take from them during the Occupation. It's as much a symbol of culture and a celebration of history as it is anything else."

The Commander tilted her head, quizzical. In the moment of silence that followed, Itana let her smile return, pensive. "...If you want to understand a little more," she invited, "think a little about the part of Earth you came from. Read about history. You'll find that history and faith are pretty closely linked. Who knows? You might learn a thing or two."

Yma opened her mouth a little as if to protest, but cut off before managing a faint, slightly bemused smile of her own. "...I will try, sir."

"Perfect." She reached for her book again. "Keep me up-to-date on the probe study. Let me know what else you find."

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