‘This is so thoroughly irregular,’ Thawn grumbled as she and Lindgren walked the corridor to the transporter room.
‘I think the Chief Science Officer asking for our assistance is perfectly reasonable,’ Lindgren chided. ‘The archives are apparently quite extensive, and we’re command-level officers good at sifting through data in a crisis where information is being restricted. It’s not like he has a whole archaeology section in the science department – he is the archaeology section.’
‘Alright, let me change that: this is ridiculous. Beckett as Chief Science Officer is ridiculous. What’s the captain thinking?’
‘Maybe you should ask him.’ But Lindgren sighed, frustrated. ‘If it’s our mission to pursue information on the Tkon Empire, it makes sense. Lieutenant Veldman is very good, but she’s a biochemist; she’d only be deferring to Nate anyway.’
‘He’s only here, and only in this job, because he’s the admiral’s son…’
‘I really hope this is you getting this out of your system before we beam down,’ Lindgren muttered to themselves as they entered the transporter room.
Thawn either didn’t hear her or just pretended, eyes falling on Chief Zharek at the controls. ‘Do we have a good signal down there, Chief?’
‘Pattern enhancers have given us a site on the surface within the dispersal field,’ the transporter chief confirmed. ‘Should be able to put you down just outside the monastery this time.’
‘Well, I’m delighted by not having a two hour hike just to get there,’ said Lindgren cheerfully. ‘Shall we?’
Thawn had at least stopped grumbling when they stepped onto the transporter pad, and a moment later the shining lights consumed them. From Lindgren’s perspective it was as if their surroundings transformed in an instant from the grey metals of Endeavour to the gathering dusk of a tumbling alien hillside, the faintest chill of evening air sneaking past her uniform, and to her eyes, it was a bargain.
‘Lieutenants!’ They turned to the curves of the monastery to find Nate Beckett in the doorway, uniform collar loose, sleeves rolled up, clapping his hands together as he beamed. ‘Right on time. Welcome to the Arcidava monastery. Don’t worry, the monks won’t quiz you, too, we’ve come to an agreement.’
Thawn quirked an eyebrow at the humble building. ‘How can there be so much information here that you need our help? Surely only a fraction here is on the Tkon.’
‘I could carry an entire library on the history of the Federation in my pocket,’ Beckett pointed out, ‘but okay, sure, sniff at our hosts because this isn’t the Library of Etrixx. Which, by the way, is a dump.’
Thawn looked like Beckett had just shot her pet. ‘Etrixx is an archive of the finest -’
He rolled his eyes. ‘It was an archive of the finest records on Betazoid history, but since you joined the Federation and shared it all, its expansion has consisted solely of accepting texts from members of the noble households, and solely in leather-bound hard copy hardly anybody bothers to make any more. So the whole institution is just a weird exercise in gatekeeping and classism.’
‘Okay, how about that archive hitherto-unseen by Federation eyes?’ Lindgren said loudly.
Beckett’s gaze brightened. ‘Right! This way.’
At a first glance, Lindgren might have been inclined to reach the same conclusions as Thawn: even with digitisation, she was not convinced that a building that housed as many monks as she thought lived here could possibly have archives big enough to serve their needs. Unlike Thawn, though, she kept her mouth shut and waited for the catch as Beckett led them into the entrance chamber and through to the dark passageway beyond, their footsteps ringing out on cold stone.
‘Are we going to be working alongside the monks, and is there any particular way we should behave?’ Lindgren asked quietly as she followed.
‘I think they’re just having their tea, actually,’ Beckett admitted. ‘Qorik’s the one who’s been helping us out, and they’re not weirdo essentialists with their philosophy, they’re just people. Got a pretty low bullshit tolerance, but that’s it.’
‘So, be polite and honest?’
‘They’re still a Romulan order who prize finding the truth in secrets. I don’t think they need you to be honest. But maybe don’t be embarrassingly transparent. Here.’ Beckett stopped, and Lindgren realised that in the gloom she’d missed the metal wall panel spanning floor to ceiling.
Thawn’s shoulders sank. ‘They’ve got a sophisticated underground complex, don’t they.’
‘Shockingly, the reclusive monks who maintain a dispersal field so nobody can use transporters to access or escape their monastery do, indeed, have a technologically sophisticated underground complex.’ Beckett waved a hand down the corridor. ‘This is just the living space for everyday things.’ A spot on the wall lit up at his touch, buttons only then brought to life, and the panel slid aside to let them into a small, bright, modern lift.
Inside was climate-controlled, the ride down quiet and smooth with only the faintest whir of energy, and it was enough to make Lindgren feel like time on the surface with a startling view of a night-clad landscape had been but a dream. When the doors opened to let them into a vast, gloomy underground metal chamber in which the greatest sources of illumination were the lights of control panels on the end of each stack of storage shelving, the monastery seemed even further away.
‘Our access is limited to this end, the reading section,’ Beckett said as he walked out and approached the pool table control panel before the lift, at the head of the stacks. ‘The monks have brought their sections on the Tkon over here if we need to check anything hard copy and, well, the rest we can access from here. Plan is to see if anything sticks out, or if there are any references to Horizon. We can connect up with Endeavour’s computer from here, but they’d rather we’re doing this under their roof.’
‘I thought we’d negotiated an information exchange to take all they have?’ said Lindgren.
‘This is vast,’ said Thawn, seeming rather cowed by the view. ‘If even half a percent of this is on the Tkon, no wonder they don’t want us taking everything.’
Beckett nodded. ‘It’ll carry a price. Captain Rourke says he can pay, but he’d rather we know for sure we’ve got something worthwhile – or if we only need a section. Also, if we find something while we’re here, we’ve got experts who’ve studied these archives to hand.’
Lindgren watched as Beckett reached for the reading table and tapped a few commands, multiple archival records springing up before him in holographic screens. ‘Horizon. Right.’
‘And,’ Thawn said awkwardly, ‘any references to Tkon technology that might interface with subspace.’ At the looks, she shrugged. ‘We can’t be briefed on this crisis that Tkon technology either caused or might resolve, but it’s been impossible not to extrapolate a little.’
Beckett’s eyebrows were raised, impressed despite himself. ‘Right. First wave is just us, because as command staff we have the most context. At best, we find what we want. At worst, we carve this up for teams, so they can go through it quicker and the captain wants to compartmentalise information if possible.’
‘Researching a crisis,’ Lindgren sighed, ‘and we’re not allowed to know what it is.’
‘Yeah, I’m not thrilled. But nothing about this is normal.’
‘Like your job?’ said Thawn rather tartly, even as she’d approached one of the control points to begin.
Beckett grimaced. ‘Yeah. Like that. So in my abnormal authority: I had a quick overview and think here’s where we should start…’
In the grand scheme of the centuries-old archives of a monastic order dedicated to discovery, the Fae Diwan did not have a huge amount of information on the Tkon. Especially not, as Thawn connected their systems with Endeavour’s, information that the Federation did not already have. Lindgren found herself soon enough consulting the monks’ own notes and records on the various Tkon languages to expand Starfleet linguistic databanks, the true worth of which she didn’t expect to see herself but could shed new light on findings the Federation had made decades ago.
Thawn had been at a comparison of the monks’ original Tkon files with Starfleet’s for an hour before she finally glanced around the archive and frowned at Beckett. ‘Is Doctor T’Sann not going to join us?’
‘T’Sann? Oh, he’s doing some of his own research. He negotiated some sort of access on behalf of the Daystrom Institute.’
Thawn’s eyebrows raised. ‘But not here?’ At Beckett’s hesitation, she straightened. ‘Is he not looking into the Tkon?’
Lindgren tried to sink smaller and focus on her work as Beckett shifted his weight. ‘I’m not privy,’ he said, ‘to the doctor’s agreement with the Fae Diwan.’
‘So we rescue him,’ said Thawn testily, ‘before giving him access to our archaeology labs for his work, and when we ask for his assistance he more or less uses the Federation’s political weight to get himself access to a precious and reclusive archive?’
‘Hey!’ Beckett did sound a little whiny in his protest. ‘Doctor T’Sann’s a brilliant archaeologist and a great scholar; if he has something important to get on with here, and the captain hasn’t called him out, I’m not doing it.’
Lindgren gave a gentle snort despite herself. ‘Someone’s a little star-struck.’
Thawn looked less convinced. ‘I don’t think fame is what’s turned our Chief Science Officer’s head.’
‘Acting,’ muttered Beckett, but Lindgren could see his faint blush. ‘Anyway, I don’t – hello…’
The computer chirrup was from Thawn’s work point, and the Ops Officer focused up with a frown. ‘That’s a discrepancy between a file in our records and one in here,’ she said, reaching to expand the holographic screen as the others approached. ‘These are original Tkon files, not scans or analysis, so I’ve been looking for if the monks have anything we don’t. This is just a different version of the same file; it might be nothing…’ Before them popped up two images of Tkon star charts that looked identical at a glance, the monks’ and Starfleet’s.
Lindgren sighed. ‘I don’t recognise that region.’
‘Based on the distance between stars it like about a sector, though it could be a dense cluster?’ Thawn tilted her head. ‘I’m looking for the difference…’
‘Oh,’ said Beckett. ‘This is the Moreau Cluster, that’s where we think Horizon was taken from.’ He pointed to a blank spot between the stars on both maps. ‘That’s where we’re pretty sure there was once an O-type.’
‘There.’ Thawn gestured to a point on either map; on Endeavour’s version, there was a star, but that location on the monks’ file was blank. ‘This is the same star chart record, but the monks’ one is more recent. Am I understanding this correctly? Is there another star that was moved out of the Moreau Cluster, some time after Horizon was?’
‘Somewhere,’ murmured Beckett, ‘an astrophysicist is screaming.’
Lindgren looked at the screen showing the monks’ file archive. ‘They have a collection of these charts; there are five more files – each of different regions, each maybe a decade older than the one before? Labelled… how have the monks translated this from the Tkon…’ She tilted her head. ‘Fruitful Wanderer. Sorry, that’s the first translation off the top of my head from Romulan.’
Beckett squinted. ‘We’ll workshop it.’
Thawn had brought up the different star charts, her head tilted. ‘According to the file we already had, it’s a K-type once in that location. Comparing these additional – later – charts with Endeavour’s modern stellar records, they’re each showing a K-type that isn’t there now.’
He leaned in. ‘Are these charts recording the moving of a star? Did they have to move it cluster to cluster?’
‘We don’t know enough about how or why the Tkon moved stars to be sure why they moved… Fruitful Wanderer… in stages.’
‘Where is it now?’ asked Lindgren.
‘I don’t know,’ sighed Thawn. ‘It has a location on the most recent of the Tkon charts, but it’s not on our astrometric records. Are these incomplete?’ She rounded on Beckett like this was his fault.
‘I don’t… let’s ask, shall we, before assuming someone’s double-crossing us or I couldn’t split up an archive for study competently, hm?’ He rallied after a moment, and reached for a comm panel on the reading desk. ‘Qorik, can we – could you please come down here? We have a question about your records.’
‘Very polite,’ said Lindgren with gentle amusement.
‘He seems to like it,’ came Beckett’s flustered reply.
Thawn had turned away, back to the interface. ‘I wonder if I can find this star…’
‘A K-type lost somewhere in the galaxy? Oh, sure, that’ll be dead easy to spot, those aren’t at all common,’ he said wryly.
Mercifully, Qorik was quick to arrive, the lift doors sliding open for him to join them before the reading table. ‘Is there a problem with the archives?’ he asked, sounding more like he’d been inconvenienced than he wanted to help.
Beckett spun on his heel. ‘We’ve come across some star chart records – you’ve listed them as a collection titled, uh, Fruitful -’
‘Tui Havran,’ Lindgren cut in quickly. This conversation did not need to be made more complicated by her rough translations.
At once Qorik looked pained. ‘That collection. Of course you’re interested in that collection.’
Beckett nodded, seeming oblivious to the monk’s discomfort. ‘You’ve seen how there was a star in the initial cluster it looks like the Tkon moved? We’re also very interested in a star that originated -’
Thawn literally stomped on his foot as she moved before Qorik. ‘What’s the problem with the collection? It looks incomplete.’
Qorik’s eyes drifted between them, then he shrugged. ‘Because it is. It’s also one of the newer pieces in our Tkon archives. It was found on a ship crashed in the former Neutral Zone, left untouched by modern civilisations until we returned to the region. The whole database was extracted, and we entered an arrangement with the finder to buy it.’
‘The database was corrupted?’ said Thawn.
‘Not to our knowledge. The buyer set a price. We could only pay some of it up front; the rest we would have to procure from the government, which would take time – our acquisition of Tkon archives was nobody’s highest priority,’ Qorik grumbled. ‘Partial payment resulted in partial acquisition of the database. I expect Argus made sure he delivered a selection of incomplete file records, to make us hungrier for the complete set, instead of fewer but more complete collections.’
‘This finder, Argus; who is he?’ asked Lindgren.
‘And when was this?’ said Beckett, before wilting at Qorik’s look. ‘Please.’
Qorik sighed. ‘We bought these a year ago. Argus is a salvage trader operating in Republic and neutral space. I expect your Doctor T’Sann has heard of him. He has a small crew and a ship of reasonable quality, the Hyksos. If you intend to chase him down, I can provide you with comm records and the sensor readings from the system’s nav buoy.’
Lindgren gave a half-smile. ‘This is so we leave sooner, isn’t it.’
‘I’m eager for a fair trade of what knowledge of the Tkon we possess that you do not; in exchange we’d be partial to some of those historical records from new Federation members of the last forty years. But I do want my reading room back,’ Qorik admitted.
‘We can run this by the captain,’ said Thawn, looking at the others. ‘If he wants to hunt down this Argus, he’d have to do some digging, which would take a little time, and we can study more here, but it’s his decision, really?’
Lindgren drew a hesitant breath. ‘I expect he’d appreciate our recommendation. Especially yours, Nate.’
‘Oh, hell.’ Beckett sucked on his teeth. ‘Most of my Starfleet archaeological experience has been site-work lasting years and nothing was happening fast, or studying archives or relics from a desk. You don’t get high stakes in my line of work!’
Thawn raised her eyebrows. ‘You do today, Chief Science Officer. Do we think this is somewhere we want to find? A possible twin of Horizon?’
‘It might have been moved for a billion reasons, and we still don’t understand the Tkon’s relocation of stars,’ Beckett protested. ‘The hows or the whys. They might have been moved epochs apart and to completely different corners of the galaxy. And we don’t even really know what we’re looking for!’
‘More knowledge on this exact topic, the relocation, is what we’re looking for,’ Lindgren reminded him gently.
‘And if you’re not sure what to say,’ said Thawn, rather more nastily, ‘you can always ask Lieutenant Veldman.’
That seemed to make his decision. He glowered at her a moment, then turned to Qorik. ‘Alright. Dig up that information on Argus and his ship, please. I’ll recommend to my captain we go after Tui Ha– Fruitful Wanderer -’
‘Ephrath,’ Lindgren blurted as linguistics and cultural touchstones finished bouncing through her mind to land on a code word she thought wouldn’t trip up Federation tongues or sound too much like a cocktail. They turned to her, and she nodded, pleased with herself. ‘Let’s call this star Ephrath.’